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Back to School: Mom Edition

Back to School: Mom Edition

As parents of school aged children everywhere face another back to school season, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences parenting my son who is entering his senior year of high school this fall. Since he was 5, I’ve sent him off to a new year of school anticipating what it would bring- the new friendships, the struggles, the frenzied pace, and-of course, the growth and learning. 

And each year, as his mother, I’ve felt myself growing right along with him. I’ve had to learn how to manage the pace, set limits, and say no when needed. I’ve sat by his side, trying not to nod off as he worked painfully slowly sounding out his first little readers. I’ve tutored him through long division, made sure all of the dang science fair projects got done, and sat in the principal’s office with him. Multiple times.

Expectations, Expectations, Expectations

Mark Twain once said, “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it”. As the mother of a close-to-grown son, I relate to that quote now more than ever!

Because the relationship I have with my children matters so much to me, over the years, I’ve placed a lot of pressure on myself to be a good mom. Additionally, we face messages of cultural idealism around the idea of motherhood–idealism that stressed me out before I could even put my finger on it or had a name for it! I was bombarded with messages in entertainment, at church, and now- in social media- that idealized motherhood, and, as a result- turned up the heat on the pressure I felt. The unrealistic expectations that I allowed myself to build into my life added unnecessary hardship.

 

Dr. Julie’s Wisdom

Recently, Dr. Julie Hanks gave a talk at the TedX event held in Ogden, Utah. She spoke about the religious, cultural, and historic messages we take in as women, and the damage it can do when we hold  motherhood up on a pedestal. She describes the difference between idealizing and valuing motherhood- valuing is to consider something important or significant, and idealizing is to regard something as perfect, or better than reality. Dr. Hanks explains, “When we accept messages from external sources about something that millions of women experience in millions of ways across the globe, it reinforces the idea that there is one right way to be a mother.” She challenges us to think about motherhood as a relationship, and not a role. Roles are rigid- prescribed, scripted, with set expectations and rights and wrongs. Viewing motherhood as a relationship, she shares, allow us to be our authentic selves. It allows us to value the connection between mother and child, and not discount it because it’s in any way different from the idealized standard.

Some of the most valued learning I’ve gained over the last 12 years is accepting and honoring the mom I am to my kids. I’ve kicked mom guilt to the curb and try hard not to let it cross the threshold back into our home– but like every bad ex-boyfriend, it tries to come back around again and again! I’ve learned new patterns and set realistic expectations. I’ve made peace with reality- our lives are not Pinterest boards, my kids get in trouble, and growth is hard. And that’s ok. I’ve learned to honor and value the ways I uniquely mother: with creativity, with humor, and with a little occasional snooping in Instagram DM’s. I’ve realized I’m a good mom because I value the connection I have with my children above all other indicators of success.

I love the freedom offered to us in Dr. Hank’s message- that there is no one right way to be a mother to my children. By focusing on connection in our relationships with our children, it frees us up to parent in the way that works best for our families- conventional or not.

Let Go

This back to school season, give yourself permission to let go of idealized standards of parenting.  You and your children will benefit when you honor the unique ways that you show up as a parent. Neither us nor our children are perfect- we all need space to grow and learn!

Lastly, if the growth and learning your child encounters this year lands you in the chair in the principal’s office, take a deep breath and know you are in good company. Many a good mom have sat in that chair in the past, and many a good mom will sit in it in the future. Consider this your across-the-internet fist bump.

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References:

Hanks, J. (2019, July 22). The Costs of Idealizing Motherhood, Julie de Azevedo-Hanks,    TEDxOgden. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XlC8XqTSLUE

Twain, Mark. “A quote by Mark Twain.” (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/7595047-my-mother-had-a-great-deal-of-trouble-with-me

Scrambling through Life

Scrambling through Life

Scrambling Through Life

Do you ever feel like you are scrambling through life? That no matter what obstacle you complete or finish line you cross, you are never really settled? I know I am, and to quote Winston Churchill, “Life is one damn thing after another.” (more…)

Is Body Love Possible?

Is Body Love Possible?

The Hospital

I vaguely wondered why the morphine wasn’t working? The pain was so intense. I couldn’t remember ever feeling pain like this. I remember as the night progressed in the ER, the on-call OBGYN informed me that while she didn’t know, for sure, what was going on, she was going to take me into surgery as the ultrasound revealed a lot of fluid in my abdomen and almost no blood flow to my left ovary. I remember asking her if my 7-week-old embryo could survive surgery and she told me she didn’t know. I felt scared and sad but mostly desperate for the pain to end. While I waited for an OR room to open up, I remember suddenly becoming very dizzy and sweat breaking out all over my body. I remember shouts and rushing feet and a pronouncement that I was going into shock.

They rushed me into the OR. I remember signing some consent forms and then it was “lights out.”

When I woke from surgery, I learned that I had been pregnant with twins: a heterotopic pregnancy where I had one embryo in my uterus and one embryo in my Fallopian tube. Such a pregnancy occurs in 1 in 30,000, so my doctors weren’t even looking for it.

The embryo in my Fallopian tube had grown to a point where it caused my tube to burst and I was bleeding out when I went into shock. In that crisis, my body lost almost half of my total blood supply and I required four blood transfusions to save my life. When my doctor visited me in the hospital the next day, he told me, “You should be dead.”

But I had survived. Miraculously, the baby in my uterus survived that trauma too and I was able to recover and move on with a healthy pregnancy.

The Realization  

This was the first time, in my life, that I became fully aware of my body as something separate from “me.” That my body is a being truly operating almost completely outside my conscious awareness and control, entirely on my behalf. “I” (the conscious, thinking version of who I am), had NOTHING to do with saving my life that day. My BODY did that. Yes, skilled doctors, blood donors, and, I believe, Divine Intervention, also saved my life. But despite dire odds, MY BODY PERSEVERED.

When I fully absorbed this reality, I stepped into a more expansive and loving relationship with my body. I stepped into LOVING HER. I owe my very existence to her. Everything I get to do and experience here on earth, is BECAUSE of her. I never felt this awareness so acutely until I almost lost my life.

Before this trauma, I had spent years on a journey with my body. A journey that began with loathing, repulsion, and rejection and progressed, slowly, toward one of acceptance, respect, gratitude, and appreciation. Over time, I had landed in a very solid, positive relationship with my body. I considered us friends who took care of one another.

I was perfectly content and didn’t know another level of relationship was available to me: a level of LOVE.

While I don’t think it requires a near death experience to learn to love your body, for me it did.

Before this experience, as I just shared above, my body and I had a great relationship. A hard-fought, deliberate one I had fostered for well over a decade. I think this is important to realize because LOVE doesn’t have to be the end point for our experience in our bodies. We can have a meaningful relationship with our bodies, or with our lives, without having to love our bodies.

Jessica Knoll wrote in her “Smash the wellness industry”article posted in the New York Times last week, “Most days, I feel good in my skin. That said, I am probably never going to love my body, and that’s O.K. I think loving our bodies is not only an unrealistic goal in our appearance-obsessed society but also a limiting one. No one is telling men that they need to love their bodies to live full and meaningful lives. We don’t need to love our bodies to respect them.”

The question one has to ask themselves is “What kind of relationship do I want with my body?” and “Am I willing to put in the work required to get there?”

We can live happy, fulfilled lives without loving our bodies. But we can’t live to the fullest if we are trapped in relationship with our bodies based on criticism, repulsion, fear and control, chronic dieting, chronic change-seeking, comparison, and negative body evaluation.

Are you happy in your relationship with your body? Does how you feel about your body take up a lot of mental and emotional energy?

The more you step into body acceptance, appreciation, and love, the LESS mental and emotional energy you will spend on your body. This is freedom. This is peace. This is the opening for investing your physical and emotional energy in ways that truly matter to you. This is the way we can live present, engaged, and with meaning and purpose.

Again, body-love is not required for this kind of life.

It is POSSIBLE

But I disagree with Jessica Knoll that body love is an unrealistic goal. I believe body-love is possible if you truly want it. And if you truly want it, you will be willing to work for it.

I know a near-death experience fast-tracked me into loving my body, but I honestly believe I would have gotten there anyway. I was on track to that same destination as I continued to actively respect, appreciate, take care of, and offer compassion to my body. I also continued to use the tools I honed over the years to refrain from listening to those old, negative voices that beckoned me back into self-criticism, comparison, and disdain. This process was, and is, continually active. But as you build progress and momentum, it becomes easier and increasingly more rewarding. I believe as we treat our bodies WITH love, this will turn into FEELING love.

So whether loving your body is your desire, or if you just want more psychological peace and freedom, the place to start is to treat your body as if she deserves care, respect, compassion, and love. Because she DOES. AND SO DO YOU.

Article: 

“Smash the Wellness Industry” 

 

What I Learned From Trekking

What I Learned From Trekking

I just got back from trek. Trek is a church activity that spans a couple of days. Teenagers along with their adult leaders dress up in pioneer clothes, put their very few items that they can bring in a 5-gallon bucket, toss the buckets in a two-wheeled handcart that they then pull for miles each day to hopefully help them understand just a tiny bit of what the early pioneers felt as they walked across the plains to get to Utah in the 1800s.

As you can imagine, most teenagers are not excited to throw on their bloomers or khaki pants to pull a wagon for several days in the summer heat, and I was feeling that same way. I realized the night before that I cannot have a bad attitude going into this because that will not help the 200 teenagers that are going to be dragging their feet. I thought to myself that I am going to smile and learn something!

I am glad I changed my attitude. I learned a few lessons from trek that I thought I’d share.

Make unexpected happenings into an Adventure

By the second day of the trek everyone was pretty worn-out. We had walked 15 miles in 2 days and we all just wanted to sit and relax at our campsite. We had just trekked into camp when we see the darkest clouds making their way over to us. Seagulls were flying all around in a frenzy which made all of us begin to panic, and just like a switch that gets flipped on and off, the rain was flipped on, and it was turned on HIGH.

Huge raindrops, loud thunder, and intense lightning came for us. We had 3 easy-ups that had been set up around our food area and it was a race to attach the side panels to create a more rain resistant shelter. One of the amazing youth leaders was running from side to side attaching the Velcro with the biggest smile on her face. She came back under the easy-up with her hair stuck to her wet face and her arms raised up in the air shouting “this is an adventure!”

If I was her, I’d have slumped back under the easy-ups with nothing but negativity. I would be focused on how wet I was and how dinner preparation was not going as planned, but this amazing leader took a completely different approach. Instead of being down-trodden she was excited to figure out how to prepare dinner in a different way than was planned.

Dinner was made and it was delicious.

I know it is so hard to have a good attitude when plans don’t go as we expected, but there is so much good that comes when we see “Plan B” as an “adventure” rather than a “back up.”

Wearing the right shoes is imperative for support

We had a sweet girl that decided to wear boots instead of her trusty tennis shoes and it showed by the end of the first 8-mile day. Her feet were covered in blisters. A member of the medical team we had there even said that she may not be able to trek the next day. Needless to say, she had a whole lot of duct tape and moleskin on her poor feet.

Yes, the combat boots went better with her floral skirt, but the tennis shoes would have been able to give her the support that her feet needed. While I was trekking along I was thinking about support systems as I was thinking of this poor girl’s feet. If we surround ourselves with the support system, we can avoid a lot of hurt.

My mind instantly went to the movie MEAN GIRLS. When Lindsey Lohan, the main character, hangs around the mean girls she just ends up getting burned over and over again. She finally learns her lesson and surrounds herself with her family and people that care about her. Now, life will not be easy, but we can definitely lessen the amount of blisters we get on our feet depending on the support of our shoes.

In short…

make the unexpected into an adventure! No more sitting around and ruminating over the changes – embrace it. Also, make sure to surround yourself with a support system that will prevent the blisters, rather than cause them.

You are Meant to Thrive

You are Meant to Thrive

On Sunday, Jessica Knoll wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times challenging the claims of the wellness industry, and—more than that—asking why so many smart women continue to fall for “its harmful, pseudoscientific claims.”  Amen, Ms. Knoll, amen. 

Hate the Body

She points out in her opening paragraph one of the great, sad truths of what it means to be a woman:  we connect in our self-hate, and it is perfectly acceptable to refuse to accept yourself, and specifically your body.  There’s even a name for it:  normative discontent.  Specifically, this is the idea that it is normal for a woman to be discontent with her body, and that it’s probably asking too much that a woman could—or even would want to—get to a place of peace with her body.  

Knoll talks about being indoctrinated to hate her body, and is it any wonder?  From a young age, as girls we grow up listening to the women in our lives complain about their bodies.  We see them restrict their intake, yo-yo diet, and measure their worth according to their pant size.  And that’s only what’s happening inside our homes.  

If we look at a screen or venture outside our front door, we are bombarded with messages touting the thin ideal:  in order to be acceptable, lovable, successful, and perfect, you must be thin.  And everything in our society reinforces the thin ideal.  Everything. 

Isn’t it just a little sad that as women one of the main ways most of us connect to one another is by self-flagellation, one-upping one another on the horrors of our cellulite, and in a general way agreeing that we are disgusting? I suppose this sort of dialogue is not too surprising if the expectation is that as women it is just asking too much that we get to a place of peace and acceptance with our bodies.  

Expect More

Really?  Is this really too much too ask?  Is it really too much to ask that as women we could live fully embodied lives, free of shame?  Is it too much to ask for a little peace within your own body?  I don’t know about you, but I just think the bar is a little low on this one.  

Maybe the problem is that we continue asking for permission from the same forces where the indoctrination has happened.  Maybe it’s time to expect more for yourself and for your life because you deserve to live a fully embodied life, free of shame and guilt.  

You are Meant to Thrive

In my invitation to hope more for yourself, I’m not trying to throw our mothers and sisters under the proverbial bus.  We’ve all done the best we can.  We’ve all been trying to survive in a hostile wilderness.  Survival often meant submission.  

But we know better now, and we can do better. We were meant to thrive, and in order to thrive we must be willing to reclaim our bodies and our voices.  You are meant to thrive!  Yes, you.  I’ve been so inspired by the incredible ways empowered women are reclaiming their voices on social media, supporting women in all our beautiful messiness, and encouraging authenticity over approval.  It makes my spine tingle!

You deserve to have an intuitive relationship with your body and with food in which you can truly eat in response to hunger-fullness cues rather than the dictates of the latest diet guru.  You can know your body better than any expert.  Yes, you, humble, fallible woman.  You can know what’s best for you. 

You don’t need to look outside yourself for the answers.  You don’t need to see what others are wearing.  You can wear what is most comfortable for you.  You can move in ways that bring you joy.  You can connect to desire in ways that are noisy and inappropriate and would make your mother blush.  You can reclaim your body.  Right here.  Right now. 

Because if not now, when? This moment, this life, is the only one you’ve got. Live it fully.  

 

Link to New York Times article:  

 https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/08/opinion/sunday/women-dieting-wellness.html?fbclid=IwAR2aZXYfJkDxCVmM_7aKpzZV7ZBPUJVrZv1S0lgQuoPvrt2YcBQQf7Vr42s

Too Much Technology?

Too Much Technology?

I recently watched a new Ted Talk called “The Future of Happiness: Getting Unstuck in the Digital Era” delivered by Amy Blankson just a few weeks ago on May 4th. While acknowledging how technology could be a distraction in our lives, Blankson also spoke of its benefits. (more…)