Mom Guilt: How to Escape its Talons


Mom Guilt. Or, more accurately, Parent Guilt. It’s real. And it eats away at our confidence to parent with peace and connectedness. But does it have to?

I’ve been pondering this a lot lately as I navigate a new phase of parenting. With all six kids now school-age, our days are bursting at the seams with activities, leaving me breathless most days.

Questions swirl through my head. Did I spend enough time with the littlest today? Do I need to ramp up my efforts with science experiments for the nine-year-old? How can I help my teen through his math anxiety? The questions are endless. Essentially they are all asking…

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Am I doing enough?

These questions can lead to a barrage of negative thoughts about all the ways we’re not living up to our expectations and ideals. I didn’t read picture books to the little one. I didn’t take the time to sit with the teen and work through those math problems. I didn’t play that game that I promised.

In reality, the day could have flowed smoothly, but somehow I ended up focusing on all of the things I didn’t do, instead of those I did. I read aloud for an hour while the youngest four played with legos. I settled in next to the teen to listen to him share about the thoughts that have been rolling around in his mind. I prepared a healthy dinner that nourished us all. I drove an hour and a half to swim practice and played with my kids in the pool while we were there.

I feel the constant tug between guilt and good enough daily.  Recently, though, I started dabbling in mindfulness meditation with the 10% Happier app. It has helped me start to be more aware, more mindful, of when the questions and negative thoughts pop up. And boy, do they pop up more often than I realized!  

I am learning to let the thoughts flow without judging myself (at least some of the time). I know this is just the beginning of the journey and that I will always be evolving with it,  but I am trusting the process.

I am constantly surprised that just by naming the feeling, its power over me dissipates. “Hey, there’s that mom guilt!” Poof! Just by calling it out, by being mindful that these thoughts are popping up, I’m able to intentionally shift my focus from the negative, can’t-do-enough attitude, to the wow-I-did-a-lot today viewpoint.

Why am I fighting myself?

One of the most recent videos I watched on the app explained how we, as humans, seem wired to look for challenges even when everything is flowing smoothly. Wow! Truth bomb!

While I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in this, I’m sad that we seem to be fighting ourselves so often. This makes me even more eager to explore mindfulness as a way to step outside the cycle.

After some pondering, I am trying to reframe my constant questioning and worrying from the negative to a new, more gentle view. I am leaning into a new view of my questions. My questions are a self-reflection on the heart of my family.  My questions bring me closer to the truth for my family right now.

This may seem overly simplistic and obvious, but when we are stuck in this cycle of questioning → negative thoughts → questioning → self-doubt, it can be challenging to step aside and see it in a new light. By pausing to reframe my questions, I slow the way they swirl in my head and begin to sift through them to find their core.

Questions lead us to new insight

Our questions are a good thing! The essence of each one is asking, “Am I giving what I can right now?” Sometimes that answer may be, “No, I can carve out ten minutes in the morning to read to my little girl.” But sometimes, the answer is, “Yes, I am giving all I can right now and that is enough.”

I am learning to embrace this question, not to produce guilt, but as a beacon to guide my daily decisions, encouraging me to stay in tune with my family's needs. Embracing mindfulness is gifting me with the grace to watch the ebb and flow of these thoughts without judging them or myself. Questions that arise from mom guilt are simply tools on the journey of connected, peaceful parenting.

It is my hope that you find peace in your questions and that they bring you closer to your family’s truth.


Monday Mindset: Some days it just seems impossible

Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

-It always seems impossible until it's done.-

Impossible?
Human flight, building the Hoover Dam, climbing Mt. Everest, running a marathon, pulling yourself out of bed on Monday morning, finding patience at the end of your rope...these all seem daunting at best and impossible at worst.  The good news?  You have something in common with the Wright brothers, the architects and engineers of the Hoover Dam, and first ascendants of Mt. Everest.  You have a brave spirit, pushing through all that is difficult, all that seems impossible, until it's done. 

I don't know what you are facing today, but I do know that you're not alone.  Everyone is facing a challenge today.  Some big, some small, but each one seeming impossible, until it's done. 

So what can we do?  Put one foot in front of the other. No matter how small the step, move forward with love.  And when it's done, you can look back and know that you conquered what seemed impossible, and that momentum can carry you through.

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Monday Mindset: Dear Frustrated Mama...,

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Dear Frustrated Mama Trying to Teach Her Boy to Read,

        I am not going to beat around the bush or try to soften the blow. The frustration that you’re feeling because your boy wants to sled rather than sit; it’s positively typical, and typically positive. Try not to take it personally even though it feels like a stab to the heart every time he whines about learning to read even though he asked you to teach him.
        His protest is against the hard work that it takes to learn something new, not against you. But you chose to be the one to teach your child to read, and so you must also face the hard work. Don’t whine in your grown-up way of cajoling him to read a little more, sit a little longer.
       Instead, have a conversation. Talk to your boy. You can do that. Acknowledge that it’s hard work and ask him how much he thinks he can do today. If it’s only a little, then celebrate. If it’s a lot, then celebrate. Your child has asked you to help him learn to read because he trusts you. Don’t blow it. Don’t push so hard that there is no joy left in the learning. He will learn to read on his terms. It is your privilege to support his journey. 
         So get the voices of ‘You’re not doing this right’ out of your head. No one else knows the delicate dance you are waltzing with your boy. No one else knows the gains he’s made in other areas this year; in controlling his anger, taking responsibility for his actions, in putting pencil to paper without tears, in stringing letters together to make words.
        Is there still a long way to go? Yes. Will he get there? Yes. And that is enough. Your boy is amazing and so are you. Together you make a great team if only you keep in your focus the love and respect that you hold for each other. You can do this. Heck, you are doing this! Keep at it, strong mama.

Love,
Me

Pssst…this goes for more than just learning to read:-)

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Monday Mindset: How do they feel?

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

People will forget what you said people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. - Maya Angelou

So true. Isn’t it? Sometimes our feelings follow us long after an argument of which we cannot remember the cause. And the same is true of times we have felt completely safe and supported. We remember. We remember the warmth of the love and compassion that surrounded us. Now, let’s change the quote just a bit.

Your children will forget what you said,

Your children will forget what you did,

But your children will never forget

how you made them feel.

Isn’t this just as true? When our children look back at the ups and downs of their day, they will not always remember our words or even our actions, but the way that we made them feel.

When they spill a full glass of water just as you finally got everyone seated for dinner.

When they try to help you make cookies by adding half of the box of baking soda.

When they crawl in bed with you in the middle of the night pushing you to the sleep-deprived edge.

How do you react? With love, empathy, compassion?

Our words and actions are important, but what is more important is that those words and actions create a feeling of love that your child will remember. And they can draw upon that love throughout their lives.

Monday Mindset: Choose Trust

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes a shift in perspective is all you need.

This is a re-post from October of last year because sometimes we need a reminder to trust, especially when it is the path less traveled.

Allowing learning to unfold naturally is a tightrope walk between anxiety and trust. At least it has been for me. I have often questioned my own notion of learning, and often done so multiple times in an hour. What I have learned is that whenever I allow trust to win out over the fear and anxiety, the result is beautiful. Always....read the rest here...

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Monday Mindset: What's Your Word?

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Happy 2016!

With the opening of a new year and the closing of the old, we can’t help but hope. We long for new beginnings like a feast after a famine. We look over our shoulders at where we’ve been and gaze ahead longing for a path to be made clear that will lead us to the goals we set.

What if we can light our way, calling upon lessons learned and striving ideals? Not through resolutions as we are accustomed, but through thoughtful intentions? And what if the light we seek is within us? I believe that it is, and for this reason, I have taken to choosing a word or short phrase to be my beacon throughout the year. Something I can use to evaluate whether or not my actions and decisions are in line with my priorities.  In years past, my intentions have been things like Stubborn Joy, Love, and Trust.

This year I choose diligence.

There are so many areas of my life that need me to be just that, diligent. And diligence encourages me to be present and faithful in all that I do. It is a audacious word, full of courage. My prayer is that I meet this challenge with all the grace and strength it requires.

What will be your word, your phrase, for 2016?
  Leave me a note in the comments so I can cheer you on!

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Monday Mindset: Parenting with Einstein

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Parenting with Einstein

During our morning read aloud time this week, we enjoyed
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein.
And as with  all great picture books, it contained a nugget of truth.  In this case 5 sentences.  That's it.  Just one short page, but it got me thinking.  My mind went off in one direction while my lips continued to read the remaining pages.  I was re-evaluating my perspectives on parenting and how they are made visible in my daily life of raising children. 

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Do I treat my children like that?  Do I squash their questions and minimize their ponderings?  Do I welcome their wonder or am I guilty of casting it aside as childish thought? 

And if I go deeper...am I open to their individualism or do I try to fit them into a mold?  Am I brave enough to let my children be who they really are?  And what does that mean? 

It's rather easy for us to read this story about Albert Einstein and see that his teachers were the ones whose behavior needed changing, not Albert.  We have hindsight and history on our side. 

Our perspective is rooted in the outcome. 

Can we hold the vision of our children's futures in the same esteem without yet living them?  Can we be brave enough to allow our children to be who they are even when their quirks are opposite of ours or go against the grain? 

 What if Einstein's parents had not supported his idiosyncrasies, and therefore his brilliance?  What would have happened? 

Perhaps then, we are asking the wrong questions.  Instead, we should be asking, who are we to stand in the way of our children being their true selves?

So this week, think of Einstein when you look at your children, and let them be who they really are.

 

 

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Monday Mindset: A Balanced Life Is NOT What We Think It Is

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes all you need is a shift in perspective.

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For so many years, I believed that the secret to a happy life was balance.  But I think I misunderstood.  I thought that meant that each day would be a perfect blend work and play, time together as a family and time alone with my own thoughts, a bouquet perfectly arranged.  And in striving for this perfection, I was missing the point; the joy of a messy life.

You see, I didn't realize that spending an entire day guiding a seven year old through his angry feelings toward his brother was part of the balance.  I mistook the sleepless nights and days of laundry mountains as days of being off-balance.  And because I felt that spending more than a "balanced" amount of time on nature walks or visiting the zoo or travelling would set us off kilter, I kept these enriching activities to a minimum.

I don't think there is anything wrong with this, as it worked for us at that phase of our life, but now I see things differently.

I see that all of these moments strung together, like pearls on a necklace, create a life of balance.

It's not just the snapshot of the day that I need to look at, but the whole week, month, year, or longer.  It is only over time that we can see the true balance of our time.

Recognizing this relieves me.  I don't have to feel guilty about spending an entire spring in the woods or hurried on the days when everyone just needs to lay around and listen to me read aloud or watch another documentary about the lions in Africa.

I don't have to do it all, all the time. I can so some things, some of the time, because that is a balanced life.

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Monday Mindset: Start a Fire

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Monday Mindset

Because sometimes all you need is a shift in perspective.

It’s November and the honeymoon of the “new” school year is over. Many of us are questioning, “Why did I want to homeschool again?” Whatever your reasons were at the beginning of your journey, they may have been overshadowed by the day-to-day nitty-gritty. And we often find ourselves uninspired, at best, or worse, just plain burnt out. If you find yourself here, take heart! You are not alone! After 8 years of homeschooling, I have started to see the patterns of the year and how enthusiasm wanes to boredom. The good news is, with a shift in perspective, (and some practical tools to help), you can regain your inspiration and rediscover your joy in homeschooling.

This is one of my favorite quotes and my “instant mindset mender”. Whenever I get bogged down in the myriad of details that it takes to craft a quality home education, I read this and remember that there is more to learning than memorizing math facts and understanding grammar. Don’t get me wrong, these are fine endeavors and often necessary, but if we lose sight of the bigger picture, nothing else matters. So I ask you, are you lighting a fire or filling a bucket?

One of the biggest concerns I hear among homeschooling families is that their children aren’t interested in a particular book/project/curriculum. So the parent asks, “What can I do?” Over the years, I have been faced with this same situation on countless occasions. This makes sense given that each member of my family is constantly growing and changing, including me. That each one has his or her own preferences and dislikes. That each one has his or her own learning style, which changes too.

Over the years, I have taken note of the questions I ask in self-reflection, when I am faced with a discrepancy between a learner and a learning activity. I have learned not to take it personally and that a lack of enthusiasm in my kids is not a sign of disrespect but a signal to me that their fire is flickering.

So, I ask myself these questions…

  1. Am I inspired by the book, project, etc? If not, my kids are probably picking up on it. If I am, how may my view of it differ from theirs?
  2. What are my goals/hopes/desires with using a particular book/learning project?
  3. Is there another way/book/resource to meet the same goals that may be more engaging?
  4. Are they really ready for what I am asking them to do?

There are no right or wrong answers here, but if you respond honestly, I think you will reconnect with your own inner wisdom about what is best for your family. Making the necessary changes to regain a love of learning may be challenging but they are worth every ounce of effort.

Ironically, or rather serendipitously, I came across another perfect quote as I was reading the first chapter of Julie Bogart’s A Gracious Space, Fall Edition. (If you have not had the good fortune of “meeting” Julie yet, you must! Catch any of her Scopes or replays or check out her website! Your day life will be blessed by her wisdom and non-judgmental support on your homeschooling journey!)

Julie says, “What makes your children’s education unique isn’t how well you systematize all the subjects. It’s how well you share your enthusiasm for life, learning, art, literature, the power of math equations to create quilts or build forts or sell cookies, the excitement of politics, volunteering in your free time so that your kids learn how to share themselves with others, and most important, your enthusiasm for each of them.”

So, in one word…Enthusiasm.

Be the joy of learning.

How will you light the fire of learning in your family this week?

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Monday Mindset: Don't Forget the Figs!

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Monday Mindset:

Because sometimes, a shift in perspective is all you need.

Don't Forget the Figs!

It’s Monday morning and you’re tired from a busy weekend that came after a busy week of raising kids, running errands, and relentless laundry. You may have been less than patient with your kids, your spouse or even yourself. You may have even thrown in the towel on Tuesday and decided that the task of the week was to make it through, not really knowing what that really meant. So now, you’re faced with a new week. Seven brand new days ahead of you. You want to make the most of it, but you’re still tired and not altogether convinced that this week won’t turn out like last week. Sometimes what we need is a shift in perspective. A reminder of what we value and a plan to make those values visible.

Enter…the FIGS! Don’t worry. If you don’t like figs, you don’t have to eat them to be the parent you want to be. These figs are more for the heart than the body.   F. I. G. S.  Here's how it works...

Forgive

You can’t move forward with the weight of last week’s shortcomings on your back. When you look back on your week, there may be things you wish you had done differently. Maybe you wish you had spent more time reading with your kids. Or getting outside for a walk to enjoy the fall weather. Or listening to your child more intently rather than checking your email. Whatever you wish you had done differently, forgive yourself! It’s done. Does carrying the guilt serve you well? Let go. You did the best you could. Period.

Intention

Now that you’ve done the hardest step of forgiving yourself, it is time for a small step on the path of intention. This path is yours, and yours alone. Stating your intention isn’t just wistfully wishing it into being. It is a mindful statement about what you value. For example, my intention for this week is to be present in a meaningful way with each of my children everyday. Just by putting this into words, it becomes a beacon for my week. A way in which I will bring consciousness to the decisions I make based on my values. In this example, I value individual relationship and connection with each of my children.

Goals

Stating an intention gives us focus and helps us to regulate our mindset, even when challenging situations arise. And creating simple, action-based goals helps us to make our intention tangible. Using my example of being present with my children, my goals may look like this.

  1. Limit my own screen time, and close any screen if a child comes to talk to me.
  2. Make a plan (and implement it) for spending time with each child. Snuggling at bedtime, playing a game together, reading a book, inviting a child to help make dinner or a snack. Knowing what is important to each of my children will help me to make the most of my time with them. Being open to spontaneous moments of connection is key but making “appointments” with each child will help to ensure that each child gets what he/she needs. It sounds somewhat contrived, but it is the same as planning a date with my husband. By setting aside time, I am sending the message that each child is important. 

Stamina

Stamina may be the second hardest part of “eating figs.” As the week goes on and the day-to-day threatens to swallow up your intention, hold on. Make time for what you value. Take an honest look at what is getting in the way of you living out your goals.   Are the obstacles within your control? If they are, be creative. Find a way to work it out. If they’re outside your control, be creative. Your goals may need to be tweaked but your intention, your values, don’t. You value what is important to you. Stick with it. And don’t forget to forgive yourself when you don’t. You’re an amazing person and you’ve got this!