POST:

Self-Care for Moms | Figuring Out Self-Care is About Learning How to Filter

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 19, 2018

I’m sitting on my mat, eyes closed, trying to breathe. The lights are dim, the music is just right, the instructor’s voice is calm and melodic as she guides the class in getting centered and getting comfortable, but I just can’t seem to focus. It’s a shame, really, given that I’ve spent all week arranging for this one hour of “self-indulgence”—paying extra for my sitter to stay with my youngest at home, timing a business meeting to start directly after I’m done, even putting off more “important” errands like the grocery store and a Target run in the name of self-care.

Yet, somehow, my mind keeps flitting in and out of focus despite multiple attempts to bring myself back to the present moment. I’m already onto the rest of the day in my head, and somehow also back to yesterday, where I’m analyzing an in-office interaction and questioning my clinical decision-making process on a patient’s particularly tough condition. Yep, my filter system is broken today. 

So, this morning’s exercise session was a loss. So what? As I walked to my car after the class and out to the rest of my life, I thought about the bigger picture—about what the class represented, about how many of my self-care attempts are affected by my ability to properly filter. I thought about how much time we all waste, especially as mothers, unable to get past the noise, the false messages, and the endless, meaningless to-dos that face us every day. About how, if self-care really is about trying to achieve some type of balance, it’s our filter system that—nine times out of ten—keeps us from actually getting anywhere with our attempts. 

Filtering Out the Noise

How much time do you spend on your phone? I’m not judging, I’m just asking, because I often have to spend A LOT of time on my phone (mostly due to the nature of running a blog and a business and promoting both on social media) and I notice that, when I’m on it without a specific task in mind (just to surf) and without a plan to GET OFF OF IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, my whole life ends up filled with noise.

I follow a link to a story and it leads me to some other worthless distraction, scroll through Facebook and I get sucked into watching some viral video, hang out on Pinterest and I get bogged down in pictures of professionally-decorated homes that I can’t afford. It’s all noise, and it eats away at the precious moments I do have to actually do what feeds me, what restores me, and what builds me up. 

So, what can we do to get rid of some of the static that clogs our thinking and takes all our time away? I’m guessing you’re probably not all going to throw your phones into a pool anytime soon, but how about this? What if you worked on consciously setting aside times throughout the week without any devices, even if it’s 20 minutes at a time. Especially when my kids are around, I’m just turning my phone completely off, leaving it, allowing myself to see it as a tool I can use when I need it versus a letting it kind of use me.

Filtering Out the False Messages as We Work on Self-Care

Why is it so hard for us to take good care of ourselves when we become moms? In part, because it feels selfish and indulgent. Because it feels like there are a million other things that we could be doing with our time that would be more productive or would be more helpful for our families. Because, when we become mothers, we are seen primarily as caretakers and secondarily as human beings with basic needs. Or, maybe, because we try to do it all and be it all and soon realize IT NEVER WORKS so we just give up (and end up resentful) or we keep running ourselves into the ground (and end up exhausted and unhappy).

There are a million lies that float into our heads day after day, that make us confused about what’s important, that—okay, this is going to sound extreme but I’m going to go here anyway—suck the joy out of everything. 

Each time we have a choice to take care of ourselves we also have an opportunity to choose what messages we’ll believe about ourselves and about our place in this world. We have a chance to choose what defines us. We get to take responsibility for how we live our lives. 

Filtering Out the To-Dos

I’m used to angst over decisions I make in my pediatrics clinic (in fact, I think it’s part of what keeps me honest and thinking as I doctor), but those to-dos that keep piling up in my head? Yeah, I could do without those. Moms who focus solely on getting things done miss out on LIFE, plain and simple. Instead, think about how to lessen your load. If you have a partner, figure out a plan for dividing responsibilities along strength lines. No matter what your family construct, stop doing everything for everyone else. Get other people on your team. Let go of the tasks that don’t matter and give away the tasks that drag you down. You only have the time and the bandwidth to do so much—use the time you do have to narrow in on your priorities.

If the whole point of focusing on self-care is to figure out some way to a more balanced life and family, then we’re all going to have to hone our filtering skills to get to our end-goals. Of course, we’ll inevitably have our off days no matter how hard we try. Don’t beat yourself up when that happens. I mean, my yoga mat mishaps, although annoying, weren’t catastrophic, they simply were a reminder. The more mindful we are of the distractions and the storylines that keep us from taking care of ourselves—as moms and just as members of the human race—the more we’ll be able to find the balance we all want…and need.

Wanting More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

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Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

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Top tips for moms on how to filter so they can practice self-care and find balance

POST:

Self-Care For Moms | Do You Need a Mommyhood Vacation?

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 9, 2018

This summer, I took a mommyhood vacation. Well, actually, I worked all week while my kids and husband went on vacation. Even so, without two littles on my heels and in my arms for five days, it felt like a holiday getaway. 

I’d taken way too much time off earlier in the year, leaving me short on summer vacay opportunities, so we decided to divide and conquer this time around. While my husband played on the beach with his side of the family and our children, I stayed behind and kept my job. 

Of course I knew I would miss my girls the second they boarded the airplane but I also knew I had a rare opportunity to do a lot of the things I never do, things that never happen because it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s needs on a weekly basis and because, when my kids are around, I really like to hang out with them (if you want more help with wrangling young kids, click here for our free guide).

My Mommyhood Vacay

I went to a movie (it had been three years since my last in-theater experience), I met my girlfriends for drinks on Saturday night, I planned a fancy brunch on Sunday morning. The mid-morning yoga class I loved pre-babies was finally an option. No one called and asked when I would be home. I WAS FREE. 

You’re probably going to guess my next line, right? 

“And then you realized you didn’t really want to be free.”

INCORRECT. I loved it. The guilt was gone. My time was mine. I could choose. 

My revelation on my mommyhood vacation was more nuanced than that. Here’s what I realized:

It would not be that hard to replicate any of this in my normal life. Shocker: my life pre-kids was not THAT interesting. I like to romanticize it in my mind. I like to pine away for it but I don’t really have to because none of the things I wanted to do without the pull of responsibility were that extravagant. No, I can’t do them all in a 48-hour continuous stretch every weekend, but I CAN sprinkle them into a weekly and monthly routine, achieving that same college-era “I just finished finals for the summer and I am free as a bird” feeling— that feeling of no pressure, no obligation, no me-shaped hole in my heart.

It’s not that I don’t already make self-care a priority.

Those who know me know I’m constantly preaching that moms can’t take good care of their littles until they start taking good care of themselves. It’s that my attitude, while I’m taking care of myself, is often with a sense that I’m on borrowed time or that my kids are wistfully wishing for me each time I go away for short periods of time. What if I could shift that? Is it possible be mindful about my parenting responses, about my perspective on the stage of motherhood I’m in, but also about my self-care moments? What if I could truly enjoy my opportunities for enjoyment, sans mom guilt and martyrdom?

I realized I don’t have to torture myself. I can just enjoy. 

In my pediatrics office, the moms I see who learn that mindset trick are happier and better-adjusted to their new mommy role. They care deeply about their children but they know that having healthy priorities means not always putting their kids first—sometimes it means consciously, mindfully, putting themselves first for discrete periods of time. On the other hand, the moms I see who never acknowledge their own needs or who live in a “less than” mentality, struggle more than they need to. Those moms never get to fully enjoy motherhood OR their own personhood. 

When I reunited with my babies at the end of our journeys, I felt complete again —back with the people I loved the most. But, I didn’t regret the decision we made to let me have some moments by myself. My mommyhood vacation taught me a lot —mostly about how I didn’t need more TIME to get all the self-care I think I need, I just need more perspective. 

Wanting More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

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Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

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POST:

Parenting Hacks for New Moms | How to Fight Back Against Mommy Failure Feelings

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents

Date:

August 16, 2018

It didn’t take much for me to feel like a mommy failure when I was just starting out on my parenthood journey and I know I’m not alone. The feeling creeps in when we struggle with breastfeeding, when we don’t have all the “right” gear, when we don’t have all the “right” information or when we don’t handle every situation perfectly.

One mom in my office put it so well:

“I handle multi-million dollar sales transactions on a daily basis. I sit in a conference room with other business leaders and can influence their decision-making at the drop of a hat. But getting my toddler to put on her shirt? Somehow, I fail every day at doing that without getting flustered and losing my cool. It’s so demoralizing. I’m scared of what I’ll mess up when she gets older and it really counts.”

Our friends, our parents, social media, our significant others – pressure and guilt can come from all sides, piling on a sense that it’s all or nothing. That good enough is never enough. That only the best will do. That we are mommy failures.

The Real Secret to Successful Parenting

But the real secret to successful parenting is understanding and dealing with our own personal struggles and pain points, not pretending they don’t exist or acting like, if we just smile a little brighter, others won’t notice our humanity. Going to therapy, or to lactation or to our pediatrician for help. Understanding we are not as in control as we think we are most of the time. That sometimes we do our best and take all the classes and read all the books and IT STILL DOESN’T WORK. Taking a look at our own “weaknesses” and fears – these are the things that really make a difference.

What To Do When You Feel Like a Mommy Failure

Stop beating yourself up if you don’t always feel like you are the parent that you hoped that you would be. None of us are. Try your best. Deal with your own issues head-on, get the help you need to support yourself and give you the parenting tools that will allow you to rise above your most challenging days. Your children will thank you for it when they’re navigating their own parenting insecurities years down the road.

Want more solid parenting and mommy advice? Check out our free parenting resources here.

Need a great gift for a friend’s baby shower (or for your own baby registry)? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Yourself and our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Boy, Girl, and Gender Neutral).

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POST:

Parenting Hacks for New Moms | Keeping Perspective

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

July 10, 2018

This weekend, I learned a powerful lesson in motherhood perspective. My family woke up stressed. Both my kids and my husband were going for a week to the coast with their grandparents while I stayed behind to work. The flight was scheduled for 11:45 a.m., so at 10:15 we were in high-gear trying to get everyone out the door and ready for the big adventure. Like it always goes, my husband and I were a bit curt with each other as one we tried to make last-minute additions to our suitcases and keep the kids occupied at the same time. My toddler kept pulling everything out of the luggage and throwing it up in the air with glee. 

“Rain, mama!” she squealed. 

“Feeling a little on edge?” my husband smirked as I sighed heavily in her direction and tried to pry her fingers off her make-believe tropical storm props. 

I felt myself trying to get back to mindfulness as we raced the clock. (By the way, if you’re looking for toddler behavior and tantrum help, check out our free guide here). 

Finally, we made it out the door but, closing our fence behind us, I saw something was missing.  Something big. In fact, two things. 

“Where are our cars?” My big girl asked. 

 

A Lesson in Perspective

 

I looked around, sure we had just forgotten where we parked them the night before but slowly it set in. Our cars were gone. Vanished without a trace. Kaplouf!

Yep, someone stole both of my cars right from in front of my house. Had we dropped the keys on our way in the night before? Our minds raced to retrace our steps. 

As we scrambled to the airport in a taxi and started making calls to the police and our insurance company, my daughter burst out into tears. 

“Someone took our cars? They took our things? Why would someone do that to me? I love our cars!” 

(By the way, our cars are not fancy in the least, she just gets strongly attached to her stuff.)

 

Losing Perspective

 

I may not have been in tears, but I was feeling the same exact way: completely violated and totally helpless. 

As we zipped along the highway, though, I realized I had a unique opportunity to reframe our situation, not only for my children but for myself. 

 

Gaining Perspective Back

 

Worrying Less About the Small Things

 

First of all, I saw how petty and small-minded I had been when we were preparing for the trip earlier that morning. Yes, we’d had a plane to catch and yes, my baby was cramping my style and my schedule, but my level of annoyance was in no way commiserate with the level of inconvenience I was facing. It reminded me of how often I handle all the other situations I referee with my kids (squabbles, tantrums, and power-plays) in the same over-the-top, reactive way—and that I can choose to treat my kids’ infringements like life-threatening emergencies, reacting abruptly without perspective, or I can choose to treat them like the minor hiccups that they (usually are). 

 

Using Bad Experiences to Teach My Kids Resilience

 

Second, I realized this was an amazing opportunity to teach my kids about prioritizing people over possessions. While my daughter worried about the loss of our vehicle, I worried about the loss of our financial security. My immediate thought was, “Do I have comprehensive coverage? How much will this cost me?” And, though those things are important, my child’s question about why someone would choose to take something that belongs to someone else helped me get to a place of deeper appreciation about what was NOT taken (my children), about what had NOT happened (a house break-in, a major car accident). Because she got so, understandably, focused on our things, it helped me pan out to the wider picture and end up….thankful. 

 

Making it a Teaching Moment

 

Lastly, I was able to give my children some insight into why things get taken, opening the door to an in-the-moment conversation about how we prepare for emergencies, accidents, and mayhem. About why we save some money and set it aside just “in case.” About how there are people out there designated to help us when things go wrong. About how sometimes isn’t all about enjoying the roses, it’s also about overcoming the thorns, building resilience along the way.

 

Back When I Had No Perspective

 

It made me think back to when I was a new mom, working out the details of breastfeeding, trying to make sense of sleep cycles and colic. I remembered how easy it was in the small, stressful moments, to think small. About how much better motherhood got once I started looking at the big picture, focusing on coping with versus changing my new mom day-to-day reality. About how all of us, when we’re mothering, can’t control everything, but can control our perspectives. 

Life’s not fair. It’s never going to be. And, while I’m not quite sure that “everything happens for a reason” applies to a robbery taking place literally in my front yard, the events of this past weekend, did, in the end, help me gain an even clearer vision of what’s important and what’s really not—and of how to teach my kids to understand why things ultimately don’t matter: the people we love do. 

If you are a new mom or an expectant mom, getting perspective and having the right expectations is one of the most important things you can do.

Want more? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care for Your Infant and Yourself.

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Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? Check out our Newborn Baby Gift Boxes – in Boy, Girl, and Gender Neutral.

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new moms, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, top tips for keeping perspective when you're a new mom

POST:

Parenting Advice | How I (Don’t) Do it All… and Why You Shouldn’t Either

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents, Toddlers

Date:

May 18, 2018

This month, I’ve been doing a lot. More than I usually do. And I’ve been getting a lot of questions for parenting advice about how I do it. On the surface it looks like I’m up to my ears promoting my book, staying active on social media and writing blog posts. I’ve also had a ton of questions about how I balance a side-business with my full-time physician job and my two young kids.

My secret weapon? The key to my sanity? I don’t do it all. I know that, if I did, I would be unhappy, stressed and, ultimately, not very successful at anything. Instead, I live by five guiding life and task management principles. You can, too, no matter if you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working woman or a mix of both. Here they are:

Prioritize Your Priorities

This may come as a shock but, it turns out, I am not Beyoncé. I do not have a full staff of assistants working for me, an unlimited budget, or a private jet. Nope, I have a real life with pressures and demands. Some demands and pressures loom a little larger than others, taking up more mental energy and time than they should. Instead of letting those demands run me, I try my best to keep them in check.

The best way to do that? (1) Have a super clear sense of my priorities. (2) Get clear in my own head about, not just what I have to do, but what I want to do. (3) Limit my 100% level efforts to my top three priorities and let the other items on the priority list act as icing on the cake. (4) Be honest comfortable enough in my own skin to care less about meeting others’ expectations of my priorities than about being true to my needs and goals. You can get more information here about our self-care survival guide and other free parenting resources.

Find a Passion

My daughter came leaping downstairs this morning, full to the brim with excitement. “Do you think I could strum my ukulele a few times before school?” she asked hopefully. I had to laugh. Usually, my girl is like a slumbering bear in the early hours (turns out she takes after me in more ways than one)—hard to wake, easily aggravated, and difficult to motivate. But something was different today. We signed her up for ukulele lessons last night and even bought her a used instrument, complete with a small wooden dolphin decoration and sparkles embedded in the paint. She found a passion. And passion changes everything.

Passion makes a difference for adults, too—particularly for moms and dads. Stuck in the day-to-day grind of parenting, the early months and years can feel like a never-evening cycle of drudgery—a song on repeat that keeps playing and playing. Our minds can get stuck in mental overload mode, even though they’re full only of the mundane. We can only take so many diaper changes, feeding sessions or nap attempts.

For me, working on my passion project (running a blog and writing a book) doesn’t really feel like work—it’s self-directed, I can do as much or as little as I want to do and it’s something I care about deeply. The same is true for most people who find a project to get excited about. Maybe your passion project is a cause you want to learn more about or be involved with, even if only virtually. Maybe your passion project is not a project at all—it’s exploring music lessons for yourself or nurturing your love of gardening. It doesn’t matter what it is or how big or small it is—it matters that you have something.

Focus on Your Strengths, Delegate the Rest

I’ll never receive an award for best housecleaner (or even a sixth-place consolation prize). Actually, my housecleaning skills are completely lacking. I’ve come to grips with this not so sad reality. Same goes for keeping close track of late start school days for my kid’s preschool, remembering to walk the dog or making lunches for myself to bring to work. You probably have some “weaknesses,” too. So what? Instead of spinning your wheels on to-do list items you’ll never get to or will never remember, delegate to the others in your house or in your proverbial village. When it’s financially feasible, hire a housecleaner. Put a partner in charge (it will be one of the best moves you ever make). Delegate, delegate, delegate and stop feeling so guilty that you’re not superwoman—no one is.

Take Full Advantage of Technology

Thank goodness we live in a modern world where, for a small fee, we can automate almost everything we do. I would wither on the vine if it were not for autopay and Amazon Prime. I also take advantage of healthy meal kit delivery systems like Sun Basket and One Potato, use my calendar reminders to keep me organized, and “read” almost everything in audiobook form.

Can technology be a negative force in your family, keeping you from spending focused, quality time with the ones you love? Sure it can. You have to treat your smartphone and your computer like the tools they are, not like the distraction they can often become.

Make Time for Self-Care

Ever notice how, when you take a weekend to unplug or even an hour to relax, you’re actually able to accomplish more in the hours or days to follow? Self-care (dedicated time spent caring for yourself—either alone or with others) is never a waste. Quite the opposite. When we re-group, relax or re-focus, we’re able to offer those who depend on us or who partner with us the very best of ourselves. We can be more present and more peaceful.

Trying to do it all or be it all? Please, please don’t. It’s such a waste of energy and it never works out how you hope it will. Something’s gotta give eventually. Instead, identify and live by your priorities, use the resources around you, and work first from your strengths. Your excellent example of imperfect balance will lead the way for your kids to eventually do the same.

New mom just starting out on your mom journey? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint.

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Looking for a baby shower or registry gift for yourself or a friend? Check out our Newborn Gift Boxes!

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