It’s Just Brunch

When you first had your child did you worry about when you could return to activities you enjoyed prior to becoming a parent?

When I first entered motherhood, I had two realizations: I love my son, and I loved my old life, how can I honor both?  I was stumped. As a new parent, I thought sacrifice was paramount to being a ‘good parent’, and anything else was selfish. This kind of understanding and thinking was a rookie mistake on my part. What I learned was that while parenting requires sacrifice, it also requires taking care of yourself so that you can give your child the energy and attention they need from you.

When my son was young, my husband and I were lucky enough to be in a PEPS group (Program for Early Parenthood Support) and were surrounded by other families who were just starting out as parents like we were. We were encouraged to have a Moms Night Out (MNO) where the dads would watch the kids while the moms had dinner, and vice versa, so the dads had an opportunity to do the same. I lived for those MNO in the early days and looked forward to them. But as our kids got older, and required less of us physically, the need by all the moms for these MNO diminished. We probably haven’t had a MNO in years.

In those early days, I needed a reprieve from being a parent. I needed to be with others my age for adult conversation and interaction. I was very mindful of this need in the early days of being a parent. I’ve gotten a bit away from it as my children have grown and become independent.  That is, until, a girlfriend of mine reached out to go to brunch. As a working parent, she realized with all the stresses from work and home life, she needed to connect with others and became proactive about doing so. Thankfully, I was one of the friends she reached out to. “Let’s do brunch,” she said. Oh, brunch sounded nice. I hadn’t done brunch without family members present in a long time. I mean a loooong time. I loved the idea, and eagerly accepted her invitation. I loved having brunch with my friend. She reminded me that it’s okay to start reclaiming your independence and take time for those activities that are important to you — like keeping up relationships and having a good meal that is kid-free.

What kid-free activity have you reconnected with since becoming a parent? Or what activity do you want to? What helped you or what’s holding you back?

Need a little Christmas…

Is there anyone else out there that is already exhausted? Anyone who needs a little holiday cheer to help boost their spirit and energy level?

This year has been one of the most busy and stressful years of my professional career. I feel like I’ve done pretty good getting through this year, but have to admit I am nearing full burn-out. I’m in need of an energy boost. I need rest. I need….a vacation.

The holidays could easily create additional stress for me, but not this year. I’m really looking forward to them. I look forward to seeing my children’s anticipation grow as they anxiously await the arrival of Christmas Day, I look forward to spending time with friends at holiday gatherings, and having that much needed time off just to rest and relax. Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

How are you preparing yourself for the holidays? What about the holidays puts a smile on your face?

Spring Breakin’

How are you recharging your batteries during Spring Break?

I look forward to Spring each year. Not only do we exit the cold weather months, and have all the lovely Spring colors, but it’s the entry point for many of us into vacation time. After many months of working hard, we finally start to think about taking a break; doing something out of the ordinary; maybe even going someplace different or new. There’s something about planning a vacation that’s so much fun–having something to look forward to can do wonders when you are tired or in need of a change from the daily grind.

Camping trips, visits with family, fun with the kids are all on the horizon. I anxiously await when our next trip will be: whether it’s a long weekend or more time away.

How are you and your family breaking away from the ordinary to enjoy yourself?

Alone Time

Do you ever crave having alone time: when you don’t have any distractions and allow yourself some peace and quiet?

I never realized how much I craved, actually needed, alone time until I had my kids. We’re conditioned to have noise around us. I know I used to like having the TV or radio on in the background when I was single and lived in an apartment. It made me feel less alone. Now, there are people around me that require my attention all hours of the day: co-workers, spouse and kids. And while I crave alone time, true peace and quiet, it is uncomfortable for me when I have no sound around. When things are silent, instead of relaxing and recharging, I let my head fill up with all the “to-dos” I still need to get done. I may not turn the TV or radio on, but I’m letting noise in.

My husband and I were able to have a weekend getaway with the help of my parents. It was a great time for us both to work on find alone time together–just being with each other in silence and enjoying it. And it was great for the kids…they loved having an adventure with their grandparents. It worked wonders for us all, and reminds me that I need to make space for ‘peace and quiet’ (even if they are brief) everyday.

Where do you experience peace and quiet? How have you (and your family) benefitted from alone time?

Relax and Rest, Repeat

How are you relaxing this summer? Have you been able to get away on vacation, or find some ways to rest at home?

The school year always feels like a busy time. There is always something to plan for, something to remember to have your child bring, or not bring. It seems like you always have to be somewhere (and you have to remember where, because it changes). And there are always lots of activities: after school activities, homework, etc. It’s enough to make anyone long for the summer break. But summers don’t seem as relaxing as I remember them.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait for the summer and the time off. Summer meant swim team practice, riding bikes with my friends in the neighbor and playing at each other’s house. Summer took on a different meeting when I entered the workforce. The long stretches of time off went away and were replaced with 8+ hours/day of work with an occasional vacation day sprinkled in.

As a parent, there never seems to be enough time off. There are the demands of the job, and getting your child to where they need to be (camps, friends, etc.). Taking time off to spend it together as a family is something we do each summer: taking a trip to visit family and seeing different parts of the country. There never seem to be enough vacation days or time to do all the things we’d like to do. And there never seems like there is enough time to rest.

I was reminded by the directions on a shampoo bottle, that I might need to re-tweak my formula for how to spend my time during the summer. The shampoo direction said, “Lather. Rinse. Repeat.” I thought, they are onto something here…it’s simple to follow and yields results. My new phrase for how I spend my summer time is: Rest. Relax. Repeat. It will take some effort on my part, but the summer is a great time to enjoy the good things going on in your life: the warm weather, your family’s health and all the great adventures we can have at home and wherever we spend our time off.

How will you spend your summer? How do you rest and relax during this time of the year?

Speaking of resting…I’ll be taking a break from writing for the next few weeks and will return following the Labor Day weekend. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Playdate

When my boys were young, I longed for when they would have playdates…at their friends homes. I have to admit I liked the idea of them developing friendships outside of daycare and school, but wasn’t so sure if I wanted to host these occasions. Cleaning the house, making sure we had the right food (and understood any allergies and parental preferences), and having some activities in my back pocket in case we needed to keep the kids entertained (e.g. deter them from destroying the house) created a lot of anxiety, and made me tired just thinking about it.

As I reflected on this recently, I thought about playdates we have as we mature, though we don’t refer to them as that. By junior high it’s called “hanging out” and changes into “date night” or “grabbing dinner or a drink with your friends” as we become adults. Adult playdates seemed must easier to do before my kids arrived. Much like coordinating a kid playdate, coordinating an adult one can be just as stressful: who can we get to babysit, can we squeeze in a “relaxing” event with our busy schedules, and juggling doing something “fun” that may take away from my sleep.

But, I love my friends, and my husband, and know while stressful, scheduling activities with them are necessary. It’s what keep me connected and gives me energy back (though it does take energy to plan). Similarly, my kids need to have playdates to develop friendship skills and practice their manners.

Presently I’ve probably hosted as many playdates as my boys have attended. It’s fun to see them play with their friends and good to meet their friend’s parents. It does take some work, but the ultimate payoff is their smiling faces.

How often does your child have playdates? Do you prefer to host or have your child hosted? Do you live for playdates or dread them?

Energy Recharge

The New Year has gotten off to what seems like a slower start than usual for me. In years past, I’ve embraced the New Year with a vigor of starting fresh. This year it feels like I’m walking in deep sand and having a hard time getting back to running on all cylinders.

This sluggishness has forced me to rethink my energy levels. Upon reflection, it became clear that I had been going through a long(er) period than normal of giving my energy away and have not done a great job of getting my energy back. It’s easy to get caught in the give-give-give mode. I’m realizing if I don’t start taking back more and soon, there won’t be much more to give. This realization helped me refocus on what I need to boost my levels of energy. I realized I need to put time and energy into my connections, because that’s what really fuels my soul. I made lunch and coffee dates with some friends, and have made time to visit a loved one who is recovering from an accident. I’m looking forward to connecting with my audience during public speaking engagements and through my writing.

These efforts are starting to pay dividends. I’m starting to feel like I’m catching up to the fast(er) pace and am keenly aware I need to continue to include sources of energy to keep myself going without burning out.

How are your energy levels? How are you staying on all the things you have going in the New Year?

Time

There never seems to be enough time, does there? There is always something going on, or needs to be done and time can easily get away from us. I often wish there were more hours in the day or that I had a Time Turner necklace like Hermione had in the Harry Potter series. Something to allow me to get everything done that I need to, and allow me to spend the quality time I want to with my family. Alas, time turners don’t exist nor do I anticipate the length of the day changing anytime soon. So what’s a parent to do?

I was fortunate enough to lead a parenting group discussion this past week and participate in another that had multiple speakers. With everything going on this week, including all the Halloween events, it could have easily been an overwhelming seven days. What I found was that speaking to the group of parents and participating in the other helped me in many ways. I was engaged in both discussions and felt alive versus going through the motions. I felt energized and whole. I learned valuable insight during both events. I was reminded of the power of, and energy boost I get from, being fully present not only with the adults around me, but also with my children. I was prompted to re-evaluate time — where I spend it, where I want to spend it and who I want to spend it with? The answers, though once difficult to articulate, now come with ease. I want to spend my time learning and sharing what I know with others. I identify strongly with being both a student and a teacher. I want to spend time with people who see value in what I have to offer, regardless if it’s a captivated audience (my children) or those that proactively seek me out. I want to spend time with people I care about most, my children and husband, and others who are special to me.

One of the speakers this past week shared a wonderful quote that I think summed up time best. “The days are long, but the years are short.” I think this statement captures time as a parent beautifully, though the days never seem long enough, and the years seem to get shorter and shorter (or go by quicker and quicker).

As we enter the beginning of the holiday season, where will you spend your time? Where do you want to spend your time? And who do you want to spend it with?

Breathe in Breathe out

Have you ever had a week where stressors seem to pile up? This week I did. It started with the normal stuff: school forms that needed to be sent in, and schoolwork my children needed to complete (of course, the homework required parental involvement, which was fine). Next throw in a stressful work situation or two that becomes escalated, find out that not one, but two family members have serious medical situations going on, and have a spouse who is away on a business trip. It can start to feel overwhelming.

How do you handle such weeks?

As the week unfolded, each day seemed to bring a new strain and I’d think to myself, “It’s got to get better,” only to have another stressor added the following day. “I’ll get through this,” I’d tell myself as I tried to cope on my own. I was sharing my situation with a trusted advisor, who in turn asked me a great question, “What are you doing to take care of yourself?” Now, several years ago, that question would have just made me mad. I probably would have responded, “Nothing. There’s no time!” But since I’ve learned so much around the importance of it since then, it was a good reminder. What am I doing to take care of myself? I thought. I realized that I wasn’t doing anything. I was running on auto-pilot trying to get through each day and not allowing myself time to feel anything too strongly or think too much about any one concern. Instead I was seeking out downtime and rest.  As I realized this, I was first disappointed. Why wasn’t I seeking out more self-care? Then I thought, Cut yourself some slack. You’ve had a heck of a week. 

We all have stressors in our life and some weeks are better than others. What I noticed most about this past week was how much I longed to be comforted and held by my husband (I needed someone to tell me everything is going to be okay), and I needed rest. I needed to listen to my body’s cues and give myself permission and time to process and work through all the things I’m dealing with. I also realized that I wasn’t being fully present with my children. I was trying to get through each day, not interact with them as authentically as I would if I didn’t have this stresses hanging over me.

This came to a head when I was trying to read a book while in the same room with my older son. He was watching a college football game. Something he and I both enjoy. He was very excited by what was going on in the game and kept trying to engage me in what was taking place. After realizing I was missing an opportunity to engage with my son (I could read the book later), I put the book down and took a deep breathe. I’m not sure what prompted me to do this, but it felt good. Breathe in, breathe out. It helped bring me back to the present. My son saw that my attention was now on him and the game and he came to my side with the widest smile. “I can’t help how much I love this, Mom,” he shared. And while I suspect that he was referring to his excitement in watching the game, he reminded me how much I love spending time with he and his brother too.  Just one breathe brought it all back into focus.

I was grateful when my husband arrived home a few hours later and grateful when the week that the week is behind me, but possibly most grateful for the gift of a simple deep breathe, and how it brought me back to life. What a simple tool: breathe in, breathe out.

How do you take care of yourself when you have stressful situations? What brings you back to being fully present?

Hidden Messages

My husband is a self-proclaimed non-romantic. A bummer, I know. I have often dreamt of him having a romantic-switch buried deep down inside just waiting to be turned on. Of course, I’ve tried everyway I know from hints to outright asking him to try to be more romantic, attempting to will the switch on, and unfortunately the magical switch has remained dormant.

I used to think that him not being romantic had everything to do with me, as if there was a hidden message I should be reading into about me (e.g. perhaps I’m not worth being romantic for), instead of it having anything to do with him. I have learned over time and from some very wise sources that my husband is who he is and while romantic notions may be how I envision love being shown to me, he shows me his love in many others.

I started to think about hidden messages and how we can easily misconstrue what peoples actions or inactions, words or lack of words mean. This can occur not only between spouse or partners, but also between friends, and with our children. Specific to our children, meaning can be derived in the tone of voice we use, in the words we say or exclude. Do your children understand what you are communicating to them and why? Or are they reading into what you are saying without verbalizing it, much like I was reading into my husband’s non-cues?

While coming to the terms that having many romantic experiences in my life may not be in my future, I’ve recently learned that I may be wrong and that there is hope. Before my husband left for a business trip, we discussed how to stay connected while he was away. I told him how much I valued his observations or acknowledgements he makes about me or our relationship. He shared how much being able to see me and our boys meant to him. We connected via video chat each day after his departure, and he unveiled a hidden surprise. He left me notes hidden around the house. One for everyday that he was gone. How romantic! These hidden messages mean more to me than he will ever know. They not only helped carry me through the time while he was away, but have created a wonderful memory for me that I will treasure. The message was received loud and clear — I am worth being romantic for, and I still have a lot to learn about my husband.

Are there hidden messages in your relationship with your spouse or child? How do you ensure they are receiving your intended message?