by Macy Morrow
Building a mom-squad is hard. If you’re not in an active pregnancy group leading up to the birth of your child, the aftermath can be isolating. Heck, even if you’ve done all the things, new motherhood is hard.
Old friends struggle to fit in your babyland. New friends are too fresh to ride the postpartum waves.
Where do you go from here?
Although there are many ways to build a squad. Here are 5 unconventional ways I’ve built mine:
1) Put yourself out there. I get it, ok. You’re sleep deprived, you haven’t showered in 3+ days, you feel like the substance that’s currently smeared on your leggings. It’s hard to remember that you have something to offer to the world, but you do. Remember when you used to sing karaoke? When you stayed up all night to drive to California? How about the time you knitted your own pair of shitty socks? Those are fun stories that someone would love to hear. I promise.
About three and a half years ago I was sitting at a coffee shop where the table rose just above my bulging pregnant belly. A hot cop approached, smiled and began flirting with me, and I totally let him. At the end of the conversation he tipped his head and said, “mam.” And HONEST TO GOD I’ve been living on this interaction for THREE AND A HALF YEARS. Now, just imagine that the hot cop is actually a really cool girl that you could actually grab coffee with (and not commit adultery). Neat, right?! You never know what’s out there until you take the first step. “I like your shirt!”, “Cool phone case!” these are just two phrases you could use to open with. It helps to remember: most people feel just as nervous as you do.
2) Don’t count out the singletons. My first postpartum experience, I sought out companionship of only mothers because I thought it would provide me with some comfort. Misery loves company, right? However, the more I solely associated with other moms, the more I realized that I was just swapping war stories with other overrun, scraggly women. Do you need mom friends? ABSOLUTELY. They have the closest understanding to what you’re going through, but you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Collectively, new moms can be kind of needy in postpartum. More than kind-of. We are really needy. During the #fourthtrimester you need friendship, flexibility, empathy, babysitting, comic relief, style and design advice, willingness to talk about nipples and/or vaginas, etc… Sure, other moms understand this stuff, but we’re all so tired, and truth be told, a bit “flakey.” Not because we suddenly only want to be with our babies, but because there are so many variables in getting two moms together to hang out. Did we sleep well last night? Did we just get thrown up on? Have we run out of coffee? We don’t know what the minute-to-minute will be like, and we need someone with adaptability to show up wherever we are.
Friends without kids provide rejuvenating stories, and spontaneity. They help remind us of who we were before the baby, and what we still hope to prioritize in ourselves! Look for the singletons, for they will enliven your life.
3) Bring the baby. Listen, sometimes you can’t find a sitter, or your partner (if you have one) is busy doing godknowswhat. Usually, that’d be an instant veto for hanging out, BUT what about if you just did the damn thing and loaded the baby in the car/uber? True, you won’t be able to cut loose as much as you were hoping, but it’s a start, and it’s a change of scenery.
One of the most liberating moments I had as a new mom was passing my baby off to a friend at a brewery, and drinking a pint with both of my hands free. BOTH, I TELL YOU! It’s not normal, and you’ll definitely get some weird looks, but I guarantee: if you give your friends the option of you with a baby or you not at all, they will choose to hang with you no matter the plus one sitch!
4) Find a commonality/try something new. I found out I was pregnant with my second because I had a catastrophic meltdown in which I questioned my existence. I sobbed to my husband at the dining room table. It felt like I was slipping into the role of wherever I was needed in our family, and was thus losing myself, and my interests. He opened up the community college website and helped me enroll in my first few classes that night. I can’t tell you how many times I puked in the Austin Community College bathroom with morning sickness, but I finished that semester, and every semester since, making friends along the way. School friends are built in. They serve a purpose per semester, and if there’s no connection, there’s no commitment in continuing on after the semester is over.
For me, school been a fulfilling and productive outlet to remind myself that I can do hard things. Oftentimes while nursing a baby, or doing Kegels. If you can’t commit to school right now, try looking in your city’s organized activities to see if there is something you can commit to. Austin has a great center for continued education. Pottery, painting, collages, writing. There’s no time like motherhood to jump in and try something unconventional to make friendships.
5) Start something. If signing up for something isn’t feasible for you right now, try doing something in your own home. OR if that’s overwhelming, just offer your home to an already existing group. In the past two years I’ve hosted: A Christmas Craft-a-thon, A book club (I’m sorry we’ve not been meeting bb’s! We’ll get back to it ASAP!), a DIY cocktail night, a clothing swap, Bachelor night, and floral arrangements. There’s never a shortage of things to invent in the spirit of hanging out. Organizing an activity is a soft cushion to get to know people better, and takes the initial pressures off.
Making new friends can be daunting, but if you pick any number from above, you can plant the seeds that eventually build your squad. Stop trying to force the mom-friends, and let the mom friends come to you by finding yourself, and inviting others to know you too.
Ugga Mugga, Mugga Fuggas,
By Morgan Messick
This is not a piece about postpartum in the time of covid, difficult as it is, with less human contact and access to resources. No, unfortunately the postpartum period at any time, under any circumstances is woefully under-supported in our society and it’s a big problem. We read about the magical policies of other countries, where families are supported and granted parental leave for sometimes up to a year (or more!). Fathers are encouraged to be at home with their new children, sometimes even required to be! In these foreign lands, mothers walk away from their delivery with baby boxes full of all the postpartum and baby supplies they could possibly need. Magic money appears in their bank account allowing them to transition more easily during this fresh new phase of life.
Not in America. In America, it feels like a dystopia where decisions are being made on behalf of our mothers. Oftentimes, by individuals who are not mothers themselves. In this, my homeland, mothers are being deprived of basic needs and support for things like breastfeeding and lactation. Not only that, but we’re being given mountains of paperwork to fill out after traumatic births, being shuffled out the door with a bill that will break the bank, and then being asked “hey, when are you going back to work?”.
You’ve probably heard that birth is a business, and sometimes it feels that way. And when the contractual business of having a baby is done, our society stops caring about the mothers. Instead, new mama’s are thrown out to fend for themselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
The amount of appointments you attend while your baby is in utero can feel clunky and excessive at times. Some moms are constantly going in for check ups, trying to juggle life, kids and so much more while attending back-to-back appointments. We check on our unborn babies a whole lot — and that’s a good thing! But, once that baby emerges, the appointments slow down, and the focus shifts.
The mother is no longer looked after. Her body and mental state is no longer regarded as a priority. When we go into the postpartum period (#fourthtrimester), we may have 1-2 check ups from providers, but often the most we get in those appointments is a series of paper surveys gauging whether we are experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety (the Edinburgh PostNatal Depression Scale). Even with proper evaluations, the onus is on the mom to reach out and circle the number that screams for help. There is an immense mental and emotional burden that mothers are bearing on their own, and it’s a big problem.
So, we don’t have support in America. But not only do we not have support, we’re often exploited for work so quickly after birth, it’s staggering. This might be upsetting for many people to think about, but if you’ve actually birthed a baby and experienced postpartum first hand, it’s mind-numbing to think of women getting back out there (some on their feet all day) weeks, or even days after giving birth.
We are being asked to work like we don’t have children, and mother like we don’t have jobs. Being a parent is a full time job, having a job is a full time job, and keeping a home in order is at least a part-time job. Add in those who have pets, or other family to care for, and – in this pandemic – possibly homeschooling and MORE. Many new moms are being thrown into some combination of these circumstances the moment they give birth. It’s overwhelming. It’s unmanageable. It’s horrible, and it’s sad that it’s not at all shocking in our country.
I’m a first time mom, and I am 11 weeks postpartum while I write this. Here are the resources I was able to tap into for my journey:
- I had the best prenatal care available in Austin (shout out to the Austin Area Birthing Center)
- I had adequate postpartum care through six weeks
- I had a doula to support me before and after birth
- I have an amazing partner, committed 100% to co-parenting with me and sharing the load
- I had an astounding amount of maternity leave by US standards (took 12 weeks, partially paid)
- My partner was able to take 12 weeks of paternity leave (PAID) and has been by my side the whole time
- I left my birth center with an enormous support group (thanks to the Centering Pregnancy program) that I am able to reach out to 24 hours a day through a group text
- I am able to buy the best baby products available to help my baby eat, sleep and live her best life
- I have had access to free lactation consultants through my insurance to help me wade through breastfeeding difficulties
I have some really great support right now, and I STILL find myself drowning in the day-to-day new parenting moments. Even with all of this help laid at my feet…it hasn’t been enough. From this mountain of privilege that I am lucky enough to be on, it’s not enough for me and the vast majority of new moms get much less than what I have to work with.
I am just about to return to work, and I am devastated inside with how difficult this is going to be for me. I am so anxious about what it all will look like, and how I will be able to cope, and how in the world I’ll get it all done. It’s not a contest for who has the most problems to contend with, but rather a bleak outlook for all mothers. No matter how big or small our troubles or successes: we are all in this boat together, and the boat has been sinking for years. We could all use more support.
When it comes to postpartum care, we are looking at a systemic problem in our country. The system is broken; mothers are treated very clinically during their postpartum time and we don’t proactively prepare women for what this period can be like. Instead, women are given statistics like “1 in 10 women will experience postpartum depression.” “According to some experts as many as 70-80% of women will experience the baby blues,” and “Many will go on to experience more severe conditions such as postpartum depression or anxiety, and it can hit at any time during the first year of your baby’s life.”
We are given this information to carry — on top of carrying the emotional weight of a new child, being sleep deprived, having a body that feels wrecked and generally tired in so many ways. We are asked to contend with the possibility that we may end up being a part of these statistics, and we may or may not be able to get the help we need — either way, it feels like it’s up to us to navigate on our own.
So, we become our own teachers, and through this we get lost in our roles from day-to-day and the moments fly by, self care is thrown out the window and before you know it you’re back at work, or it’s laundry day again, or you forgot to feed the dogs. Time is a thief, and sometimes it’s hard to catch your breath.
New as I am to motherhood, what I know is this: There’s so much trial and error, and sometimes it can feel like a stack of failures have piled up around you. And Mama, there will be moments that feel like failures. Wear them like a badge, because failing so much, so often, is not a sign of not succeeding, it’s a sign of love, effort, and a path to victories. It means you care enough to persist, to be resilient, and for that you’re the greatest mom in the world. And Mama, know that you’re not measured by the amount of ounces you can pump or whether you feed your baby formula (fed is best) or the hours of sleep your baby gets or how many dishes are in the sink or how many pounds you lost after the baby was born or or how many milestones your baby is hitting a month or how much work you are able to get done outside of mothering. You are measured in the love in your baby’s eyes — and they do love you so much!
We are thrown into a new world, given (less than) the bare minimum of support and we are coming out the otherside. Postpartum is hard, motherhood is hard, but we can do hard things.
They say it takes a village, but we don’t get one. (America, let’s do better M’kay?) In the meantime, find your supports where you can get them, Mama. Reach out. Ask for help. Join local groups online (in person, when it’s safe again!).
You’re strong as a mother, and I believe in you!
Morgan Messick is a first time mom to baby girl Marlo Jean, just coming out of the fourth trimester in Austin, TX. She’s a marketing professional with a passion for her dogs, fantasy, pop-culture content and crushing the patriarchy and systemic inequities. You can follow her blog MorganizedMess.com for all the things.
From the time my son was conceived, I asked myself, “how can I balance being a working mom?” It was no secret that I wanted to go back to work, and my husband was 100% supportive in that.
I love to work, I love my field and I love making my own money—even if the money isn’t great, #hellosocialwork! One of the hardest realities I faced in new motherhood was the lack of my own paycheck hitting direct deposit while I was away on maternity leave .
Besides financial gains, my work also keeps my mind in a relative perspective. My profession deals with acutely psychotic, predominantly homeless populations. Therefore, it has become an easy reflex to have reflective “heart checks” (reality checks) regarding the severity (or lack thereof) of stressors in my life.
The fact that I spilled my coffee, my kid pooped as we were walking out the door or that I forgot to make my smoothie (again) becomes absolutely minuscule in comparison to the feats my patients are facing every day. With this relativity comes gratitude. My work has taught me to be thankful for my coping skills, thankful for my ability to communicate needs with my partner and thankful for a brain that does not betray my ability to maintain reality and self-awareness.
So, I’m a working mom… and I love it. Not only that, but I feel encouraged that I get this opportunity over being a stay at home mom.
Stay at home moms (SAHM’s) are teachers, entertainers, short order cooks, house keepers, etc… That’s a job I feel overwhelmed by. Though the expectations from SAHM’s can run very similar to some I experience at work (such as problem solving with a very demanding population) the thought of stepping into this role for my own family without the ability to unplug made me feel anxious .
When I’m with my son, the choices I make directly affect the choices he has to live with. At my job, however, I’m able to distantly facilitate choices being made by my patients (or on behalf of them) for betterment of their lives. The merit of those pressures weigh differently on my conscience.
Although, I haven’t directly sourced the anxiety for why the two feel so differently weighted, much stems from the explicit mandate of doing these things daily with Pinterest creativity and an Instagram photo op moments. At my work, I know my “influence” and guidance can only create healthy patterns—there’s a clear line to walk. At home, I walk a crooked line, taxed with a melting pot of social media posts chiding me for all the things I could be doing in “betterment” of my child.
This work is exactly where I want to be, yet, I still have my doubts, and heavy doses of mom guilt for not wanting to be a SAHM. I’m not free from the pangs of missing my child while I’m away, but sometimes the days can slip away from me.
My work demands a fast pace, and insists my full attention. In fact, most days I’m so busy I almost pee my pants. From the time I arrive, to the time I leave, my thoughts and efforts are geared toward the needs of others . Countless times, I’ve gone through the day only to realize I have no idea how my son’s day went . Things I usually do to connect with him, like checking his daycare app, or texting with my husband, who is with him right now, are forgotten .
Occupationally, I teach empowerment, self-awareness and mindfulness. In personal practice, however, the shame and guilt following the days I forgot to check in seemed to be all-consuming. Convicted by my own lack of coping, I began to pinpoint my own practice of mindfulness to connect with my son throughout the day. In sharing this list, I hope that all working moms know they’re not alone, and that it takes a lot of effort to become aware of your needs, and make a proactive plan to meet them.
Here are a few of mine:
- I carry a paci in my pocket. Every time I reach in for a pen or keys I receive a gentle reminder of my little one.
- I check his daycare app, or text my husband; I set aside time to check in . (Even if it’s only a minute or two!)
- I bring my son into conversation more— using him as a focal point with coworkers. Connecting them and myself with his new words , or a story I found funny .
- I changed my inner dialogue from “ I wonder if he’s ok ?” to “ I wonder what he learned today? ”, from “Is he going to be less bonded to me ?” to “ developing friendships and different attachments makes for a healthy well rounded child”, and from “Am I being selfish for wanting to work” to “ having passion for more than one thing is not selfish”.
- When I walk in the door, I try to put my phone away, and leave work at work. I choose to engage fully . When I’m home , I’m home . (This is my hardest , and a constant work in progress.)
When I think about “learned behaviors” for my son, I want to engage with him in a practice of grace. I hope that by extending grace to himself, he will also excel in grace toward others. I would love to say I’ve identified my specific needs, embraced them 100%, and no longer struggle with mom guilt, but that would make me a robot and not a woman. So instead, I try to celebrate the days I succeed and gain better understanding on the days I struggle.
I’m essential personnel, which means I’ve been working through the pandemic. The steps I’ve taken to establish connection while I’m away from my son feel extra necessary right now, and are a comfort to me in the unknown.
To all my SAHM , y’all are badasses. To all my working moms, go ahead girl go ahead get down.
This is Jaeda’s honest story about the grief that comes with infertility. And the joy that she experienced when she was able to give birth to her twins Fiona and Porter. She holds nothing back as she shares her emotional experience undergoing IVF while she watched her friends get pregnant around her. She showed such courage in sharing her true feelings and we are honored to get to listen in to her story and learn something from it. Isn’t it interesting how motherhood opens our eyes to deeper emotions we never knew were under the surface?
What does “motherhood” mean to you?
It means abandoning a level of selfishness that I never knew I had. It’s the most important job you will ever have in your entire life. It’s finding and immersing yourself in new levels of love, anger, joy, patience, loneliness, and all the emotions in between.
Was there anything unexpected, traumatic or significant for you in the process of becoming a mother?
Like most people, I thought I would become a mom much quicker and easier than I did. Dealing with “unexplained fertility” was so utterly frustrating because there is nothing to pinpoint and say “Ok. We fix this and we will get pregnant.” I was not prepared for the emotional toll and lonely journey of infertility. As a woman, you can’t help but feel like your body is failing you, even if that’s not the situation. We are built to create life, but mine wasn’t doing that. We tried the good old fashion way for about a year before we started seeking professional help. It was the typical testing for both of us (HSG test, HSG test, semen analysis, bloodwork) and all looked fantastic. Next it was four different rounds of IUI, with no success. We took a medical break for a little over a year since fertility treatments were not covered. I had tracked my cycle in every single way possible, peed on strips and sticks, charted, drank and ate “fertility friendly” foods, rested in some cirque du soleil poses for optimal sperm flow. We decided to start looking into adoption, and something made me check our insurance again (it updated yearly through my husband’s employer) and shockingly, we now had enough to cover ONE round of IVF.
They retrieved 22 eggs which turned into six mature eggs which turned into six fertilized. We knew we wanted to do two, so the doc grabbed two five-day blastocysts and they stuck. I took a pregnancy test two days before my blood test, and seeing “pregnant” for the first time was the most surreal thing. When my blood tests kept coming back with stellar results, I had a feeling they were both in there. At six weeks I saw them on the ultrasound for the first time.
Seeing “pregnant” for the first time was the most surreal thing.
We had four embryos frozen. In March of 2018 when the twins were 10 months old, we got the news that our embryos were no longer viable due to a MASSIVE hospital disaster with a freezer tank. Although they would cover another round of IVF, I couldn’t see going through that entire process again with two toddlers and my now “geriatic” eggs. I think about those embryos every single day. There is no doubt in my mind I would have had one more transferred by now.
Infertility never really goes away. Even though we have our family, I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I still get jealous of people who can try for a baby and make one just like that.
What was it like to open up about your infertility to others? Good experiences and bad experiences?
Luckily, it was mostly good! I slowly opened up to friends and found a couple others struggling. It wasn’t until I opened up on Instagram that I discovered a whole community of people on the same journey as me. I even had a group text with two other women from high school since we were all struggling. I had another friend pass a Giving Key on to me that said “HOPE”. I wore that every day until the twins were born. After, I felt it was time to pass it on to the last of high school friends from the group who had yet to conceive. (She too wore it every day and finally had her IVF miracle baby two months ago!)
The bad part was related to other moms who were super fertile. I didn’t want them to feel my jealousy, but I felt a mix of joy and devastation when another pregnancy was announced. It was sometimes difficult to hide.
How did you cope struggling with infertility? I had to to learn to let go of what I couldn’t control and started seeking things I could control in regards to becoming a mother (adoption). One of the hardest things was trying to “not try”. That’s what the generic advice is: “If you just stop trying it will happen. That’s what happened to ‘so-and-so’!” It didn’t matter if I wasn’t checking my basal body temperature or peeing on an ovulation stick, I KNEW when that hot window was each month and there was no ignoring it. All you could really do is focus on making your life and environment as “family friendly” as possible. If you’re unhappy in your career, leave. If you’re unhappy with your health, make dietary and fitness changes. Find new ways to restore positive energy in your body.
How did you change in the process of your experience? I found a level of emptiness I didn’t know I had. I felt so alone on the journey and constantly felt inadequate. It led me to taking charge and finding more spiritual ways to deal with finding patience.
Describe these spiritual ways: I did more yoga. Learned how to meditate. Picked up running again and trained for my second half marathon. I tried surrounding myself with more spiritual people and had more conversations around that. I also started getting Reiki to help balance my energy.
I knew that one day I would look at a child and know exactly why it took that long to get them. I just had to find a way to accept that it may take longer than I wanted it to.
Were there any mantras/affirmations or ways of thinking that helped you move through your experience?
I was gifted a beautiful, handmade set of mala beads and used them as a point of centering. I remember making the drive across town for work, and rolling my fingers over each bead on the way repeating the same thing to myself over and over:
I am strong. I am patient. I am fertile.
What would you say to women facing infertility? If you feel alone, try to find the strength to open up about it. The fertility community is much larger than you may think.
These women are your friends. These women are your tribe. These women are your strength on the days you need it most. They will be there to lift you up in ways no one else can. Motherhood is generally the same for everyone, but the journey is different and unique. Yours will make sense to you one day. And while you’re in the middle of the shitshow, and you feel like you cannot take another crushing month of trying,
Remember that you are not alone.
Motherhood is hard enough, but when we face the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood all alone, it can be so lonely.
At Motherlift we want to tell stories that inspire, educate, and remind you: you aren’t the only one.
We want to allow women to share honestly about their experiences without all the fear and anxiety we usually find on the internet. We will be posting stories of joy, anticipation, surprise, grief, endurance, and most of all, strength. Consider this blog a place to listen to a friend’s experience of motherhood.
Come as you are.
Leave your anxieties at the door.
See that you aren’t alone in your story.
We are asking for stories from women who experienced the unexpected when they were expecting. If you want to share your story about conception, pregnancy, childbirth or motherhood, submit it here.
Have you ever thought about what it must be like to be a kid experiencing the world for the first time? If you’ve ever been in a foreign country you remember the feeling of looking out the window and there are signs with symbols you’ve never seen and letters that seem to be pushed together to form some word that has meaning to everyone else but you. Then you see that everyone seems to be behaving in similar ways but you can’t seem to fall in line. Maybe you don’t want to fall in line. Maybe you want to rebel! Or you wish they drove on the right side of the rode and followed the appropriate amount of personal space, and didn’t talk so loudly or so quietly. You wish they were like the people in your own country.
I’ve been thinking about how a kid might encounter our world and its unspoken rules at each developmental stage with newfound awareness/confusion. We assume they will fall in line with our mini-culture in our family. We try to speed through the “learning” then “modeling” process that is our job as parents. When they learn to talk we are surprised, sometimes irritated when they speak too loudly. They scream their new words happily in the car, but then they do it in the middle of church. We forget they don’t know the difference between the car and a nice restaurant.
When they begin to have an opinion, they get to have choices. They choose their shirt for the day, they choose what drink to order. But then they think they can choose to paint on the wall too! Right? We forget they don’t know there’s a difference between those choices.
Oh lordy, what about puberty? When they begin to open their eyes to romantic relationships. This has to be like visiting the Italian Riviera for the first time, having never stepped foot out of the monotonous suburbs! They see everything in brilliant emotional color. We forget they’ve never experienced this kind of admiration, love, infatuation- even if it’s just with their own reflection! The newness of all the hormonal firsts is all consuming.
We forget that at the beginning of each of those developmental stages they get saturated by the newness. They don’t know the rules and boundaries. It’s our job to show them without judgement. Give grace. And Model! Maybe we can relive some of those moments with them. The firsts. The firsts that cause all the conflict in a family and cause us to set new limits as parents. But the firsts are where they stretch their legs and grow into the humans we hope they will be. And isn’t it exciting!?
Morgan Myers, LPC-intern is a family therapist specializing in adolescent counseling and adult counseling. Issues include depression, anxiety post partum depression and parenting concerns. She currently seeing clients in North Dallas at Hope Child & Family Center of Texas. Beginning Fall 2018 she will also be seeing clients in East Dallas. For a consultation and to setup an appointment for you or your child, call 469-203-1533 or email email@example.com.
One of my favorite and most recommended “homework” assignments for clients who recently had a baby is self-care. This is simply taking time to do something that is restorative for yourself. It’s a time for you to listen to that inner voice that makes you, you. This helps you remember yourself in a season of life where you and your needs seem to be pushed to the bottom of the list. Note: to learn more about the particulars of postpartum depression read this post about it.
Sacrificial Love Does Not Equal Sacrificing Self
The line between sacrificial love and losing ourselves is a narrow divide. New mothers fall in love with their little bundles of joy! Their mothering instincts kick in and they snuggle, protect, and attach to their babies. It’s a roller coaster ride. When I was a new mom I found that just about every part of my body was taken over by the needs of my little one. Every minute of my day was altered, crunched, and squeezed for every last drop of energy and nurturing I could muster. Our babies get their physical and emotional needs met from us almost exclusively- depending on how much support we get from our significant others.
Can we all be honest and say, motherhood is not what we see on instagram or in magazines?
With their nowhere-in-sight baby gear and gorgeous white sofas? And there is a faulty assumption in our culture that as soon as we have children we will no longer have needs and we’re totally fine with it! And when we are faced with the choice of ours or our child’s needs, we will probably choose our child’s needs.
The biggest hurdle on the journey toward self care is quieting that voice inside that says “selfish.” When we fly on an airplane we are all told to put our oxygen masks on first before our children! We have to fill ourselves up so we have something to give. As we care for ourselves we cultivate our inner identity, energy, confidence, and passion. When we listen to our needs we refill what has been drained from us in caring for others. In doing this we model for our families what a fulfilling life looks like, and we also show them that they are separate, but securely attached individuals. Maybe as we refill ourselves it gives us some energy back give to our significant others. This also models for our children healthy relationships and creates a safe and secure environment for our families.
4 tips for self care:
Stop ignoring your needs and start ignoring the “selfish” voice. Advocate for your needs.
Make a plan and schedule it
Don’t apologize for it and ignore the guilt!
Incorporate your support system.
As a counselor working with kids one of the most important parts of my job is being present with my clients. My mind is swirling with to do lists, my expectations of myself and the client, my hunger, my body language, even my language! I continually push it aside over and over so that I can show my clients: I’m here, I see you, I’m with you.
This was never more apparent than when I had to film a play session with my first born. She is 4 years old. She commands a lot of attention. She is constantly saying, mommy? Proclaiming: Mommy! Yelling: MOMMY! SCREAMING: MOMMY! And I snap back to attention. I am constantly fixated on the future- anticipating dinner, cleaning house, planning, worrying, dreaming, self-helping myself mentally. Meanwhile, my 4 year old is eternally in the present, as is my 5 month old whose immediate physical needs are basically all she knows.
After that play session with my daughter, I have started to think about how we all actually live only in the present moment, we create, feel and experience everything in this moment. Our relationships are built in the present- the current second, minute, hour, and day we spend with our children. In the present is where we all relate to each other. Each moment we spend fixated with the past or future is a moment we are not “with” others.
So, as a quick and simple parenting strategy- try to be aware of where you are mentally. Are you in the room? Are you wishing or hoping or worrying about something else? Turn your attention to the little one (or medium or big one) in front of you and engage. You’ll find the present is full of surprises. There are moments to connect and deepen your relationship with that child that you might miss otherwise. Sometimes you are wrestling with your child’s flaws, they might be throwing a tantrum or complaining. Sometimes your attention sparks a conversation, a hug, or allows them to process an idea. It’s not always heavenly, but your kids will notice even if they don’t let on that they notice.
5 tips for Being Present
- Get on eye level with the child.
- Put phone on silent- Phones are time machines that take you everywhere BUT the present
- Be with the emotion they are feeling. Let them express how they feel without questions or a lesson. (Read How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk for more on this!)
- Practice mindfulness- Bring your awareness to your body and your breathing. Take a deep breath in 5 seconds. Hold 5 seconds, Out 10 seconds. Click here for free audio guides or open spotify
- Take care of yourself first. Just like the flight attendant says, put your oxygen mask first, we have to take care of ourselves so that we have something to draw from. That means meeting your present needs so that you can meet their present needs.
Morgan Myers is an LPC-intern at Hope Child & Family Center of Texas. Morgan Myers got her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health from Texas A&M-Commerce. She has received training in adolescent counseling, play therapy, sandtray and group therapy. She has worked with a wide range of people including the homeless, young adults in a community college, and adolescents. She has worked with moms dealing with postpartum depression and she is passionate about helping people find hope through self discovery and healing. She provides a safe and accepting environment for all her clients.