Tag Archives: Mother

Happy Mother’s Day – be a Mother to Yourself!

13 May
Mother's Day card

Mother’s Day card (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It might sound a bit circular to you to suggest that you be a mother to yourself – but I believe that most mothers (no matter how wonderful) fall short of being the nurturing, caring, unconditionally caring mother we all need to get us through life.

Through this blog and in everyday interactions, I hear stories that range from mothers who are exceptionally giving and accepting to downright bitches on steroids who poison every person they meet.  We cannot choose our mothers, but we can choose how they affect our adult life (or at least we can try!)

Just as I believe in the Type Y management theory (most people will do the best job they can given the knowledge and education at hand) versus the Type X (people innately need to be micro-managed or they will cheat and do the least) – I believe that most mothers (and fathers) do the best job they can given their knowledge and education about parenting. (Of course there are exceptions – we read about them in the daily press or see them on Reality TV!)

Because today is Mother’s Day in North America, I’d like to focus on mothers (and the same wisdom can apply to being a father to yourself!)

What We Need from Mothers

Childhood memories might not be as distant to you as they are to me, but no doubt the good, bad, and the ugly of childhood sticks with us all.  We all bear the wonders (and the baggage) of growing up and I venture to guess that no matter where or when you grew up, it was not all honey and roses (if it was, then I applaud you for an ideal childhood or a selective memory!)

What would the ideal mother give? Here is my “laundry list”:

  • safety (from the physical and emotional affronts we face in the outside world);
  • security (with basic food, shelter and clothing taken care of);
  • acceptance (to know that we are whole, complete and perfect just as we are);
  • love (unconditional if that is even possible);
  • truth (that life isn’t fair, that there are good and bad people, that we deserve love, and that no matter what we can make it.)

Moreover, the perfect mother would remind us that we are good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, deserve love, and can make it no matter what or who life throws at us.  But, like a Barbie doll – such an ideal is only a fantasy.

My mother did her best to raise five children (only seven years apart) and offer a nurturing environment – given her knowledge and parenting skills, and I am truly grateful.  I always had a home where I knew someone would know my name and I could fall asleep without fear of violence or hunger – I am grateful, especially when I know that not everyone had this luxury.

Lifelong Mothering can only come from Within

Regardless of what your mother was like, I believe that EVERY mother falls short of being the ideal mother we need(ed).  The good news is that no matter who was/is your mother, we all have the opportunity, starting today, to be the ideal mother to ourselves.  We can give ourselves the inner pride, security, safety, unconditional love, acceptance, and truth to become the best we can be!

Many books attempt to teach us how to nurture ourselves and overcome our childhood – including  as the Inner Child, I’m Ok- You’re Ok, There is Nothing Wrong with You, Co-dependent No More, The Four Agreements,  etc.; but few teach how to be the mother you need(ed) for yourself.

Being able to rely on unconditional love and undying support of the ideal mother can only come from within. We owe it to our inner child to give him/her the nurturing in the way we need, from someone who knows us better than anyone possibly can.

Starting today – evict the Inner Critic

The first step to being a mother to yourself is to evict the harsh inner critic who takes up valuable real estate in your mind.  Replace this critical voice (you’re too xxx, you’ll never be yyy, don’t even try to do zzz!) with that of the ideal mother (you are perfect the way you are, you can become yyy, don’t just try but do zzz!, you can do it!)

Tell yourself what an ideal mother would say:

...you are extraodinary…you are beautiful…and you are loved.

In The Four Agreements, author don Miguel Ruiz says that Agreement #1 is Always live with integrity.  In other words, never tell yourself anything that you would not tell a best friend.  Be supportive, loving, accepting, proud, nurturing, and giving to yourself!

The second step is to write down the characteristics an ideal mother (or father) would have (or could have) provided in your life, and then start doing them for yourself!

Does this make Mother’s Day sense?

What do you think? Is this simply airy-fairy, psycho-babble?  I can tell you that the Royal We (me, myself and I) plus my inner Mother is a formidable team (newly formed!)

Does this ring true for you (or anyone you might know)… please comment!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!

Carol

Don’t take ANYTHING Personally…

21 Feb

The Four Agreements a book by don Miguel Ruiz, and the Four Agreements Companion Guide outline an incredibly powerful philosophy that can revolutionize one’s life.  My insightful daughter gave me the first book as a gift when she was only a teenager and I was still married to her father.  At the time, I took a lot of criticism and verbal abuse personally, and The Four Agreements gave me solace and started me on the journey of not taking anything personally (the Second of the Four Agreements).

Now, almost 8 years later, I am in a better place, happily single, and optimistic about whatever adventures lie in my future thanks in part to the teachings of don Miguel Ruiz and the Four Agreements.

Agreement #2: Don’t take ANYTHING Personally

For me, this is THE single, most difficult agreement to master – and the one that allows me the most freedom and solace.   When we realize that other people’s behavior has NOTHING to do with us and is not our responsibility, it allows us to be truly ourselves.  We should not take anything personally whether it is POSITIVE or NEGATIVE.

This is not easy to do, especially if it was ingrained from an early age to do just the opposite!

I grew up learning to take everything personally whether it was from family, friends, strangers, or even strangers who cut me off in traffic.

My mother is now over 80 and is a master of taking everything personally.  I recall many occasions where she would remark that she couldn’t understand why a friend would treat her so poorly and intend to hurt her.  When I tried to console her and tell her that it might simply be a matter of circumstance or misunderstanding on someone’s part, she would chide me by saying “of course she meant to hurt me – she does this on purpose!”

I also remember many times coming home from school and talking to her about some family occurrence (she was one of 9 children) that seemed to be blown out of proportion.  I remember my cousin choosing to attend another church (heaven forbid!) and hearing  “O M G! can you believe that my niece left the church?  How can her mother allow her to do that to her?  I don’t know what I would ever do if one of  you kids ever did that to us!”  And so it went… every time anyone, me, or my siblings did something of which my mother did not approve the response was the same:  “How could you/they do that … to me?”   At the time I simply observed and was confused.

Personally, none of my choices or behaviors ever had anything to do with my parents, yet they took every move personally.  I cannot imagine making a decision about my life and having to consider how everyone in the world might react, especially when it is not about them.  When I realize that I believed what I was taught, I can understand why it is hard to NOT take things personally.

Despite this realization, the second agreement is difficult to put into practice – but I am determined to make it work! Today don Miguel Ruiz posted:

Write this agreement on paper, and put it on your refrigerator to remind you all the time:
Don’t take anything personally.

So I did, and in a matter of hours, I had to stop myself three time from taking things personally. Here’s what happened:

1. A potential contract on hold:

I received an email from a company with which I am a candidate for an upcoming contract  (I interviewed with them twice last week.) The email said that the company has decided to consider a few internal people for the position before moving forward with me.

My gut first reaction:  I felt that I might not be qualified enough or that I did not make a good enough impression on the recruiting manager (who I only spoke to once).  It felt like it could be a personal slight against me.

Reality:  The hiring manager does not know me. The decision to consider internal candidates has NOTHING to do with me. It is NOT personal!  If the company decides in a few weeks to move forward with me, again it is not personal to me.

2. Email from my father:

My father sent me an email in response to photos I sent of my newborn granddaughter, ignoring the photos but saying how I am hurting my mother by not renewing ties with a toxic relative.  He cited religion as being the reason I need to go back to fix the relationship and said that whatever caused the rift should be ignored as irrelevant.

My gut first reaction: This felt like a personal affront.  My first reaction was to think that “there is nothing I ever do or not do that is good enough for my parents.  Unless I follow their edicts exactly, they will always reject me.”  The accusatory words and religious “guilt-mongering” from someone I love further made it feel personal.

Reality: The email is not really about me at all.  My choice about whether to embrace a toxic relationship is my choice and it has nothing to do with my parents.  It is purely an extension of the childhood “how could you do xxx TO US?”  and is a pattern.  It’s not personal.

3. A kind gesture from a stranger

Someone let me go ahead of them into the single merge lane in a construction zone; an act of small kindness.

My first gut reaction: S/he let me in because of all the times I have let others in. Maybe s/he liked my smile and realizes (?) that I am a good person.

Reality: This was NOT personal. When someone does a random act of kindness their behavior is purely a reflection on them, not me.

These were three minor events where my “gut reaction” (my ego) was to take things personally.  It takes conscious thought to overcome this tendency – especially when it is part of our family behavior.  With effort, we CAN overcome the old programming that causes us to take things personally.

Remembering not to take ANYTHING personally is a hard thing to do…
but mastering it brings power, peace, and freedom!

What do YOU think?

Have a great week!

Carol

Need more hours in your day? 3 Easy steps…

16 Feb

I remember days gone by when I wished for more hours in my day… no matter how I tried to rearrange things, I just couldn’t find all the hours I needed to get everything done. By the end of the day, I was exhausted and spent, and my kids did not get to see me at my best on many occasions.

These days, my children are grown and I watch around me as more and more people are in the same predicament that I was – and are equally harried and stressed.  For them and you, I present “3 Easy ways to create more hours in your day”.

1.   Reduce your load…Stop doing things that do not really matter

While you may feel that everything you do during the day from paid work to laundry to helping with homework to driving to soccer practice to …. (100 other things!) are essential for you to do, I disagree.  When I recall everything I did for so many people, I realize that they might have seemed essential (especially to me), but I know that there were things I did simply out of a sense of duty.  One way to figure out what you can stop doing that does not really matter is to stop doing something and then see if anyone misses it.

For example, I call several friends many times before they return my calls (if they ever do).  Once I stopped calling them (which I had done more for myself if the truth be known), some did not call me at all – I discovered that the “friends” do not miss me, and as a result, I can spend my time pursuing relationships that really matter.

For another example, tasks like dusting are one of the “mom” type duties that we often think must be done to avoid what others might think or say (such as a mother-in-law).  But if you stop doing dusting or do it only 1/2 as often, the results may not be noticed.  Voila!  Time saved!  Make a list of everything you do on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and see if there is anything that is non-essential, immaterial or that you can cut back on the frequency with which you do them.  You may be surprised to find out that there are things you do to satisfy your inner critic and no one else really cares.  So, stop doing these things!

A friend once told me “You can come over to my house and even write your name in my dust, as long as you don’t date it!”  I realized then that the process of dusting was less important than spending time with my children.  I stopped dusting so often, and surprise, no one noticed!

2.   Outsource what can be done more cheaply by someone else (and help another person in the process!)

Once you have pared down your list in #1., figure out what other things could be better done (from both a financial and emotional standpoint) by someone else.  You can outsource and win just like the big corporations!

For example, if mowing the grass is on  your list of “must do’s” and it takes you 2 hours to do it weekly, consider that a neighborhood teen may charge as little as $10. a week to mow your grass AND clean up the clippings!  Are your two hours worth more than $10. (let alone the sweating and stress it may cause you?) If the answer is yes, do yourself a favor and give the teen a job to mow your lawn – you will both benefit.  This single act gives you 2 hours to do something else!

If, however, you love to mow your lawn (I know people who do!), then find other tasks on your list where it might be more efficient to outsource the work to someone who wants and needs the work.  You will both benefit and be happier!

3. Accept help when it is offered

Too often those of us who are self-reliant and independent “cut our noses to spite our face” by not accepting help when it is genuinely offered.  Our misplaced sense of pride and feelings that we might “owe” someone who helps us – can actually work to our detriment!

When someone offers to aid you with something that would help you stretch your day, accept the help!

As I mentioned in a earlier post (The more you give, the more you … give) – the acts of giving and receiving  are not coupled.  So, if you feel that you would owe someone when they give to you, think about all the times that you give freely to others.  It is about time that you allow others to give back – especially when they are not the same people who have received from you.

These are three easy steps to more hours and more happiness.  Best of all, they come at little or no cost (especially when you factor in the price of your own heartbeats and hours you save!)  Prioritize your time, follow the steps, and let me know what happens in your life.

Have a great weekend!

Carol

Dear Daughter, Lessons from a female engineer (part 2)

31 Jan

You might be hearing many people saying that these times are not “normal”, and if you listen to the media, you know that predictions say things will get better, get worse, or stay the same. No one has any idea what will happen, but because bad news sells newspapers, gloom and doom prevails.

Today is the “new normal”. It doesn’t matter what anyone says was normal before or what might be tomorrow. Your life is a combination of your environment, attitude, background, personality, and luck/opportunity and it is as unique as you are (I love that!)

This does not mean that life is easy as every generation faces new challenges.  You will emerge from today’s economic instability with renewed energy and vitality – the universe never throws anything at you that you cannot handle (even when things seem overwhelming).

Carrying on from last week’s post (part 1) I hope you will let me share a few more tips from my life as a female engineer:

  • Listen to unsolicited advice (but you do not have to take it). Advice is worth what you pay for it, and when it is unsolicited, that tells you something right there.  Take it or leave it, just listen and then decide for yourself if it has any merit. Most people (with a few exceptions) throw out unsolicited advice hoping it will help you – but only you can decide whether to pick it up. When someone tosses you such advice, thank him or her, and then consider the source.

  • Be proud of you! (And your accomplishments.) You deserve praise from yourself.  I can tell you that I am proud of you, as can your friends, but the most important is when you are proud of you!
  • Patience and tolerance can be a double-edged sword. Practice patience with people – especially when it comes to situations out of your control (delayed flights), children, the elderly, and anyone who may not be as adept as you are.  The double edge comes when people take advantage of your patience in business or your personal life. When this happens, remember the adage:  fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.  If someone takes advantage of you for being patient, learn from it and don’t let it happen again.

The same goes for tolerance.  Start out by being open and tolerant to people whose beliefs or behaviors may be different from yours.  This has paid off greatly for me in my international work on ISO software standards: I have many global friendships and enjoy cultural adventures everywhere I travel.  The double edge comes when one is too tolerant – such as being tolerant of verbal or physical abuse.  When someone says or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable, your intuition may be telling you that your tolerance is set too high.  Abuse and bullying is beyond anything you should ever tolerate.

 

  • There are consequences to every action and no matter how much you plan, not everyone will agree with you. Always do your best – with decisions, work, and relationships.  By doing so, you reduce your regrets because you took action based on the information you had at the time. This does not guarantee that others will agree, but at least you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and take comfort that you did your best.
  • It is better to face conflict than to live a lie. Everyone faces times at work and in personal life where we avoid creating conflict with bullies, controlling people, and people who disrespect us for our opinions.  Of course I know that you already choose your battles wisely (why create conflict when it is over something trivial), there are also times when given conflict is important.  When you have to suppress saying what you feel for fear of an outburst or tantrum from someone you love, consider that it might be a toxic relationship. We do not choose who we fall in love with and there is no guarantee that your love will be emotionally healthy.  While another’s emotional health is not your responsibility, yours is.  Better to be yourself and face conflict than to sacrifice your emotional health and live a lie. It’s not always easy, but you deserve to be happy as you.
  • Always be authentic. I thought that I knew what this meant when I read it in author don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, but I did not.  Being authentic and living with integrity means never saying anything to yourself that you would not say to your best friend.  Our inner critic can be cruel and treat us with total disrespect (telling us that we are stupid or fat or naïve or a host of other harsh words). When we allow our inner critic free reign over our intellectual real estate (our mind) – we are not being authentic!  Make sure you treat yourself with the same level of respect you afford your best friend, and you will soon find that you have a brighter outlook on life.
  • Everyone carries baggage. Even the most gorgeous, thin, young, rich, poor, or athletic people carry baggage and you may never know to what degree.  Life is not fair in terms of who experiences what and when, but life guarantees everyone his/her own story.  Rejection, ridicule, embarrassment, failure, success, pain and joy are sprinkled in every life – some get more of the good or bad than do others.  However, no one escapes feelings of inadequacy or self-doubt.  Be kind to strangers (unless there is danger) – you just never know how much a kind word can mean to a person living with pain.

I will always be proud to be your mother no matter what you do and no matter where you live.  You have only one life  — do all you can to make it a happy one!

Love and hugs,

Mom

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