Tag Archives: Parenting

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

Sticks and Stones are Secondary

30 Mar

Did you grow up in the era of  “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me!”

Childhood memories can be brutal – especially if you were ever accosted by a bully.  It didn’t happen more than a couple of times to me, but I remember yelling these words hoping the bullies chasing me would somehow get tripped up by some magical force that the words conjured up! They never threw punches, but the unkind words they flung could be far more damaging.

“Ugly duckling!”  “You look like a boy!”  “Pigeon toes!”  Words thrown in haste that decades later, for most of us, can still sting.

Names and words can be powerful weapons that can inflict pain, rejection or verbal “spanking” of others.  I believe that words can turn into W.O.M. – weapons of mass destruction, and cause widespread damage to whole societies.  (Hitler used words to effectively control a nation and alienate the world.)

I recall the story of a bully whose father caught him taunting the neighborhood kids. As punishment, he made his son put nails into a fence for each name he had yelled.  The fence was covered with nails by the time he was finished, and the father talked to his son about the damage he was causing.  The son recognized the bad behavior and promised to stop bullying.  When a day that passed without name calling, the father allowed the son to remove some nails from the fence, until it was finally clear of nails.  The lingering message came on the last day when the father showed the son the holes that remained in the fence.  The son then realized the lingering damage of careless words.

Today, many parents refrain from corporal punishment (physical spanking), but fail to recognize the harm they inflict by the verbal spankings they unleash with their words.  (It is oft quoted that children hear the word “no” around 67,000 times by the time they reach the age of two, and the word “yes” far less!)

What is worse – physical or verbal abuse? 

If you believe the opening line of this post (sticks and stones…), you may not agree that words and tone can cause damage.  But I would bet that unless you have the most confidence and the most wonderful parents in the world, you probably still cringe when you recall harsh words of grownups from your past.  Why do we convict those who use physical abuse as their weapon and not those who use words to the same effect?

This week, a new documentary called “Bully” opened in select theatres across the country.  The filmmakers chronicled the life of a teenage victim, in the hopes of raising awareness and curtailing bullying in schools. I agree that it is time we take action to stop school yard bullies so that all children can concentrate on learning (a good strategic move for our nation!)

Next steps…

Maybe the next step after that will be to face the less obvious, but sometimes worse, cyber bullying and verbal abuse.  But, first, we as adults, need to stop and recognize the power of words to cause harm.  Guilt, shame, rejection, and embarrassment… these are but a few of the emotions we can stir up with pointy words.  We would never poke someone’s eye out with a stick, but we don’t think twice about stabbing them with words.

(Sidenote:  sometimes parents even use these tactics on their grown children to coerce or manipulate them into submission.  I’ve seen plenty of examples of this from friends whose parents don’t realize they are no longer children.)   

Perhaps the first step towards healing our societies is to reword the childhood adage… to maybe “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will ever hurt me.”

Just food for thought…

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

Alone but not Lonely…

22 Apr

I waited literally months and months to be able to proudly announce this!

This is not to say that I’m finished my journey towards full acceptance that being alone is a choice and an honor to myself, but rather to announce to myself that I am whole, complete and perfect, just as I am.

When I got divorced five years ago after an adulthood of being married, I looked around to find that most of my friends were acquaintances who live around the world (that is still true), or neighbors who weren’t really friends (my next door neighbors allowed my ex-husband to live with them for six months after the divorce), and local “friends” who chose sides and were unavailable to me.

wildflowersI felt totally alone for the first time in my life (having grown up with 4 siblings, this was a rare occurrence) – and the isolation and loneliness felt like it was going to swallow me whole.  At the time, I yearned for friendship and the company of anyone who would share a coffee with me!

You’ve probably heard that the universe (or God) seldom gives you more than you can handle – and that all good things come to those who wait – and in retrospect, I have to agree. I would never wish the isolation and utter loneliness I felt on anyone – yet I know that loneliness can be a state of mind as much as a circumstance.

As an extrovert, being alone was not a natural state, but today I applaud the solitude and refreshment that comes from loving one’s own company.  Today I CHOOSE friends who reciprocate my giving, and I no longer tolerate people who use me.  I realize that I deserve people in my life who respect and honor me – and I am cutting out people who do not.

For the first time in my life, I honor that  my new best friend (me) deserves only the best treatment from others – and I will not accept anything less on her behalf!

This wasn’t always the way – when I loved others more than I loved myself, I would end up giving others more than I gave myself and I felt sad that the reciprocity simply wasn’t there.  Now, I realize that the only one who will ever take care for me is me!  You can never be lonely when you are happy to be together in your own company!

Do you agree with me?

My message to you with this post is this:  If you feel lonely in your own company, commit to changing your outlook – one day at a time. 

In other words, commit to becoming your own best friend and finding fun and happiness with him/her.  You will be the only friend you’ll find who is guaranteed not to leave you!

My journey has taken five years (and I’m still traveling) – but it has been well worth the hills, mountains, valleys and swamps I’ve traversed to get here.  There are still days when I recall my daughter’s words after the divorce:  “Mom, you have to walk through fire for a long time to get to the other side, but it WILL be worth it!”  She is too wise for her 27 years!

Begin with becoming your own best friend and cheerleader – today!  Learn to celebrate the great things about you, yourself and you (sidenote: The Royal We is “me, myself, and I”!)

Start by writing down (get a pen and paper right now) 50 things you like about you- or are grateful for… and keep the list with you. 

How often have you thanked yourself for who you are?  Start with saying “thank you for being…” and watch the difference it makes,

Or try the third person technique:  if you can’t get to 10 quickly, pretend that you were looking back at your life and writing about yourself in the third person.  (Here’s an example:  Carol is an eloquent and passionate speaker.  Carol cares about people more than things…)

When you focus on becoming your own best friend, self-love emanates from within and you’ll become happier by the day (no matter what your external circumstances).  Being alone and not lonely is one of the greatest gifts my divorce has given me – I love being with myself, and I am truly grateful for who I am – for me.

Wishing you a happy weekend, whether you spend it alone with your new best friend (YOU!) or the company of others!

Best,
Carol
p.s. It is EARTH DAY today… I am grateful that YOU are on this earth and reading this!


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Balancing what I know with what I don’t…

20 Apr

In many ways I feel like I am living a “Benjamin Buttons” life

(a reference to the circa 2009 movie of the same name where a baby was born as an old man and progressively got younger as he chronologically aged).  I married young, had two wonderful children in my 20’s, and now enjoy a single life where I love myself, appreciate good friends, and am grateful for health, work, career and a happy life.

In many ways I feel like I’m living my 20’s today – I have the freedom I never had when I was married or raising children to go out whenever and wherever – and I love it.

Along with my youthful outlook is maturity, and I realize just how much I do not know about life or the world!  Maybe that is the beauty of my current life and my place in it!  I know what I know (professional expertise) and I am learning everyday that there is so much that I don’t know (and maybe never will).

  • I know that friends come and go, but I don’t know when new ones will come and old ones will leave.  Somehow there is always a balance of good friends that is just short of 5 at any one time.
  • I know that good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people, and sometimes it just doesn’t seem to be fair or balanced.  I have no idea why this is so.
  • I know that it is more than okay to be me and to love being so!  Since I am not a child, I do not understand why others seek to change me (for my own good.)
  • I know that I am a giving and generous person (who often put others first to my detriment).  I do not know (and am learning that it doesn’t matter) what others think of me.
  • I know that my perceptions and feelings are valid, just are those of others. I do not know or purport to know what goes on in anyone else’s head.
  • I used to think I knew about love, and now I know that I know nothing at all.
  • I know that I know very little about human behavior aside from my own.
  • I know that I do not like conflict, loss, confrontation, accusations or cruelty.  And I know that there are people who do.
  • I know not to take things that people do or say to me personally (it is more about them and their experience), but it still feels personal. I do not know how to perfect this practice.
  • I know that I will never be able to predict (with any accuracy or precision) the reactions of others.
  • I know that girlfriends are the joy and stability of life.
  • I know that there are reasons that people from my past did not make it into my present.
  • I know that mean doesn’t go away and fortunately, neither does nice.
  • I know that friends can be the family we CHOOSE for ourselves.
  • I know that there is no guarantee that siblings will be friends.
  • I know that people are always surprising – sometimes in good ways, sometimes in bad.
  • I know that change is the natural state.  I do not know how to make more of the good things last longer and the bad ones disappear.
  • I know that for every “get rich quick” scheme there are people who were taken.
  • I know that I am grateful for the people, places, pets, nature, parents, children, and friends who grace my life today.
  • I know that they will not always be there tomorrow.
  • I know that I don’t know what I don’t know…

When I was younger, I used to think I knew more about life than I did not.  Today I think just the opposite.  Maybe that is a sign of maturity – or maybe it is proof that I am young at heart!  And I am quite happy to know that I have so much more to learn.

Have a good week!

Carol

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Realities of mid-life survival

11 Mar

Do you know how many books today proclaim that success is imminent if you just buy them?  Thousands!  In addition, the self-proclaimed experts often have nothing more than their own experience of rags to riches “expertise” (sometimes just plain luck) that propelled them to fame.

Moreover, the number of books on the shelves for baby boomers especially women – who find themselves at mid-life having raised children, nurtured husband’s careers, and are now alone and broke is increasing.

According to a recent study, 46% of adult Americans are single in 2011.

Western-raised women are stereotypically taught to take care of everyone (at their own expense) and this practice has been handed down through the generations of well-meaning elders.  At mid-life having raised our children to maturity and independence, and having put our spouse through many college degrees and jobs, we find ourselves alone with a tawdry collection of hand-me-down furniture, discarded belongings, and a shambles of friendships abandoned in favor of raising our family.

At least that’s what happened to me.

Here I sit five years post-divorce, with two wonderful grown children who are independent and healthy (a big plus and a source of pride!), few friends (it’s difficult to set up relationships at mid-life and with a career involving travel), fewer male friends (at least not within the vicinity), an albatross of an over-mortgaged  house (because I had to buy the ex-spouse out at an exorbitant price to keep my son in his home),  and a career challenged like many today.  I’ve got baggage, but I’ve survived a lifetime of giving and being taken.

And, I am alive and well and have the chance to be happy!  At mid-life, I am starting completely over – in fact, at 50 paces behind the starting line when I consider that my financial situation is one where the ex-spouse made off like a bandit in the divorce due to a some unfortunate circumstances.  But, 50 paces behind the starting line with a chance of a second half of life of happiness and freedom is so much better than no life or the Stepford wife existence I lived a mere 6 years ago.

The realities of my life today are much different from the last time I was single more than 25 years ago!

If you are like me, maybe you can identify with some of these realities:

  • A garage full of garbage: that was left by my ex and my children when they moved out. Memories of a lifetime of child raising (toys), school sports (a motley crew of athletic equipment), boxes of discarded books (which “friends of the library” charity will happily take), tools, leftover paint cans, and garbage that my ex-husband promised to clean up (and didn’t) before he moved;
  • An over mortgaged house with zero equity: and rooms that I never walk into.  My 22-year-old son has promised me for months that he will clean out his old bedroom of the clothes and discarded bits that he left when he moved out 6 months ago.
  • Maintenance that I cannot do (or afford to hire to have done): my gas dryer stopped working and I know that a service man will happily see a “little lady” who can be taken for hundreds of dollars.  In Florida, there seems to be no work ethic or morals and the edict “do your research and know exactly what you need to have done before you hire anyone to come in” is the moral of the day.  I don’t have the energy to fight with men who want to rip me off so I do without the dryer (and other household maintenance).
  • Friends who are mine! When I was married, we had ‘our’ friends (his friends) who he worked with or we knew as parents of our kids’ friends.  Today it is wonderful to have friends who know me for me and who love me for me!
  • Toxic friendships that I must discard: One of the lessons I’m learning is that I was too giving as a person in my former life – I allowed people and “friends” to take advantage of my kindness. Some of those “friendships” include people who I thought were friends and who preyed on my giving nature. One such “friend” begged me to give her grown daughter some space to temporarily store an apartment full of items in my garage.  Six months and many un-returned phone calls and emails later, she (and the daughter) refuse to talk to me because I have asked them to remove the items. There is no thank you, no courtesy and no respect for the favor I granted them. It is toxic to our being when a “friendship” is one way without respect or give-and-take.  In my past life, I tolerated this treatment by thinking that somehow it was what I deserved, but today I know that such tolerance is toxic to me. When people in our life get angry when we set healthy boundaries it is a sign of toxicity. Any friend that abuses you was never really a friend.
  • LOTS of time alone: As an extrovert who lives alone, works alone from home (when I am not teaching out-of-town), has no local family, has grown children, and friends who have busy lives, I have a lot of alone time. The challenge after a lifetime of taking care of others is for me to be happily alone without feeling lonely.  There are days when I feel quite isolated and it is then that I long to be on the road working so that I will be among others. When I return home, it can be more lonely than when I am traveling alone for work.
  • A challenging career today: the economy has wreaked havoc on consultants and trainers – we are the first roles to be cut in downsizing and recessions.  I find myself overqualified and too long a freelancer to be considered for most jobs today. As such, my financial status (due to the economy and the divorce) is a fraction of what it once was, as is the income I once enjoyed.
  • Acceptance and freedom: I don’t know what your relationships are like, but I am happy today to be able to choose a restaurant without getting blamed that it was not a good choice (or feeling responsible for “his” happiness); to be able to make a sandwich the way I want (without being told I’m doing it wrong); and to buy a pair of black shoes with my money (without being told I don’t need them).  It is a joy to come home to my cat who accepts me and loves me for who I am not for who he thinks I need to become.  Acceptance and freedom are wonderful rights!

Today, aside from my financial woes (which are temporary), I am happier than I have been in years!

I have self-love beyond any I have ever experienced, a few honorable and true friends who are there for me (unlike the acquaintances we had as a couple), and a recognition that I deserve love and respect (which I never believed in the past).  I am challenged to live this new solitary life – and there are up and down days along the journey.

But — Life is good and getting better all the time.  It is not the same as I grew up to believe it would be – or that was my experience in my former life – but I am truly alive in ways that I could never be had I stayed in a loveless marriage.

The realities of mid-life survival can be stark – but the future is bright!

Have a great week!

Carol


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