Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Ugly Truth about the Elf on the Shelf

Guest post on Everything Moms 
If you are not familiar with the holiday tradition of the Elf on the Shelf, you will take notice now. It is a concept so simple, yet so ingenious, that you will kick yourself for not inventing it first, (just as you do every time you shell out 5 bucks for a pack of Silly Bands)! Elf_On_shelf_warningThis special Elf comes with his own book describing how he is to be placed on a shelf so he can watch your behavior and report back to Santa while you sleep. You will find him again upon waking in the morning, but always in a different spot. Perhaps the most dramatic fact about this Elf is that you can NEVER, EVER touch him, or he will lose his magical power.
This Elf has been working like a charm in our house. The kids really do believe in his magic. They are listening better, are treating each other more kindly, and if they start acting up, all I have to do is point to Will, (that is what they named our Elf) and their behavior instantly changes to sugar and spice. The Elf has also inspired hours of pretend play. The kids dress up in our random Santa hats and Christmas stockings in preparation of sitting like statues in various rooms watching our behavior like little Elf accomplices.
The Elf on the Shelf has brought us great joy in the short time we have known him. But (a BIG BUT...), behind that sweet Elf smile and his cute red suit, lie some ugly truths, which I believe should be disclosed at this time. I love this Elf, I really do, but he has caused a certain level of disruption in our home. He should come with some warning, or caution labels to parents.
  • WARNING #1: If your children are of the high strung variety, you may want to skip past (or at least down play) the part about losing the magical powers if he is touched. If not, your 5 year old may frequently wake up in the night at 12, 2 and 4 AM from nightmares that she has touched the Elf and has ruined Christmas.
  • WARNING #2: If you have birthed any "early bird" children, you may want to go to bed extra early during the Elf’s holiday visiting time. If your extra spirited 3 year old child can't contain himself, he may very well go from waking at 6 AM to 5 AM just so darned excited that he must bounce out of bed and run downstairs to see where the Elf has moved during the night. He will then perhaps burst from exuberance if he doesn't scream his findings at the top of this lungs (waking up high strung child #1 just as she has drifted back to sleep from all of her traumatic Elf nightmares).
  • WARNING #3: If you plan to bring out the Elf in any fashion this holiday season, consider bringing him out later, rather then sooner (December 22nd for instance) Remembering to move him each night (or morning) before the early bird (see warning #2) gets up is a lot of pressure and performance anxiety for both the Elf and parent-especially if you are lacking in impulse control and he came to visit your house on November 2!
Would I use the Elf again next year or recommend the Elf for a friend? You betcha! I would however strongly suggest some story manipulation to make the Elf's visit a bit lower maintenance. If your children are already reading, I would consider bringing your Elf home without the book and make up your own Elf story to fit the unique needs of your own children (and so that mom and dad can get some sleep this holiday season)!
Happy Elf spotting!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Chilling Out

My December blogging will be sparse...maybe even non-existent.  Perhaps I will return as usual in January, but perhaps not.  I am taking the season off to chill out, slow down, and create the time to enjoy my family and friends.  I am going to sip hot chocolate, make snow angels, enjoy the holiday lights, cuddle with my husband and play with my kids.  Coaching clients are always more then welcome, but I am taking a small break from the blog.

Stay warm, enjoy life, take extra care of you... and hug your children often!!!

Happy Holidays!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't tell dad

A guest post on Owning Pink

My five year-old got off the bus visibly upset yesterday. Instead of giving me her usual run-off-the-bus-all smiles-and-giving-me-a-bear-hug, she stomped past me avoiding eye contact and headed straight for the house. When I asked her what was bothering her, she blurted out, “________ cut my hair in art class!” 
Keeping my cool
I’ve braced myself for this moment -- the first time my child would tell me something shocking. I know I am suppose to keep a straight face, don’t judge, ask open-ended questions, stay calm, be caring and concerned -- but support her in solving her own problems. The dilemma was that none of this was working. She had completely shut down and refused to talk to me about it. The only information I got was that she didn’t tell anyone at school and she didn’t tell the boy to stop. Then she said something I really wasn’t expecting: “Don’t tell dad.” I knew this day would come -- when I was asked to keep a secret from my husband, like her first crush, buying her first bra, or wearing lipstick -- but I did not expected it at the age of five. 
Fortunately, she has dance right after school. Most parents have luck talking to their kids while in the car, right? They aren’t distracted, and you can’t make eye contact -- this is where is where it is all supposed to all hang out, right? WRONG! I got nothing again. I let her know that I was so glad that she told me, that I loved her no matter what… but I wanted to talk about how she could have handled the situation differently (being firm with the hair cutter and telling the teacher). Nope, she wasn’t having it! I tried to address the safety issue of the scissors and that she has every right and absolutely should protect her body. All I got was, “Stop taking about it mom!”  At this point I was less concerned about the hair cutting itself and more concerned at her reaction and withdrawal. This is not the child I know.
What other moms would do
My daughter’s dance class is over an hour long and when I am not feeling particularly inspired to go to the gym, I stay and talk with my friends. Today, I needed their advice (a perfect excuse not to work out). When I tell my two friends the story, one immediately blurts out, “My husband would be up at the school in a hot second.” The second one said, “This is a safety issue and it needs to be handled.” (I have great firecracker friends that always have my back!)
After their knee-jerk reaction, they deeply listened to me and realized that I had a trust issue here. I want my children to feel comfortable telling me ANYTHING.  I don’t want my daughter to feel like she can’t come to me without me immediately reacting and calling the school. I want to be the “go to”, and a positive guide in the right direction, but not THE problem solver. If I felt like my child or another child was in danger, then that is very black and white. I would tell. This situation was a grey area for me -- and one that I felt was a test for the future.    
I completed this conversation deciding that I would try one more time on the car ride home to encourage my daughter to tell her daddy and grant me permission to email her teacher. If she refused again, I would leave it alone. Trust trumps the need to inform in this case. My friends still disagreed with my decision, and came to their own conclusions that if this were their kid they would call the school. Being the open minded and non-judgmental gals they are, they tell me to trust my gut and that I know my kid best. 
One more attempt
I decide to try one more time in the car on the way home from dance to talk to my daughter. I attempt to convince her to tell her daddy -- because he would want to know, and to grant me permission to email her teacher -- because she needs to protect the other kids. Bingo! I suppose the endorphins of exercise are a natural mood lifter. She was much more “available”, verbal and clearheaded about what we should do, and what she can do in the future if someone else is invading her body or space. I feel much better that we were able to talk, and that we have a plan. But most importantly, I kept her confidence. I bet she will come to me next time she needs to talk without the fear of me getting all hot and bothered and reacting without her consent.
I do, however, hold strong that I would have stuck with my original decision to do nothing if this is what she ultimately wanted. 
What would you have done? How have you handled the balance between the desire to protect your child and the need to gain their trust?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reclaiming Mama Mojo

A guest post on the fabulous blog, Working Moms Break
Most jobs aren’t made for people who have children. Which is one of the reasons a lot of moms and dads start their own businesses. Lately several blog readers have been asking for advice or stories about this. So I asked Heather Sobieralski to write a guest post about why she decided to start her own business.
Heather has two kids, is a life coach for moms, and also works part time as a middle school counselor. You can read more about her coaching services at My Mama Mojo, or about her own journey of motherhood on her blog.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
It’s something I was called to do.
When I first became a mother, life I as knew it changed. I felt as though everything I had previously known from my pre-child self was gone. My confidence disappeared. I had no I idea who this woman was occupying my body. I was embarrassed and ashamed that I was not enjoying motherhood. I was supposed to be happy right?

Monday, November 15, 2010

How many activities are your children in?

A guest post on Sane Moms

Do you wake up early and rush to get ready (and sometimes still leave the house with wet hair)?  Do you rush the kids to get up and get going – so you can rush them through breakfast, rush them to school and rush yourself to work?  Do you rush around all day at work so you can leave on time and rush home so you are not late for the bus or day care pick up?  Do you rush through homework, so you can rush to after school activities, rush to come home to make dinner, cram food down your throats, rush through baths, reading and bed … to rush off to sleep so you have the energy to do it all again the next day?
If this sounds familiar, you are not alone!
Some of this is the life of a mother, but other parts can be avoided.  How many activities are your children involved in?  How many commitments do you have during the week?  Is there anything you can start crossing off your list?
I know some children and families thrive on lots of activities and scheduled events.  Most kids I know are in 2-4 activities at a time.  A good friend of mine has a first grader who has something every day of the week, and is as happy as a clam. If I were her mother, I would have a nervous breakdown.  I don’t like to rush.  I don’t like to be over scheduled and I need family down time.  My kids say they want to do it all…dance, music, art, soccer, martial arts – you name it. I have enrolled my kids in more then one activity at a time, and it didn’t work so well.  They were stressed, they didn’t enjoy their time, and I felt like I was paying tuition to drag them to participate.   It wasn’t fun for any of us.  This year they were allowed to pick one activity.  My 5-year-old daughter wanted to take dance, and my three year old chose to stay home and play with his toys-works for me!
Our mornings are still a bit frazzled, but our evenings are so much more relaxed.  We have no commitments on the weekends.  We don’t rush through our tasks; we take our time and connect with each other.  The kids even get bored every once in a while and are forced to use their imaginations and think outside the box – instead of being entertained by outside stimuli. I don’t know how long the one activity rule will be in effect, but for now, it works.  It works for them and it works for me.
Have you found your happy medium?
Heather is a life coach for moms, a middle school counselor and a mama who is committed to rocking her mojo! She has two extremely “spirited,” independent and strong-willed children who test her, teach her and exhaust her…several times a day!  You can read more about her atMy Mama Mojo.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happiness is like a butterfly

A guest post on Owning Pink

Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder... - Henry David Thoreau

The Chase
For many months I had been working every spare (and some not so spare) moments to launch a life coaching business. I had neglected spending precious time with my kids, I had completely ignored my husband and I felt obsessed. My hunger and vision for this company was dictating my life, my time and my happiness. Despite all of this time and energy, I was not getting the results I desired. I absolutely LOVED the coaching part, but I absolutely DID NOT LOVE the business part. I was stressed, unhappy and unfulfilled. I knew something had to give, but I wasn't sure how to start my new way of thinking or how to implement my new call to action...until I saw my daughter dance with a butterfly.

The Story
The story starts several months ago when I ordered my daughter a butterfly kit. In the kit came with five caterpillars in a transparent jar and a much larger enclosed net for when the caterpillars turned into butterflies. My daughter loved these little caterpillars. She took them everywhere. She talked about them to anyone who would listen and showed anyone who cared to look. The caterpillars grew three times their size, and with in ten days or so, they and turned into chrysalis. During this delicate time, my daughter was their protector, making sure nobody moved or bumped them. She was extra careful to put them in their new netting when they were ready for their new home. She watched these chrysalis all day and still talked about them incessantly. She loved these living things and took great pride in caring for them. One day we woke up and one of the butterflies had come out! For the next several days we watched the remaining butterflies fly in the netting. My daughter really launched in to care-taking mode now. She fed them oranges, watermelon and sugar water every morning. She sang to them, told them stories and would still talk to anyone who would listen about her "pets".
Then the day came to let them go. I was proud of her for understanding that the butterflies would live a happier life being free despite wanting to keep them confined for her enjoyment. With tears in her eyes, she said goodbye and let them go. For weeks afterward, she still talked about these butterflies nonstop. She wondered what they were doing. She looked for them anytime we were outside. She dreamed of seeing them again and she was quite sad before bedtime, when she thought about them the most.

Then one day she just stopped asking. I don't know why, she just turned her attention to other things.

It was weeks later and we were swimming in a pool, in a different state. This painted lady (the kind of butterfly she raised) came to play with her. The butterfly would dive into her, land on her, and fly away-as if asking to play. It did this several time in a row. It was quite a spectacle, as even strangers were getting their cameras out to capture this dance of a little girl and a butterfly. My daughter was finally at peace in her decision to let the butterflies go.
The Interpretation
I had always loved the butterfly quote by Thoreau. I even used to have it framed on my wall. It wasn't until in my own struggle at "chasing life" that I began to interpret this quote in a practical way. My happiness -- or at least my self worth -- had been wrapped up in the success of business. I had a plan for how many clients I would have by a certain timeframe, and my "happiness" was eluding me. I was so caught up in what wasn't happening that I started to doubt my ability as a coach, and even the indescribable pull that lead me to wanting to help mothers. I thought I had made a mistake. 
The release
I took what I had just witnessed with my daughter and the butterfly, the Thoreau quote which I had read at least 300 times over my lifetime, and the numerous Owning Pink posts on asking the Universe for something and then just...letting go. Letting go was a foreign concept to me. I am a doer, always in action. How was I to grow a business doing nothing? Do theory this is easy -- in reality, not so much. I even have trouble relaxing in a bathtub, let alone throwing my hands up and asking the Universe to take care of my business. In all honesty, I realized that I couldn't "DO" any more. As unnatural as it was to me, I had to practice letting go. I stopped talking about coaching to everyone I knew. I stopped obsessing about all the stuff I thought I had to do to launch a successful business. I stopped spending hours everyday on the computer networking. I reconnected with why I wanted to help mothers and why I was called to coaching. I spent time replenishing myself and my relationships. I thought about other times in my life that I felt like I was banging my head against the wall, then I looked back and I was exactly where I needed to be every step of the way. I surrendered and decided to let the Universe take over. I just let go and hoped it would happen when it was supposed to.

And then it happened, The clients came. Not only did the clients come, but the "perfect clients" came. These were the clients I visualized when I was going through my strange, surreal experience of being called to help other women in their quest to find happiness. When it finally happened, it was not forced or strained. It was not because of my networking, or marketing or obsessing. It  really required no effort whatsoever. It was completely natural, because I let go, I stopped chasing, and the Universe said it was time.

What is eluding you no matter how hard you chase it? Have you ever had an experience of letting go and allowing the Universe to deliver when the time was right?
Heather Sobieralski
Life Coach for Moms

Monday, November 1, 2010

When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?

A guest post on Sane Moms

I am fairly spontaneous.  I like to think I am open minded enough to try almost anything given the opportunity (I just couldn’t jump out of that plane though).  I may not be the one scratching the wild ideas off my list, but if someone else wants to try something new, I am a sure bet to go with them.
My husband and I were on a weekend getaway for our 10-year anniversary in Berkley Springs, West Virginia this month.  After breakfast on Saturday morning, we drove to a state park for a hike.  As we were looking for trail markers, we saw a sign that said,  “skeet shooting”.   My husband lit up and said, “Have you ever shot a gun?”  I laughed out loud and said, “Me, really? When in the world would I have ever shot a gun?”  Then he asks, “Would you like to shoot a gun?”  My husband continues to probe about the gun shooting.  He encourages me by saying, “It is really fun and should be on my bucket list.”  Well sure, what the hell, let’s go shoot some guns!
Anyone who knows me is surely laughing hysterically at this point in the story.  I am about as peaceful as you get.  I avoid conflict; I am a strict vegetarian and take every bug I find in my house outside without harm.  I have no need for guns.  But I have to tell you, shooting a gun is soooo much fun!  After I got the hang of loading the 20 gauge shot gun, putting it to my shoulder, removing the safety, fingers in position, situating it on my cheek and pulling, I actually had a fairly good shot.  I hit 6/23 clay disks!
I walked away from this experience feeling empowered by my new skill.  Not because of the obvious force of a gun, but because I had challenged myself at something so foreign and intimidating to me.  Will I shoot a gun again for fun? Maybe.  Will I have the moxie to try something else so far out of my comfort zone? Absolutely yes!
When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?  
Is there something you are itching to try, but are too intimidated? 

Monday, October 11, 2010

No Really, I love Mondays!

A guest post on Owning Pink

I recently came across this post on the blog, Working Moms Against Guilt, and it spoke to me. I too, look forward to Mondays. Sunday blues? Not me! I rejoice on Sunday night -- not because I am that excited to go to work, but because nothing I do during the week is ever as hard as being home with my children.
I love my children. 
They are the biggest source of joy in my life and they make me feel complete. But…hands down, being a mom is the hardest thing I do, period. I love Mondays because it is a “break” for me. I get to drive to work in the car by myself. I don’t have to break up fights, reach for spilling juices or take unexpected potty breaks -- I just drive. I get to have my own identity all day as Heather, not Mom. I don’t have to count, re-direct and brace myself for every transition -- I just do it.  I even eat lunch while sitting down -- tasting the food, chewing and swallowing.
I could never be a stay-at-home mom. Not because I don’t value what they do -- on the contrary, I think what they do is way too hard. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to enjoy it, but I didn’t. After my second child was born I stayed at home for almost a year -- it didn’t work so well. I was never so tired, negative, short-tempered, and frustrated in my life. I regret to say that I watched the clock most days, feeling like bedtime couldn't come soon enough. I was not fully present, because I was completely depleted. I felt like it was all I could do to maintain each day. Mothers of young children who stay at home have the most difficult job in the world. Many do it, and love it. Many do it and don’t love it. Many wish they could stay home, but can’t. 
Present and balanced
After I got past the guilt, and admitted that I didn’t enjoy staying home full time with my children, I was instantly happier. I went back to work part-time. I need this balance of productivity, recognition and separate identity in my life. I am a better mom for it. Now when I am with my kids, I am attentive, patient and calm. I look forward to coming home to my kids after a day of work. They have 110% of my attention in the evening. I am excited to see Friday come so I can soak them up all weekend -- but I am always ready to see Monday come!
Are you a stay-at-home mom? Do you work from home, or do you work outside the home? How does your work-home-children arrangement feel to you? How do you view Mondays, Fridays…any days with your child?
In support of ALL MOTHERS,
Heather Sobieralski
Life Coach for Moms

Friday, October 8, 2010

It does get easier, I promise!

It does get easier, I promise!

When I gave birth to my first child, I was in complete and total shock.  I knew I would be tired, I knew the demands would be intense, but I was totally unprepared as to how overwhelmed I would feel for years afterward.  I didn’t think my days and nights could possibly get any more difficult… until I had my second child, and I nearly lost my mind! 

My children are not quite two years apart and when you have two babies at home with zero family support in the area, the days and nights are quite long.  For years I felt like I was a character in the movie, ‘Groundhog Day’, where the characters kept waking up every day to the same day…day after day, with no escape.

I would complain, I would cry, I would find strength again.  My friends and family who were willing to listen to me would always tell me, “It will get easier.”  At the time, I wanted to believe them, but I just couldn’t see to the other side.  I thought this was something that you tell new mothers to make them feel like they can get through one more sleepless night and one more ‘perceived’ physically impossible day.

And then slowly, little by little, it did start to get easier.

I remember monumental days that we would shed another complex ritual. With each shedding, my husband and I would feel like we were one step closer to having the family we fantasized about when we took the plunge to become parents.  I remember the glorious day I gave away my breast pump, tossed my breast pads and wore a regular bra again without the fear of leaking.  The day we recycled all the bottles, and the day we gained the 6 feet of our house back from giving away the excersaucer, bouncy seat and swing was right up there too.  The day I passed the baby isle in the grocery store and didn’t buy diapers, and the first road trip we took minus the pack-n-play, stroller,  high chair and a 60 pound diaper bag for all the “just in cases” were equally as liberating.  With the shed of each of these responsibilities came more freedom and enjoyment for us as individuals, and as a family.

We now travel light, all in underpants that reliably stay dry.  The kids get in and out of their booster seats sometimes by themselves, I pee and shower alone almost always, and I get a good night sleep several times a week.  We still can’t go out to eat without incident, I still don’t trust my younger one around my dog and yes…I still wipe butts several times a day.  But little by little, we are getting there!  In fact, I am enjoying my children so much these days that I just want to freeze time.  I am appreciating all aspects of motherhood-the good, the bad and the ugly.  I am also for the first time not just ‘getting through the day’ to make it to the next more manageable stage.  I am appreciating the right now, just as they are.

I know many women greatly enjoy their child’s infancy and toddlerhood.  I have many friends who grieved the many examples I celebrated.  For those women, may you find new joys in your child’s new stages.  But, for those who feel confined, stressed and overwhelmed as I once did, I now stand on the other side and definitively say, “It does get easier, I promise.”

Friday, October 1, 2010

What in the world is a life coach for moms?

I was asked by the wonderful women of Working Moms Against Guilt to write a post about how a life coach could help working moms.  Here is what I wrote for their empowering blog...

Working moms spend so much time helping others, whether it's a coworker looking for a mentor or our kid struggling with homework. What if we sought a little help to get our own lives on the right track? I asked WMAG reader and life coach Heather Sobieralski to give us an idea of what a "life coach for moms" might do for us. Here's what she shared. -- Susan

What in the world is a life coach for moms?

Imagine… once a week, for an uninterrupted hour, getting to talk on the phone about your dreams, frustrations, goals and passions. You have created a special time just for YOU: to reflect not only on what is working in your life and what is not, but to come up with a plan for how to improve it. The person on the other end is a supportive and non-judgmental woman who understands the many physical and emotional demands of the working mother.
What is life coaching? 
Coaching is becoming increasingly more popular for busy moms as they attempt to navigate through their “undoable” lists of responsibilities, and are understandable coming up short on happiness. A life coach is a partner who offers support, encouragement, accountability, motivation, a mirror and lots of effective questioning to get a person moving (and keep moving) in a positive direction. The sessions, topics and goals are client driven. The coach does not give opinions, advice or believe they are the expert. Coaches value the client’s ability to come up with their own answers and action for growth.
Are life coaches trained? 
A life coach can be anyone who has a passion and natural talent for helping people with no formal education, to a highly educated, credentialed and formally trained professional. Most coaches specialize in a specific area or niche (such as moms). There are wild varieties of styles and techniques between coaches and coach training schools. It is standard for life coaches to offer a complimentary or trial session to potential clients. Introductory sessions are a great way to explore different coaching personalities and to decide with whom you feel most comfortable.
How is coaching different then counseling or therapy? 
Coaches work with mentally healthy and high functioning people who want to move through “normal life stuff”. Coaching is very present and future focused. It is common practice to hold coaching sessions on the phone.
Who are my typical clients? 
My clients range in ages and life stages. I support first time moms who are trying to recover from the shock of motherhood, parents of young children who have neglected self-care, moms of teenagers who are finding the stress of parenthood all consuming and “empty nesters," feeling like they need to find a new life purpose. The only typical thing about my clients is that they are committed to making time to work on themselves!
What types of issues prompt people to contact me? 
So many mothers get consumed with being “mom,” that they forget how to be a woman. This hyper focus results in a loss of identity and passion. I often hear my clients say that they don’t know who they are anymore, they feel like they can’t get everything done, they feel distant from their partner, they feel guilty for not being home with the kids or stressed because they aren’t working enough. They know some changes are in order, but don’t know how or where to start. Clients may also contact me because they feel like something is “missing." They are going along with their days functioning fine, but have lost their zest for life.
How do the sessions work? 
All sessions are done on the phone, in the comfort of your own home, office or car (I have had clients call on their lunch break)! This flexibility allows me to support moms nationwide. Packages are offered at varying levels of frequency and price ranging from individual weekly sessions to group coaching support. All packages come with unlimited email support between sessions, pre-session reflection and a session summary. Interested in learning more? You can contact me for a 30-minute complimentary session at (301) 717-7731 or

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Am I a writer?

Post of Owning Pink

I never liked to write. 
I was never any good at it. As a child, I would put off all writing assignments to the last minute and then painful squeak out the minimum word requirement for my academic classes. This unsuccessful process usually resulted in a “c” and some kind of teacher comment about expanding my ideas. Writing continued to be an undesired experience through college and grad school. I just didn’t like it and only did it if I absolutely had to. I had an interest in going for my PhD, but the thought of writing a dissertation would make me start to sweat, my breath becoming shallow. I got a job instead.
I chose a field working with people, where rapport and listening came naturally to me. Very little writing is required as a counselor other than personal notes. I worked as a counselor for 12 years, never being asked to write anything except maybe to contribute to a school newsletter. I never thought about it, never tried it -- in fact I didn’t even like to read other peoples’ writing. I really had no interest in written words. All I needed to know was spoken.
Then I had a child. 
My whole world was turned upside down. I craved conversations about the difficulties of motherhood. I tried time and time again to talk to those around me about breast feeding, how your relationship changes with your spouse, the mom wars about work, guilt, loss of passions and identity, and the general dissatisfaction with my new life. Nobody would talk to me about anything other than being tired and their babies' poop.
So, I started to read. I read blogs, I read articles, and I read books. I read everything and anything having to do with the rawness of motherhood (not the cute stuff). I read and I read and I read.  I started to feel less alone. There were other mothers out there who were experiencing some darker sides of motherhood.  Perhaps it was safer to speak our challenges in the written form.
I started to write. 
And boy did I write. I wrote all my nasty, ugly and hateful feelings. I felt better. I started to write about my imperfect journey of becoming a mother and people wrote back with gratitude for my honesty. I started to write about questions that kept me up at night, and other moms spilled their secrets as well. I started to ask other moms tough questions, and they answered them -- for real this time.
And now, I love writing!
I still don’t think I'm  any good at it (ahem, inner critic). I don't have a large impressive vocabulary. I can't string a  bunch a words together in a poetic way. My spelling is atrocious and my grammatical errors are laughable. I often read other posts on Owning Pink and feel embarrassed that I am even on this stage with these talented writers. I write the only way I know how, with sincerity and heart. It soothes me. I write because it gets out all of my junk. I write because it helps other moms feel less alone. I write because if I don’t, I have a buzzing in my ear and a sense of manic urgency until I do. I write because it is cheaper than therapy.
I guess I am a writer.
What about you? Have any hidden passions taken you by surprise after a major life change?  

Friday, September 17, 2010

What is the best parenting advice you ever received?

Post on Sane Moms

A while back I wrote about the worst parenting advice I ever received, the unattainable “enjoy every moment”.  But what about the best parenting advice you received?  I was given two very practical and honest ‘words of wisdom’ that I have found myself revisiting frequently over the last five years.  One is about my keeping my identity, while the other is about keeping my sanity.

Tip #1 (Keeping identity)
My mother told me before my children were born, “don’t forget that you were first a woman.”  I love this piece of advice!  It is a mantra I repeat almost daily, and a saying I offer to friends, clients and random women on the street if they strike up a conversation about motherhood.  It isn’t motherhood that defines YOU.  It is not only important for you to keep your identity as a woman, but your family benefits as well.
  • What example do you want to teach your children about identity, self-care and balance?
  • Where do you get your energy so that you may care for everyone else?
  • What is it that nourishes your soul?
  • When is the last time you had a conversation that wasn’t related to your children?
  • What is the last thing you did that gave you intellectual, physical, spiritual or emotional stimulation-as a women?
If you can’t answer these questions, perhaps you have forgotten who you are in addition to “mom.” I know, I know … it is easier said then done! I have been there … swallowed by motherhood and have lost myself in the process. I can also tell you during this time of lost identity, I was not patient with my children, I was not a loving partner to my husband and I was not a supportive friend. I had nothing left to give.  When I learned how to put my oxygen mask on before helping everyone else … I once again became a woman (and mom) who has a zest for life … and enjoys (almost) every moment with her children!

Tip #2 (Keeping sanity)

It was also my mother who reminds me every time one of my children is going through a nasty little phase that is driving me insane-that it is just that, A PHASE!  I remember my longest phase was feeling like I would never sleep again- that I would forever live through a haze of exhaustion.  Now I sleep a solid 7-8 hours, and the sleepless nights are a blur.  We have dealt with all the typical unpleasant phases; reflux, colic, teething, biting, crying during day care drop off, whining, potty training, night terrors, terrible 2s, sassy 3s, poking the dogs eyes (you get the picture) phase, phase, phase and phase.  When you look at everything as temporary, and have ‘a this too shall pass’ attitude, it makes life with children full of humor instead of stress.  Again, easier said then done!  I still have to check in with my parenting frustrations.  Right now, I am currently hyper-aware that I am clenching my teeth and my shoulders are up to my ears during pretty much any transition for my 3 year old (I know mom, phase)!

I find it helpful to be in touch with how I am feeling about a certain repetitive behavior.  Am I having a sense of humor or lightness, or am I feeling stressed and serious?  Just by being aware of my emotional reaction, I can repeat my mom’s advice, “THIS IS JUST A PHASE”, and appreciate the behavior as a typical growing pain. I can look now and see a new mom feeling so frustrated at phases that once drove me bonkers. So, throwing food off the high chair 20 times — hilarious!!! I promise, it won’t last, this too shall pass!

What about you? What is the best advice you have received? 
Do you have any tips to add? Can you share any parenting or personal mantras? 
Heather is a life coach for moms, a middle school counselor and a mama who is committed to rocking her mojo! She has two extremely “spirited,” independent and strong-willed children who test her, teach her and exhaust her…several times a day!  You can read more about her aMy Mama Mojo.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The "Booger" in the middle of the night

I have not gotten much sleep over the past 6 years.  I have been woken up over bloody noses, peed on sheets, nightmares, snoring husbands, general insomnia, teething, illness, fire trucks, children playing with battery operated toys in the middle of the night, and little people falling out of their beds.  But never (until last night) had I been woken up because of a booger.

3:00 AM -I hear her crying and yelling, "Mom...I have a booger and I can't get it out."

Me: "Just pick it and go back to sleep."

Her: " I can't it's stuck."  Louder crying 

Me:  "Just stick you finger up there and get it."

Her: "I tried, I really can't get it."  Even louder crying

Me: Stumbling out of bed and into her room to help her pick her nose.  We end up in the bathroom with the bright lights.  Yep, there is a big booger in there all right.  I now supervise her picking attempts.  No luck.

Her:  More crying...

Me: "Just blow."  Putting a tissue up to her nose.  Not working....

Husband: Yelling from our room, "Squirt some saline up there."

Me: Squirting saline.  Not working...

Her: More crying...

Me:  "Let's go back to bed and breath through your mouth."

Her:  "Will you lay with me?"

Me: "Sure"

After about 30 minutes, she seems to have settled into her nose whistle.  I go back to my room.  As I'm dosing off to sleep she yells, "I got it mom!"  Then she comes to show the 1/2 inch booger that was causing her so much grief.

It is good to be mom.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I caught a a glimpse of my old self...and liked it!

Post on Sane Moms

One question I love to ask other moms is, “ What do you miss most about your pre-mom self?”  I recently posed this question to a Moms’ Club, and their answers varied wildly from missing their flat stomachs, feeling brain numb from dealing with small children all day — to remembering how easy it was to get in the car and do something … anything before they had children.
As for my pre-mom self … I miss sleep.  I miss my alone time, I miss wandering aimlessly down each grocery store isle, I miss not caring what time it is, I miss silence, and I miss my husband.  But one thing I hadn’t really thought about in a long time was how I missed my love of the outdoors.  Before I had children some of my favorite moments were with nature.
I know plenty of women who take their babies camping, but it would have been disastrous with my poor sleepers.   We tried a few time to hike wearing a baby backpack, but I didn’t have the most adaptable young kids.  The adventures always ended early in frustration.  I never really felt comfortable taking them on a kayak or a canoe because the thought of being trapped on a small boat with a fussy child was not my idea of fun. I just forgot all about these aspects of my old life, because it didn’t seem to fit into my new one.
It wasn’t until this summer with my children — now ages 5 and 3, that we started experimenting with some of our old interests and passions.  In July we went camping, in August we tried kayaking on a river and in September we climbed a mountain.  And you know what?  The kids loved it!  We all loved it!  I haven’t felt more like “me” in years! 
Can we go at the speed, length or even the locations we used to?  Not yet, but, we can bring back the love of nature-which for years made me incredibly happy and peaceful.  I can take parts of my pre-mom self and mold them into my new life with children. It is a start, and it feels wonderful!
When we become moms we don’t have to give up everything else that makes us happy.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Identify what it is that makes us feel charged and go do it!
Now it’s your turn … What do YOU miss most about your pre-mom self?
Is there something you can do to bring it back — even in an adapted form?

Monday, September 6, 2010

Through the eyes of a child

One of the best parts about being a parent is getting to see the world through the eyes of a child, again. Life doesn’t get much better then abandoning all inhibitions and being a child with your child. I am my happiest when running through sprinklers with my clothes on, eating ice cream for breakfast and flying around my house in a Batman cape trying to capture The Joker. I delight in the “easy” questions about thunderstorms, bugs and eye color. I have waited years to have these engaging conversations with my children. Watching their minds process and retain information is quite enjoyable and satisfying.
But what about the tough questions?
I’m not talking about the “where do babies come from?" or “why is that woman so fat?” line of questioning. I have questions such as these covered. I am 100% comfortable talking about sex, diversity and life style. I relish in these teachable moments to talk about the facts, acceptance and a love of all people. I also find great joy in sharing my values and since my kids are so young, they blindly accept what I say as fact and move on. I know that I will soon be challenged, but I welcome the debate as well so that I can watch them interpret the world in which they live.
The questions that stump me are the questions to which I have no answers. The questions that I have stuffed down so deep that they have disappeared from my radar. These questions about loss, pain, and suffering are the ones that are causing me discomfort. Lately my daughter has been asking me really hard ones -- ones that keep me up at night. Ones that I have spend a lifetime trying to forget.  The tough question variety include: “Why do some children have nothing to eat? Why did God make mean people? Why do bad things happen?” To these questions I simply say, “I don’t know.”
The challenge from the little ones…
A few weeks ago we were driving in the car and stopped for a red light. Outside my daughter’s car window was a man with a sign asking for money. This man stands in this spot often, but today was the first day my daughter showed curiosity. She asked me to read the sign and to explain why he was standing there. I did both. My children were very confused as to why I wasn’t helping this man.  My three and five year old scolded me as they recited what I had told them about helping those in need, being kind and sharing what you have. I was stumped. I drove away feeling ashamed and emotional.
I recently started a new job, with a new commute. On this commute I see four or five people begging for money each morning and afternoon. They stand in the same spot, with the same signs. I am getting to know them in a way. They each have their story, and their unique styles of getting attention. Before I had this conversation with my children I would have ignored them, diverted any eye contact and prayed for the light to turn green to avoid having to think about where they sleep at night. Now, I watch for them, I am hyper aware of them. I make eye contact and say hello. Yet, I never give them money or offer to help. My kids would be disappointed.
My kids are teaching me to look again
I am more sensitive than most. Everything bothers me if I let it. I won’t even kill a bug. If I watch a Save the Child Campaign on television, it is enough to send me into a depression for a few weeks. So for me, dwelling on the devastations and injustices of the world will throw me into the corner to rock back and forth until it goes away. I have chosen not to look. I don’t watch the news anymore, I won’t engage in upsetting conversation. These things can break me. I spent a lifetime learning to filter and ignore; now I am being forced to look, listen and explain. What I really want to do is teach my children to stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes and sing” la la la” until it goes away.
It doesn’t work like that. It is my responsibility as a parent to teach them about the beauty of life, and the ugly parts too. They need me to explain, comfort and inspire because they are experiencing it with or without me. I must look, listen and learn. I will also support their coping mechanisms whether they choose the ‘head in the sand’ approach as their mother, or become activists! So thank you to my children for teaching me to be curious again, to reach out and to love. I won’t always have the answers and I suppose I don’t have to. Sometimes saying “I don’t know” is truly all you can say.

When is it that we turn from curious and compassionate children to hardened self-preserved adults? Would the world really be a better place if we all saw it through the eyes of a child again? How do you deal with the painful parts of life to which you have no answers?

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What I learned from a tri-state RV trip

A post on Owning pink

The Idea
My husband had an idea a few months ago…let’s go on an RV trip! I didn’t think he was serious, so I mumbled something under my breath and we didn’t mention it again. I knew his idea wasn’t going away when I saw him showing my three and five year-olds pictures of RV rentals online. “Come on, it will be fun…we can even bring our dog!” The three of them seemed so excited about the possibility, I couldn’t refuse them. I swallowed hard and gave two thumbs up.
The Planning
My husband is the events planner, social organizer and travel advisor in our home. I don’t know if he just likes these activities that much or I am just that bad at them so he has had to take over. He rented the RV online, planned each trip to the day and started making a list on what to bring. We were headed to New Jersey near Long Beach Island, then to Maryland to see the wild horses on Assateque Island, and would finish in Pennsylvania so we could take the kids to Dutch Wonderland. As the trip became more defined, I began to panic.
The Doubt
I need my space. The idea of being crammed in an RV with my husband, two small children and a 75-pound dog for seven days straight was not my idea of fun. If you have ever traveled with small children, you know how difficult it can be… especially the sleeping in strange places part. My Siberian Husky was in full fledge shed season and by the shedding pattern thus far, looked as if she could possibly go bald this month. I had been reading about the takeover of biting bugs on Assategue Island and feared we might be eaten alive. And did I mention my husband snores? Not cute little rumbles, but I’m talking freight train proportions. How were any of us going to sleep? I need sleep!!! Panic Panic Panic…Why did I agree to this???
Meeting the RV
When my husband pulled up to our house in the RV, I burst out laughing. It was a moving billboard for the company. Their logo, number and website were all over the vehicle. While loading for our trip, every neighbor on our street came out to see what this beast was all about. We met neighbors we didn’t even know existed. They all wanted to see the inside of the RV, hear about our adventure or tell a tale of their own. The energy was contagious and excitement crept in.
But as I was putting sheets on the “beds” in the RV, I pulled up the mattress to hook a corner of the sheet. I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Under the mattress were about 3,000 ants and 10,000 ant eggs! There were so many it looked like a moving carpet! I froze. I didn’t know whether I was going to vomit or throw a tantrum. I was so disgusted. I called the company who told me they had not other units and they were sorry, these things happen in RVs. Why did I agree to this???
Suck it up and go
At this point my husband was getting annoyed with me. He said I was being negative and I needed to lighten up, this was supposed to be fun. Quite honestly I was annoyed with myself. What the hell had happened to me? Pre-children I would strap on a backpack, hike 15 miles and tent camp in the middle of nowhere. Why was this kind of “roughing it” making me so uncomfortable? 
We took care of the ants and took off.
Lessons from an RV trip
I learned many things about myself and about RV living on this trip. So, for those of you planning a late-summer adventure or a mobile family vacation in your near future, here are some tips to help along the way:
  • Never take a 75-pound dog that is in shed season on an RV trip (should have trusted my instincts on that one). Especially if the dog doesn’t like moving vehicles and is prone to running away. Our stress level was through the roof trying to keep the kids from opening the door. And our dog did manage to run away once -- in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, not good!
  • When you go to visit friends you haven’t seen in ten years, make sure your aforementioned ill-behaved dog doesn’t kill a bird in their yard, in front of the kids.
  • Always check the weather forecast before inviting friends to your campsite for a cookout. The one night we had company, the sky boomed, lightening struck and the floodgates opened. In a matter of seconds our fire was out, the campsite was drenched, and we had four adults, two children and a wet dog in the RV (after my husband caught the dog).
  • Never open the refrigerator when the RV is moving, but if you have to (because the kids are screaming in hunger or your husband thinks it is a fun idea for you to make him a sandwich while he is driving), put on a hart had and steel tipped shoes because you will get hurt by the flying bottles and condiments.
  • If you feel a urinary tract infection coming on before your trip, don’t say you’re too busy to get it taken care of. Having a UTI while camping is dreadful and it's very difficult to get a prescription called in to a random pharmacy.
  • RV tap water is not a good substitute for saline solution, ouch! (I forgot mine.)
  • Always look under every mattress and cushion before pulling out of the RV lot. You never know what is lurking under there until it is too late. We found more than ants...
  • When you pull up to your campsite and it is located directly across the street from the dumpsite, ask for a new site no matter how tired you are from the day's adventure. Campsite dumps in 95-degree weather smell like poop.
  • I was amazed at how fast my underarm and leg hair grew in a week. I had no time to shave as if you took more then a 30 second shower, it would flood the RV due to a drain clog.
  • Beware of the green-headed flies. They are mean, they are nasty, they defy every bug repellent and will bite you 30 times in a row right through your jeans.
  • Become friends with the black flies because at any given time you will have about 17 of these unwanted guests in your RV. If you bring your dog against my better advice (see first bullet), this will entertain her as she will chase and try to catch them in her mouth... all night long.
  • Listen to yourself. I really do need a lot of space and alone time. At the end of the week I felt a little insane and very itchy (although that could have been because of my 62 bug bites).
The Best Part
After reading this, you're probably thinking there is no way in hell I would ever take an RV trip!  But I have to say, I would do it again. I learned a lot about myself. I was happy to see that despite the bugs, plumbing problems, smells, lack of space, poor sleeping and general discomfort for seven days… I managed to lighten up, have a sense of humor and actually have fun! My biggest accomplishment is that I managed to disconnect from the rest of the world and be perfectly present with my family. Maintaining lightness and being fully present with my children are two of my biggest struggles. I came back from the trip with my values and priorities back in order after being off balance for months. For these reasons alone, this trip was a fantastic success!
What about you? Do you have any funny vacation memories to share? Any memories of traveling when you learned a little something about yourself?
Heather Sobieralski
Life Coach for Moms