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.

 

A Mother’s Rights #6: You have the right to exercise every day.

 

There’s an author named Candace Pert who wrote a book called, “Your Body is Your Subconscious Mind.”  I love, love, love this concept. It makes so much sense! All things that happen in your life and the way you feel about the things that happen are stored in your body and mind. Our bodies have intelligence and preferences. They are not separate from our existence but integrally a part of how we interpret and process the world, including our inner world. To keep those energies and emotions and thoughts fluid and flowing, we must move our bodies if we can.

 

 

you have the right to exercise every day

 

 

Bodies love exercise. They need it.

But no two bodies are the same. I know my body is not the same as Charlize Theron’s body.  Pretty sure about that one. Not the same as my husband’s or my kids’. There are exercises that feel good to me that may not feel good to them. There are different kinds of movement that used to feel good before I had children that don’t feel as good now.

It’s ok to meet yourself wherever you’re at and find something that feels good to you now. This is all about asking the very important question:

What does your body want now?

And finding a way to get it.  Is walking around the block exercise? Yes. Yoga? Playing catch with your kid? Climbing up the playground slide? Dance party with your baby? Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

We often sneak ourselves into a corner by thinking that exercise only counts if you’re at the gym or in cute workout clothes or it lasts for at least an hour and your kids aren’t there. If we set aside the mind for a moment and pay attention to the body, you may get some clues about what your cells really need. Maybe soft flowing dance, maybe wind sprints, maybe 50 squats before you sit to pee, maybe a little movement every day or maybe something big 2 times a week.

It may be a 10 minute postnatal core strengthening focus (this one has modifications for diastasis recti) so you feel like your insides aren’t that delicious pudding dessert your aunt makes. Or 15 minutes of tai chi during naptime to calm your emotions and re-center.  It could be an hourlong hike if your kids will sit in a stroller or wagon or be happy in a carrier. Like these guys occasionally would:

 

P1010405.jpg

 

 

Awwwwwwwww.  Those walks were crucial to my body’s health and well-being whether they lasted 5 minutes or 45 minutes. So bend over and try to touch your toes every now and then for God’s sake. Your body sooooo needs you to.

 

A Mother’s Rights #5: You have the right to shower every day.

you have the right to shower every day (1)

 

This one seems like it shouldn’t be hard to accomplish and sometimes it might even seem like not that big of a deal. But I propose that taking a shower can sometimes be the only 10 minutes of truly alone time you may get. It may not be enough, but it can be a few minutes of heaven that you truly need in order to recharge.

It also is one of the only places where the sound you are surrounded by may actually be louder than the sounds of your children. Which means your ears and brain get a small break from the hard work of filtering demands, requests, arguing, outbursts, sharing, questions, wailing, and insistences that they are still hungry even though you JUST FED THEM DINNER.

I recommend carving this time for yourself, even if it means setting your little one in a pack and play with a soft toy, or setting your child in front of PBS Kids in a child-safe room with a bowl of Goldfish crackers. And…this is important-

put your child in a room other than the bathroom you are showering in

It doesn’t count if they are just on the other side of the shower curtain! For toddlers, you know they’re just going to peek their head in at you and ask: “What is that? Ewww” while they point to your pubic hair.  And for older kids, there’s no reason they need to be in there.

Once your kids are settled, spend a second just appreciating your naked bod. You are amazing. Then pretend there is a personal assistant speaking in a sexy Australian accent with a tray holding your favorite cocktail and a CBD joint saying,

“How do you stay so beautiful when you work so hard? Now, I’ve already prepared your gourmet meals for the week. Why don’t you just take your time in the shower and I’ll be right outside the door waiting to give you your foot massage when you’re done. No rush.”

While you’re at it, splurge on some body nourishing and activating items. Sugar, coffee, and dead sea salt are all super cheap, probably already in your cupboard and make really easy feel-amazing scrubs.

You deserve 10 minutes of hot water on your back !! Take a shower already.

A Mother’s Rights #2: You have the right to eat a meal, sitting down, from start to finish.

Yesterday I kicked off the first post here featuring the 15 Mother’s Rights. It started with a Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to get 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Here comes #2

mother2

Why is this a thing? Of all the possible ways we neglect ourselves in motherhood, why does eating at a table make the list of rights?

Here’s why.  Food restores our health. It is not only fuel, but also comfort and nourishment. I am not going to tell you to go out and buy an organic veggie box and only eat the bone marrow of grass fed cows, but I will say that most traditions encourage taking a bit of time to eat so the magic alchemy that happens when food is broken down in the digestive system can take its full effect.

The above Right is something I stand by. Having this kind of meal every day when you have a newborn or young kids feels like an extravagant luxury and maybe even out of reach for a lot of us.

Like most things that seem out of reach, taking microsteps will eventually get you there. I recommend setting this Right as a goal for at least one meal a day. And if you can’t find a way to make it happen, it’s ok. Instead, see if you can be mindful of any of the options below.

 

7 Tips for Mindful eating:

 

  1. Eat hot food while it is still hot. In Eastern and Ayurvedic nutritional practice, eating warmed food is nourishing to the system. Warm food stimulates digestion and can help restore some of the energy spent in our busy days, especially if you are recovering from birth. (See The First Forty Days by Heng Ou)
  2. Chew thoroughly. Your stomach has no teeth. Let’s imagine that food is filled with all kinds of tiny nutrients and minerals that are wanting to be absorbed by your your body as it digests. Chewing slows down your eating and makes digestion a little easier on your body. It’s a way of being good to yourself.
  3. Smell, taste, and appreciate your food. Whether it is a Hostess cupcakes (that’s right, I just linked to Hostess cupcakes, bitches) or an organic sweet potato, savoring and actually experiencing what you are eating is a way to bring yourself into the present moment. This kind of mindfulness is good for for every system of your body.
  4. Eat without interruption. Ok, this seems like a high bar, I know. Best hope is to realize it’s important and see if you can aim for one meal a day uninterrupted. If that’s too tall an order, start with one meal a week. Why do this? Because being interrupted adds stress and stress impairs digestion.
  5. When eating food, remember its source. The original saying goes, “When you drink water, remember its source.” But the benefits hold true for food, particularly food that comes from the earth. Following this tip slows your eating down and allows nourishing yourself with food to be a whole body and mind experience. It also enhances the connection between you and the fuel that runs your body, and the earth that creates that fuel.
  6. Give gratitude for the nourishment. Gratitude is never a bad idea. But when it comes to food, it is an essential. Food keeps your body alive…so mustering up some thanks for that is pretty easy. On top of that, giving thanks for how your food came to be on your plate is never a bad idea. How tired would we be if we had to harvest and hunt all our own food? Giving a little thanks for the efforts of others that go into allowing us to easily access grub…it’s a no-brainer.
  7. Eat sitting down. Don’t even ask me how many times I have eaten in nibbles while making dinner for others. Or hunched over with a slice of pizza over the sink while doing dishes. Even if you know you can’t avoid getting interrupted, sitting and eating is so much more beneficial than eating on the run. It is better for digestion, better to take a moment for yourself to relax and enjoy your food.

 

A Mother’s Rights #1: You have the right to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.

Several years ago I wrote about a Mother’s Rights, the first of which is:

 

8hours

 

Ladies. Please don’t do what I did and think that you will catch up on sleep when your child is done night nursing or done co-sleeping or done teething or through this growth spurt or entering middle school.

Good sleep is necessary for good health. It just is. Everything from skin to metabolism to immune system to mood to heart health, blood pressure, learning and memory, and pretty much every aspect of how we operate in the world.

Ideally, when expecting a child and creating your birth plan, you are also creating your sleep plan and how you plan to get sleep after your baby arrives. Err on the side of caution and assume your babies will be like mine where they wouldn’t sleep without nursing, being held, or being rocked for the first several MONTHS. Followed by night nursing that continued for several years and then a second child who had major sleep problems due to sensory issues.

It is likely you will need support. You will need to nap. You will need to laugh. You will need to line up some local resources and look into what night services are available in your area and which relatives and friends are willing to help out.

I loved the advice of my lactation consultant who said this:

After you give birth, for the first few weeks, do not change out of your pajamas until after you have gotten 8 hours of sleep. The day looks like this: baby nurses, mama eats, everybody sleeps. Repeat.

Please know that in the coming months if you are planning to sleep train your baby, it sometimes does not work out and:

It is not your fault. And it is not your baby’s fault.

I know of some babies who, while attempting to sleep train, would cry until they threw up. Or who would cry for two hours or more night after night after night. Babies are people and need different things. Likewise, you may end up needing something different than what you can predict. But one things you will need, without any doubt, is a reasonable amount of sleep.

During our efforts for achieving solid sleep, my partner and I found some tools quite useful into the toddler years. Things like blackout curtains and sound machines.

For a short time, things like baby swings and co-sleepers were helpful too. Though baby sleep books were not helpful for us, a lot of my friends found them extremely helpful, as well as consulting with local sleep consultants.

Getting a decent amount of sleep- 8 hours a night- is a basic human need that does not disappear simply because you have a new life to care for. Work with your partner, take time off work or shorten your days so you can nap if you need to. I’ll explore other options for getting sleep in a future post, but for now, know that sleep is your right to claim…so claim it.

For more info on my postpartum doula services or healing services, please check this out.

Reiki

Reiki instantly healed my panic attack.

 

When thinking about what I wanted to say here about Reiki, my thoughts drifted back to the most powerful experience I had with receiving Reiki. It was in 1998 and I had just finished college, despite debilitating panic attacks and anxiety disorder. My anxiety got worse after graduating, and I was living with my mom, unable to work, and desperately in need of some healing but didn’t know where to start.

This was before the internet really had taken hold of things, so I couldn’t just google “healing for anxiety” or “help me I am a mess.” Though I avoided national newspapers and nightly news because it exacerbated my anxiety, I would occasionally look through local village newspapers to see what was happening around town.

In one of the local guides, I came across an ad for healing services offering “Reiki and Rubenfeld Synergy” which sounded like a start. Plus, I had that feeling you get, that little tickle of intuition that said, “yes.” So I called to make an appointment.

Soon, there I was, meeting with Pam Arwine, who worked out of her home.  I returned to her almost weekly for healing sessions and to this day am comforted by how safe and nurtured I felt in that space. Her work was tuning me into my body, diffusing some tensions, and giving me clues as to why I felt so out of control and what my body was telling me. And over time, it helped immensely.

On one visit, as I was getting onto the table, I had a panic attack. She encouraged me to lay down on my back and she placed her hands over my sternum. And the panic completely melted away. Just dissolved and disappeared. Reiki instantly healed my panic attack.

I had never felt anything like that. It blew my mind.

My understanding of myself, my energy, and the healing energy available to us at any given moment was changed forever.

So, yes, I am a big fan of Reiki and I encourage everyone to at least experience one session to see how it feels to you. You can find my session info here for in person and here for distance.