Just Maintain: A movement for all who are weary

September is usually one of my favorite months. It feels like a new year and a fresh start. I love the crisp fall air and shopping for back to school supplies. I take great pleasure in refilling my tea supply, breaking out the crock pot, and sorting through all the sweaters I stored away last winter.

But this year feels different.

I did a lot this summer. I took Postpartum Support Toronto to the next level. I completed three summer courses. I took the family on a trip to Disney. I submitted a paper on postpartum resiliency for publication. I was accepted as a speaker for the Warrior Mom Conference. I made all the material for my first online program. I maxed out my client load. And I did it all with interruptions from my 11-year-old who was home with me this summer.

I wish I could look back on the summer and give myself a metaphorical high five for all that hard work, but I am left with a low-grade feeling of dissatisfaction because I didn’t get everything done that I had planned to. I keep thinking about all the days I slept in or watched back to back episodes of The Get Down instead of following up with clients or doing an extra edit on a piece of writing.

The counselor in me says that it’s normal to slow down. That I did my best and that is enough – that I am enough. I want to tell myself that it’s not a race and it’s okay to push back the self-imposed deadlines I missed (on that note, now might be a good time to tell you that the launch of the e-book has been delayed). Yet this kind of self-talk isn’t resonating right now.

Because really, I don’t want to slow down. And when I look at my calendar over the year, slowing down isn’t really an option. Instead, I am grieving the limitations of my body and energy levels and I long to tap into the excitement and enthusiasm that normally comes with back-to-school feelings.

Thankfully I’m still going. I may no longer be running in this life-marathon, but I haven’t quit. I’m kind of walking slowly towards the finish line while double fisting coffee. I’m not going anywhere quickly, but that’s fine because I don’t need to come in first – I just want to finish.

Do you feel like you are just kinda limping along too? Then I invite you to join me in letting go of endless striving for the moment and do the bare basics for a bit. I call this strategy just maintain and it’s a movement for those of us who are weary, with no rest in sight, and need to keep going just a little while longer.

It’s easy to do – just follow these six simple steps.

Count it down: This slow and steady pace is not my preferred way to live. I thrive in creatively rich spaces filled with action and energy. What makes it possible to get through a plodding and heavily routinized pace it is that I know that it will end. I need to make it to the end of April, but you may have days, weeks or months to get through. Pick a date where you can reassess what comes next. You may then find that you need to spend more time just maintaining. Or you could decide that your next move is rest and recovery.  You may even feel ready to go all-out with your next big goal.

Celebrate: Notice all the little things that go your way. Sometimes I am so forward facing I lose site of all the accomplishments I’ve gained or valuable lessons I’ve learned. So over the next eight months I am going to keep a ‘win list’ that I can reflect on to ground myself on tough days.

Embrace good enough: Perfectionism is the antithesis of productivity for me. Right now I’m giving myself permission to be okay with just being okay.

Rally your people: I’ve prepared my friends and family for what they can expect from me in the next year and asked for their help. I’m not going to be able to respond quickly. I’m not going to be able to volunteer to bring snacks to children’s events. And I told the kids I’m going to have to pass off more household responsibilities to them (and I have zero intention of ever doing those chores again).

Feel all the feelings: Some days I feel like I am kicking ass, and other days I feel overwhelmed and lonely. Rather than forcing positivity, I’m making the space for all the feelings that come up and not being afraid when they do. Because I know I can cope. And I know they will pass.

Find the fun where you can: The biggest challenge for me is how boring I find this kind of pace. Being at home this much is really tough for me. To get through it, I’ve built in fun mini-vacations so I have things to look forward to. I am also going to actively look for fun moments as they are happening… such as snuggling during family movie night or that feeling I get when my partner makes me laugh until wine comes out my nose.

So friends, if you also are worn down but you can’t stop just yet, let’s support each other as we just maintain for a little while.

In the end, we’ll get where we are going.

Or maybe somewhere even better.

 

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

Confessions of a Guilty Mom

Mom Guilt  noun \ˈmäm \ gilt\
Definition: Maternal feelings of remorse or responsibility for an offense or wrongdoing towards her children; often imagined

Mom guilt used to be a really big thing in my life. I’ve written before about how I am an anxious parent, so this likely doesn’t come as a surprise to many of you. I felt guilty about a lot of things the first time I learned I was pregnant.  I convinced myself I too young, too single, and too poor to raise a child. So I started with some serious prenatal guilt and things didn’t go according to plan after the baby was born. I couldn’t breastfeed. I had to put him in daycare before six months. I developed postpartum depression. Pretty soon I was drowning in mom guilt.

When I had my second son, my life was pretty different. I was married! And my (then) partner had a job! And I was going to be a stay at home mom this time!  I thought that by changing the circumstances that lead to the guilt the first time, that I could shed the internal messages that told me I wasn’t doing a good enough job. Yet even though I had made a bunch of life changes, every tantrum my four-year-old had made me worry I was raising a real life Calliou.

But unlike  Calliou’s mom, I responded to all his pre-school misbehavior with yelling, which made me feel terrible because I genuinely wanted to be a fun, kind mom and not an angry mom.  I even tried to ban Calliou in the house (because seriously that show is the worst, amirite?), but the many hours of television time that I allowed my older son to watch while I cared for the baby made that impossible and gave me another reason to feel guilty.

Two events brought me to my mom guilt peak. The first was when I got a full-time job outside the house. Not only did I feel guilty that I worked so much, I felt extra guilty because deep down, I enjoyed my work more than I liked helping with homework or sitting through school concerts.  The second was getting a divorce. Despite logically knowing that the marriage needed to end, I couldn’t help but fear that I had ruined my kid’s childhoods.  It didn’t matter how well adjusted and normal the kids seemed to be or how many stress reducing bubble baths I took, for sure I was single-handedly wrecking my kids.

When I reflect on it, it is a bit shocking to see how much pressure I was putting on myself and how much responsibility I was taking for my children happiness and life successes.  And I know I’m not alone in this. Almost all moms feel guilty about some aspect of raising kids.

Yet by some crazy magic, our kids are alright. And in many cases, they are better than alright. They wake up smiling, keep growing a little taller every summer, and are pretty damn resilient when life gets hard.

I came to realize that mom guilt doesn’t really do anything for us, except drain our emotional energy and give us a reason to binge eat ice cream after the kids go to bed. It doesn’t change our circumstances or make us better parents or make raising kids easier. It mostly just sucks the fun out of parenting and gets in the way of finding joy in our day to day experiences.

So I decided to tackle this guilt monster before it took any more goodness away from me.  This certainly wasn’t a quick fix and I am the first to confess that it wasn’t always easy. But letting go of the guilt gave me my emotional freedom back and allowed me to catch my breath.

Sometimes, like when a skateboarding crash led to a serious case of road rash after I forced the kiddos to step away from their screens and play outside in the sunshine, mom guilt stills feels like an easy itch to scratch. But Band-Aids, antiseptic, and a really big hug were all that was needed to fix the situation.  Guilty feelings were completely unproductive.

The good news is that letting go of mom guilt is totally possible. I’ve been working on a new online program to help parents like you (and me!) stop feeling guilty and start feeling awesome.  Sound like something you might be interested in?  Sign up for more information about The Secret Lives of Guilt Free Moms here to discover how you can be more of the mom you want to be.

 

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

6 Quick & Easy Ways To Cope When Anxiety Strikes

Ever had anxiety suddenly appear out of nowhere? It’s just the worst, amiright?

Here are six quick and easy ways for you to fight back and cope when anxious thoughts strike.

Strategy One:
Distract, Self Soothe and Improve the Moment Technique

The ACCETPS and IMPROVE strategy used in dialectical behavior therapy is a fantastic tool for getting through moments when intrusive thoughts pop into your head or when racing thinking takes over. It’s simple – first, distract yourself from the thought(s) and soothe yourself, and then select an activity that will improve the moment.

Distracting yourself from the thought(s)

Activity: Start doing an activity you love, such as reading or cooking
Contribute: Focus on helping someone else, such as shovelling a neighbor’s driveway or sending a note of encouragement to someone who needs it
Comparisons: Think back to a time when you weren’t doing as well as you are now and notice how far you have come
Emotions: Chose a positive emotion that you want to feel, such as love or humour, and try to connect with it
Push: Envision the thoughts as a cloud or balloon and then envision yourself pushing or blowing them away
Thoughts: Select a different thought that is positive or boring and focus your attention on that instead
Sensations: Start doing something that gives you a (safe) physically intense sensation, such as eating something spicy or taking a cold shower

Then improve the moment

Images: Go to your ‘happy place’ and visualize yourself somewhere calm and serene
Meaning: Reflect on what you are going through and try to find some personal meaning in it
Pray: Speak silently or out loud to any spiritual entity you find soothing
Relaxation: Take deep breaths and focus on relaxing your face and shoulders
One thing in the moment: Put all of your attention into whatever activity you are currently doing and try to keep yourself as present as possible
Vacation: Take a break. Stop what you are doing and go for a walk or watch some tv
Encourage: Become your own personal cheerleader! Say all the things you need to hear to get through the moment.

 

Strategy Two:
Mindfulness Techniques

Instead of distracting yourself from difficult thoughts, mindfulness techniques allow you to sit in the moment until it passes.

Step One: Identity the feelings that you are having.
Step Two: Name the feelings. You can even say them out loud. Sad. Angry. Anxious.
Step Three: Identify where in the body the feelings live. Focus your attention there.
Step Four: Keep going until the feeling passes. Trust that it will and that you will feel okay again.

 

Strategy Three:
Grounding Techniques

Staying in the moment when you are having intrusive or racing thoughts can be tough. If you find yourself slipping, you can practice grounding techniques to bring you back to the present. Try the 54321 strategy

  1. Name five things that you can see in the room around you. Chair, dog, shoe, cup, book.
  2. Name four things that you can feel. Feet to the floor. Skin to shirt. Ring on my finger. Sofa supporting me.
  3. Name three things you can hear around you. Clock ticking on the wall. Refrigerator humming. Dog snoring.
  4. Two things you can smell around you. Fresh cut grass. Burning candle.
  5. One thing you can taste. Cinnamon gum.

 

Strategy Five:
Worry Jar/Worry Spot

Put boundaries around when you worry. Write down the thoughts that are bothering you and put them in a jar. If they are still bugging you, commit to spending some time unpacking the worry jar in a designated worry spot in your home.  Read each one out loud and ask yourself “is this something that affects me right now?”  Most of our intrusive/racing thoughts are concerns about the past or the future. If there is nothing that can be done to in this exact moment, let it go and deal with it if and when you need to.

 

Strategy Six:
Progressive Muscle Relaxation

If you are having trouble relaxing, try releasing tension one part of your body at a time.

  1. Find somewhere to sit or lie down. Close your eyes.
  2. Start by tensing your feet, hold three seconds and then let it go.
  3. Tense your calves, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  4. Tense your thighs, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  5. Tense your butt, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  6. Tense your abs and lower back, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  7. Tense your shoulders, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  8. Tense your arms, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  9. Tense your neck, hold three seconds, and then let it go.
  10. Tense your face, hold three seconds, and then let it go.

 

Want to chat more about working through anxiety? I can help with that. Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

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Parenting With Anxiety

In the world of postpartum mood disorders, postpartum anxiety is becoming a hot topic of discussion.  This is awesome because as high levels of anxiety have become a normalized and unchallenged part of Western parenting, postpartum anxiety has been easy to overlook. Often when the medical community attempts to define postpartum anxiety they say something generalized like this: Postpartum anxiety is persistent anxiety during the postpartum period that negatively impacts daily life.  And while there is nothing wrong with this definition, it’s a little basic and limited in scope.  What is missing  is an acknowledgment that we are parenting in times of fear.

Despite the fact that most kids turn out okay in the end, we parents spend a lot of time worrying that they will not.  We imagine all kinds of disastrous futures for them. If I let them play outside alone will they get hurt or kidnapped? What if they are bullied at school and don’t tell me?  Or worse, what if they are the bully? Should I put them in more extracurricular activities to increase their chances of getting into university? What if that makes them overscheduled? Maybe they should go to college and learn a trade because the global political economy is changing so fast.  Will there even be a job market when they are adults or will climate change destroy us all?

So. Many. Worries.

Perhaps now is a good time to admit that I’m an anxious parent. All of the above questions have raced around in my busy little brain. In the depths of my own experiences with postpartum depression and anxiety, I remember my mind refusing to let my body fall asleep because I was convinced that my baby would die of SIDS.  I needed to ensure that he was still breathing about every ten minutes, only to quickly become convinced that he had stopped since the last time I checked. I was so consumed by listening for signs of life from the bassinet that sleep stopping coming easily.  When at last it did come, it was light and restless. Eventually I would be awakened to the sounds of infant crying and know that I needed to go to him, but instead I would find myself unable to respond to his cries and would lie in bed exhausted and frozen with inertia. I spent this time worrying I was failing as a mother.

I know from working with you with and hearing your stories that my experiences are not unique. It’s not surprising that we parents are worried all the time because there seems to be a lot to worry about! In All Joy and No Fun Jennifer Senior identifies that part of what makes the current climate of parenting so stressful is that we are attempting to raise children for an unknown future.  Historically parents had a pretty clear sense of what their children’s future would look like because most children grew up and had lives that were almost identical to their parents. Blacksmiths would raise children that would grow up and become blacksmiths. Farmers would raise children that would grow up and become farmers. Mothers would raise daughters who knew how to care for others and manage a home.  Back then, parents had it so easy (except for the poverty and famine and accepted discrimination and all that stuff of course) because they knew exactly what knowledge and skills they needed to pass on to their children so that they could succeed.

One of the most universal parenting goals is to raise kids that can function in society without us as adults around telling them what to do.  But in light of things like rapidly changing technology and the quickly evaporating middle class, we aren’t sure totally sure what knowledge and skills our children will need to get by because we aren’t totally sure what the future may hold for our kids. And with our current Western cultural narrative telling us that our children can be anything-they-want-to-be, their futures seem incredibly fuzzy and out of focus.  Our collective parenting response has largely been to:

  1. prepare them for everything we can think of
  2. worry that we aren’t doing enough.

Add to this that we have a danger-and-tragedy driven 24 hour news cycle and are surrounded by a million different parenting books filled with conflicting information about the best way to parent our kids, and we have all the ingredients necessary to a create a culture of parenting fear.

I have spent years experimenting with multiple treatment approaches to manage this anxiety.  Cognitive behavioral therapy. Mindfulness practice.  ‘Gremlin’ training.  And now I can happily say that the anxiety is managed. Well, most of the time anyways. Some days are better than others and it remains a persistent hum in the back of my mind.  It tends to hum louder when I lie in bed at night, trying to fall asleep, because anxiety is a jerk like that.

How do we fight this?  I shared some of my strategies and would definitely love to hear how y’all are combating this in your lives. I have been greatly impacted by Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability, as well as the insights from an unusual little book I found called The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman.  From this I have created a personalized perspective on what it means to be anxiety resilient.

It looks something like this:

Failure totally sucks, but is inevitable and necessary and even sometimes even something to be celebrated because that is where the richest learning often lives.

Bad things do happen, but I can survive them, even if they are unfair and devastating. The process of worrying about bad things happening is often more torturous than coping when they do.

I can’t always stop the anxiety, so when it feels like I’m losing, the quickest remedy for getting through it is to give in and throw a good old fashioned panic/pity party.

There is no doubt that sometimes it’s scary out there, friends.  But I hope we can work together to make it less scary in our heads.

 

Want to chat more about working through anxiety? I have a Postpartum Blues Package that can help. Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

I love my kids. Except sometimes I kind of hate them too.

You may have seen this photo making the rounds on social media outlets. It opened up an important dialogue about the myths vs realities for new parents.  As I started to read the various responses to this photo, it became clear that embedded in this conversation parents were carefully broaching one of the most taboo mothering topics: Parental Ambivalence.   

Parental ambivalence is difficult to define because it’s a complex concept that is understood uniquely from person to person, but essentially it’s the experience of having mixed emotions towards your children.  It can range from feeling unbonded to your kids to having strong, conflicting, simultaneous love/hate feelings towards them. It can sound something like this:

“I love my kids… but sometimes I lock myself in the bathroom and cry because I need to get away from them”

“I can’t imagine my life without the kids, but sometimes I wish I’d never had them”

“I’m a good mom, but sometimes I fantasize about running away from home and starting over”

Public responses to these sorts of comments are varied. Some are very shaming and judgmental and imply that by complaining about kids parents don’t deserve them.  Some are meant to be encouraging and reassure that although parenting is tough, it’s a rewarding and worthwhile experience so parents should hang in there.  Rare is the response that I think most ambivalent parents are hoping for. One that validates that sometimes parenting really sucks and can feel like a lifelong lesson in disappointment and unmet expectations.

What’s going on here?  In the midst of the children-are-a-blessing discourse, how is it possible to have so many parents indicating that kids may also simultaneously feel like a curse?  I’m curious if part of the phenomenon of loving your children but disliking looking after them is linked to the exhausting and endless work of parenting.

Let’s start by separating the love you feel for your children from the work required to raise them.  (This concept isn’t mine to take credit for – tons of people write about this, like Arlie Hochschild, Jennifer Senior, Magda Pecsenye and many more).  Next, let’s unpack exactly what this ‘parent work’ looks like, because the daily grind of parenting is actually made of many different types of work.  While this is largely shaped by children’s ages and stages, and you could organize the ‘work’ of raising children in a variety of ways, here is a rough categorization of some of the big tasks to give you a sense of how big the job of parent is.

Reproductive Work AKA“chores”.  This is all of the physical tasks, domestic work, and household maintenance required to keep kids safe, fed and clean.  So, diaper changes, the endless meals they require, doing their laundry, sorting through winter/summer clothes, staying up all night trying to breastfeed.  That kind of stuff.

Emotional Work AKA “kissing boo boo’s”.  This is all the caring work required support kids with their emotional development. So the empathetic stuff, like holding them when they cry, the resiliency building stuff, like helping them recover from failure, and the fun stuff, like celebrating their successes.  It also includes your own emotional work, like all the stress and worrying you do about your kids.

Moral Development Work AKA “don’t raise a jerk”.  This is all the disciplining, rule setting and holding your children to accountability when they step out of line.  So, helping your kids learn inner discipline, not to whine to get what they want, showing respect for themselves and others, following through on their commitments, keep their hands to themselves, and saying sorry when they screw up.

Life Skills Work AKA “clean up after yourself”.  This is all the work you do to help your children turn into independent adults that can live without you.  So, teaching them how to cook, get passing grades in school, remember their mittens, wash their hands, eat their vegetables, etc.  Often this work can involve spending a fortune on special classes and activities, not to mention all the transportation these events require.

Social Skills Work AKA “how to make friends”. This is the process of assisting your kids build and maintain relationships. So, teaching them how to resolve conflict with peers, how to handle a break up, how to live harmoniously with others.  It’s trying to demonstrate and convey the constant negotiation between knowing when to set clear boundaries with others, and knowing when to put your own needs secondary for the sake of the larger group.

Organizational Work AKA “being a personal assistant”. This is all of the managerial and secretarial work required by parents.  So, remembering how much they weigh, booking their dental appointments, reminding them to call their grandma on her birthday, or filling in the endless paperwork that comes home from school.  This type of work requires calendar administration and ongoing project management.

Notice how none of this work indicates how much love you have for your child? I suspect that a significant contribution to parental ambivalence is actually ambivalence towards some of these buckets of work. Because if we were honest, we would admit that we are not particularly well suited to each aspect of parent work.  This is because each type of work described above requires a wide variety of unique skills and knowledge, and I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect parents to be a super star in each category.  Although not everyone enjoys, is good at, or wants to engage in each bucket of parent work, we are forced to do it by virtue of being in the role of parent.  And while it is generally accepted that if we force paid employees to do work that they don’t enjoy, are not good at, or don’t want to do, they will become disengaged or start to hate their job, parent work is somehow exempt from this.

I know the feelings of parental ambivalence very well.  I find the reproductive work and organizational work of parenting painfully boring and unstimulating.  My memory isn’t that great, I held back violent fantasies towards my crying children as they demanded the blue cup instead of the green cup at snack time, and the thought of spending hours at the park walking behind my kids so they don’t fall off equipment fills me with dread.  As a result, I made for a grumpy and miserable stay at home mom who drank a lot of wine to cope with the shame of my feelings of parental ambivalence.  But life skills, moral development work and emotional work?  Love that stuff.  There is nothing more rewarding than helping my kids recover from loss or standing by them as they take responsibility when they screw up.  I’m not afraid to talk openly with my kids about tough topics like sexual consent or racism.

How might parenting be different if we could talk openly about the buckets of work we don’t like?  I suspect it would shift the conversation from trying to determine who is suited for parenting (and who isn’t), and focus on our unique areas parenting strengths. I’d love to hear from you on this topic.  What is the parent work that you love?  And how do you do more of what you love and less of what you don’t love?

 

Want to chat more about managing mother work? I have a Postpartum Blues Package that can help. Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

The Problem with Self Care

The concept of self care seems to be a big topic of conversation for overwhelmed and exhausted parents.  This makes sense because a lot of us are trying to figure out how to juggle work, friends, families, romance and the demands of all this can feel endless. The most commonly proposed solution?  Make time for self care.

While self care means different things to different people, the type I am talking about in this blog post is what you see in most self help and time management books.  This is the type of self care that orders you to increase the amount of time you spend doing things that are generally known for improving health and decrease the amount of time doing things generally known for making you more tired.  So, more wild salmon and going for walks and reading.  Less coffee and television and alcohol.

Now I do understand that self care is important.  I want to be clear that I am not AGAINST self care.  It’s not a bad thing – it’s a good thing!  But it’s good in the same way eating organic is good for you.  We should probably all do it, but we can’t always afford to.  My issue with self care is that it’s a paradox.  We need self care to feel energized and renewed, but the time and money it costs to engage in self care can deplete us.

Here is a brief history of my own complex relationship with self care. I was first introduced to it when I was a single mother. I still remember what it’s like to have young children, be working full time, be a part time student, and trying to start a business – all while going through a difficult breakup. When I reached out for help because I was so tired and so poor and so sad, I was told I needed to start practicing self care.  In fact, the message I received was that I didn’t have time NOT to practice self care.  So after reviewing my self care prescription, I dutifully put each advised activity on my to do list.  Meditating.  Journaling. Yoga.  Exercise.  Eating healthier. Going to bed earlier.  I was going to be so zen!  I couldn’t wait.

But I didn’t become zen.  Actually, my self care prescription was the worst.  Each activity became one more thing I needed to find time for during exhausting and never ending days. Before long I started to resent self care.  At first I did it religiously.  Then half heartedly.  Then I started skipping days until I gave it up completely and went back to spending my free time doing the things that made me happy.  Like drink wine and eat ice cream out of the tub and watch zombie television shows until well past midnight.

But something was different.  This time I couldn’t relax at the end of the day because there was this nagging little voice in the back of my head that said “you shouldn’t be watching tv right now.  You should be meditating.  If you are tired tomorrow it’s going to be your fault because you aren’t doing self care right”.  It took me months to get over this failed experiment and be able to fully relax again.

My story is not unique.  Most parents – particularly new moms – are given the same generic lecture about how important self care is, but not everyone has the same resources and supports in place to make it happen. And while maybe it should be, self care is not a universal right. It’s a privilege for those who are lucky enough to have spare time, money, and energy.

At this point of my life, I am one of those lucky people who can practice self care any way I want.  My kids are older, I’m partnered, I work less hours and get paid well to do what I love.  Now I thoroughly enjoy workouts with my running partner, regular massages, and awesome vacations. Looking back, I realize that what I needed several years ago was not a prescriptive order for self care.  I just needed to cope. I didn’t need more to do, I needed to be told it was going to be okay.  That I was doing a good job.  That what I was working so hard for was worth it. That it is fine to just survive for a while – even if my coping strategies appeared to be nothing more than a long list of bad habits.

 

Want to learn more about shifting from self care to coping? I have a Postpartum Blues Package that can help. Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

The Mom Box

There is a concept called ‘The Man Box’ that I love because quickly and easily explains how male violence is perpetuated.  I think that this concept is also helpful for understanding the ways in which parenting myths are spread and motherhood is policed. So I give to you The Mom Box.

What is the Mom Box?  Essentially, it’s all of the characteristics, beliefs, and rules that Western culture use to define who a good mother is.  It looks something like this:

                          The Mom Box  

this

See what I mean?

But it doesn’t end there! After the definition of what it means to be a good mom is squished into this narrow little box, next comes social policing to make sure that any mom that tries to call herself a good mom fits the box criteria.  We do this by using negative labels that shame moms who behave in ways outside of the Mom Box with the intention of pushing them back in.

It looks something like this:

Capture

 

 

(Be kind about my graphic design skills. I’m good at lots of other things) 

 

 

 

As you can imagine, this generates a lot of fear because in reality none of us fit this ‘good mom’ definition all the time.  Or most of the time.  Or ever.

Does that mean you’re a *gasp* BAD mom?  Nope.  But sometimes we feel the need to prove that we are a good mom by performing this type of motherhood in front of others.  It looks like every other mom fits easily into the box and we worry that there is something wrong with us, so we fake it and hope that nobody notices and sees us for the phonies that we are.  And sometimes that faking means that we judge other moms to prove that we are indeed selfless and child centered and loving.  What we are left with is this rigid, narrow, oppressive definition of what makes a good mom and a society full of women pretending to meet this standard.

What if threw this box away?  What if we didn’t have to pretend?  What if we weren’t good or bad and were just a bunch of parents doing the best we can?

I know it’s scary, so I’ll start.

Hi.  I’m Olivia.  And I let my 10 year old watch the Walking Dead with me because I don’t want to wait until he goes to bed before I can watch it.

 

Want to chat more about becoming the parent you want to be? I have a Postpartum Blues Package that can help. Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

Are you a Good Mom?

How do you know if someone is a good mom?

Really take a moment to answer that.

I’m going to guess that your answer said stuff like this:

  • Her children’s needs always come before her needs
  • She never yells or speaks harshly
  • Her children excel at school or day care
  • She is very involved in every aspect of family life
  • Both she and her kids are happy and positive

Sound familiar?  Those of us in the West have been told that this is what it takes to be a good mom and most of us are so busy trying to live up to these standards that we don’t spend a lot of time questioning them. But we should.

This ‘good mother’ archetype has a name: Intensive Mothering.  You already know this concept because it’s all around you.  It’s the type of mothering that demands that you become child-centered, completely self-sacrificing and emotionally consumed with raising your children.  It encourages moms to dedicate endless energy and time into the development of their children, as though this is the golden ticket to raising happy, healthy and successful kids.

For a lot of us, intensive mothering is basically the worst.  Trying to live up to these standards has caused me to do a lot of dumb stuff.  Like the time I hid all evidence of bottles from my doula because I didn’t want her to know I was supplementing formula at night so I could get a little extra sleep.  Or the time I stayed up until 3:00am on a work night making spider web cupcakes for my eight year old’s birthday party until they looked Pinterest ready.  Can you believe that not one single eight year old snapped a pic of my cupcakes and posted it to social media so people could praise all my efforts?  I had to do it myself.

What makes intensive mothering so dangerous is that it disguises itself as the proof that we love our children.  I missed out on A LOT sleep before I figured out that this is a lie.  The myth that how much we care for our children can be measured in self-sacrifice is wearing us out.  It’s linked to skyrocketing rates of postpartum depression, fuels the mommy wars, and generates a lot of fear and shame.

 

Want to chat more about becoming the parent you want to be?  Click here to schedule your free consult and get started.

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com

Sleep Training for Adults

As y’all know, I have been working on my sleep and promised to blog about it. About six weeks ago I attended a sleep workshop by Judith at A Good Sleep… so here I am, after a B+ effort, to update you on how it all went down.

Phase One: Preparation

Before starting any new routine, I had to do some information gathering. So every morning for two weeks, I tracked all things related to my sleep – what time I went to bed, fell asleep, how many times I woke up – that kind of stuff.  I started off with a bang and dutifully filled in every part of the sheet I was given to capture this info. This zealous effort faded pretty quickly as I discovered that memory tasks before coffee feel imminently more difficult after coffee. After a few days I started to fill in only what I felt was the most relevant, and by the end of the second week I was just scribbling the total hours of sleep I got the previous night on a post it note. Average time at the end of two weeks? About seven and a half hours per night. Not too shabby!

Phase Two: Getting started

My goal was to get up every day at the same time – even on weekends.  I’ve tried getting up at the same time every day before, but previous attempts have ended in throwing alarm clocks across the room when they buzzed at 7:00am on a Sunday morning, so I had doubts. This type of routine would feel much more manageable if I could get up every day at 8:30, but as I have loudly complained about mentioned before, my partner is an early riser. They thinks it’s reasonable to be at work before 8:00 in the morning so if I want to use our shared car in the day, I am going to have to get up at 7:00am. I find myself facing my first obstacle. I don’t want to get up at 7:00am every day.  Suddenly this whole process starts to feel unsustainable. I put in a valiant effort, but find myself getting up later and later on the weekends.

Phase Three: Settling In

Surprisingly, pretty soon I don’t mind getting up by 7:30am on the week days, and compromise on 8:30am for the weekends.  I love having more productive time in the mornings, and my kid’s love that I get up at the same time they do. After years of 5:00am wake up calls by my eldest son, who literally jumps out of bed with abundant energy, my 7 and 11 year old children and are fully capable of dressing themselves and making their own breakfast, so I rarely get up before them anymore. I’ve been training them to bring me coffee in bed, but it only works, like, 2% of the time. These days we could actually eat breakfast together.

The biggest difference with this schedule is my bed time. In past efforts to improve my sleep, I tried to go to bed at the same time every day on week days – usually 10:00pm – but never even made it to the end of the week. This is largely because by the time I wrap up with work and clients, feed myself and the family, take care of the dogs, get ready for the morning and get the children in bed, it’s about 9:30pm. That only gives me 30 minutes to drink wine and watch reality television unwind before bed, and that just isn’t enough time for me. But now that I know I only need seven and a half hours of sleep at night my new bedtime is midnight. Midnight!  And because my partner goes to bed at 10:00, it gives me hours to do whatever I want without needing to interact with anyone. 10:00pm-12:00am is my gloriously uninterrupted me-time where I can dance around in underpants to nineties hip hop without anyone telling me “you’re being too loud” or “you’ve had enough wine”. The best part is, I am supposed to go to bed at midnight, so I don’t feel bad being up that late. Win-win.

Phase four: Life interruptions

Here’s the thing about living with children, running your own business, and doing birth work – it’s makes sticking to any type of routine almost impossible. All it took was a few night shifts, illness, falling behind with work, and suddenly I found myself sleeping in the day and NOT at night, which quickly led me back to practicing strategies for managing all the anxious thoughts that come when I’m not sleeping. So here I am again… trying to force myself out of bed in the morning when the kids get up.

My conclusion? Getting sleep seems like it should be easy, but for a lot of us, it’s not. The last few weeks of sleeping like a regular person has been a real teaser of what is possible. I now have a taste for what it’s like to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep at night, have enough energy to get through the day, and even hours of down time every evening.  So I’ll keep plodding along. I suppose the next phase is learning how to recover quickly when my sleep schedule goes array.

More so come… until then I want to learn from you!  How do you recover when life shows up and wreaks havoc on your routine?

 

Want to chat more about working through anxiety? Click here to schedule your free consult with Olivia

Olivia Scobie, M.A., ACC, CPCC, MSP
Family Coach/Counselor
Olivia@livwithchange.com