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I’m late to the game here on the topic of Mental Health. It’s been a big topic the last few years, and it’s never meant so much more to me than after I became a mom. From all the stages we could go through as a mom, postpardum depression, mom guilt, to just plain, “I don’t know what the f*ck” to do moments,” I found myself in mounds of stress and very little sleep.
If you already know our story (like many others), we work a lot, at times, too much. And when I mean by too much, it’s the point where work or EVERYTHING else has grown into some obligatory priority that starts to impact your livelihood as a person, your relationships personally and with your family. The last few years have been that exactly. At some point, I didn’t know how to separate my life from my work. I was taking conference calls from birthday parties. I never let go of my laptop or shut it off while on vacation. I held my phone at all times anticipating whatever I was working on. And you guessed it! That went from annoying my family, to really pissing them off.
At some point in this journey, my marriage was greatly impacted, and my daughter was too accustomed to me being gone than I was comfortable with. Most importantly, I lost myself. Before working motherhood, I found time to cook, eat right, work out, and find time with my friends. Post motherhood and fast forward 2 years after having Everly, I went from working out nearly every day and playing competitive volleyball to sitting on my @ss, completely tired and barely finding the time to make dinner.
I never went back to my pre-baby weight. I never felt the same way. I lost confidence in wearing ‘nice things.’ I was too tired to do anything fun, and I gave up on my social life. I convinced myself that my true purpose was to make everything I could and provide money to fund my family life, and that later in the future is when I would get my time to rest.
Whoever said, “We will sleep when we die” maybe didn’t realize that doing that would send you to the grave ALONE, and FASTER.
THEN A MOMENT HIT ME…
I had attended a women’s conference, happily funded by my company (very awesome). It was meant to be career development focused for leaders, but I attended a session about prioritization. There were 30 women in the room. We were first handed a sheet of paper and given 10 minutes to write down everyone we take care of. I was certain I had it accurate. If anything, I started to feel bad thinking, “wow, do I take care of ENOUGH people?”
The instructor begins with, please raise your hand if you wrote down yourself on your list. I was thinking, “oh…wow, I definitely did not.” I looked around the room, and ONE WOMAN had raised her hand. ONE WOMAN out of 30 made a realization that she takes care of herself! The rest of us commiserated about how we definitely don’t do that.
That was a wake up call for me to focus on self care, and since that conference, I have tried very hard to provide myself the self care I need to sufficiently and happily take care of my family. No one likes a grumpy mom. NO ONE.
Now, I want to bring this back to mental checks. The thing I had to realize is that mental checks don’t have to be negative, dramatic, or dire. I definitely don’t undermine diagnosis of depression, etc…, but my point is it’s okay to take a mental check for self-care when you start to feel like you are losing yourself. You don’t need to be depressed or anxious to realize you need to check yourself.
Waiting till you hit the bottom is like saying you aren’t going to have eat because you haven’t yet felt your insides trying to eat itself. For godsakes mamas, let’s FEED OURSELVES! We deserve it mentally. Don’t let any guilt take that away from you.
Coincidentally, I came across an article on mental health days by U.S. News who reference Alison Ross. Alison Ross, a psychologist in New York City and an adjunct associate professor of psychology at City College of New York defines self-care as “taking a few moments on a regular basis to check in with oneself, to take stock of how they’re doing emotionally and physically. Are they exhausted? Overwhelmed? Burned-out? Completely depleted? Many people don’t do this in an ongoing way; they just go, go, go with regards to their work life and their home life, and this contributes to feelings of unhappiness, resentment and a sense of hopelessness about being on an endless treadmill they can’t get off of.” Ross encourages everyone to carve out “me time” that includes taking time to do something pleasurable. “This can include taking a mental health day off from their job,” she says.– U.S News
And that’s what I did. That’s what I DO. This is the 3rd mental check day I’ve taken this year. The last few months I focused hard on work. I found myself slowing losing sleep. I was getting overly anxious with my travel schedule (I am going to be gone for 6 weeks straight in October). It was time for a mental check day. Today is about me. My daughter still went to school. I had coffee, I wrote, I am going to take a drive. At the end of it, I am going to feel refreshed. I will be more productive and patient than I was last week.
Here’s a reminder to you that you CAN take a mental health check day. Feed yourselves parents!
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Chores. There’s always more to do, and there’s always something to do. You see, I work from home. When I’m not traveling, I’m usually in my office, in front of a computer, on a WebEx also slightly annoyed or distracted by the fact that the kitchen is filthy and the laundry is not done.
(I literally stopped writing for 5 mins as I wrote the last sentence to put laundry in the wash, because I realized it would bother me.) Anyways, back to this blog.
I don’t know how we manage to do this, but even though we do get house-cleaning every two weeks, it takes us only 24 hours to absolutely ruin the place again (Dirty dishes in the sink and a million shoes stacked in the front entry way and on the stairs). During the weekday, my husband also has a 4 hour round-trip commute (yes, 4-hours in car and on the train to get to work which is another story) and is not around for the morning and typically not home till around bed time. This means the mess and dinner, are usually my responsibility and my annoyance.
This probably sounds like a story most of you have: Rush out the door, leave breakfast dishes in the sink, drop off your kid to school, start work, end work, and simultaneously cook dinner, watch your kid, and clean the mess that’s bothering you, while also trying to do the laundry, just in time to put your child down to bed at 7 pm. Which usually leaves me like this by the time my husband comes home
I felt like I was ALWAYS cleaning, and again, doing something completely separate from my daughter. I felt the guilt of ignoring her, and not giving her the full attention she deserved…not to mention the learning opportunities. So one day, I decided to talk to her about what I was doing while I was cleaning the kitchen, and why I was doing it.
Next thing you know, she says, “I want to help mama.”
And why not? I realized she is not really a “baby-baby” anymore (sobbing inside). She’s developing her independence at this age, both emotionally and physically. That’s what prompted me to start making some of our family chores more inclusive and use them as opportunities to teach her that we all help each other. (Not to mention, allow me to get some small help). Everly also does receive an allowance at the end of every week of 25 cents, which she knows is dependent on her completing her chores. She’s not used the money for anything, but does find joy in putting it in her piggy bank!
Here’s the top (non-exhausting) 5 Chores for Toddlers:
1) Sorting the Laundry
Every week, we do the laundry together. I dump out the clothes from our hampers on the floor, and I review with her the difference between “colors” and “whites.” She then digs through the laundry and puts them in two perfect piles for me. She is amazing at this. I had to check her for the first couple of times, but this was a perfect task for a toddler. TIP: It’s always good to explain the rules of the game every time to avoid confusion. Also, don’t leave them to do it on their own, but do something in parallel or help.
2) Putting all the front door shoe clutter away
I know some of you have this problem. The infamous front entry way or the stairway, cluttered with shoes and dirty socks from everyone in your family walking in and getting comfortable. For some reason, the stairs is a perfect catch all for sitting and leaving sh*t on. (*clink* – the sound of me adding to the swear jar). This was another awesome way to get Everly to MOVE and have a mission critical task – To bring her shoes into her closet (and into her bin) and to bring our shoes to our closet. It’s another great sorting chore, and one she especially loves when there’s a race – or if we’re racing!
3) Watering the plants
Watering the plants is by far, one of Everly’s FAVORITE chores. We have a few plants in the garden in our backyard that need watering, daily. If you haven’t fancied-it up with an irrigation system for all your plants, this is a great toddler-friendly chore. You can easily get a toddler-sized watering can from Amazon, and let her help you nurture your garden. It’s an opportunity for you to do something outside together and also teach her about the care of plants and living things.
4) Cleaning up after eating
This might not save you much work, but it does teach a toddler independence. Everly finds pride in showing me that she’s done with her food and will then slowly take her plate and utensils to the sink for me to wash later. You can also encourage your toddler to look for the napkins on the table to put them in the trash (if it’s accessible). I know many Montessori schools already emphasize this clean-up practice after eating, so why not emphasize it at home?
5) Clean out the backpack
When I pick up Everly from school, it’s usually packed with random napkins, leftovers from school, loose paper, and spare clothes. It usually needs to be emptied in some capacity. This is another really great help to me, and wonderful way for Everly to take responsibility for her things while learning about “sequence.” She takes out the items in her backpack. She does 3 things: 1) Throws away the loose papers 2) Empties out her lunch box (putting her bento box into the sink) and 3) puts the ice pack back into the freezer.
Whatever chores might be piling up on your to do list, think about which ones could be toddler-friendly for your family. Whether it’s any of these above, or others like feeding the dog, the types of chores that have worked best for us have been sorting, clutter-removal, or destination-driven tasks (i.e giving an item to my husband upstairs).
We hope you enjoyed our list of chores! We also always love to hear more of what chores work for your toddlers. Share them in the comments!
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Oh, The ‘coveted’ Mom Tribe! I never knew something I hadn’t heard about until I was in my 30’s was going to be so valuable in my experience as a mom. What is a mom tribe (or what I’d like to call a parent tribe)? A mom tribe is a valuable and irreplaceable group of moms (or dads) who will support you in every emotional crisis of being a mom. This tribe is who you go to when your crying on the kitchen floor postpartum after losing it because your newborn won’t sleep. They remind you that you are not alone. This is the tribe who you call when you’ve convinced yourself that you don’t know what you are doing because your toddler has just lost her sh*t the whole day . They remind you that you DO know what you’re doing. It’s the tribe you call when work has taken over your life, and the ONE day you are home with your daughter, she tells you to “Go back to Colorado,” (Side note: We live in California, and I travel to Boulder for work). The reminder you need to get it together because you’re a strong PARENT and what you’re doing is amazing.
You can see why this is such a coveted tribe. Guess what else I learned? I suppose I never thought of the day that some of my friends would be having children too, and some won’t. I also never knew that after having already evolved my group of friends from High School to College, and College to my adult life, that it would need to evolve again when I became a parent. In the beginning, it was awkward and guilt-ridden. I was trying to balance becoming a parent (while also still trying to maintain a career), taking care of a child, staying married, staying employed (and valuable), and if there’s any time left, spending it on me.
My weekdays are non-stop: School drop off, make the 7 am meeting, work through lunch, rush to pick up Everly, bring her to ballet, rush home to make dinner, clean up, put her to bed by 7:30 pm, finish whatever I was doing before, and CRASH at 9 pm. FIVE DAYS OF THIS, and all I want to do on the weekend is sleep. Some friends understood this, and some friends didn’t. That’s okay. It did highlight the need for a tribe. If I wanted to keep sane and not turn into a complete hermit, I had to make some friends. This meant opening myself up to new people, or rekindling with others who maybe had kids before me…of course, in addition to gravitating towards some of my other friends who were in the same phase of life as me.
I then realized, it was key to have the RIGHT people in your tribe. Having the wrong tribe can just add more drama and can fuel your insecurities as a mom. It took time for me to evolve the right balance of mom friends to create a tribe, and here are some tips I learned to ensure you have the right mom tribe.
1) Have a diverse tribe
- It’s easy to find a mommy/daddy group, that meshes well, and does everything together. If you have this rare unicorn, that’s great! But make sure this group can support you in the different problems you might encounter in each facet of parenthood: Work, home, interfamily relationships, marriage, and aspirations! It’s important that you have someone in your tribe that you can go to for different things. No two moms are alike!
2) Have a Candid tribe
Being candid doesn’t mean your tribe can say ‘whatever’ they want, ‘whenever they want.’ It means that they will be honest with you, at the right time, in the right way. They don’t let issues “fester” and are honest with their relationship with you. This makes for a lasting friendship.
3) Have compatible parenting styles
I’m not suggesting you can’t be friends with all moms/dads. But when it comes to your tribe, there is an importance in parenting style compatibility. The time you have together has to be stress-free, and you have to be on the same page about how you may deal with your children (especially in public). Let me give you an example. If you’re a parent who emphasizes the importance of independence – allowing your child to explore, fall on their own, etc.. – it can be very stressful for another parent who doesn’t agree with those methods to have their child(ren) interact with yours while they see “Bobby’s mom act differently.” It might be a small difference reading it in a blog, but I have seen this first-hand cause stress among the kids and their parents.
4) Have a drama-free tribe
If you find yourself stressed out about what your tribe is going to say to you or behind your back, that’s a red flag. A true tribe should be your getaway. An opportunity to let go, be yourself and simply exhale. If you find yourself juggling gossip between your tribe friends instead of healthy venting, and you’re hearing a lot of complaining, then find another tribe. That environment can be toxic and contagious. Enough said on this one…
5) Have a tribe that supports you, not enables you
A strong tribe means strong women (or men), which means there is also some healthy tough love. As much as your tribe should be there to listen to your struggles as a parent, they should be there to help you through it, not just enable it. If they feed into your negative thoughts and consistently validate them – no matter how good it feels in the short term, it’s not healthy. You want to be understood and empathized with, but your tribe should also be willing to help see you through victory in these situations. They don’t just show up to hear the drama, they show up to help you through it in a positive way. They are the ones who show up to play dates, not just to take advantage of some playtime outside their home, but also help clean up! They are the ones who listen to your struggles but are also the first ones, yoga pants and all, to pour you a glass of wine and help you figure out what you’re going to do next.
I always heard that “It takes a village to raise a child.” They weren’t kidding and it also takes a village to keep you sane as a mother. I’m grateful for the tribe I have, and all the wonderful things they have taught me. Bonds from your tribe cannot be broken, no matter how often or infrequent you actually see each other. Cheers to all your rockstar parents, supporting other parents.
If you’re thankful for your tribe, tag them, and share this post with them. Thank them for keeping you sane.
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