The Shift of the Pre-Mom Paradigm

changes

Changes: Photo by Superior Hiking / CC BY 2.0

Sometimes mothers try to hold on to pre-mom ways without realizing it. Letting go of the expectations of the pre-mom body, mind or spirit can be a weight lifted off her shoulders. Motherhood profoundly changes a woman. It changes her in beautiful, amazing ways.

Holding on to previous expectations can really cause distress. For example, women are bombarded by images of moms “getting their body back” after baby. Therefore, they feel guilty carrying the extra pounds or stretch marks or a new shape because “if she can do it, why can’t I”?

For example: You are trying to fit in a structured workout program like your pre-mom-self did, and finding it difficult. You keep putting it off because you are tired, busy, etc. Instead of this cycle and mentally beating yourself up, try fitting in little bouts of activity when you can instead of the structure. Do ten squats while your child is playing or when you wake up in the morning. Ten is better than zero! Add a couple bridges in while you are cleaning up the playroom. It is a simple way to shift your paradigm.

The following activities can be done without any equipment at all:

Bridges

Squats

Bird dog

Bent Knee Push Up

Dead Bug

ALWAYS check with a health care or fitness professional before beginning any new physical activity.

 

Motherhood changes your mind and spirit as well. I encourage you to be gentle and forgiving with yourself as you figure out the new rhythm as a mother. Things are going to be different, and that does not equal bad, just different.

In what ways do you find yourself trying to fit into your old pre-mom ways? How can you change your thinking to positively adapt to your new world?

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Anxiety has a home in the future

house

House: Photo by mschellhase / CC BY 2.0

Worry is a part of motherhood. It is normal and natural for a mother to worry about her children and the future. Some mothers struggle with distressing anxiety.

Anxiety lives in the future. It exists in thoughts like: what if my child gets really sick OR injured OR something worse.

Sadness is a part of motherhood and simply being human. It is normal and natural for a mother to feel sad at certain times. Some mothers struggle with debilitating depression.

Depression lives in the past. It exists in thoughts like: I am a failure OR inadequate OR things are hopeless.

The present is a place where a mother can exist and rest her mind. Taking mindful moments, as written about in a previous blog entry can give a mother a necessary mental break.

The intention of this post is to raise awareness about the power of the present moment. It is about gently guiding the self, back to the present moment, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Even if it is only a fleeting moment or you are able to be present for longer, it is a break from all the worries and regrets you carry around daily.

I encourage you to think about where your worry or sadness lives and allow yourself to “live in the moment” a couple times per day.

  • Take a minute (or five) to sit in silence and do nothing (yeah right… “good luck” says every mother ever)
  • Focus deliberately on what you are doing in this very moment. Gently bring your mind back to the present as it begins to wander.
  • Eat slowly and savor flavors
  • Take in your children’s joy, wonder and innocence as they play
  • Focus on your breath or count your breaths

 

Note: Depression and anxiety can be severe and debilitating for some individuals and can require treatment. I encourage you to seek treatment if it is necessary.

Depression

Anxiety

Suicide Prevention

Kindness.

hug

Hug: Photo by Arwen Abenstern / CC BY 2.0

We as humans and busy mothers tend to become caught up in daily life. There are obligations to care for, housework to be done, work, children’s needs and more. It all can be overwhelming at times. It can be isolating to be so “caught up”.

If you are feeling overwhelmed or isolated, try this simple way to add some light to your day.

Kindness.

We need more kindness in this world. Not only does day to day life feel overwhelming at times, there is so much going on in the world. We hear so much negative and it is draining.

Kindness does not have to be a grand gesture. Small acts of kindness can cause ripple effects.

The following are small ways you can show kindness.

  • Give a genuine compliment to someone. Tell someone something specific you appreciate about them.
  • Give a smile
  • Buy someone’s coffee
  • Call or text a mom friend to see how she is doing
  • Hug your partner and children
  • Participate in a family friendly community event
  • Tell your mother how much she means to you
  • Volunteer with your children

Showing kindness can brighten someone’s day, and it can also elevate your mood. It feels good to be kind.

Read more about the kindness ripple effect here.

Read about a small act of kindness that had big impact here.

Here is another one about kindness living on.

Embrace YOURSELF as a Mom

adventure-boy

Adventure Boy

Personality is an enduring set of traits a person poses throughout life. We all have a set of these traits. Instead of wishing yours were more like someone else, embrace your traits! What are YOU really good at as a mother? Are you the mom who is able to remember everything and have a plan for the day providing great structure for her kids? Are you the mom who is spontaneous and fun? Are you an active mom? The warm and gentle mom? The chill mom? The social mom? Are you introverted or extroverted?

It is important to remember every mother has areas where she is great and areas where she is challenged. Letting go of the pressure to measure up to another person’s great traits and hide your challenging traits is relieving. Embrace you. Your kids have the mother they are meant to. This includes the great and challenging traits you possess.

If you would like to learn more about your personality take this personality quiz.

After taking the quiz check out more about the 16 different personality combinations.

Check out this report about personality and parenting. I found it interesting.

This article has tips about when your personality conflicts with your child’s.

Finally check out this article. It includes a cool graphic about the personality types.

Moms have SISU

SISU

Finnish flag: Photo by Lauri Rantala / CC BY 2.0

Today is Labor Day and the purpose of this post is solely appreciative. SISU is a Finnish word that cannot quite be translated into English correctly. In the Copper Country of Upper Michigan, many individuals are of Finnish decent and words to describe the concept of SISU by locals include: determination, guts, spirit, strength through adversity, perseverance, bravery and grit.

Since I have become a mother, I have seen other mothers in a whole new light. Mothers amaze me. Mothers have SISU.

Mothers run on zero sleep, take care of multiple children and head off to full time jobs on a daily basis.

Mothers manage to care for busy toddlers needs even when she herself is sick.

Mothers bravely balance households as she works to guide her child through a health challenge.

Mothers stretch budgets further than humanly possible to feed her children.

Mothers humbly do the most important job in the world.

Since becoming a mother I have seen, read and heard so many stories of mothers who bring greatness in everyday life.

Moms, give yourself the credit you deserve. Look at all you do on a daily basis.

You amaze me. You have SISU.

Motivation Monday: Getting Started

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Birmingham & Fazeley Canal – Newhall Street: Photo by Elliot Brown / CC BY 2.0

Especially at the beginning of a week, a to-do list can be long and overwhelming. Sometimes overwhelming can lead to paralyzing. Have you ever looked at your long list and decided to take a nap instead?

I encourage you today to just “get started”. No need to complete your whole list. Simply begin. For example, say you are planning to go for a walk, then do the dishes and finally run some errands. Take your first task: Go for a walk. Just begin by getting dressed and putting on your shoes. Even if you feel like taking the nap instead or don’t feeling like taking the walk. The act of beginning can set you in motion. Maybe you will feel closer to stepping outside.

If you are at work and you have countless tasks ahead of you for the week, use the same principle. Take one thing at a time instead of looking at the whole list. Finishing that very first item on the list can set you in motion for the day. Before you know it, the end of the day is near and you accomplished multiple tasks.

I find that taking things one task at a time can cause the cycle of “doing” to start. Your energy actually builds as you finish items on your list.

Put your shoes on mama!

Finally, remember if you do not finish everything on your to-do list, that’s ok. There is always tomorrow…

Take the First Step

Managing Stress Effectively

stress

Frustrated: Photo by Ashlee Martin / CC BY 2.0

Stress is a part of life, especially for mothers. It is important to effectively manage stress so it does not become too overwhelming to properly function. The following is a simple way to manage stressful situations.

Three step process for managing stress:

Step 1: Awareness. As discussed in other posts, the first step to managing any problem is becoming aware there is a problem in the first place. Admit to yourself “I am stressed”.

Identify your personal symptoms of stress. Stress can show as physical, emotional and mental symptoms. Physical symptoms include headaches, stomach aches, sweating, trembling, racing heart, and muscle tension. Emotional symptoms can include crying, irritability, quick anger, worry and sadness. Mental symptoms include difficulty concentrating, racing thoughts and sleeping struggles. Stress looks different for everyone and it is important to be able to recognize signs for you.

Step 2: Ask yourself what CAN I control in a stressful situation and what do I NOT have control over.

Example: You feel overwhelmed because you have some visitors coming into town and the house is mess, you have errands to run and the kids’ needs to tend to.

What can you control in this situation? You can control what you prioritize. Possibly the kid’s needs first, errand second, and cleaning 3rd if there is time.

What can you not control in this situation? You cannot control what your visitors are going to “think” of your house not being tidy. You cannot control if they are going to judge you for it.

Many times we dwell on situations, such as what others are going to think of us, when it is beyond our control. It can take valuable time and energy worrying about what is beyond control. Instead if we focus our energy on what is within our control, stress can be managed more effectively.

Step 3: Do a wellness check. Are there any of the dimensions of wellness (physical, emotional, spiritual, occupational, social, and intellectual) that are severely out of balance? If so, tend to that dimension.

Example: You have been eating and sleeping well (physical dimension) but have not had much physical activity in the last 2 weeks. Taking a walk may help relieve stress in this case. Another example may be you have not had many social interactions this month. You could reach out to a friend for a chat in this situation.

Check out this article for more tips on stress management.

Relationships after Baby

family

Family: Photo by Kat Grigg/ CC BY 2.0

Relationships with partners change after baby arrives. According to John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman (2008), 67% of couples report a decrease in satisfaction after baby comes home. Finding balance in the relationship is difficult. Parents are exhausted and stretched thin trying to balance the needs of the new life with busy schedules. Exhaustion combined with the great new responsibility can cause turmoil between partners.

There are ways for a mother to care for herself within the relationship during this difficult time.

The classic, cliché response is communication, but it is so important. You are a team, in this together. It is easy to become reactive and attack each other when in the trenches with words like “You aren’t helping enough.” If you are feeling this way, use an “I” message to express your feelings. “I” messages are when you begin your statement with “I” instead of something like “you”. It may also help to be specific with your requests.

Instead of “you aren’t helping enough”, try “I am feeling overwhelmed and would appreciate some help with the baby’s bath tonight”.

Another way to enhance communication is to ask your partner about how he is feeling. Empathize with each other’s struggles to balance all the new roles. After a true, empathic, back and forth conversation, you may feel your bond with your partner enhanced. Even though you have different roles within the relationship, you may be surprised at some similarities in the way you both are feeling.

Be aware in this new territory that disagreements are going to happen. Be kind and gentle to each other during disagreements at this time and remember you are on the same team. Even when it does not feel like it.

Check out Getting Parents on the Same Page for some helpful tips regarding caring for relationships during this time in life.

If you are interested in this topic, check out the book And Baby Makes Three. I highly recommend this book for all new parents.

 

The Haze

haze

Kveldstaka: Photo by tmorkemo / CC BY 2.0

This one is for the mamas who are currently in the postpartum haze. You are in those weeks or months after baby first comes and you are so tired. You would give anything for sleep. Fitting a shower in is difficult. The days feel long, yet weeks blend together. It feels like it will never end.

It does. Some of the lucky moms emerge quickly, and for others, the haze drags on and on, maybe past the year mark.

Care for mother (you) is important in this phase. You are caring for a tiny human who needs you around the clock. Your health and needs are important to be able to fulfill those of your baby.

To mothers in the haze:

  • Remember to eat. Keep easy access snacks around such as nuts or granola bars near where you are with your baby.
  • Stay hydrated. Have water near your feeding spot and drink water each time baby is nursing or bottle feeding.
  • Try to fit a shower in each day. Do this when your baby is sleeping or a loved one is around to help.
  • Remember this phase is temporary. Sometimes things will go smoothly and other times will be hard.
  • Reach out to other mamas. It is easy to become isolated when caring for the needs of your baby. Reach out by a call, text or use social media. We are here!
  • Try breathing techniques to calm your racing mind when you are trying to sleep. Try exercises 2 or 3 on this link to help.
  • Ask for help. Many people are willing to help, but may not how, or what you need.
  • Watch out for signs of postpartum depression, anxiety or ocd. Click here to read more about the signs.

If a family member or friend just had a baby, check out the “rules” for visiting a new mom. I found it interesting, and it would have been a helpful guide for my pre-mama self.