A Mother’s Rights 13: You have the right to say no.

 

This is an oldie but a goodie and gets a lot of mileage in the mom world. In Paul Coelho’s words, “When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” Basically, know yourself. Prioritize what’s important to you. Then live that.

Suuuuuper easy. Hahahahahaha.

you have the right to shower every day (3)

 

If you can indulge me for a bit, I’d like to walk with you down a little bit of a deeper interpretation of this. I brought water and trail mix: the kind with almonds and dark chocolate, not that bullshit peanuts and off-brand M&M’s kind.

We all get the surface meaning of this basic right. Say no to things that will wear you down, stress you out, or just aren’t important to you. Like, if you have a busy week, say no to making brownies for the bake sale. If your kid has the flu, say no to carpooling soccer for your neighbor. If you don’t want to drive across town after a long day, say no to book club tonight. Logistically, don’t fill your schedule up with things that will overload you. BUT, what if the importance of saying no goes deeper than that?

Understanding when and how to say no at a deeper level starts with understanding how to listen to ourselves so we know what’s important to us and what’s not.  What is your yes/no spectrum? How do you say yes to life, to new experiences, to nourishment, to bold ways of being you AND say no to hurtful people, careless treatment, and stretching beyond your healthy limits?

This kind of discernment starts with practicing a deep and passionate love for who you are so that there is room for yes to come forward.  Actively practice loving yourself. Identify things that make you feel good without question. As in: I lose 10 pounds of stress when I dance to Sean Mendes. I love walking in the arboretum. Putting mascara on makes me feel like a powerful influencer. My painting is my happy place.

Make some room for these big yes feelings. Remember yourself.

Equally important: make room for uncomfortable feelings you may not initially welcome. Things like: I can’t stand hearing my baby cry right now. I’m so angry my dad is passive-aggressive about my parenting style. I wish my partner would leave me alone right now. My eating is out of control and I’m scared.

These uncomfortable feelings need to be seen and heard too. Feelings are temporary, you are not. Getting to know your uncomfortable feelings and allowing them to be seen will help you know your real self, and love your whole self.

So far: discover what you feel and what you like. Discover what you’d rather not be feeling and things you dislike. I am making this sound so easy, but for those of us who molded ourselves based on who we thought we should be, it takes some serious dedication and practice. Thank God for yoga and friends.

Discovering your personal yes/no spectrum continues with making room for ‘no’ to come forward without pushing it to the side. You have preferences. It’s ok to hear what they are. Begin listening for your inner talk of:

I can’t say no to that or….

my partner will get mad
my friends won’t understand
my kids won’t like it
my colleagues will laugh at me
I might lose something
I might feel something I don’t want to feel
I might miss out
it could be a mistake
I won’t be pleasing others
I might hurt someone’s feelings

Hearing that inner talk and recognizing it as fear and old programming will make room for really, truly who you are to come forward. You might have a really strong “FUCK NO – I’M NOT DOING THAT” come forward. Or you may notice a gentle “I’d prefer not to, but I’m really ok with it.” What you choose to do with your preferences is then totally in your power.

This book: Getting Real is a stunning map of how to identify YOU amidst the chatter of your mind and feelings, and how to bring that you to the surface in a real way. It is so massively helpful in navigating self, life, thoughts, wanting things to be different, wanting people to be better, wanting yourself to be perfect, wanting anger to go away, needing to feel more connected. Just everything.

When you begin to know yourself and stop living your life based on expectations of who you should be or what you should do, saying no becomes a fun experiment.

What does no feel like in my body and mind? Tight shoulders? Stomach pains? Does a strong no feel different then a weak one? What does ‘yes’ feel like? Am I smiling? Excited? Relaxed? Do I feel sexy? Friendly?

Saying no is about you honoring you. The real you, the one in your big juicy heart. And won’t your kids be amazed to see this practice of self-discovery in action? They are so lucky to have a mom like you.

A Mother’s Rights #12: You have the right to receive help.

Please God do not try and do everything yourself. There is not a single ounce of shame in having someone else drive your kids to school, deliver your groceries, do your taxes, carpool your kids to events, clean your house, organize your closets, move your furniture, do your Target run, return your library books or WHATEVER you need done.

 

receive help

 

 

We came from villages. It is an odd custom we have in this country to raise and parent and get everything done within our tiny family unit. Where is the time to breathe? If we feel pressed for time it’s because we are doing all the things that entire villages used to do for and with each other.

Imagine if you had a whole tribe full of people who could hold your bag and your coffee and watch your baby while you went to the bathroom. Or who could take your kids on a walk while you took a nap. Or if you had to only make dinner once a week because every other night of the week a grandparent or neighbor or someone else made dinner for you and your family. Or, as in some indigenous tribes, if a close family member was in charge of disciplining your kids so you could just enjoy being with your children.

Asking for or accepting help is a sacred concept. And yes, it’s tough to ask for things that in a perfect world should be offered: like at a family gathering, asking for someone to hold your fussy baby so you can eat your dinner while everyone else is already eating dessert.  The word “help” used to not have the intrinsic sense of self-lack we’ve ascribed to it. As in, if I need help I must be lacking in some way. I must not be as independent as I need to be. The truth is, you need help because you weren’t built to do it all. None of us were.

How many times do you imagine yourself as lazy for not wanting to devote every waking hour to other people? “Oh, I’m feeling lazy tonight so I didn’t make a healthy dinner and I let the kids watch TV.” You are not lazy. If you are a decent parent, as you likely are if you are reading blogs about parenting, you are working hard. Revising your emotional and mental and physical output to meet your own mothering stamina is smart. Replenishing your energy is good. Taking a break is not lazy, it’s wise. And so is asking for help.

How did we go from feeling fine as carefree childless people with non-stop free time…literally endless hours of doing whatever our single brains told us to do…. to judging ourselves for burning out from the non-stop hours of service we give to our children?  With children, free time became parenting time.

We must not make the mistake of thinking that tired=lazy or that worn-out=weak. As a mother, you are dealing with untethered toddler or teenage emotions. You are creating and dispensing milk from your own body. You are cleaning up vomit from sheets at 2am. You are literally attending to the feces of other human beings for YEARS. You are not lazy or weak for wanting someone to bring a cooked meal to your door or clean your bathroom for you.

To bring our village back, we need to be visible. To ourselves and to others. To say what we want and need out loud.

Tied into this, of course, for a lot of us is that we have a hard time receiving good things. Often we don’t even know what we’re supposed to be asking for. Or what it is that we’re not receiving because we don’t know how to recognize its absence.

This can be delicate territory for partners who are not used to contributing equally to household tasks. When you have children, suddenly it becomes glaringly offensive if your partner doesn’t do dishes or laundry and never has. It becomes necessary for both partners to contribute to chores and errands in order to prevent burnout. And ideally, recognition for and sharing the invisible workload that we often forget we are doing. In this case, asking for help feels a lot like asking for equality, which can be a seismic shift. But with love and compassion, it can be broached. Especially if you start by seeing the value in the invisible, emotional, and unseen work of mothering.

In my mom’s interview, she spoke about how the stay-at-home moms she interviewed in the 70’s didn’t recognize their own work as moms because they didn’t really know how valuable it was. To ask for appreciation and receive the good that can come from being seen, we must see ourselves as good and recognize our own work and worth.

Instead of imagining yourself as needing to do the hard work of parenting and running a household all by yourself and feeling like a fat failure for struggling and wanting help, think of your parenting work as the work of 5 people that you are trying to do all by yourself. In this case, it’s not a failure to receive support and help. Help is natural and a necessity. Receiving help actually brings forward the wisdom of having a supportive family, a tribe, a village. It brings the unseen work you do out into the open where it can be seen and acknowledged so hopefully, eventually help will be offered before you even need to ask.

 

A Mother’s Rights #9: You have the right to not always be your best self.

As the saying goes, only you can be you. I love that. Our problem often lies in thinking that we need to be the best version of ourselves every moment of every day. The standards that most of us try to live by as women are 100% ridiculous and will drive us right into feelings of inadequacy, anger, and self-doubt.

 

 

you have the right to not always be your best self

 

 

For most of us, our problem is not that we just don’t try hard enough to be good parents. It’s that we think we must be perfect or our kids will be forever messed up and it will be our fault.

Living up to impossible standards is what drives us into a panic attack trying to choose between organic or conventional blueberries. Expecting that you will never yell at your kids, wear dirty clothes, let your kids watch TV for 5 hours, serve Cheerios for dinner, have a messy house, wear the same underwear two days in a row, put in 50% at work, eat a whole pizza by yourself, have B.O., do some really half-assed parenting, not read the newsletters from school, leave the beds unmade, ignore your vacuum, blow off yoga, or WHATEVER you think is unacceptable and less than your best- expecting that you will never do those things is unrealistic.

You are a human person.

Anxiety often arrives when the expectations we have for ourselves become so limiting that we are squeezed into a tiny box of how we think we should be acting in order to be “good enough.” Your best is good enough. Your worst is probably also good enough too, if you have a conscience, a moral compass and you love your kids (and you’re not Cersei Lannister.)

Consider offering your best to your child for 30 minutes and letting yourself be at 60% awesome for the rest of the day. What would that feel like? Or redefining what “best self” actually means. Or loosening the grip on nighttime nursing your 18 month old so that YOU can get some sleep. Maybe it doesn’t mean picking organic blueberries at a farm with your children even though you were sick the day before with diarrhea. Maybe it means you call Grandma to watch the kids so you can lay in bed and treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.

Most likely, you are doing a great job. It’s fine. And fine is usually good enough. And there is nothing wrong with good enough. In fact, it might be healthy for your kids to see your humanity and your the beauty in imperfection. Every day does not have to be a gold medal day. Just enjoy your green participation ribbon and get this t-shirt.

 

Grow Interview: Birthing in the 70’s, Part 2

 

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Did your mom or grandma have access to birthing balls and acupressure for labor? Did she have a chance to sit around and chat with mom groups about what life was like after giving birth? Do you think her pediatrician or gynie (as my mom would say) checked in about how nursing was going?  If they were laboring in the U.S., most likely not!

La Leche League started in 1956 and the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners was not founded until 1985. Postpartum Support International was founded in 1987.  So how did moms back then get what they needed when there were not a lot of resources available beyond advice from family and friends? What were things like when Western medicine docs hadn’t yet caught up to the importance of women’s mental/emotional/spiritual and physical health care needs before during and after birthing?

Did your mother or grandmother have support? What kind of support did she have?

You will never know unless you ask. Women’s stories need to be shared, so if you haven’t yet heard the story of your birth or your mother’s birth, I highly encourage you to ask.

Talking to my mom about her birthing experience has given me a deep sense of appreciation for what I went through birthing my own kids. The resources, doulas, midwives, books, groups and available support that I had access to: those things did not exist for many women in 1970, including my mom. I learned where I may have gotten my passion for hearing and encouraging stories about major life events (As she shares in this episode, I was listening to stories like that as a baby in a baby carrier!)

In Part 2 of my mom’s interview, we pick up the story with my mom talking about how her life path changed after having babies and experiencing some postpartum depression- namely, entering a doctoral program and studying how new moms feel about being moms.

Isolation and connection, search for community (1:30)
Can a pregnant woman fit into a desk made for them (3:15)
Do mothers of young children value themselves and their work? (3:45)
Always bring coffee and donuts if you want people to show up (4:30)
Women working outside of the home viewed themselves differently than stay-at-home moms (6:00)
Being a mom has a job description and value (6:45)
The importance of new moms connecting with other new moms (8:00)
Modern birth centers vs being knocked out and laying on a gurney (9:00)
Steak and champagne after c-section (11:00)
Rapid fire questions (12:50)

 

 

 

Grow Interview: Birthing in the 70’s, Part 1

 

grow (1)

In this audio, I interview my mother! She agreed to be my first guest and to talk about her experience of pregnancy and birthing in the 70’s. I highly, highly recommend talking to your mother or an elder you are close to about their birthing experience. We share so  much and some women have NEVER TOLD THESE STORIES. Give them a chance to. So much is different these days and yet so much is the same. It’s a fascinating look at the common bonds that having babies create across generations.

And Thank God for her and for the women who blazed a trail so we now have things like lactation consultants and pelvic floor PT’s and paternity leave and birthing options.

There’s a 4 minute intro where I am rambling on about my mom and what’s to come. Ramble, ramble, ramble. And to break things down, Part 1 includes these points:

Was family helpful in preparing for birth? (9:25)
Reality of labor pain hits: “I don’t want to do this anymore” (11:00)
My mom says the “f” word and my dad makes an interesting choice (12:10)
Here was my Ok, stop moment. The baby was not in the room when she woke up from her birthing sleep (13:00)
Nursing troubles (14:20)
Dr. Spock recommends (16:50)
Postpartum depression and who’s checking in with mom (18:00)
Mother-in-Law on night duty (21:00)

 

 

Part 2 will be posted soon!

A Mother’s Rights #4: You have the right to revise your sex life as needed.

We are four posts into the 15 Mother’s Rights.  Ready for #4?

 

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When I interviewed my mom for my podcast. one of the things she said she wished had happened differently through her early parenting years was that there was more education about what happens to your pelvic floor and your sex life after giving birth.

These stories are different for every woman, but over the course of partnership, pregnancy, nursing, and parenting, our relationships to our bodies change.

Maybe we used to be kind of into our boobs, they used to feel sexy and now they feel like milk dispensers and you don’t want your partner anywhere near them.

Maybe our pelvic floor is like a loose stretched out rubber band and when we have sex, we’re so afraid pee will come out, we refuse to orgasm.

Maybe postpartum anxiety leaves us so stressed that the idea of getting intimate with someone is overwhelming and you’d rather read a book and take a bath.

Maybe you have weight that just won’t come off and you don’t feel like yourself, so how could you possibly want to share your body with someone else?

We have so many insecurities and expectations for ourselves. Adding an expectation that there is a minimum amount of sex we are required to have in order to fulfill our duty is an outdated notion. You do not need to meet a quota. Your sex life is YOUR sex life. If your libido is down and things have changed for you, talk to your partner and make some adjustments. Or get thee to a therapist and talk some more.

It doesn’t have to be a certain way. It is the way it is. Your relationship to your body and your sex life can change and grow. It’s ok.