Parenting: A Sacred Influence
By Phyllis Moyes
I recently saw a video that deeply touched my heart. Although it is a story about an incredibly in-tune school teacher, and his ability to see past a child's active temperament, I couldn't help but think about the power of the message as it applies to motherhood. Take a look:
Be a Mr. Jensen
Don't you love that? It is easy to focus on the weaknesses and imperfections in our children, casting labels and stereotypes on them. But our words are potent influences whether we like it or not.
That video reminded me of a book I read years ago called the Secret Life of Water, written by Masaru Emoto, an internationally recognized Japanese researcher, lecturer, and writer. In the book, Emoto experiments with frozen water droplets. Once they reach -25 degrees centigrade, he allows them to begin thawing, and while they are melting, he speaks to them. When the droplet temperature reaches 5 degrees below zero, he looks at the crystals under a microscope, magnified 200x's.
Look at these results. Remember, all of these ice crystals come from the same water source, are thawed identically, and are photographed congruently.
Like and Hate
Happiness and unhappiness
Thank you. You idiot. Thank you. You idiot.
Isn't it incredible that you can see the crystal trying to be both labels (thank you and you idiot) in that last picture? Did you know that water makes up about 70% of the human body, and our language makes us unique from any other species? Can you see how important our choice of words is when interacting with our children? I loved Mr. Jensen's interaction with Clint Pulver, "you're not a problem; I think you're a drummer." Clint Pulver is a successful motivational speaker, actor, and musician, all because someone saw beyond behavior to his heart and gifts.
As mothers, we can have irreplaceable positive influence on our children's lives; let's be Mr. Jensens'!
You can learn more about Clint Pulver here
Here is a link to The Secret Life of Water
By Phyllis Moyes
Diversity is a buzzword for our day; it should be. Diversity enriches innovation and creativity, cultivates a feeling of just security, and helps every age, gender, race, or culture feel represented. But what if I told you that we (every human) have the same needs at the center of the heart? It's true! It doesn't matter who you are; everyone has Core Needs.
Look at this list. Do any or all of these resonate with your heart?
Basic Core Needs:
When Core Needs go unmet, Primary Emotions are activated. Look at this list and see if you can relate.
Examples of Primary Emotions
Primary Emotions usually set off an avalanche of Secondary Emotions. Can you relate?
Examples of Secondary Emotions
Here is a video clip created by BYUiDo.org that explains the concept well. (This video speaks about the Core Needs Model for bettering marriage but it is applicable to any relationship.)
Can I share an example with you that will help illustrate this idea better? From the time my daughter was in eighth grade and up until she graduated from high school, we had a complicated relationship. (Moms, if your child is in junior high, stop what you are doing now and hug them! Chances are, they need it.) I am grateful for hindsight because I can see the complexity of our relationship clearer now. I didn't have words for it then, but I have since realized that I wasn't angry (Secondary Emotion) with her; I was scared -- a primary emotion that came from my unmet core need for security. She was involved in a rough crowd, and they scared me. I didn't trust that her choices would keep her safe. Further, my core need for a genuine connection with her felt severed so I felt lonely (a primary emotion), which I usually expressed through the secondary emotion of anger.
For an even clearer illustration, pretend that you are hiking with your daughter when suddenly, a grizzly bear begins charging for her. Immediately, your heart starts to race; you are so scared (primary emotion). Fight or flight takes over, and you start charging for the bear, using a secondary emotion of anger. You are a warrior who will stop at nothing to save your daughter!
At that moment, what is the need? Is the need to be angry at the bear? No. The grizzly is an immediate threat to your core need of keeping your daughter safe, so there's a surge of fear (primary emotion), which triggers something inside us to fight; so we become angry and fierce.
My daughter also had unmet core needs. She was desperate for connection and security at home, but every interaction seemed hostile and contentious. Remember, I was in fear mode and expressed it through anger. She wanted to feel independent, have a sense of sovereign power, and feel respected and heard. But I was too busy feeding the worry from my own unmet needs.
Do you see the pattern? It is cyclical. We both had unmet core needs, leading to primary and secondary emotions.
I remember the day it changed -- or rather, I changed. I made a conscious effort to have ten positive exchanges for every corrective interaction. Sometimes it was hard because the fear was so great, but when I stepped back and took a breath, I could meet her core needs better. An interesting thing happened; when I met her core needs, mine seemed to follow.
As you engage your teenagers this week, ask yourself, "Which of my core needs are not being met, leading me to feel _____ (angry, anxiety, sadness, irritation, etc.?)"
And please be sure to also ask yourself -- or even your teen directly -- "Which of my child's core needs are not being met, leading them to feel ____."
My experience is that once the core needs are met, the emotions and relationship change organically.
By Haley Lachnidt, Momivate's Unique Circumstances CouncilMom
I asked people who identify with the LGBTQ+ community what they wish their families would or wouldn’t have said when they came out, and these were the responses:
“If my parents would have shown a little bit of support it would have made a world of difference. Instead, they took away all of my possessions that made me happy, they bullied and beat me. Now, they can’t understand why I can’t get close to them. I just wanted to be accepted. Now they tell me they don’t believe I’m really bisexual.”
“I wish my mom would have said something, anything at all. I wish my dad would have told me that he still loved me, rather than telling me I was going to fail at every relationship for the rest of my life.”
“I wish they didn’t tell me what I was doing is disgusting.”
“I just wish my sister wouldn’t have said ‘you just left an abusive relationship, you aren’t gay, it’s just a phase,’ not realizing I’ve been gay my whole life. I just hid my sexuality and forced myself to wear a straight mask in order to survive our family. My parents were the only people that didn’t know, and when I finally got the guts to tell them, my mom couldn’t shut up about how my brother is dating ‘a bisexual’ and how disgusted she is by it. I wish I could hear ‘I just want you to be happy, I love you no matter what.’ I know I will never hear that from my family, so I always make sure I say it to my own son.”
“I wish my mom hadn’t acted accepting and then requested I leave my identity at home when she’d invite me over. I wish she had the decency to say what she really wanted to say about it when I came to her the first time, instead of pretending and giving me false hope that I’m still accepted.”
“I wish my father hadn’t said I need therapy and would have accepted me along with all of my friends.”
“I haven’t told my family. I have known I’m gay since I was 11 years old and I have not told anybody. I did try to tell my mom when I first discovered it, and she questioned me like she didn’t believe me or trust in the fact that I know who I am attracted to. She’d go behind my back talking to my friends about how my taste in men has always been feminine men, but she’d also say it was only a phase. She acted accepting to my face, but I could see in her eyes and in the things she’d say behind my back that she didn't mean it. I’ve hinted it towards the rest of my family but I also listen to the things and the slurs they openly say when talking about the LGBTQ community. I don’t think I will ever tell them. I know if I did I wouldn’t have a family anymore, and that’s the loneliest feeling in the world. I just wish I could have a family, even if they don’t understand it, I wish they would just accept me as their family no matter who I love. I wish I didn’t have to feel like a stranger and an outsider in my own family anymore.”
“I wish my dad would’ve started using my chosen name and pronouns. I wish he wouldn’t have made me out to be the bad guy, like me being who I am was causing him pain.”
“I have been lucky. My mom has been absolutely lovely. I actually got this text from her the week after I told her. She had bought a decorative pillow with hearts in the shape of a rainbow and told me ‘bought you something, I love you for who you are.’ She asked some questions that you generally shouldn’t ask, but she gets a pass because I want her to ask me anything if it can help her to understand. She’s supportive, it’s just still new to her. I also got a text from my aunt after I spent a weekend with her and told her I have a girlfriend. She essentially said she will always be the leader of my fan club because I’m her girl, I’m me no matter who I love, and that the whole family will always love me for me, no matter what.”
LGBTQ youth want nothing more than to be loved and accepted by their family. Family is the most important thing no matter who you love or who someone else in your family loves. When anybody, part of the LGBTQ+ community or not, has family on their side, facing the rest of the world becomes a lot easier than it would be without family.
LGBTQ youth face many challenges from the rest of the world. Challenges such as bullying, harassment, discrimination, stalking, and even trouble finding jobs or being allowed to participate in extracurricular activities at school, and the only reason for this hatred is because of who they can’t help but love.
With family on their side, the risks LGBTQ youth face as a consequence of harrassment and discrimination such as self-harm, suicide, mental illness, homelessness, and substance abuse can greatly decrease.
Hate does not counteract love. Love conquers all.
Let's Get REAL!
By Annette T. Durfee, Momivate's Cultivate Leader
Have you ever noticed the oddities of life?
...like how the birthday cake you’re making never looks like the one in the picture?
Never mind comparing it to the picture – which is actually a cake made of four layers, so that means you actually have to use TWO cake mixes... but the picture won’t tell you that.
Pay no attention to the fact that the sad crack in your attempt at the cake will NOT stay “glued” together, no matter how much frosting you use to cement it together.
And don’t even notice the huge crumbs that are adhering to the once-white frosting (maybe some sprinkles will hide them!!). Perhaps, you conclude, the sides look better unfrosted anyway!
OR - Does it ever seem that the most meaningful conversation you get to have with your spouse is:
-- at the end of the day,
-- at the bathroom sink
-- while you are foaming at the mouth with an electric toothbrush wildly sputtering, unable in the least to utter a sensible word?
So, you play the game of charades or better yet – an impromptu sign language which you try to decipher without splattering toothpaste blobs on the mirror as you laugh through the hilarity of it all?
OR - Do you find yourself seething at the injustice of finding that there are always at least 3 diapers left in the package that absolutely WILL NOT fit your baby before they transfer to the next size up?
AND - Have you tried to mathematically explain why, with so few people in the family, every single cup in the house gets dirtied – including the measuring cups?
I’m probably not the only one who has had more than her share of Pinterest fails and foibles. But if my Better Crocker skills don’t take the cake at least my attitude will. If you’re like me, and even one of these scenarios rings true for you, this might be a good time to take a look at a happy principle that can help every mother and homemaker: realistic expectations. Yes, with a little reality check, you can take anything that comes with ease.
Did you know that some things are supposed to be imperfect?
Mismatched socks... scuffs on your best running shoes... sticky fingerprints on the fridge door handle... Almost imperceptibly, flabby bellies, burnt toast, and layers of dust just happen. Life happens!
There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with your family. It is what it is.
And it’s not only OK for it to be this way, it is supposed to be that way!
Take the coffee table for example – an innocent enough piece of furniture wouldn’t you say? But in a house full of children, is it really going to stay a focal piece impressively set with elegant table top décor? Of course not! You and I both know that even the best homes aren’t picture perfect.
We can expect that homes with children have their fair share of crumbs, smelly socks, broken figurines, lost items, scattered toys, ripped pages in books, smears on the sliding glass door, and on and on. It helps when I know that some things will inevitably happen, because it allows me a great deal of sanity for when the unexpected happens and things don’t work out perfectly.
In fact, if you can look at it with a smile in your heart, you might just find it so ludicrous that it provides a moment of laughter that you look back on with fondness.
While mothering my Littles, I frequently found peace of mind through a quote often attributed to Marjorie Pay Hinckley to help me remember that my priorities were just where they should be:
I don’t want to drive up to the pearly gates in a shiny sports car, wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed, and with long, perfectly manicured fingernails. I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels from taking kids to scout camp. I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt from making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children. I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails from helping to weed someone’s garden. I want to be there with children’s sticky kisses on my cheeks and the tears of a friend on my shoulder. I want the Lord to know I was really here, and that I really lived.
Expecting reality doesn’t mean admitting defeat!
I can expect, for example, that my children will make endless messes (and I will too), but that doesn’t stop us from cleaning it up at the appropriate time.
My communication with my spouse may be spotty at times, but that doesn’t mean we neglect our relationship. We regularly and consistently schedule time to be with one another to just TALK (most times without a dental implement in hand).
We are gloriously imperfect in each and every way, but we set goals, and give assignments. And we put our plan into action with a little elbow grease. We do it, remembering the WHY of it all – not to satisfy some plausible guest who never seems to stop by, nor even to catch up to the Jones family (although we admit that they ARE a nice bunch!) - but because we like it that way. In fact, we even enjoy it!
I am enough.
I can be happy without being Pinterest Perfect. While the Internet world of “reality” sometimes creates a facade of perfectly clean homes, the Gerber baby who never cries, and homes decorated to a “T,” I can be happy with what we have and who we are becoming. I may also (heaven forbid) go without some of the niceties of the luxury homes in order to allow myself to spend more time concentrating my efforts more closely on building a strong home and family. We can also give ourselves credit for being creative, even if it means that we make a mess for a while. We are, after all, learning, growing, and developing together. In fact, we are a living, breathing work of art! I suppose the casual passerby may judge me and my efforts (or seemingly lack of them), but that judge won’t be me. I will give myself grace allowing me and my family space to be real humans. We ARE indeed “good enough.” We can have strength and self - confidence to do and be and achieve in real albeit imperfect ways.
hushing the mayhem with music
By Momivate's Atmosphere CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
Snuggled up in my arms, my little grandson stares up at me with his big beautiful innocent eyes. Together we rock back and forth in the overstuffed chair singing song after song and I’m convinced that I love him more every second! As I sing, my mind wanders back to yesteryear when my babies were tiny and I sang song after song to them – hoping to relax them and hush their sleepytime fears. Hoping to instill in them the things I knew were true. Hoping to fill their hearts with the love that I had for them.
It’s amazing how magical music can be! Music has a way of touching our hearts and filling our memories with the best things of life.
Music was at the heart of the home I grew up in, so naturally, as an adult, I shared it with my children. We sang lilting lullabies and fun children’s sing-along recordings. We also offered xylophones, harmonicas, recorders, and rhythm instruments for the little ones to explore creating their own sounds.
As a classical musician, I knew the benefits of classical music: an increased learning capacity, creativity, and self-esteem, to name only a few. Knowing that our children weren’t going to grow up on a farm (like my parents did), we still wanted to teach them hard work, patience, and discipline. We decided to instill these values through formal music lessons! Thus, we became the beneficiaries of practice sessions, morning-noon-and-night! We eagerly attended recitals and concerts galore! Music sweetly and simply lent a soothing atmosphere to our home and even our car, as we traveled to and fro.
Music became a parenting friend that would quiet the mayhem of the moment. When life became a little hairy and scary and the decibel level was a little too high, I would nonchalantly pop in a CD of classical music or church hymns (my secret weapons!) and - voila! - an essence of calm and peace would descend! Soon, things would settle down.
With a house full of rambunctious kiddos, we found that with a little creativity, there seemed to be a song for every situation that could gently persuade, teach, or motivate. Songs to make diaper changes more pleasant, songs to make hair washing less scary, songs to help children cooperate when it was time to brush their teeth. Sometimes songs distracted us from the mundane and helped to pass the time while we did the dishes or other chores. At bedtime, songs even helped us march up to bed in a happy way! We became a train connecting arms at the shoulders and chugging up the stairs singing, “Choo choo choo, what’s coming down the track?” The person in the lead would “pull the whistle” and up we went.
Music was an unseen friend that added joy and spontaneity to our lives at just the right time! Sometimes the music was a toe – tapping “Turkey in the Straw” for a Thanksgiving program! Or the girls would make up choreography to a whimsical children’s song, their fancy dresses swirling in a wide circle. Sometimes a child surprised us with an unsolicited solo of a kindergarten-melody as they stood atop a make-shift stage (aka a chair in the dining room). And impromptu Family Talent Shows gave us rousing marches, emphasized by mini flags in the front room!
With littles on the loose, life is more pleasant with a song in your heart. In your home or on the go, music has the power to create a sort of a haven that smooths the creases of chaos and lifts the spirit. So, whether your family chooses to learn an instrument or two, sing at top volume in the shower, or pop in a favorite CD, music is the power to make any moment a happy one!
Less Screen Time, More Green Time!
By Cindy Thomsen, Momivate's Leader over Schedules & Systems and blogger at ResilientMotherhood.net
Summer break is here and it seems when kids are bored they spend their free time on a screen? There are so many fun electronic resources as well as so many distractions! What do your kids like? Youtube, streaming movies, playing games all day! How do we stop that from happening and help our kids get the most out of their Summer?
I started researching ways to help my kids put down their electronics and find more productive ways to spend their time. There are so many great ideas out there. Here were a few that stood out to me. Hopefully these can help you too to have a fun-filled Summer together with fun activities and a more focused and planned screen time.
... to read the rest of Cindy's post, visit her blog at: resilientmotherhood.net/tips-to-reduce-screen-time-this-summer/
My twin daughters are in a kickboxing class at the local community college and this video was assigned to them as homework. It struck me as so simple that it is well worth the couple of minutes to review information we likely are already aware of but need continual reminders about. Moms, this is what we do -- we are the reminders, the repeaters, the consistent, kind, and friendly reviewers and encouragers!
From the YouTube Description:
Wellness means overall well-being. It includes the emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life. Incorporating aspects of the Eight Dimensions of Wellness, such as choosing healthy foods, forming strong relationships, and exercising often, into everyday habits can help people live longer and improve quality of life. The Eight Dimensions of Wellness may also help people better manage their condition and experience recovery. This short animated video explores the Eight Dimensions of Wellness and helps people understand the practical strategies and ways they can begin developing healthy habits that can have a positive impact on their physical and mental health. To learn more about SAMHSA’s Wellness Initiative, click here.
Excuse this House
Some houses try to hide the fact
That children shelter there.
Ours boasts it quiet openly,
The signs are everywhere...
For smears on the windows,
Little smudges on the doors.
I should apologize, I guess,
For toys strewn on the floor.
But I sat down with the children,
And we played and laughed and read,
And if the doorbell doesn’t shine,
Their eyes will shine instead.
For when at times I'm forced to choose:
The one job or the other,
I’d like to cook, and clean, and scrub...
But first I’ll be a MOTHER.
The Nike Ad from Decades Ago
Too often we are scared.
Scared of what we might not be able to do.
Scared of what people might think if we tried.
We let our FEARS stand in the way of our HOPES.
We say "no" when we want to say "yes."
We sit quietly when we want to scream.
And we shout with the others,
when we should keep our mouths shut.
we do only go around once.
Try something you've never tried.
Enter a triathlon.
Write a letter to the editor.
Demand a raise.
Call winners at the toughest court.
Throw away your television.
Bicycle across the United States.
Speak out against the designated hitter.
Travel to a country where you don't speak the language.
You have nothing to lose.
EVERYTHING to gain.
JUST DO IT.
Ancient Hindu Legend
I have enjoyed the privilege of being a mother to over a dozen foreign exchange students over the years! My Hindu son from India openly and enthusiastically shared his religion with our family. Some of the stories are quite meaningful -- I've included one below.
After reading it, consider how this perspective might influence how we treat ourselves? Our husbands? Our children? It gives depth to our relationships when we believe in the dignity and potential of each individual.
At one time, all men on earth were gods. But they so sinned and abused the divine powers that Brahma, the god of all gods, decided that the godhead should be taken away from man and hidden some place where man would never find it to abuse it again.
"We will bury it deep into earth," said the other gods.
"No," said Brahma, "because man will dig down in the earth and find it."
"Then we will sink it into the deepest ocean," they said.
"No," said Brahma, "because man will learn to dive and find it there, too."
"We will hide it on the highest mountain," they said.
"No," said Brahma, "because man will some day climb every mountain of the earth and again capture the godhead."
"Then where can we hide it where man cannot find it?" said the lesser gods.
"I will tell you, said Brahma. "Hide it down in man himself. He will never think to look for it there."
Blessings on the hand of women!
Angels guard its strength and grace.
In the palace, cottage, hovel,
Oh, no matter where the place;
Would that never storms assailed it,
Rainbows ever gently curled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Infancy's the tender fountain,
Power may with beauty flow,
Mothers first to guide the streamlets,
From them souls unresting grow --
Grow on for the good or evil,
Sunshine streamed or evil hurled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Woman, how divine your mission,
Here upon our natal sod;
Keep – oh, keep the young heart open
Always to the breath of God!
All true trophies of the ages
Are from mother-love impearled,
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
Blessings on the hand of women!
Fathers, sons, and daughters cry,
And the sacred song is mingled
With the worship in the sky --
Mingles where no tempest darkens,
Rainbows evermore are hurled;
For the hand that rocks the cradle
Is the hand that rules the world.
The Mom in the Mirror
The Mom in the Mirror
When you get what you want in your struggle for self
And the world makes you queen for a day,
Just go to the mirror and look at yourself
And see what *that* mom has to say.
For it isn’t your facebook or instagram likes
Whose judgement upon you must pass.
The woman whose verdict counts most in your life
Is the one staring back from the glass.
Some people may see all your beautiful posts
And think you’re free from all wrongs.
But the mom in the glass knows about the burnt toast,
And the flats and the sharps in your songs.
She’s the woman to please - never mind all the rest,
For she’s with you (and your kids) to the end.
And you've passed your most dangerous, difficult test
If the mom in the glass is your friend.
You don’t need to convince the whole instagram crowd
That they’ll never know anyone dearer.
Adore your imperfect self and be proud
To love that real mom in the mirror.
For when you accept that perfection you lack
And pursue simple progress instead,
You offer yourself the best kind of feedback
And happier feelings are spread.
Other moms need to know that your struggles are real
And how optimism can play
A critical role in how you manage and deal
With life’s topsy turvy melee.
No need to complain, no need to hold back
Let authenticity be your goal
And the mom in the mirror will share her life hack:
“Be true to the mom in your soul!”
Welcome to Holland
Many years ago, this little essay was included in the newsletter at the School for the Deaf in Washington State. The author was listed as Carol Turkington. I'm not sure how it came to be included in my pile of papers, but whenever I would thin them out, this one would get saved. May her message help you as you adjust to whatever Holland-type situation your baby has brought you too.
When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like you're planning a vacation to Italy. You're all excited. You get a whole bunch of guidebooks, you learn a few phrases so you can get around, and then it comes time to pack your bags and head for the airport.
Only when you land, the stewardess says, ‘Welcome to Holland.”
You look at one another in disbelief and shock, saying “Holland? What are you talking about? I signed up for Italy!”
But they explain there’s been a change of plans and that you've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
“But I don’t know anything about Holland!” you say. "I don’t want to stay!”
But stay you do. You go out and buy some new guidebooks, you learn some new phrases and you meet people you never knew existed. The important thing is that you are not in a slum full of pestilence and famine. You're simply in a different place that you had planned. It’s slower paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy, but after you've been there a little while and you have a chance to catch your breath, you begin to discover that Holland has windmills. Holland has tulips. Holland has Rembrandts.
But everyone else you know is busy coming and going from Italy. They're all bragging about what a great time they had there and for the rest of your life, you’ll say, “Yes, that’s what I had planned.”
The pain of that will never, ever go away.
You have to accept that pain, because the loss of that dream, the loss of that plan, is a very, very significant loss.
But if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to go to Italy, you will never be free to enjoy the very special, very lovely things about Holland.
April 12th, 2021
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned.
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
By Grant Colfax Tullar
By Elisabeth Balderree, former Director of Music, Inspiration, and Laughter
My son and I have a unique way we communicate with each other. I call it a pass-along book, and it’s a little bit of magic in our relationship.
I don’t remember how the idea of the little pass-along book began, but it’s something that connects my son and me together in a simple, yet meaningful way. He will write a question for me in it, or tell me something funny or important to him, then he’ll leave it on my nightstand. When I find it, I’ll write my reply, and then leave it on his desk. Sometimes I’ll ask if he wants to play a game, color or draw, or I’ll ask a specific question about his day or what’s on his mind. Other times, I’ll give him a sincere compliment. He writes similar things to me.
Maybe we will write in this one little notebook, or perhaps it will turn into years of passing notebooks back and forth. In some ways, it’s like a small journal for just the two of us, capturing moments in time. Although it may seem rather ordinary, it is very meaningful. Creating this unique, yet simple avenue for communication is important to me, because he knows he can come to me with questions, thoughts, concerns or anything else on his mind.
I know this little book has strengthened our relationship, and, to me, that makes this little two dollar notebook priceless.
Photos by Elisabeth Balderree
The Importance of Breastmilk
By Ericka Moore, Momivate's Director of Energy (Eating, Exercise, and Sleep)
It’s not a coincidence that this blog is addressing the importance of breast milk during the month of March. March 8th is International Women’s Day and March 3 is IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) Day. Both days commemorate women’s achievements—and why not spend a moment discussing breast milk? It is a wonderful accomplishment for a mother to be able to provide this gift for her baby. Granted, it is easier for some mothers than others. There is also a social, political, economic undercurrent to the very act of providing breast milk—which is a discussion for another day. I just want to go back to basics and focus on the awesomeness of breast milk.
Why is breast milk important?
I know there is a ton of information on breastfeeding from a variety of sources. Which positions are best? What pump to use? Should I use a pump? How do you know baby is getting enough milk? It can be overwhelming at times to figure out who or what to listen to.
Why is there an emphasis on feeding your child breast milk? What’s so great about it? When I nursed my first child, I didn’t have this information. I didn’t participate in a breastfeeding class because I thought I could wing it and ask for help when needed. Knowing what I know now, I highly suggest taking a breastfeeding class and speaking to an experienced Mom who has nursed her own child.
Simply put, breast milk is made specifically for humans. It’s your baby’s first food. It contains the perfect blend of carbs, fat, protein, vitamins, and antibodies. Breast milk is easily digestible and is specifically made for the needs of your baby; it is a living item. In other words, breastmilk operates like an attendant at your local drive-through restaurant. When a baby latches to a breast, messages from his/her saliva are transmitted to the mother and the mother’s body adjusts the components of the breast milk for that session. In fact, the composition of breast milk varies throughout the day, depending on the needs of the baby. If a baby needs more carbs during the morning and more fat during the afternoon, no problem! Mom is able to produce the right combination for her child.
This process is also used when making antibodies to combat illnesses. A baby can communicate his/her needs for specific antibodies through saliva. Mom also participates in this process. When a mother encounters various pathogens in her environment, she immediately begins producing antibodies and other immune factors to protect the baby from illness. This is the reason babies who are breastfed are less likely to have ear infections, diarrhea, respiratory infections and other illnesses.
Another plus to providing breast milk for your child is early exposure to Mom’s diet. When breastfeeding, mother’s milk carries traces of food flavor which introduces and trains her child to appreciate variety. So, in essence, you are already training your child to appreciate fruits and veggies. That sounds fantastic to me. Breast milk is a glorious gift.
Mothers—and those who support them in giving this gift—should be thanked. Not just on their days of celebration, but every day!
Parenting with Illness
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer
Parenting can be challenging for everyone, but parenting with a chronic or life altering illness brings a unique set of difficulties. It is important for you to accept outside support and take it easy on yourself. Realize there are many simple ways you can be an amazing parent, even if you're not feeling up to doing many activities.
Use Outside Support
Don't hesitate to seek and accept outside help. Get help with childcare, housework, meals, or whatever you feel in need of.
It has been found that new mothers with outside support are more optimistic about parenting. That finding could apply to any stage or situation in parenting, and it makes sense that if you're more optimistic about something you will feel happier doing it. If you’re happier parenting, you will show up in more positive ways for your child. Because of this, accepting help will benefit not only you, but your child as well.
It could be beneficial to talk to a trusted person about your feelings surrounding your difficult circumstance. If you're struggling to cope, you may benefit from seeing a counselor who can help you work through your emotions.
Take it Easy on Yourself
Taking care of a child is a lot of hard work. It is more consuming physically, emotionally, and mentally than any other job. Add illness on top of it, and there is no doubt a need for as much rest as possible. Let yourself rest whenever you can without feeling guilty about it.
Focus On The Ways You Can Parent Well
You may feel disappointed or feel a loss if you are unable to do active physical activities with your child. It's okay to feel that way, but it is important to remember that your value as a parent isn't dependent on how much or what things you do. You can love your kid and bond with them in many simple yet profound ways.
Find ways to make deep and meaningful connections with your child through spending time together. Some ways bonding can occur without expending a lot of physical energy can include
snuggling on the couch, talking, reading, or drawing together.
You could take turns telling stories. Try pulling up a list of questions for your child to answer, and as a bonus, audio record them giving their answers on your phone as a form of journaling. Listen to audiobooks together (you can check them out online from the library) or a podcast with children's stories. Color, draw, or watch movies together.
Having a secure relationship with your child will bring many benefits for both of you. Your child will have an increased feeling of stability and confidence, have resilience in difficult times, and a better ability to navigate difficult emotions. Connecting with your child will bring you joy and fulfillment amidst the difficulties of your illness.
Hugging and cuddling your child even has benefits for both of you. Hugging and cuddling causes the brain to release a hormone called oxytocin. Oxytocin contributes to bonding with others and has many other health benefits as well. Oxytocin has been known to decrease stress, bring blood pressure down, increase pain tolerance, and help with anxiety.
As a parent with a chronic or life altering illness, you deserve to go easy on yourself. Don't hesitate to seek and accept the outside support you need, as this will benefit you and your child. Focus on all the ways you can parent well, and do those things to create meaningful connections with your child.
Crnic, K. A., Greenburg, M. T., Ragozin, A. S., Robinson, N. M., & Basham, R. B. (1983, Feb.). Effects of Stress and Social Support on Mothers and Premature and Full-Term Infants. Child Development, 54(1), 209-217. 10.2307/1129878
Uvnas-Moberg, K., & Petersson, M. (2005). Oxytocin, ein Vermittler von Antistress, Wohlbefinden, sozialer Interaktion, Wachstum und Heilung [Oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress, well-being, social interaction, growth and healing]. Z Psychosom Med Psychother, 51(1), 57-80. 10.13109/zptm.2005.51.1.57
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
Are you convinced that screens are hurting our children's brains?
I am. Not just in theory but based on personal experience! Maybe not the way you think -- my case is a counter-example.
When I was 12 or so, my mom cut the cord off the TV because we weren't keeping the rules -- and so I enjoyed a very *rich* teen time frame despite being raised by a single mom, well within poverty level.
I was *rich* in my zeal for living a real life! I wasn't weighed down by expectations put into my brain by watching TV shows or seeing commercials about everything I couldn't afford and being convinced that I needed those things. I had free time to find out what was important to me and then do it!
I rarely felt "left out" when conversations about TV shows seemed irrelevant to my life. In contrast, my friends often felt left out when I described how I spent my time discovering and developing various hobbies, enjoying real-life social fun like impromptu pizza parties, long drives to interesting destinations, and long talks with my on-again-off-again boyfriend (our relationship was not defined by TV's examples). Yes, I still watched TV at friends' houses sometimes -- I wasn't against it altogether -- but those exposures solidified my philosophy that TV's pressurized influence would have greatly clouded my vision, and likely was blinding my peers from seeing their potential.
Nowadays, it's no longer TV alone trying to program our children's behavior and thought processes. It comes through so many screens that cutting one cord wouldn't make much of a difference! How can we help our children navigate this territory that's also new territory to us as parents? Is it really possible and plausible to keep them away from such a pervasive influence -- or is keeping them away the goal anymore? Despite my past that I'm proud of, I'm parenting in extremely different circumstances, and I've determined that the goal is not to avoid screens altogether, but to build the ability to manage screen time effectively, and ultimately flourish with screens.
Our family has a Family Technology Plan that is consistently being reviewed and sometimes revised as we encounter new situations that may not have been covered by previous drafts. As parents, we are straightforward with our children about how screen time (even educational screen time!) can be detrimental to our brains. Yes, we restrict the amount of time, redirecting repeatedly, and with the responsibility placed incrementally more on the child according to their age. Our goal is to help our children develop their own healthy habits, with a strong desire to be actively architecting their own lives rather than just watching someone else's scripted life through a screen.
If you haven't gained a conviction yet of the necessity for parents to be pro-active in their children's journey to safe screen use, please watch this documentary! Yes, the struggle is real, and so worth every effort!
The following is copied and pasted from the YouTube page:
For the first time in history, mental illness and suicide have become one of the greatest threats to school-aged children. Many parents still view dangers as primarily physical and external, but they’re missing the real danger: kids spending more time online and less time engaging in real life, free play, and autonomy.
What are the effects on the next generation's mental, physical, and spiritual health?
Childhood was more or less unchanged for millennia, but this is CHILDHOOD 2.0. For more resources and to download a community discussion guide and share with your community, please visit: https://bit.ly/32voKpY.
NOTE: Bark is proud to sponsor the free release of this film because we believe every family should have access to such a crucial, powerful resource.
Run Time: 88 Minutes
A Film by: Jamin Winans, Robert Muratore, and Kiowa Winans
Music by: Jamin Winans
parenting a child with cancer
By Kandis Lake, RN, BSN, guest blog post contributer.
Learning your child has cancer or another life-changing illness is probably every parent’s worst nightmare. While the medical advances to treat these life-changing diagnoses have never been better, it is still a very taxing experience for any family. Ways to navigate such a trying and difficult situation can include learning all you can about your child’s sickness, leaning on outside support, and knowing ways you can help your child and family cope.
Learning About Your Child’s Sickness
Any good healthcare provider will provide you with ample education surrounding your child’s sickness, and what the sickness will mean for your child and your family. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, ask doctors to clarify meanings, and repeat what you hear to ensure you understand the information being given you.
If you are not in a good headspace to understand what you’re being told, it’s a good idea to ask if you can be given the information at a better time. It is also a good idea to have another family member or support person receive the education with you, so you can both learn together and help each other remember and understand in times ahead. If you get home and think about something you need clarified, you can always reach out to your child’s healthcare provider to ask questions or get more information.
Study any materials your child’s healthcare providers have given you or resources they have suggested. Seek out reputable sources for further information. The American Cancer Society has a lot of information online about all types of cancers. Advocate for yourself and your family to ensure you understand what you need to, and can feel empowered moving forward.
Take Care of Yourself and Get Outside Help
Be sure to take care of yourself so that you can handle your difficult situation in the best way possible. Take care of yourself so you can take care of your child. If your child is staying in the hospital, take advantage of working with a social worker and case manager to ensure you and your child are provided with everything you will need when you go home. Many hospitals have a chaplain whose job is to help patients and families care for their spiritual needs. If your child is being cared for at home, take regular breaks by setting up respite care (when a healthcare professional, such as a nurse, temporarily cares for a patient at the patient’s home).
Accept your feelings about the situation you are in without judgement. Talk to a friend, family member, or counselor about the difficulties you are facing, or write your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Talking and writing can help you process your experiences and help you better cope. There are online support groups for a wide variety of situations and illnesses. An online group could connect you to other parents or caregivers who are going through something similar.
If you have other children, seek a balance of personally caring for them and asking for help to care for them as well. This could be a very difficult time for them and they will need help and support through it. You will likely need help caring for them while your child is sick.
Utilize any church or community support available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help during such a difficult time for your family. It can be hard to ask for and accept help, but doing so is in your child’s best interest, as well as your own. The less stress you feel in regard to all aspects of your life, the more energy and focus you can put into supporting and bonding with your child when he needs you.
Cheryl Harris’s son was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia when he was two and a half years old. Cheryl said, “Almost more than the sleepless nights and endless tears during that time, I remember the amazing, wonderful good people who showed up for us.” She describes friends, family, and hospital staff giving immense support.
Her own parents drove across the country to help, and her mother stayed with them for six whole months. They had friends that brought gifts for her child, and others offered to watch her one-year-old since Cheryl was so frequently at the hospital and at appointments. Friends and family who didn’t live near them sent the family frequent words of comfort and love.
Many people also find strength and support in spirituality or religion. Faith or spirituality can be very helpful in coping for some. Cheryl remarked about her faith, “I am so grateful for the gospel and the knowledge of God's plan during that time. I knew no matter what may happen, everything would be okay.”
Helping and supporting your child
The most important thing you can be doing at this time is helping your child. You will best accomplish this by taking breaks and accepting help yourself, as discussed above. Take time to address your child’s concerns and answer his questions. Speak to him about what is happening in a way that is appropriate for his age and level of understanding. The American Cancer Society has some great advice for communicating in age-appropriate ways here.
When asked how she helped her young son, Cheryl said, “I prayed for and tried to have an abundance of patience and stamina. That was absolutely necessary. I cleared my schedule and dedicated my life to comforting him in any way I could.”
Your child will likely feel a range of emotions as he lives with his illness, as well as because many aspects of normal life are altered because of it. Be a safe space for your child to express thoughts and feelings, free from any judgement or shame. Resist the urge to try to change those feelings. Every time your child has difficult feelings, it gives you the opportunity to strengthen your relationship through supporting him. Having a strong and secure relationship with your child will in turn help him build resilience and confidence, and also give him the tools to navigate difficult feelings in the future.
Cheryl kept a blog during her son’s battle with cancer. One story illustrates the need children have for their parents: “He woke up once while they were taking his vitals and was in pain. His little body tensed up and I could tell it hurt when I moved him. He asked to ‘give Mommy hugs,’ which means to hold him chest to chest, bear-hug style, but when I picked him up he was so rigid and stiff and couldn't relax. I called for more pain meds. I asked him where it hurt and all he said was, ‘Mommy kiss it better.’ He's said that a lot the past few days. That has been the hardest part for me.”
Helping your child cope with stress, navigate difficult emotions, and express himself could prove to be extremely difficult, especially if you haven’t had a lot of experience with healthy coping and emotional expression yourself. A child life specialist (often employed at pediatric hospitals) or a counselor can help you and your child with this.
Recognize things that comfort your child. It may be a pacifier, blanket, special toy, or favorite book or movie. Whatever comfort object there might be, allow your child to have it readily available. Be sure hospital staff and any other caregivers know ways your child likes to be comforted. Like Cheryl with her son, be there to comfort him yourself as much as possible.
It can also be important to try to incorporate some routine and normalcy into your child’s life. This can include doing schoolwork, socializing with family and friends, playing and being silly, and having some routine to his care. Let your child take opportunities to enjoy being a kid. Find ways for your child to maintain sibling and family relationships.
The ways you can help your child with illness as his mother is monumental. You and your family will be empowered through learning and understanding as much about the illness as you can. As you take care of yourself and to seek and accept help from others, you will better be able to care for your child and be there for them. You can play an important, unmatched role of providing support and comfort to your child during this very difficult time.
Cheryl’s advice to other moms who experience something similar is “Let people help you. Take care of yourself. Let things go that don't matter. Count your blessings along the way and recognize and appreciate the beauty of all those who are trying to help. It will lift you.” Cheryl’s son received cancer treatments for five years. He is now a healthy, thriving eleven-year-old.
For more information see:
Kandis Lake, the author, is a professional health writer and can be found at www.healthwriterkandis.com
Text about the embedded YouTube video was written by Regan Barnes, ChairMom of the MotherBoard at Momivate
Do you ever wonder if all the effort you are putting into motherhood really matters? One of the goals of Momivate is to convince you that your endeavors to raise your children are instrumental in lifting society. The Ted Talk embedded below, "Why Most Parenting Advice is Wrong," seems to be antithetical to our foundational venture to activate moms. Please take 17 minutes to listen to this professor of neuroscience—and fellow mother—and then let’s discuss how she’s actually in agreement with Momivate at our core.
I confess that my skin crawled when this professor revealed the final conclusion of the metastudy! I’ve never considered it to be my goal that my children turn out to be just like each other—not even my identical twins! The scientists are using mismatched logic to conclude that loving parents want to simply program children like computers, dismissing the children’s innate talents, aspirations, strengths and weaknesses.
Part of what makes motherhood so worthy and needful of our best efforts is the challenge inherent in patiently working with the individual aspects of each of our offspring. Because we love them, we’re committed to determining, through a continual, loving process of trial and error, how each child responds to various parenting “techniques” and adjusting accordingly.
By using the illustration of a butterfly controlling a hurricane, the professor convinced me to keep listening. Butterflies are so meaningful to Momivate that they're featured in our logo. The metamorphosis from a creepy-crawly insect to a beautiful creature of flight is symbolic of the changes Momivate wants to bring to the role of motherhood, as well as the potential our children have to transform and grow wings of their own.
Despite my initial distaste for the scientific study, I’m glad I continued to listen to this professor and notice that she never comes to the conclusion that the butterfly should NOT flap its wings . . .
Knowing that my "hurricane child" would not even exist without me is a compelling concept in the face of the overwhelming odds described. The fact that my flaps cannot determine the final outcome of the hurricane doesn't stop me from sending winds of love with each beat of my wings.
If my children were to sense that I chose not to guide them because too many other cultural or environmental forces seemed to overpower our (mine + my child’s) efforts, that's when my wondrous hurricane-child’s indomitable spirit would lose its own sense of ability to change the world. We butterflies must flap—first, to create the hurricane, and then continually so the hurricane will expand in its own whirlwind of potential.
Yes, moms, there are many forces influencing our children, and we must do what we can to increase or decrease the effects of those forces as we deem necessary. We can do that best when we acknowledge that ultimately, control outside of ourselves remains impossible. Outcomes, though somewhat predictable due to patterns discovered over centuries of research and observation, simply cannot be guaranteed when it comes to parenting.
This professor's final point about dragon parenting is incredibly potent: to love as fiercely as the winds of the hurricane, being present in each shared moment, acknowledging that time together is all we really have, so let's make that time enjoyable for the sake of both mother and child, not because of trying to control outcomes.
For instance, when I read a parenting book that helps me improve my listening skills with my children, I must do it for the sake of truly hearing my children, motivated only by my love for them, NOT because said book promises that the improved listening will push the right buttons and, ta-da, the end result is a robot who obeys my every command!
If I work towards goals—including becoming the kind of parent my younger self always wanted—it must be a personal struggle to fulfill my potential rather than a scheme designed to calm the destructive storm that I regard my child to be. My children’s exposure to my exertion empowers them to set goals that, in essence, funnel their hurricane power and focus it towards self-actualization. Even though there will always be myriad forces impacting them, they’ll build their own strength and wield their own power to mitigate those forces, and ultimately gain control of their ability to transform the world.
Mothers, hear out this professor's final points and let those be what sticks with you rather than worrying about or being turned off by the "science" that she refers to at the beginning. You matter because YOU ARE THE BUTTERFLY—and every movement of your wings contributes to that hurricane child of yours, even if it doesn't control them.
From the YouTube Description:
Parenting books promise to show people how to raise happy, successful children, and in the process to reveal why each of us turned out the way we did. But the science of child development tells a different story about how parents influence children—a story that may shock, unsettle, and ultimately reassure anyone who has ever been a parent or a child.
Yuko is a Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her work investigates child development and environmental influences on children’s thinking, using behavioral, neuroimaging, and computational approaches. She is an elected fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the American Psychological Association. Her work on child development has been funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1998, and has been published in top scientific journals and featured in The Atlantic, The Today Show, and Parents Magazine. She co-edited two books on brain and cognitive development, and co-authored a computational cognitive neuroscience textbook. She has received awards for research, teaching, and mentoring.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx
Our Team of CouncilMoms take turns submitting blog posts in each area of the RAISE UP acronym. Guest authors are encouraged to submit their blog posts as well (CONTACT US for more info! Thank you!)
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