The Evidence-Based Parenting Toolbox, aka: How Not To Lose Your Sh*t With Your Kids

Let’s start by talking about the broken neon sign that I discovered last night as I was ushering my kids into bed in anticipation of solitude and wine. This particular neon sign was given to me and my husband when … Continue reading

5 Sanity-Saving Tips for Surviving Pregnancy With a Toddler

You want to know a secret? Listen close: it is HARD to be pregnant and take care of a little one at the same time. Heck, it’s hard to be pregnant! What, that isn’t a secret? Well I would have … Continue reading

IS a Healthy Baby All That Matters?

“Wow, that sounds like such a scary experience. At least you got a healthy baby out of it, though. That’s really all that matters.” We’ve all heard that phrase thrown around over and over. It generally follows the news that … Continue reading

Nipple Shield Q & A With Michelle

I sat down with Michelle Fretz to get her take on something a lot of new moms ask about: Nipple shields. What was it like the first time you nursed Ellee? The first time she nursed in the hospital was not … Continue reading

Mothering In The Middle

After extensive research into comments sections and Facebook statuses, I have concluded there are only two groups of mothers. You must select one cult in its ENTIRETY. No picksy choosies. Group 1:  Dirty hippies. They love ebf, bwing, blwing, ap, … Continue reading

Listen To Your Mother – Auditions

Submissions are now being accepted for the 2015 Southeast Texas ‘Listen To Your Mother’ show! If you haven’t heard of Listen to Your Mother, then take a few minutes to check out their YouTube channel, here. The show is a … Continue reading

The Aha Moment That Turned My Gremelyn Around

Somewhere in the Universe, two storks were matching babies to mommies-to-be… Manager: “Cindy Adams gets a blonde girl. Betty Jones gets twin boys. Bet she quits making fun of cankles now. Renae Rose….give her one of those new experimental models.” … Continue reading

It Takes a Village

There’s a saying that you’ve no doubt heard a thousand times; ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Most of us hear this and automatically think that the village is there to benefit the child. But it has application for parents as well. If you’ve considered this in the past, then you may be wondering who the village is for, and where your village is.

In our culture (the US, specifically), we’ve lost the wisdom in this maxim. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives and pursuits that without sustained effort, many of us have little time to visit our relatives, much less worry about an entire village. As we’ve become more focused on our little nuclear families, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to both build and sustain that village.

When we say ‘village’, what comes to mind? Most of us think of a small, close-knit community. Maybe this community is made up of relatives; perhaps it’s an intentional community of like-minded people who’ve come together for a common goal. In either case, it’s clear that the members of that community belong there. Each individual member is committed to the common goals, and benefits from being involved in it.

Much of the same is true about your village. As a parent, we have ‘villages’ around us as well, made up of the same types of people – family and friends, and the communities around you that you intentionally involve yourself in through the internet, playgroups, hobby groups, mommy groups, church groups, exercise groups and the like. For most of us, especially if we’ve lived in the same area for a while, it’s easy to access some of those groups. Small towns (or medium-sized towns that feel like small towns), like Beaumont, tend to be somewhat church-centered, and so for many women as new mothers, a MOPS group, or other mom-focused group is often the first step into the ‘mommy village’. We find older moms who’ve been there, done that, we find moms who seem to have everything together and make motherhood look like a breeze, and we find kindred souls who know our particular struggles intimately – and we start making ‘mommy friends’.

Mommy friends are different from your ‘regular’ friends. These are women who band together for commiseration. You may find what my small circle of intimates call ‘platonic life partners’ – BFFs for life, and that’s a wonderful thing – but it’s much more likely that you will meet women who are in your life for a season. These women serve a specific purpose in your life – to support and nurture you as a mother. As your children get older, you will find that you fulfill that role for younger mothers.

 

The shift from being the supported to being the supporter is amazing. When you’re a new mother, seeing those women around you who seem to have it all together is both awe-inspiring and enviable. There’s always the mom who embodies everything we want to be as a mother, and that can be really intimidating. Forming a relationship with her lets you in on the secret: She has just as much trouble as you have. That’s the big secret, isn’t it? We’re all struggling – and yet talking about it is taboo.

So here’s what I’ve learned, both from being the mom who needed the village, and being a mom who helps maintain one:

  1. Reach out. our culture likes to isolate new moms. As interdependent creatures, we need to be around other moms. Get out there! Look up playgroups, storytimes, or local eateries with a playland to meet other moms. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘mommy groups’. They’re popular for a reason!
  2. Get help. If you have depression, anxiety, social issues or PPD, a fellow mother might be your first sympathetic ear. So many moms struggle with these issues, and they can help you. There is hope. You are not alone.
  3. Share your joys – and your hardships. Motherhood is fraught with doubt and unrealistic ideals. Being honest with yourself and your village about your successes and failures helps us all to keep them in perspective. It helps us grow and learn new or better ways to accomplish what we set out to do with our kids.
  4. Don’t leave the village just because your kids are older. New mothers need the wisdom that more experienced moms can share. Listen to the newer moms in your circle and be there for them when they need you.
  5. Mom’s Night Out. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing yourself! Whether it’s date night with your partner, or a girls night out, or Mom’s Night Out with the local playgroup, nurture yourself. Recharge so that you can nurture your children.

Heather Thomas

At the Expo: a FREEBIE, a Seminar and other fun!

WMC

Whole Mothering Center made an appearance at The Cumulus Baby and Family Expo this past Saturday. WMC doulas, Amy Jones and Emily Ochoa, were there to meet and talk with new and expectant parents along with WMC founding mother, Heather Thomas and our featured blogger, Anna Sites. This was Whole Mothering Center’s first year participating in the event and we were so honored to have been asked to present a seminar on “Preparing for Birth and Beyond”.

We drew for and gave away a $575.00 value doula package during the expo. Lots of hopeful familes entered to win and a very sweet first time expectant mom, Dorian Chapman, won the package. Emily and Amy are looking forward to working with her as she prepares to meet her new baby girl in a couple of months. We will be following Dorian in our blog as she gets closer to her due date and updating you all with frequent blog posts after our meetings with her and her husband. Dorian is planning a natural, intervention-free birth in a Beaumont area hospital with Dr. Kevin Waddell, who just happens to be one of our favorite local OBs. Dr. Waddell stopped by our booth at the expo and spent a bit chatting with us and we were all so pleased to see him. Dorian’s going to have a great birth with him and we’re excited to have the opportunity to work with her and offer her support in achieving her goal of a natural birth! As a bonus, we’ll be photographing her birth and we’ll share those photos in our blog as soon as we can get them uploaded once her baby arrives earthside…all of us at WMC are eager to meet Miss Avery Ryan sometime in October!

During our seminar, we began with talking about Whole Mothering Center’s history and services that we offer to the local community. We moved on to speaking about birth plans, including how to write one, why they’re important and how Whole Mothering Center helps our clients work through writing a birth plan. We discussed different pregnancy and labor providers like doulas, midwives and obstetricians, how each of those providers serves pregnant and birthing women, how their roles overlap and how to integrate each into pregnancy and birthing experiences. Informed consent was a primary focus of our seminar and we defined it, talked about how it is obtained, how to revoke consent, what the responsibilities are of the provider who obtains informed consent from a patient as well as what the responsibilities are of a patient granting it, and how doulas can help their clients as they grant their medical providers their informed consent. We also presented birthing location options available to local women. For Southeast Texas, these include birthing at home, at a birth center and at area hospitals which have labor and delivery units. We talked about the pros and cons of each location and what services providers who work in those locations can provide to birthing women. Finally, we stressed the importance of women surrounding themselves with a supportive community as they move through pregnancy and into new mommy-hood. Finding a tribe is such an important part of becoming a mother and Whole Mothering Center offers several free opportunities for local women to find like-minded mama friends who can mentor them and offer advice as they navigate all the scary “firsts” that come along with becoming a new parent! For more information, visit our services page!

Creating Tranquility in Your Home

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it seems like our house just has a funk. Not a less-than-clean funk (which does occasionally happen), but an overall vibe that is less than pleasing. I’m always envious of tv commercial homes where everyone is always smiling (even when the 4 year old just poured and ENTIRE jug of juice on the floor. Again.) and it seems for all the world like someone pressed the “easy” button… That’s just not real life! At least, it’s not MY life. Not that we’re ogres or anything, but sometimes, it seems like everything is stressful and too fast-paced when I really want it to be serene and totally zen-like.

How do you get there? Here are some suggestions:

1. Set a good example.
CHOOSE to be happy. CHOOSE to see the bright side of things. In today’s world of anti-depressant laden parenting, it’s HARD sometimes to just choose to be happy, or in a good mood. As a mom who does take anti-depressants, I know first hand how difficult it is to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and make a choice NOT to be grouchy. As the mom, it usually does fall to us to take the lead in attitude, and knowing that makes it both harder and easier to lead by example. It is worth it though if you’re the one who tends to set the tone in your home. Being concious of that fact and making the choice to be cheerful can help drive that negative energy away.

2. Focus on the positives
Start with yourself. Take a couple of minutes every morning (or evening – whenever) and concentrate on the things in your life that are positive. It may be something small like, “I totally resisted the urge to have an extra donut at breakfast” or “I am so glad that the kid’s aren’t counted tardy until the 8:30 bell” 😉
From there, work on your family. Pick a time and make it a habit – at a mealtime is a good one, and have each person take a turn to share something positive or interesting they learned, saw, did, or thought about. Use that time to be encouraging and uplifting. Start small – once a week if every day seems like a big-undoable-thing. Don’t let it get overwhelming!

3. Clutter causing your funk?
We sometimes don’t realize how our home’s physical environment can affect mood. My personal philosophy on “stuff” has become (with LOTS of work), “Whatever is in my space should be something that I LOVE, that makes me HAPPY, makes me feel GOOD or BEAUTIFUL.” That has helped me (major packrat that I am) to let go of things that I’ve been hanging onto that don’t conform to the above!
If there is a mess in the main living areas (or even your own spaces), or you have clutter causing problems, work together to clear the space. Start a “5 minute family clean up” time focused on one problem area. We call ours the “10 Second Tidy” (from that show, “Big Comfy Couch” – even though it’s longer than 10 seconds). Set a timer, play some energetic music (Tejano/Latin/Salsa music is GREAT for motivation!) and either let the kids decide what to contribute to cleaning, or assign tasks. Make it a game… Start out doing it once a week, or once a day, and build from there. There are several schools of thought about the placement of things in your home, or the colors that you use to decorate having an effect on your moods too. Even if you don’t subscribe to those reasonings, everyone enjoys a change of scenery once n a while. If all else has been eliminated and the funk persists, try changing things up a bit with different furniture placement or paint colors.

4. Focus on enjoying your time together.
Family togetherness – just enjoying being together as a family without the outside world intruding is a great way to improve the vibe in your home. You can start small – family dinnertime (or whatever meal works best for all of you) – Dinner Games are a great way to get into a new routine. Advance to Family Game Night, Family Dance Party (each person picks a song and dances however they want to the music; after everyone has a turn, put on a different song and have everyone dance together), Family Craft Night or whatever floats your boat. If you’re more of an outdoors-y or techie family, find activities that fit your family’s style! It may take a while to find a good fit, but you can make the journey part of the fun.

5. Need less pressure?
Try this: simply BE with your kids. Turn off the TV, put away the PC, throw your schedule or agenda out the window and just BE with them, doing what they’re doing. If they’re in a bad mood, just observe – be in the moment with them. Don’t try to cajole them out of it, just BE. If they’re in a good mood, great – let your kiddos lead.

6. Count your blessings – literally!
Tack up a big poster board and start counting your blessings. Each person contributes one item on the list. It can be as plain or as decorated as your family wants to make it, but the focus should be on all the positives.

7. Get a motto!
If you’re spiritually inclined, put up a verse or saying that makes you feel good in a prominent space and let that be the “reminder” for your family. We have a big chalkboard in our kitchen that often has song lyrics or something funny that one of us said written on it. You can get a cheap “whiteboard” or “dry erase” board by taking a piece of posterboard to Manning’s and having it soft laminated. Make it easy!

8. Fill your home with love.
Give lots of hugs and kisses and cuddles, and say lots of “I love you”s. Remind your spouse that s/he hung the moon for you. Make sure that your kids know that they are the EXACT children you asked for. Leave little love notes tucked into random places for your family members to find. Never underestimate how much positive feedback and self-esteem building little things like that can influence the atmosphere in your home. Happy people make happy spaces.

9. Create a cleansing ritual for your home.
Talk with your family about how to improve the funk. Kids love words accompanied by action! Grab a broom and sweep, sweep, sweep the negativity out the door. Make your house smell great – bake some bread or cookies, try potpourri, scented oils, essential oils, incense, Renuzit, Air Wick, whatever makes you inhale deeply and smile. If you’d like some spiritual help, try burning some sage (if there are not respiratory issues), sprinkling some scented water, reciting a poem, reading a verse or saying a prayer…whatever speaks to you and yours.

10. Practice being kind to each other.
It’s okay if it’s exaggerated so long as it becomes a habit. Don’t underestimate the impact that silliness backed by sincerity can have on your kids. Expressing appreciation for the kindness received or witnessed is sure to build confidence and regard.

11. Have a Family Meeting
If you’re feeling funky, then you can bet that your family is, too. If your kids are old enough to communicate, then they may have some valuable suggestions for improving things, too. Giving them a forum to be heard can drastically alter the way that they see things and can make a positive impact on your home’s vibe.

Whatever you decide to do, doing something on purpose to positively affect the energy in your home is going to net some kind of benefit for your family. Making your family part of the process is even better.

(Inspired by a thread from MDC, here. Thanks to fritz for the bulk of these suggestions!)