The One You Need to Find Joy

I don’t know about you, but there are times I just completely suck at finding joy. I tend to focus on what isn’t going well, I spend ridiculous amounts of time and go to insane efforts to control everything and I allow little nuisances to become bigger than they really are.

I’m human. I know it’s OK and I know the reason I do this is because I’m a bit broken, like we all are.

What I recently discovered though, was how one specific activity can keep me from spiraling down like I just described.

The one thing: gratitude journaling.

Now, I know, I know. Oprah gave us this advice over a decade ago and the concept of “Count Your Blessings” is timeless. I’m really going to try and explain the life-changing effect this simple activity can have on you, should you choose to accept the challenge.

But first thing’s first: there’s a difference between happiness and joy. When you look up their definitions, they can be used synonymously, but in this context, I’d like to suggest that happiness is akin to cheerfulness, which is fleeting and a response to the moment. Joy, on the other hand, is a deep sense of contentment and pleasure and isn’t bound by circumstances.

I feel like we’re all running around chasing happiness. It’s the reason we overeat, abuse drugs, invite drama into our lives, etc., etc. We are chasing a thrill. A ‘good’ feeling. That can lead to a lack of contentment and satisfaction with what we have.

We look ‘over the fence’ and say, “Wow, it looks pretty nice over there. Maybe I should hop on over.” What we all know, of course, is that with every fence hop, you get not only the good stuff on that side of the fence, but the unseen and unexpected challenges that come along with it.

While feeling good and being cheerful is pretty awesome, joy doesn’t require it. Stick with me on this…

This past week, I was brutally reminded of how fleeting life can be. I was at a graduation party with my kids and I got a phone call from my dad. He asked if I could come out to the farm and pick them up. I asked why and he said they’d been in a car accident. Naturally, I was shocked and asked if they were OK. He, in his typical farmer-like, laid-back way, said, “Yeah, we’re OK. But our car sure isn’t.”

car2

My parents’ car right after the accident.

I made my way out to where they were and started crying the second I came upon their vehicle. My dad is a super cautious driver. When they first saw a truck coming down the dirty gravel road, he had pulled way over to avoid getting a rock chip in his windshield. In fact, his right tires were off the road completely. Little did they know, the truck was being followed by a small car. The car came out of nowhere and was headed right for them. He was driving fast for the gravel and was spinning out of control, giving my dad little time to react. Had my dad not pulled so far to the side to begin with, they would have been hit head on and they’d likely be dead.

I immediately hugged my mom and when my dad was done giving his statement to the police, I grabbed and him and told him that I don’t hug him enough.

In an instant, my parents could have been snatched away from us.

The thoughts were flying through my head…Did they know what they meant to me? Had I told them enough? Was I respectful enough of them? Had I spent enough time with them? Do my kids get how wonderful they are?

Earlier that week, I was at Bible study where we’re discussing the DVD series One Thousand Gifts. In the book and study, author Ann Voskamp urges us to start a list of 1,000 gifts. Just the daily, simple good things we see and experience. When we first started it, I was writing down at least 5 things every night before my head hit the pillow. I suddenly realized that it had been nearly a month since I’d written a single thing down.

Clearly, it hadn’t been a month since something worthy of writing down had occurred, it had simply been that long since I chose to reflect on it.

Besides being a ridiculously full month, I had been feeling overwhelmed, stressed and a tad out of control. Jeremiah and my dad were struggling to get along in their business. I had acquired a bizarre sinus infection that really knocked me out. I wasn’t enjoying my kids as much. I was forgetting the simple. I was neglecting the plain. I was omitting the ordinary.

I was without gratitude.

After I dropped my parents back off at their house and got my kids back home and to bed, I took my journal out and wrote down 42 separate and distinct things as I reflected back on the month. Here’s a sampling of them (just to show you how ‘ordinary’ the things can be!):carterandbrynlee

  • cool water with lemon to drink
  • taking Carter and Brynlee to our local greenhouse to pick out flowers
  • Andrew helping me with planting all our new shrubs
  • Andrew having perfect attendance in kindergarten…not even ONE sick day!
  • That my dad is a cautious driver
  • The smell of freshly mowed grass grassmanor
  • The sound of cows mooing outside
  • The gift of singing so I could share it with the residents at the manor
  • Brynlee’s single little ponytail on the top of her head

Here’s the thing: even when you don’t ‘feel’ like it, write something down. Don’t allow yourself to go an entire month without acknowledging the simple blessings. There is always, always, always something to acknowledge.

My list currently has 268 things on it. Here’s what this list allows me to do:

  1. Reflect on all the good in my life
  2. Trust – I know that I’ve been cared for and loved along the way and each entry is proof of that
  3. Resist fear – fear is based on the idea that love is scarce – as I continue to number my blessings, it’s clear that love is anything but scarce. In fact, it’s everywhere should I choose to look for it.
  4. Stress less – going back to #2, I know I can lean. I don’t have to have all the answers. I can trust. This implies a letting go that alleviates my day-to-day stress.
  5. Find joy.

And so it will be with you. When you take the time to reflect on each day of your life and recount the blessings (even the tiny ones), you’ll start to see your own world through a different lens.

This is why joy is deeper than happiness. It’s not just about how you feel in the moment. We don’t have to love every moment. It’s OK to feel sad, mad or hurt.

It’s an understanding that even in those hard times, we can still find joy. Joy comes from a deep knowing. A resting. A leaning. Believing that no matter what I encounter, I am endlessly loved and forgiven.

Gratitude journaling is a way to enumerate that love. And what a joy it is to see.

How Direct Sales Made Me a Better Person

Direct sales. Social commerce. Network marketing. Multi-level marketing.

Call it what you want, all of these phrases can be used to define a method of product/service distribution. It allows a company to get their product/service directly into the hands of customers through individual people. These phrases also can carry quite the stigma and may induce involuntary shuddering…

There are countless articles/resources offering advice on what to look for prior to joining a direct selling company. This is NOT one of those articles. (But seriously, do your due diligence before jumping on board with any company. You should be able to obtain basic company financials and I feel strongly about membership in the Direct Selling Association (DSA). In this channel, they are the watchdog organization that holds its members to a specific standard of ethics.)

There are a lot of articles/resources touting the benefits of joining a direct selling company. This is NOT one of those articles, either. Since one of the biggest benefits is the flexibility of running a business like this your way, there truly is something for everyone. My benefits may not look like yours.

This article is about people. And what people tend to think about direct sales.

I’m writing this article because I’m a people developer by trade. My job involves training, coaching and facilitating dialogue about the most important asset to any organization: its people. Companies hire me to work with their leadership teams. We discuss strategy, culture and all things business.

I’m also an entrepreneur. I started How Mommy Got Her Groove Back in October of 2013 to use what I’d learned in the corporate world and help people apply it in their own businesses and their lives.

You’d think that through this work alone, I’m developing myself all the time. And it’s true. I am.

Above all else, I can say that being involved with direct sales (I am partnered with the doctors who created Proactiv® in their new venture Rodan + Fields, has impacted me more than I ever would have thought possible. Being in direct sales has made me a better person.

I’m not writing this to sell you on the concept of direct sales. I want to equip you with information and yes, while it’s biased because it’s from my perspective and I’m on the inside, if other companies hire me to work with their teams and improve overall culture and performance, it can’t be ALL bad, right?!

My hope is to shift perceptions about what it is we do. It might open your eyes to see things you didn’t before, and at the very least, I hope it helps make supporting direct salespeople easier for you.

Some of what I’ll share is specifically related to my personal experience and some is based on informal research I conducted by interviewing professionals (across roles and industries, both male and female) that aren’t involved in direct selling.

For those of you on the inside (the ones with the bright red mustaches, you know, from the Kool-Aid we’re all drinking), I hope this helps you, too. Simple shifts and subtle tweaks in your approach can create huge shifts in productivity.

For those of you who aren’t yet enjoying the refreshment of the Kool-Aid, maybe you’ll gain a new perspective.

What I’m finding is that there are several common perceptions about direct sales. Typically, perceptions are grounded in some truth so you won’t find me refuting them.

My response to these perceptions is based on what I know about people and what really drives and motivates people.

Common Perception #1: In order to be successful, I have to exploit my closest relationships. I will be encouraged and even coached to hound people until I alienate all of my family and friends.

Truth: You absolutely will share this business with people you know and love.

Because that’s the ENTIRE point. Direct sales businesses are meant to be relationship-based and you have the best and most obvious relationships with family and friends. What’s at the heart of this issue isn’t with WHOM you share the information, but HOW.

It is true that when starting a direct selling business, you’ll start thinking of everyone you ever met so you can share the information with them. There’s nothing wrong with that. If I opened any other type of business, I’d do the same thing.

The problem is in the approach.

One professional told me that her biggest beef with direct salespeople is that we ‘become the job’. So, in sharing a personal experience, she said every time she saw this particular direct salesperson, the only thing she EVER talked about was the business. This friend failed to take an interest in her and seemed fixated on getting her to join the company.

Yes. If you act like this, you’re going to alienate people because it’s annoying. While I believe it sometimes is harder to separate yourself from your business in direct sales, you have to still be a person with interests and family and a frickin’ LIFE.

Shortly after I had this discussion, my husband and I went to Minneapolis for the weekend with a couple friend of ours. They own a bar and a local furniture store in our small town. Had she tried to sell me carpet remnants all weekend, I would been super irritated. Oddly enough, the husband did successfully push booze on me all weekend…but, I digress.

The point is…when you love something, you share it. When you believe it will benefit other people, you share it.

If you don’t love or believe in your business, it doesn’t matter if you’re sharing it with your mom or a stranger, it’s just not right.

Common Perception #2: I’m too smart for network marketing. Only people who have no other options choose direct sales.

Truth: Everyone has more options than they realize and now more than ever, direct sales are attracting highly successful and formally educated people.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I really struggled with this perception myself. I honestly deep down felt that people wouldn’t take me as seriously because I live in a small town and obviously, you only move back to small towns when your dreams have died. You pick up direct sales because cost of entry is low and it’s something to do while your husband is in the field. (Full, full disclosure: those were my exact fears…)

Industry statistics and probably, the demographic of your company’s representatives, are reflective of a huge range of successful and educated people. Even though, yes, cost of entry is low, therefore you have a lot of people seeking these opportunities, it still requires work. It’s called net’work’ marketing. This isn’t a get-rick-quick scheme and there’s no magic bullet. You’ll have to follow your company’s training program (yes, they should have a training program) and learn their system. But you’ll have to put forth effort.

That’s why when you research whether you can actually make money at direct sales, the results are kind of depressing. Those results take into account every single person who joined and didn’t commit. They didn’t show up. They quit because they didn’t see the flashy rewards they were told about and then, they blamed the model.

For those people, direct sales didn’t fail them. They failed themselves.

After spending the money and time to earn a specific degree, it makes perfect sense that you’d want pursue a career in line with that education, especially if you’re passionate about it.

The simple truth is that a direct selling opportunity can (and maybe should) still be a part of your life. These businesses are in no way “all or nothing” opportunities. You could work a business like this alongside a full-time job.

If you’re questioning why on earth a person would do that, let me just say this: direct selling businesses provide continual personal development. These businesses allow you to hone skills that will benefit you in all other areas of your life, including your full-time job, if you have one.

Given what I do for a living, I’m telling you that in typical businesses, people struggle with confidence, conflict management, overall people skills, mental toughness, and leadership, just to name a few.

Your direct sales business allows you to work on yourself on the DAILY. Your very business is a combination of all those things and if you’re working with a good coach and mentor, they will help you identify which of those things specifically is holding you back from success and provide you with ideas and strategies to improve. It’s personal and professional development all rolled into one.

The best part? You’ll have access to phenomenal trainers and business leaders that other people pay big bucks to see. It’s a perk of the business…(And hello!?! It’s tax deductible, too!)

Try something new. Take a chance. Put yourself in a position to be uncomfortable so you can grow and develop a whole new set of skills.

You may discover, just as I did, that I wasn’t too smart for network marketing. I was actually being outsmarted by it.

Common Perception #3: I can’t be successful if I’m not a salesperson…and come to think of it, I think salespeople are kind of sleazy, so I have no desire to do sales.

Truth: We are all in sales, all the time. And as Forrest Gump’s mother would say, “Sleazy is, as sleazy does.”

I have spent most of my career in what you’d consider traditional sales roles. I started out in retail sales and moved to financial services. I now sell employee/personal development opportunities in addition to my network marketing gig.

So people naturally think this is easy for me because I’ve always been in sales.

No matter if we work from home, stay at home, or work in a traditional work environment that seems to have little to do with selling, we employ selling skills every time we try to move people to take action.

When we invite people to parties, try to get our kids to eat broccoli or even make a suggestion about a movie to go see, we are using the basic fundamentals required to be a successful direct sales business owner.

There are two things that make a salesperson sleazy: 1) you know that what you’re offering won’t deliver on what it promises or 2) you think only of how you’ll benefit from the sale, not how the customer’s life will improve.

As long as you’re not a sleazy person, network marketing won’t make you sleazy.

I wish I could say that there are no sleazy individuals in network marketing. That’s just not true. Just as there are sleazy bankers, gas station attendants and attorneys, you’ll find them here as well.

Fortunately, those people are the exception and not the rule.AndrewHighDive

Common Perception #4: “People will think I’m ­­­­­­________.” (Fill in the blank with the negative adjective that you’re most afraid of appearing to be, i.e. crazy, desperate, or pathetic.)

Truth: People will think you’re ________. (Fill in the blank with the negative adjective that you’re most afraid of appearing to be, i.e. crazy, desperate, or pathetic.) And…so what??

Let’s forget for a moment that this has anything to do with MLM companies, and think about day-to-day life.

How many times have you changed outfits before going to an event because of the fear of what someone might think of your choice?

When was the last time you chose not to say something on your mind in a meeting for fear of what others might think?

As a mom, have you ever received unsolicited advice regarding how you parent your children? Did it make you feel bad…like you’d done something wrong?

Here’s the point: while I’ve certainly seen this particular limiting belief hold people back from pursuing network marketing opportunities, I’ve also seen it have a negative effect on nearly every other area of a person’s life.

Chew on this idea: What other people think of you is none of your business.

Whether it’s about parenting, your position at work, your clothing or your decision to join a business, other people are not going to be there day in and day out, looking at you in the mirror. It’s just you. Your choices. Your desires. Your life.

There will certainly be people who try to pull you down, make you doubt your decision and even potentially, belittle the choice.

If you have a passion to do something, whatever it is, you have to protect that passion and realize that some people just won’t get it.

All advice, opinions and input, whether solicited or not, are a reflection of that person’s situation, beliefs and experience; they typically have little to do with you or what you’re doing.

If you were able to pay your bills, plan for your future, grow as a person or expand your network of amazing connections with their opinions, then those opinions would matter.

One of the greatest aspects of direct sales is the teamwork you’ll discover.

You’ll have support all over the country/world out there doing the same kind of work and encountering the same kinds of obstacles and you’ll learn techniques/strategies to overcome them.

That kind of support system is hard to find elsewhere. Here’s where my specific background is relevant. Companies spend loads of money trying to create a culture where people want to work. If you’re with the right direct sales company, you will WANT to be there.

When I started my Rodan + Fields business, I was working full-time for a regional organization. I had started to feel like my ‘brand of leadership’ wasn’t what the company really wanted. (It was a simple case of misalignment.) Here’s what research will prove people look for in a ‘work’ culture: transparency, vulnerability, belief that I matter, collaboration, the freedom to do things my way (empowerment), a sense of ownership and high levels of trust.

When I joined R + F, I found this specific culture. And that’s what led me to launch How Mommy Got Her Groove Back. I felt like I’d found ‘my people’.

The biggest impact this business has had on me as a person is that I’ve been totally forced me to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve gained improved people skills, stronger resilience, deeper levels of empathy, the ability to dream bigger, and the courage to live my life regardless of what other people might think of my choices.

All of these things are critical to the success of How Mommy Got Her Groove Back and to my personally success, as a wife, mother, friend and inhabitant of the planet.

Now, really, I get it. Not everyone WANTS to run their own business and that’s totally OK.

Even if you feel like you don’t, I encourage you to think differently.

I’ll leave you with this: think about what you really want out of life. (This isn’t just about the ‘stuff’. It’s also about what kind of person you want to be remembered as and if you’re raising kids, what type of model you want to be.) Then ask yourself if what you’re doing today can get you there. If not, you have a gap, my friend. Perhaps, just maybe, a direct selling business is exactly the opportunity you need to bridge it.

It might time to take the leap.

As always, leave your thoughts and comments here or on the Facebook page. Even if you have no desire to join me in business, I advocate for this model because I LOVE supporting women (and men!) to make the changes they need to live the lives they want. Let’s chat. I’d love to hear your story!

Beware the Busy

I’m throwing down a challenge. Right here. Right now.

Let’s stop talking about how “busy” we all are.

It’s almost become a badge of honor to claim that we’re oh so busy.

Seriously. Try it out. When you’re out and about today, ask people how they are and pay attention to what percentage of them respond with “I’m good! Yeah. Really good. You know, just so busy, but good.”

We might as well wear a physical badge that says ‘Martyr’ on it. It’s time to own this one.

Important

Just yesterday, I was facilitating a program and we opened with a discussion about how the participants feel ‘too busy’ to do the assigned homework. Naturally, I’ve heard this before and while I certainly empathize, I don’t cut people slack on this topic.

Busy is a choice. What I think we are suffering from is an over-commitment problem. We say yes when we want to say no. We need to learn that one simple word, all by itself, is a complete sentence.

Naturally, there are times when we all feel overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff we have to do. When you’re feeling this, here are some ideas/tips to take your life back. Because that’s what we’re talking about here. Your life. Your contentment. The full use of your gifts for your highest good. I doubt any of us hope this will be our epitaph:

Here lies Rebecca. She couldn’t say no. She lived her life so busy, running to and fro. Now, she’s gone and having breathed her last breath, poor Rebecca yes-ed herself to death.

How to Break Yourself of Busy

Analyze How You Currently Spend Your Time

I know it’s hard, but the truth hurts. If you feel you don’t have time, you might not be acting as a good steward of your time. Keep a time log. Physically write it down.

Don’t like what you see? Well then, change it! Take out a new log, and viewing a week at a time, first fill in your non-negotiables: you know, like eating, work, being with your family, working out, etc. These are things that you absolutely HAVE to do.

From there, start thinking about how to use the margin to best serve your goals.

Be Selective

We all have the same amount of time to use however we wish. The most successful people don’t complain about how busy they are. They have learned to say no. They are selective about what deserves their time and attention.

Review your log and do the following:

  1. If you can cut it immediately, do it. (An example would be the gross amount of time spent on Facebook, Pinterest or virtually playing your mom on Trivia Crack.)
  2. If you get asked to ‘help’ with something else, first, answer the following questions:
    • Does it align with my gifts?
    • Will it bring me joy?
    • Will I do the work out of love?
    • Can I add it without sacrificing something of greater importance in my life?
      • If you answer yes to all of the following, then make room for it.
      • If not, you have to question whether the opportunity is right for you. Just say ‘no’. No need to make excuses, either. Just politely and tactfully say “Thank you for thinking of me, but I really need to say no this time.”
  • Failure to apply this test will inevitably cause you to say yes when you don’t really want to. You know what happens then? You rob someone else of their chance to do it. You read that right. You ROB them. If you’re just doing it begrudgingly out of guilt or obligation, you may not be the best suited person for the job. Give someone their chance to shine. Just say NO.

 

Delegate

What tasks/actions could be done by someone else? Afraid of this because it won’t be done as well as you do it? Welcome to my world. I mean, really.

The bottom line is: sometimes it really does pay to pay someone else to do it. The best thing I’ve ever done for our household was to hire someone to come in twice a month and deep clean. My sanity is worth the investment.

Let’s be honest. Asking for help is hard. It’s not admitting you suck. It’s acknowledging that, without help, you can’t be a good steward of your time. Really get creative with this one. Who can help you or take stuff off your plate?

Evaluate, evaluate, evaluate

As time goes on, your position as the President of the PTA will run its course and you’ll have to turn the snack list and class party agenda over to a new queen. If you don’t recognize this, you’ll eternally be their leader.

Only you can evaluate your schedule on an ongoing basis to determine if where you’re spending your time still makes sense. This will change over time and to effectively determine what to say yes to, you absolutely need to check in. I recommend doing this every 6 months.

Failure to consider any of these options makes your life a hamster wheel. I don’t know about you, but I find the idea of running nonstop in a circle simply exhausting. And come to think of it, pretty damn meaningless.

In order to thrive and make the most of this one life we’ve been given, we have to stretch, grow and learn. The awesome part is that you get to decide what areas you want to stretch. What you want to learn. How you want to grow. Make sure that the things you say ‘yes’ to support that vision.

Beware the busy. (Oh and a quick side note, if you’re reading this thinking, “But I LOVE to be busy!”, I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to those (myself included) that have at one point or another used ‘busy’ as an excuse.)

Beware the busy. Aim for engaged. Involved. Committed.

Your time is your most precious resource. Use it wisely.

As always, I love to hear from the people I am supporting. Add a comment here or hop on over the Facebook page and comment there!

Self-care Is Not Selfish

Hey moms: let’s chat a bit about taking care of ourselves.

Yes, you heard me. Taking care of OURSELVES.

Not our kids, the laundry, the hubby, the soccer practice schedule, school holiday party planning, our kid’s piano lessons or anything else on your never-ending frickin’ to-do list.

Why? Because you are already taking care of all of those things. And you know what? You are doing a bang-up job. Even if you don’t feel like it. Even if reading that list literally made you cringe. You have a ton on your plate and you’re managing it like a boss.

Here’s what I’m willing to bet you’re not that great at: putting yourself first. Like, ever.

Now, I’m talking about more than a ladies night out or date night with the hubs. Those are great, but I’m also talking about the things that feel indulgent, self-focused and dare I say it, downright selfish.

Investing time and God forbid, even a little money, on nothing more than making you, the epicenter of your crazy, chaotic life, feel more like the woman you really are.

Chasing a dream that you buried along with the memory of your hot, pre-baby body.

That’s what I want to see more women doing.

Yep, now it’s starting to get a little uncomfortable. Since we know that we can’t focus on the needs of two people at the same time, it feels completely wrong to say, “Well, sorry kids, today, I’m going to think about me.”

selfish cup

I’m here to tell you that you should. (And c’mon, as a mom, you can’t do this all day, every day, because motherhood requires compromise and sacrifice. But, I bet day to day, your needs/wants/desires/hopes are nowhere to be found.)

Self-care Is Not Selfish.

In early February, I was privileged to emcee the On the Minds of Moms LIVE live event in Fargo, ND. It was an 8 hour event, complete with workshops, keynote speakers, a fantastic meal and straight up one of the funniest women comedians I’ve seen in some time. It was indulgent. It was remarkable. It was glorious. It was a day filled with tears, laughter and connection.

Here were the themes of the day:

  • Don’t be afraid to chase your dreams; Even one small step can move you to achieve things you never thought possible

  • We all have a reel of information that replays in our minds telling us who we are, what we deserve, whether we’re worthy, what we ought to be doing, etc. Don’t like what you hear? Change the narrative.

  • Be. All. In. In every way. Not just as a mother, but as a woman on this planet. God doesn’t screw up and He made you the way you are. Use those gifts to benefit the world.

  • Surround yourself with great people because you become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.

  • Celebrate the simple things. There really are countless little blessings to acknowledge.

What powerful words for women like me. We left this event feeling inspired, recharged and refreshed.

So, what about you? When was the last time you did something 100% for yourself? Not only is it not selfish, it makes you better at all your other roles.

And so I challenge you, my beautiful friends: get out there and experience all this life has to offer. Take a new dance class. Read a book for fun. Get your nails done. Attend a seminar on something you find interesting. Do something just for you.

Don’t know where to start? I saw them firsthand at the event in February, they are my friends and they would LOVE to help you!

Another good place to start is to simply answer the question: What do I want? It’s alarming to think about how many weeks, months and years can go by without ever thinking about this question. Get out a journal and start to honor those dreams.

You are worthy of your own love and compassion.

As always, I’d love to hear your stories! What are you doing to take care of you?

Labels Are For Jars: You Are Not A Jar

This video should be seen by every mother on the planet. Because it’s brilliant. Watch it here and then keep on reading…

When I first started this business, I had this post in my head. I tend to not share something until it’s also on my heart.

Lucky you. Today, it’s on my heart.

Labels are for Jars: You are not a jar.

Labels are on jars for a reason. They tell us what to expect when we look on the inside.

The contents are ALWAYS the same. The contents are ALWAYS predictable.

So, here’s the problem with attaching labels to motherhood. No two mothers are ever exactly the same. There’s not a woman on the planet who’s likely to ever be that predictable.

Labels are for Jars: You are not a jar.

I think deep down, we all want the kind of judgement free world for parents this video suggests we create. But, honestly, I think it’s a long shot. And it’s not because we’re not kind enough. Or tolerant enough. It’s because most of us aren’t living in the truth of our gifts.

Let me tell you a little story…

Earlier this week, I had planned an overnight away from my kids for work. As I was backing out of the driveway of my daycare provider’s home the morning I was leaving, I may or may not have been dancing in my car. The song “Freedom” by George Michael may or may not have been playing in my head.

I felt like the day was chock full of possibility. I was going to eat at a restaurant where no kids would be. I would sleep in a bed without a monitor next to it. I would wake up and not have to rush to make breakfasts, pack a backpack or put a pacifier back in any mouths.

I was excited. Almost giddy, even.

Then, it hit me. What kind of mother gets excited about leaving her kids? Enter my old friends: guilt, shame, feelings of inadequacy, slight self-loathing, self-doubts and the like.

I spent the next day and a half reconnecting with women I love and meeting new ones who had me at hello. I was surrounded by women who challenge me and want to help me reach my dreams. They want to support me. Me. Not the mother in me. Not the wife in me. Not the business professional in me. Just me.

My heart and cup were full. And my kids were nowhere in sight.

Then, it hit me. I haven’t thought about my kids for the past several hours and I feel so alive. What kind of mother feels more like herself when she’s working than when she’s home? Damn it. Here they come again: guilt, shame, feelings of inadequacy, slight self-loathing, self-doubts and the like.

What I just described? That’s motherhood. It’s one big ball of conflicting, ever-changing emotions. I can love and loathe motherhood almost simultaneously. I can laugh with my kids in one minute and have the urge to run away from them in the next.

I didn’t take drugs to deliver my children, but I didn’t breastfeed.

My kids go to daycare 4 days a week, and I work from home. (Oh, and I don’t feel they’re being raised by someone else either.)

I vaccinate my children, but I use essential oils to try and keep them out of the doctor’s office.

I want to instill good eating habits in them, but I still feed them chicken nuggets.

I don’t want to stay home with my kids, but I don’t want to work full-time for someone else either.

There. Label that.

This post and this video are about honoring the women inside the role of mom.

Being a mom doesn’t change that I have goals I want to achieve and dreams I want to pursue. I have gifts that I want to use. God-given gifts that were bestowed upon me. Gifts that only I possess.

All of my choices as a mom are just that. Choices. I’ve chosen these things for my life and my family so I can feel the most ‘me’.

For you, the choices will look different. If your gifts are fully utilized by being home with your kiddos or climbing the corporate ladder while your kids are in full-time childcare, that is OK.

But for the love of Pete, make sure you choose it. Design it. OWN IT.

Quit making excuses for yourself or justifying your choices. And worst of all, quit judging others for not being like you.

There is no ingredient list for motherhood.

Labels are for jars: You are not a jar.

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Imagine the world if we just owned our choices. Our feelings. Our gifts. If we were to consciously allow ourselves to be OK being who we are instead of pretending to be what we think we’re supposed to be.

If we were to stop wearing masks.

If were to stop comparing our gifts to others.

If we learned to love ourselves and all our contradictions.

I have a little homework for you. Take out a journal, think about your life and answer the following questions:

  1. In what area of your life are you being less than authentic? Less than the full you?

  2. Why?

  3. How would you feel if you gave yourself permission to show up?

  4. What’s holding you back from doing it?

  5. Who can help you overcome that obstacle?

  6. What’s 1 simple thing you can do, right now, to move you in that direction?

Your gifts deserve to be used. Brought to light and shared with the world.

When you honor yourself, you are showing your kids to do the same.

As it turns out, if we are to create this world of less judgment for moms, we do need one ingredient.

Is it patience? That might help. Is it compassion? Certainly doesn’t hurt. Is it kindness, a calm demeanor, empathy, a sense of humor? Sure, all those things could round out the list.

But, I maintain it’s only one.

That ingredient is LOVE.

Love for you leads to love for others. Don’t rob yourself of what you so freely give to others.

PS -Share your struggles here or on the Facebook page. There are tons of other women who need to hear what you have to say. Let’s support one another.

PPS – Or, send your homework my way if you want me to take a peek at it. I’d be honored to be one of the people listed in #5.

PPPS – Hey moms…I LOVE YOU.

Feng Shui 101

Have you ever felt like you needed a reset? Like you’ve fallen into a funk or are kind of stuck? Maybe you feel not at ease in your home or you’re not getting the results you want out of your life.

After having my baby in September, I felt like I needed a reset with my business. It’s a new year and it’s time for me to start kicking the figurative ass that I thought I’d kick when I first started. Over the past year, I have become much more interested in energy and how to harness it for my good. (And yes, I used to be one of those people who straight up made fun of people who believed in this voo-doo, woo-woo crap.)

When working with an energy healer friend of mine, she made some recommendations for my home office that centered around principles in feng shui. I knew nothing about it so I went out to Amazon and stumbled upon a book.017

If you’ve ever wondered about feng shui and whether it might work for your home, I highly suggest you check out this book: Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life: How to Use Feng Shui to Get Love, Money, Respect and Happiness by Karen Rauch Carter. It is easy to read and provides seriously easy to implement ideas.

This post isn’t meant to be a full dissertation on feng shui because the practice is extensive and personally, I have no desire to fully comprehend it. I just wanted to try a few simple ways to bring more intention to my home since this is where I work.

Basic Overview of Feng Shui

Feng shui is a Chinese term which provides us with ideas and principles to help us arrange the ‘stuff’ in our environments to yield positive results in our lives. And yes, this can help with ALL stuff. To spare you from getting too deep here, basically, everything in our three-dimensional world is next to other things. This spatial relationship is what feng shui is.

Ch’i (pronounced chee) is another word for energy. When we move things in our environment, we also move the energy of those items. By making intentional choices to shift the energy in our homes, we can better our life. In feng shui, the intentional placement of items in certain areas of our home is referred to as ‘cures’.

This book provides real life examples and simple illustrations to help you focus on specific areas and how to enhance them with cures to get what you want in that area.scan0004

Our life can be categorized into 9 specific areas. Each area is called a gua. The sum of all 9 guas put in a specific order is called a bagua. The picture to the right shows you the bagua. To determine how to overlay the bagua in your home, your front door is always on the side of the Career gua. I know this doesn’t probably make a ton of sense to you, so I’ll just say if you are interested in learning more, just buy the book!

In the book, the author shares a plan to follow for each gua. She gives you Power Tools, which are elements, colors and ideas that will pump up that area. There are Hazardous Materials for each gua. These are items, elements or colors that should be removed in that area if at all possible. Each gua is also associated with a body part and a number. The body parts is helpful if you’re experiencing pain in one of those areas. You can use cures in the gua associated with the location of your pain to address it.

Now a few things to remember: you don’t need to go and paint all your walls the power color for each gua. In fact, energy will work whether you see it or not. (You’ll see what I mean when I show you pictures of my enhancements.)

I chose to focus on the specific guas of Prosperity, Fame and Reputation, and Helpful People and Travel primarily because they have the most direct impact on my business. Here’s what it looked like for me…

Prosperity

This gua happens to be located in my home office. How appropriate! While this gua is certainly the one to boost if you need more money, Prosperity is about more than simply money. The universe is abundant which means I can have what I want without taking from you. So, on to the cures…

Power Tools: purple, green, red, gold, things that remind you of abundance, moving water, round-leaved plants, moving objects

Hazardous Materials: dirt and dust, broken items, reminders of bad times, trash cans, dead plants, fireplaces, toilets

Body Part: hip

Number: 8

What I Did

  • Removed my trash can
  • Added a fountain
  • Added another plant
  • Used purple construction paper and wrote
    • Money finds me easily now and always. (The book is chock full of affirmations if you can’t come up with your own.)
    • List of the top 8 things I’m thankful for (this gua is also associated with abundance so more comes our way when we focus on what we already have – 8 is the number associated with this gua)
  • Used purple folders to store
    • Pictures of things that remind me of prosperity
    • Pictures of things that make me feel abundant
  • Re-oriented my desk to what the book calls the ‘power position’
  • I overlaid the bagua in my office itself, enhancing each gua within my office (it’s the bagua within a gua which it another way to use the principles)
  • I overlaid the bagua on my desk itself to be more strategic about what is on my desk, i.e. I put a purple container on my desk and wrote myself a check for $1,000,000. Yep, a million bucks. Why dream small, right?!?
  • I removed all books that weren’t inspiring to me as a business owner
  • I diffuse lavender oil in my office…it’s purple, it’s calming and it’s another source of moving water
  • And because pictures are worth a thousand words…check these out!

    The power position of a desk faces the door with the chair for guests off the left corner.

    The power position of a desk faces the door with the chair for guests off the front left corner.

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This is my word of the year: Bold. When I think of what I need to be to bring about what I want, this is it.

Here's my fountain, a box filled with reminders of what I'm thankful for and on this bulletin board is a picture of me jumping off a cliff.  The people there that day called me Purple Girl because of my swimsuit.  If that's not a physical embodiment of prosperity, I don't know what is.

Here’s my fountain, a box filled with reminders of what I’m thankful for and on this bulletin board is a picture of me jumping off a cliff. The people there that day called me Purple Girl because of my swimsuit. If that’s not a physical embodiment of prosperity, I don’t know what is.

This is the other word I believe I need to remember when building these businesses.  I'll never succeed trying to be something I'm not.

This is the other word I believe I need to remember when building these businesses. I’ll never succeed trying to be something I’m not.

I hung a plain whiteboard here in the Creativity gua of my office because white is the color.  Each day, I write something new to inspire me to approach my work creatively.  (Also, my kids love to color on it and that's cool with me.)

I hung a plain whiteboard here in the Creativity gua of my office because white is the power color for that gua. Each day, I write something new to inspire me to approach my work creatively. (Also, my kids love to color on it and that’s cool with me.)

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This is located in the Relationship gua of my office. It has pictures of me and my hubby, along with a box filled with cards, notes and tokens that remind me of our love. Also, the books there are only those associated with strengthening our relationship.

Fame and Reputation

This gua isn’t about becoming ‘famous’ necessarily. For me, my businesses are pretty wrapped around what I’m known for, how I’m perceived and whether my reputation is good or bad.

This gua is located in the main living room of our home. This was a fun one because so much of what I had chosen for decor in this room lent itself perfectly to what I want to be known for.

Power Tools: fire, lights, red, triangular shapes, wood, green, television, rectangular or columnar shaped objects, items that represent fire, stained glass, animals and things made from animals, plants, pictures of memorabilia of celebrities or people you admire, recognition items, personal wish list, “up” stuff, real mountains

Hazardous Materials: water, black, things that symbolize what you are not about

Body Part: eye

Number: 1

What I Did

  • My home is actually good for the enhancement of this gua; my house number is 820. Add up 8 and 2, you get 10 which leaves you with a 1.
  • I already have a TV, a fireplace, white columns on either side of my mantle and my walls are green; I was off to a good start
  • I had absolutely ZERO red in this room though, so here’s how I addressed that…
That pretty red box contains cards and thank you notes from people over the past year that specifically thanked me for being what I WANT to be known for.

That pretty red box contains cards and thank you notes from people over the past year that specifically thanked me for being what I WANT to be known for.

 

This writing was already on my wall.  I'm an Undem.  That's it.

This writing was already on my wall. I’m an Undem. That’s it.

 

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Red construction paper taped to the back: I help people make choices to escape their cages. I represent freedom.

Red construction paper taped to the back: I’m not MEASURED against anyone else and I always strive to GROW.

This clock was already here.  Check out the affirmation that I taped on the bottom...

This clock was already here but I wrote this on a piece of red construction paper and taped it to the bottom: I’m dependable, reliable and punctual.

This little pyramid thingy was the only thing I actually bought to boost this area.

This little pyramid thingy was the only thing I actually bought to boost this area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helpful People and Travel

Oddly, this gua is located in a corner of my bedroom. Focusing on shifting the energy here allows us to ask for help from other people. From contractors to networking events, boosting this gua can help you attract the right kind of help.

Because my job is so dependent on others, I decided this would be the third gua I focused effort on.

Power Tools: silver containers, gray, symbols of helpful beings, religious objects, bells, water, hands, symbols of favorite places

Hazardous Materials: junk, drains, dirt and dust, broken items, trash cans, toilets, reminders of broke and bad times

Body Part: head

Number: 5

What I Did

I’ll just use pictures with captions to summarize the cures for this space.

This has globes on it and it states "Let Your Dreams Take You Places."  This ties into my desire to travel for fun and through my career, which is grounded in big, big dreams.

This has globes on it and it states “Let Your Dreams Take You Places.” This ties into my desire to travel for fun and through my career, which is grounded in big, big dreams.

Hanging here is a silver purse.  In it, I wrote 5 different types of people I need help with, including marketing for my business, architects for our eventual home remodel, etc.

Hanging here is a silver purse. In it, I wrote 5 different types of people I need help from, including marketing for my business, architects for our eventual home remodel, etc.

Books:  religious books and travel related; Picture of my husband who is my partner in everything; Silver container containing specifics of what I need in my business written in red

Books: religious books and travel related; Picture of my husband who is my partner in everything; Silver container containing specifics of what I need in my business written in red

Other General Enhancements

Skills and Knowledge: the author shared that if alcohol was stored here, to move it. Well, it was and so I 002did.

Creativity and Children: this happens to be in our bedroom, but this wall captures a bit of playful energy without being too childlike. The canvas states “Enjoy the little things”. 3 is the number associated with this gua and so I put a collage of 3 pics of my 3 kids that states “View the world through the eyes of a child.”

 

 

My Results

This whole experience of moving my stuff around to be more intentional about what I want was so damn much fun. The energy of my office is simply outstanding! I bought a purple journal where I write down the prosperous things that are happening since I enhanced this space. New people, new connections and more opportunities seem to be presenting themselves to me on a continual basis.

I always loved my living room space but now that I have a sacred space to store those little notes of affirmation that I know are helping to shift the energy of my reputation is so much fun.

I know this can all seem a little hokey, but the mere act of buying the book, applying enhancements and adding intention behind them creates shifts.

Energy can be shifted for your good. Use it to your advantage! Tell me what you think! Have you used feng shui or other energy clearing/shifting practices? What changes did you see!

Here’s to a freakin’ fantastic 2015!

The Right Kind of ‘More’ at Christmas

Last year, I wrote this blog post about breaking the cycle of Christmas stress. It was meant to serve as reminder that as moms, we tend to try to do it all this time of the year; the baking, the decorating, the elf-moving, all while maintaining a jolly demeanor and a twinkle in our eye.

If you’re feeling stressed right now, read it. Oh and check out the info for this year’s Busy Moms Retreat. I reference it in the article and I’m offering it again this year…it’s a game changer. You need to be there.

As I re-read last year’s post, I found myself feeling pretty good about the fact that I didn’t let Christmas stress get to me like I have in years past. Maybe I’m growing a bit as a person and I realize that these types of comparisons don’t serve me. Maybe it’s because I had a third baby and my give-a-damn is a little busted. Whatever the reason, I managed OK.

Oh, no worries. I don’t have this stress thing down. I just replaced those struggles with one of a different variety.

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Mom Confession: I got sucked into the commercialism of Christmas this year.

My kids don’t need more stuff. At. All. I said it at the start of the season. I told my husband we’d only be getting them stuff they could learn from or experiences we could share as a family. I’m also a big fan of the ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear and something to read’ idea.

I was going to keep it small. I was going to focus more on what my kids experienced throughout the season rather than the stuff under the tree.

But alas, when I was out shopping for gifts this year, I still found myself questioning if they’d have enough stuff to open on Christmas Eve. At Target, after I had purchased everything that was on my list, I saw these $10 Transformer toys. I thought, “What’s it going to hurt? It’s just another little something.”

Really?!?  Really!!  No, it might not hurt anything, but the point is that they don’t frickin’ NEED another toy. It’s not about the price tag. It’s about the gluttony. The overindulgence. The senselessness of it all.

Why do I let this happen?

The other night, something occurred to me. It was about the word Christmas. Obviously the root of the word is Christ, which is the entire reason for the season. But if you take Christ out of the word, all you’re left with is ‘mas’ which means ‘more’ in Spanish. Here’s how I see it: if you aren’t focusing on Christ during this season, all you’re left to focus on is more.

More presents. More decorations. More holiday parties. More amazing Elf on the Shelf ideas. More stuff. More. More. More.

Before you decide to burn me at the stake for the heresy I speak, please know that I LOVE all those things. I love the magic, the glitter, the lights, the sparkle and the overall feeling in the air at Christmas. But this year, I was feeling more like this…

“Everybody seems to kerbabbled. Isn’t this just a little superfluous?” – Cindy Lou Who, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

What if, instead, we focused on more Christ? More peace? More joy? More cherished time with family and friends in celebration of the real reason for the season?

Ideas to help you focus on the right kind of ‘more':

  • Create a special tradition around the celebration of Jesus’ birth. I know this isn’t particularly original, but I asked my little guy what he thought about baking a birthday cake for Jesus. He was excited about it and so it will be.
  • Participate in or attend a Christ-centered program. We had our church nativity program this past weekend and I swear, as I get older, I can’t get through one without crying like a baby. (There’s something about a little ringlet-haired sweetheart saying “a multitude of the heavenly host”)
  • Really think about the gifts you’re giving. Before I sat down to wrap the abundance of gifts I’d purchased, I went through them and chose to return a few. Kids will remember the fun environment and the time spent with them so much more than what they open. (I realize this works better for little kids than big ones, so I say enjoy this while you can!)
  • Go Christmas caroling. We did this for the first time in a LONG time and boy was it fun! You only need a couple of families to go visit a nursing home or people you know are unable to leave their homes.
  • Read the Christmas story from the Bible. The Luke account is the traditional story and kids love to listen to it.
  • Start with a clean slate. When our elf showed up this year, his first mission for the kids was to fill a tote with toys that were in good condition but that they no longer played with. It’s never too early to teach our kids about the importance of giving back to people who are less fortunate.
  • Watch “The Nativity” with your kids. (At least add it in along with The Grinch, The Christmas Story and Miracle on 34th Street)

I said it last year and I’ll say it again: Christmas is NOT about all of the things we think we HAVE to do.

If you don’t believe me, take a cue from someone who knows…

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?”

Take out your to-do list and scratch off all the things that are not bringing you joy. Stay focused on the baby in the manger. The right kind of ‘more’ is sure to follow.

What kinds of things are you doing with your family to stay focused on what truly matters?  Share them here or on the Facebook page!

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas from my home to yours.

Little Victories: Finding Joy in the Mundane

Mothering young children is mundane. It’s tedious. It’s repetitious. It’s borderline boring at times.

I struggle with all of these things.

I don’t stay focused very well. I don’t like doing the same thing over and over. And I really find it hard to engage in activities that I find boring.

As you can imagine, I am not wired well for this whole infant thing.

In fact, I’ve been really struggling with the impatience I’m feeling. I want to be working on my businesses again. I want to be connecting with amazing women again. I want to be training again.

But, I don’t have regular daycare until January so my ability to work has been pretty hit and miss.

And yet, I know that I will look back on all this quality time I’m spending with Brynlee and I’ll be thankful for it. I know that I can never get these early moments back and since she’s our last baby, I really need to soak it up.

It’s so hard for me to remember on a daily basis, I almost need to write it down and repeat it to myself.

As any mother can attest, it’s almost ridiculous the things we get ecstatic over. That’s part of the magic of motherhood. Every day, there are little victories we ought to be celebrating. And since Thanksgiving is upon us, I thought it fitting to look back over the past 10 weeks and acknowledge at least 10 little victories of my own.

Brynlee Sleeping

  1. Her nails are finally strong enough that I can cut them with a nail clipper. I attempted this far too early and clipped her fingertip. Not a pleasant experience.

  2. While she is by no means ‘scheduled’, she randomly gives me nights of 8 hours of sleep. (This almost shouldn’t make the list…there’s NOTHING simple about sleep. Lord have mercy.)

  3. She has little leopard print Ugg boots. And yes, they are as adorable as they sound.

  4. Today, I napped with her. We just snuggled in and dozed off together in the chair.

  5. When I walk into the room, she smiles. Like actually smiles just to see me.

  6. She is now sleeping in her own room. Her pretty little room we created just for her.

  7. My mom recently gave me a full day away. Me, no kids, the open road and XM Radio. No Kung Fu Panda or Brave blaring in the background. No stroller to unload, kids to buckle in or snacks to grab. Even though I literally just ran errands and had a few meetings, it was a day for me to feel normal. And I had enjoyed numerous coffee beverages. Just because I could.

  8. The pain of childbirth is mostly forgotten now. Please realize this is in no way an indication that I plan to do it again.

  9. Even though I pee a bit when I jump, run or do high knees, my body is willing and able to work out again. Do your kegels, ladies…seriously.

  10. She loves napping in my office, making this blog post possible.

Above all, my baby girl (and my big boys) are healthy and happy. And well, there’s nothing mundane or simple about that.

This time of the year should make us stop and take stock of all the abundance of blessings we have in our lives. Often times, these blessings are small, but they are always, always worth mentioning. And celebrating.

What are the ‘little’ victories you’ve had lately? Let’s acknowledge them and celebrate them properly!

When Nursing Doesn’t Feel Natural

Let’s talk about breastfeeding. Everyone knows that nursing is healthy for both moms and babies. We’re told it provides nature’s perfect food for infants. Hell, even the formula labels tell us so. It’s believed to be the most natural thing in the world.

gerberlabel

Except when it’s not.

And for me, it wasn’t.

Before I get into the meat of this article, please let me say one thing. For those out there that nurse your babies for any amount of time and you enjoy it, it comes naturally to you, and you think any other choice is a bad one, this post isn’t for you. (Unless of course, you have the desire to hear another perspective. Then by all means, read on.)

This post is for all the moms out there that really struggle(d) with nursing. I’m going to share my nursing experience with all three of my kids, with nothing but the intention to help other struggling moms feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. Because choosing to quit nursing, while the best choice for all concerned, was the hardest choice I’ve ever made as a mom.

It’s probably best that I start at the beginning…

My First Baby

To say I was blindsided by motherhood would be an understatement. I read all the books, took all the classes and was straight-up prepared for my amazing adventure as a kick-ass mom who made the best choices for her children. Andrew was born on April 7, 2009. I lost my mind somewhere around April 9, 2009.

I was ADAMANT that I would nurse my children. The pressure I felt to do it robbed me of my newborn experience. We both got thrush, he was extremely unsatisfied and colicky, and his latch wasn’t quite right so every time I nursed him, I was in pain. (This was after being seen by several lactation consultants.) It should also be noted that one of these consultants told me, while I was crying with pain, that all women can breastfeed and women should breastfeed. Wow…thanks for the boost of confidence, lady.

The worst of it was that I felt almost no bond at all with him. I nursed him for 7 weeks before my mom looked at me and told I me that I didn’t need to continue nursing. The day I quit nursing, the fog lifted, my heart lightened, and I started to enjoy being a mom.

Now, when people hear this, most of them say, “Oh, I’m so sorry you had all those troubles. I can understand why you quit.”

I used this experience to justify why I quit.

It seemed if I had significant physical troubles, people were somehow less critical of my decision and I felt like I had given if enough of a try.

Then Came Carter

With Carter, our second child, I again, planned to nurse. Carter was jaundiced and because ensuring he got enough nutrition was important to keep him healthy, I quit nursing the day we came home and just pumped my milk so I knew how much he was getting. When I was ready to quit pumping only after a few weeks, I didn’t have the guilt or shame I’d experienced with Andrew. I really didn’t struggle with the decision at all.

I was confident in my decision and never really looked back.

The Cherry on Top

With Miss Brynlee, I started having nursing anxiety before she even got here. I had never shared my experience with nursing publicly, and I hoped and prayed that with my third baby, I’d have a different story to tell. I hoped I’d be able to persevere through nursing and write an amazing post to encourage other moms to keep trying even if you had troubles with previous children.

I felt a bigger sense of responsibility this time because I write a blog that people read. Some of what I write about relates to parenting. Mommy bloggers do what’s best for their kids. And clearly, nursing is the best, and good moms do it.

As I’m sure you’re guessing by now, that’s not how it went down.

When I started nursing Brynlee in the hospital, I felt we were off to the best start I’d ever had with my kids. By day 4, my milk had rushed in and her latch wasn’t great, she had broken my nipple open and in the middle of the night when I tried to give her just an ounce of formula to settle her, because she just never seemed satisfied, it took me 20 minutes to get her to take a bottle. The panic I felt was palpable and I nearly lost my mind.

I knew right then and there that this wasn’t to work for me.

I’ve never had more shame, guilt or self-loathing about any other thing in my life as I have about the fact that I don’t want to nurse my kids.

The things I told myself that led to the shame…

I’m a smart woman. All the research points to nursing as the only option smart women make.

I’m not a quitter.

I’m not a wimp. I delivered all 3 of my babies without drugs. I should be able to handle a little boob pain.

I do things ‘right’ and the right thing to do is to nurse.

What kind of a mom am I that I’d choose something I know to be less healthy for my baby?

The things I felt that were hard to ignore…

Trapped. Broken. Tied down. Defective. Suffocated. Panicked. Frustrated. Chaotic. Unscheduled. Not bonded to my baby. Anxious. Resentful of my baby. Sad. Guilty. Shameful.

It seems as long as I had a good reason that nursing didn’t work, like getting thrush with Andrew, people were generally very understanding of my reason to quit nursing.

bottlesBut what about the woman who chooses from the start not to nurse? What about the woman who knows herself well enough that she chooses to quit because nursing actually impedes her ability to love being a mom? Is it wrong for a woman to choose an option that is easier for her because her sanity depends on it? Where is the support for that woman?

I am that woman.

I made the choice to quit nursing because I know it’s not what’s best for me and my baby. While all the studies out there indicate that breastfeeding is best and don’t get me wrong, I believe them, I wish someone somewhere would do a study of women who tried to nurse and struggled with emotional issues like I did.

If there were a way to actually measure the negative impact of a mom being so anxiety-ridden and nearly resentful of her baby while nursing, I think we’d find the results to be astonishing.

It only seems logical the energy of those negative feelings would affect your baby’s health.

I believe wholeheartedly, it does. At a minimum, it deeply affects the relationship between mother and baby, and that can’t be a good thing, regardless of the physiological nutrition of the food.

We aren’t talking enough about the fact that some women are not mentally or emotionally wired to nurse a baby. Physically, my milk came in and the pain I experienced (even the bleeding nipple) is normal and would have straightened out with time. Physical issues are the only reasons that people deem allowable when a woman decides not to nurse. (I’m not kidding. Read a forum or two online discussing the breast v. bottle debate. It’s ugly, judgmental stuff.)

I chose to quit nursing because to be successful at it, I’d have to practically become a different person. I’m very Type-A, I like order and predictability, and I like to accomplish things (even something as simple as doing laundry). Being at the whim of an infant and their on-demand feeding schedule doesn’t work for someone like me. It still feels gross to even write that line, but this is who I am. Having a baby doesn’t change everything about who we are, even though society would like us to believe it will.

The bottom line is this: there is no one ‘right’ way to be a mother. As women, we are all different and so are our babies. Anytime we declare there is only one ‘right’ way to do something as a parent, we are standing in judgment of others. Unless you are that other person, you really can’t tell them how to be.

We seem to get really hung up on the ‘hows’ of motherhood. How we feed them, how we discipline them, how to potty train them, how we play with them, etc., etc. And yes, those things are important. But if one way seems wrong or simply doesn’t work for you, try what does.

This is why we were given intuition. We need to listen to it and follow it. No book, online resource or other person can live your life for you, so the choices you make need to make sense for you and your individual situation.

No matter stage of mothering you’re in, it’s not the methods you choose that determine whether you’re a good mom. The important thing is that those choices are made in love. A balance of love for your child and love for yourself. That’s what makes you a great mother.

The entire journey of motherhood is a dance. A dance where we balance out what our children need with what feels right to us. Honoring yourself as a mom is never a wrong decision. After all, one day, isn’t it our hope that you little ones will honor themselves? We show them how by modeling it for them.

I now feed my baby with a bottle and I can look at her, talk to her, kiss her and snuggle her until she’s ready to eat again. And when she is ready to eat again, I feel no stress, no panic and no negative feelings about it. It feels like the most natural thing in the world.

For those of you that experienced bliss while nursing, I really do admire you. I think you’re an amazing mom and your babies are blessed to have you.

For those of you that tried nursing, hated it and stuck it out because you thought it was best for your baby, I’m proud of you. I think you’re an amazing mom and your babies are blessed to have you.

For those of you that didn’t want to nurse or quit early like I did, you aren’t broken, defective, selfish, or lazy. I think you’re an amazing mom and your babies are blessed to have you.

Let’s continue to honor each other even if our journeys look different.

I’d love to hear your feedback and your personal stories. I just ask that we keep the comments constructive. There’s enough pain around the subject as it is.

Motherhood should feel like a club where admission is not based on the individual choices we make but by the fact that we have the role to begin with.

Late Pregnancy Anxiety…

36 weeks

One of the two pregnancy pics I’ve taken with this one. I was just past 36 weeks here.

Lately, I’ve been having some anxiety.

And just so I’m clear, right up-front…this isn’t a call for help. I support woman to live confident lives and frankly, we can’t be confident if we can’t talk about how we really feel.

My anxiety boils down to where I’m at with this third baby situation. Overall, here’s what I’m struggling with:

The Struggles

Delivery

One of the biggest disadvantages of small town living is that we don’t have a full service hospital. Now, don’t get me wrong, ours is good for where we live, but they stopped delivering babies right after I had my oldest. We doctor 85 miles away. If my water were to break at home, there’s a chance I will not make it to the hospital. My own doctor believes that based on how quickly I delivered my second. Now, there’s the option to head straight to the ER where I live, but I was visiting with a doctor from there yesterday, and she said, “No, get in the car and get as close to your hospital as you can.”

At my 38 week appointment yesterday, my own doctor said, “No. Stick with your plan. If your water breaks, get on the road.”

I mean, really?!? Holy shit. She went into all the things they are likely unprepared to do, like resuscitate a baby if necessary. She even said that immediate post-natal care for infants changes all the time and that nothing scares an ER staff more than a pregnant lady. Give them a lopped off limb and they’re good with it. Gushing amniotic fluid and a crowning head? Not so much.

I’m been plagued with dreams of delivering in the back of our car on the interstate. I can say that my husband will be a rockstar in the event this occurs. He’s rational and level-headed so he’ll be calming for me, but if it gets right down to it and he has to zip-tie the umbilical cord because I just popped out a kid (and yes, that’s actually his preferred product…you know over buying some string or something that sounds less farmer-like), I’m not sure what he’ll think. He may never look at me the same again.

My Support System

This is hands-down, unequivocally, the WORST time of year for me to have a baby. Most people already know this. It’s not news.

But this past week, I’ve been doing what I can to help my mom get ready for her seasonal pumpkin patch business. I have had a pretty consistent pit in my stomach since. It’s not like I’m the world’s greatest help to her, but I know what’s going on. We’re a team and even though she does more than 90% of the work to prepare, I feel like we’ve always been close to equals when the season actually hits. I’m good with people and managing the business part of it for her. Now, she’s relying on a lot of other people to make it happen and I’m just struggling.

Now for the quick pity party…at least we can backfill the schedule with other people for her. What about me and this new baby? My husband will be in the field and for the first full month, my mom will be completely indisposed.

There are a lot of people who will help me. I just have to reach out. But, I’m not good at that. I’m certainly going to have to get good at asking if I want to get through it.

Family Dynamic

The last area of stress overall just relates to how this baby will change our lives. We’ve got a pretty good thing going in our household right now and the idea of going back to no schedule and no sleep is seriously tripping me out.

Obviously, I’m getting closer to having this baby, so everyone wants to know if I’m excited. I hesitate nearly every time I’m asked. I mean, sure I am. But, I like order. And babies are chaos. What can I say? And this is one of those areas where you have to tread lightly. People don’t want to hear that you’re not 100% stoked. They want me to beam with pride and glow with anticipation. That glow is sweat. Anxiety-induced sweat.

The Lessons

Clearly, there are lessons hidden, and more often buried, in everything that happens in our lives.

In case you’ve forgotten, I do confess to be somewhat of a control freak, so not having a lot of influence over a situation is a difficult place for me to spend time. I guess you could say I’m outside my comfort zone. And I know that when I’m there, I’m being challenged to grow.

Maybe I’m tired of growing at this point. (I am physically, that’s for sure.)

At the end of the day, I know that I am loved by a God that believes I’m capable of handling all of this. He also is not-so-gently reminding me that I never was nor will I ever be, in control.

So, here’s how I’m actually coping and if you’re finding yourself in an ‘out-of-your-control’ situation in your life, I hope these ideas will help.

The Strategies

DC Golden Book

All the pearls of wisdom from DC’s books packaged in a handy little pocket-sized surprise. Highly recommend getting several and storing them in multiple places.

All of these strategies come straight from Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”. His techniques can be applied to business or personal life and I use them religiously.

  • Live in ‘day-tight’ compartments

I basically only try to think about what’s right in front of me. At this juncture, all my stress lies ahead, it’s not so much about the past, but focusing on either robs you of today. It robs today of its beauty, fun and energy. You can’t be good at what you’re doing today if you’re fretting over past mistakes or thinking incessantly about what’s to come.

  • Use the following 3 step process:

  1. Ask yourself, “What is the worst that can possibly happen?”

  2. Prepare to accept the worst.

  3. Try to improve on the worst

This is a great technique. I’ve actually sat down and thought through this with each of the areas I’m struggling in. With delivery, the ultimate worst that could happen is that my baby or I wouldn’t live.

Now truly, there’s no reason to believe that will happen nor can I really accept it (at least right now), so barring that, the worst that could happen is that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital. I have accepted that as a possibility. And, we’ve got a decent contingency plan in place to cope. (And really…it would make for one hell of a story for you read about later, wouldn’t it?)

With the post-baby fears, the worst that could happen is that I’d have a very sick or colicky baby. This is a potential reality all new moms have to accept. The only way I can improve on this situation is to remember that my #1 job as the mother of a newborn is that baby. Yes, I have two other kids, but I’ll have to get good at offloading them to friends and other family if my baby is really struggling. It will be quite the ride, but we really are so loved and we’ll figure it all out.

  • Use the law of averages to outlaw your worries

This is another useful and rational principle. Basically, there are many ways that labor can start. While the chances are decent that my water could break at home, how likely is it that we won’t make it to the hospital? (There are not THAT many stories of women delivering babies on the side of the road.) The point of this principle is that we tend to get really focused on that worst case scenario, which is usually one of the unlikeliest outcomes. We end up exerting a lot of energy worrying and fretting about things that are likely to never pass.

It’s also a solid reminder that our thoughts carry energy. Thinking about only the worst case scenario all the time creates a whirlwind of negativity. Changing our thoughts to productive, positive thoughts is a challenge, but one worth pursuing.

  • Pray

Yep. Mr. Carnegie has this in his timeless book. It’s one of the pillars of my sanity at this point. God brought me to this place and He’ll carry me through it. (Oh and I know that I can’t put this all on God. I know how babies are made. A fun night away in Fargo is all it took and while it wasn’t planned or on my radar at all, it happened because we let it.)

Through prayer, I also ask to be reminded of the incredible blessings babies bring. The truth is, I’ve never been a good ‘newborn’ mom. I love it when they get to about 4 months. Rock throwing can commence at any time.

I seriously just never did that well with infants and don’t even start me on the topic of nursing. (I’m sure I’ll share the full scope of this once we’re in the throes again, but needless to say, it’s not pretty.)

So, I’m praying for strength. I’m praying for support. I’m praying for peace. I’m praying for confidence. I’m praying.

In the end, this will all be as it’s meant to be. I just have to roll with it. The other side contains blessings and further lessons that at this point, I can’t even comprehend.

There’s really nothing left to do but throw my hands in the air and enjoy the ride. As scary, uncertain and even thrilling as it might be.

What about you? What stuff are you struggling with? What’s keeping you up at night? Share your stories! We are all here to support one another and when we help each other, all our struggles seem less daunting.