I specialize in working with mothers. I also happen to be a mother. But I’ve always held a deep respect for fathers. I am, of course, the daughter of a father, the daughter-in-law of a father-in-law (who died three years ago and I deeply loved), and the wife of a father—the father of my children. I’ve also worked with countless fathers—fathers supporting mothers, fathers doing it on their own, fathers who want the best for their children, who work tirelessly for their families, who nurture and love and inspire.
Fathers Are Important
We all know that kids need their dads—that we don’t want a society of fatherless children, that we don’t want kids to grow up feeling unloved, abandoned, and unwanted. But, most of us probably do not realize just how important a loving father is to a child’s development, choices, and overall life experience. Studies show that, without a father, children are:
- 5 times more likely to be poor
- At an increased risk for sexual abuse[i]
- 2 to 3 times more likely to use drugs
- Twice as likely to drop out of school
- 2 to 3 times more likely to have emotional and behavioral problems
- More than twice as likely to be incarcerated[ii][iii]
Statistics like these remind us that fathers who are present and love their children make a noticeable difference in a child’s life.
10 Research-Based Ways Dads Impact Kids for the Better
We need strong fathers. And strong fathers deserve our attention, encouragement, and praise. The following ten facts will show you just what I mean. According to research:
1) A loving father is the best predictor of the level of compassion a child will develop.
It feels counterintuitive because mothers tend to teach compassion more directly than fathers. But, in fact, it’s dad who makes the difference. Kids who interact regularly with a loving father—a father who may seem “tough” on the outside yet is able to soften and show love and compassion to the child—show greater levels of compassion than children without a father.
2) Having a stable father is associated with greater confidence in children.
Mothers and fathers actually compliment each other in the characteristics they teach their children. Fathers are more likely to let children branch out on their own, while mothers are the stable place for children. Fathers encourage exploration of the world, trying new things, and “getting out there,” all of which lead to greater confidence in their children. It has been said “A mother gives her child roots; a father gives his child wings.”
3) Children with involved, caring fathers have better educational outcomes.
Kids with involved, nurturing fathers show better cognitive and linguistic skills and tend to have higher IQ’s too. They also seem to be more able to manage the stress of education than kids without a father.
Children with an involved father have half the rates of depression than those with no father. They’re more likely to feel secure exploring their surroundings, get in less trouble overall, and seem to be more socially skilled and comfortable.
5) A loving father is associated with lower levels of violence and greater respect for women, in boys.
Boys without a loving male role model show increasing levels of violence and tend to act with greater hostility toward females.
6) A loving father is associated with self-worth and virtue that leads to less sexualization of young girls.
Girls without a non-sexual male in the home tend toward early sexualization and promiscuity. Fathers who show true love to their daughters help protect them from seeking approval and love in sexual ways. In fact, kids with a loving father have 75% lower rates of teen pregnancy than those without.
7) Fathers are associated with increased relationship success levels in children as they mature into adulthood.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Whether or not the child’s mother and father are together, children who have invested fathers tend to have higher success rates in their own relationships as adults.
8) One of the most important influences a father can have on his child is the quality of their relationship with the child’s mother.
Fathers who treat the mothers of their children with respect and deal with conflict in an adult and appropriate manner are more likely to have: a) boys who understand how to treat women and are less likely to act aggressively toward females, and b) girls who see how they should expect men to treat them and are less likely to become involved in violent or unhealthy relationships.
9) Fathers are associated with greater success in children.
One study that spanned four decades found that, dads who developed an emotionally close relationship and encouraged their kids to excel had daughters who were more successful in college/careers and sons who achieved greater career status later in life.
10) Kids need healthy interaction with their fathers, and Mothers tend to determine how much interaction fathers have.
Mothers are the gatekeepers to how much interaction a father may have with his children. This means we mothers need to be aware of all incredible benefits of fathers and let them be fathers! It can be tough as a mother to watch dad let your little girl go out with tangled hair and mismatched clothes, to let your little boy ride his bigwheel down a steep incline and spin in a circle at the bottom or dangle precariously from the top of the slide before speeding down (all of which my husband has done on numerous occasions). But I can tell you moms from experience: When you stand back and let dads “do their thing” you can see your children learn in a whole new way, and you just might feel in your heart how good it is for them to be pushed in a way only a father can do.
In Praise of Fathers
The point is: We need wonderful fathers. And there are many wonderful fathers out there. There are fathers who, at this moment, are rocking a sick child, reading, playing, and teaching them. There are fathers who are doing homework, exercising patience, and coming home a little early just to be there. There are fathers wrestling, disciplining, and doing yardwork with their children.
We need all of these fathers. Our children need them. We mothers need them. And the men who are stepping up as fathers need their fathering role too. For, fatherhood doesn’t just create better children—it creates better men.
Thank you, Fathers. For everything you do. You truly deserve praise for who you are and what you do for our children, for we women, and for the world. Happy Father’s Day!
Have a father you’d like to praise? Share your thoughts on how dads impact kids (and you) for the better by leaving a comment, below!
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[i] Anderson, Lili, Ph.D. & Christian, Ph.D. Understanding the Impact of Gender Differences in Parenting. AMCAP Conference Address, October 1, 2010.
Why does Mother’s Day always make me think of all I’m not doing right as a Mother? Every year I try to avoid it, but I can’t escape. The images of crafty, fulfilled, do-it-all moms who are (seemingly) perfect, fill the world, and at first, I love it. I love glorying in this role that I truly find life-altering, holy, and divine–being “Mom.”
But at some point I start comparing to those images. I see what I want (or wanted) to do and be, and feel I’m missing the mark. This week, for example, I had just returned from a days-long stay alone to work on my book and try to catch up on sleep. (It sounds heavenly, and it was–if you like writing for hours and hours). But one long drive, two kid-interrupted sleepless nights, four sick kids, and less than two days later, I was already burned out, and on the verge of losing it! “Really?” I chastised myself. “You can’t even handle your life after a major break? Weak.” Sometimes I’m not very nice.
The Irony of Mother’s Day
It’s ironic, isn’t it, that the very images and words meant to lift mothers up this time of year can have the opposite effect? The worst, for me, was about 8 years ago, when I had 3 kids. Caught in a contract with a group psychology practice, I was working far more hours than I’d planned. Add in work for my newly-founded Postpartum Wellness Coalition, and I felt like I was “doing it all.” That is, until Mother’s Day.
Sitting in church, listening to a lovely man speak of his angelic mother moved me. It inspired me to be like that. Then, it moved me to tears. Because I wasn’t like that. It hit me–wham!–like a wrecking ball, “You’re not being the mom you wanted to be.” I was truly wrecked. I cried for literally 8 hours strait! I couldn’t stop, so I shut myself away in my room all day, humiliated, defeated. I was only saved through a “Say-Anything”-esque rescue by my dear husband, OJ–standing on the stairs playing Coldplay’s “Fix You,” in the dark until I finally let him show me the love I felt I did not deserve.
And I’m not the only one. In the past few weeks alone I’ve heard stories from numbers of friends who fear they may be “failing” at motherhood. I asked, on my Facebook Page, if anyone was willing to share some of their “mommy fails,” and got some pretty honest responses:
- “All 3 of my babies rolling off the bed onto wood floors. You’d think I’d learn the first time!”
- “Calling my kids by the wrong name. I hated when my mom did that to me.”
- “Letting my mood swings get in the way. I wish I could have been more ‘stable’.”
- “My kids are little, but I’ve already cut nails so short they bleed, and both my girls have pulled chairs on themselves in the kitchen, leaving bruises. But the worst is when my daughter screamed and cried when her Grandma gave her a dress because she didn’t think the dress was pretty enough. Spoiled, much?”
- “I could write a whole chapter on my mommy fails!”
- “I was shopping with my 3 kids and it was great. Until the checkout. My 4 year-old started screaming for candy, but I was taking a stand. And I did it. We got all the way to the car, him screaming the whole way. As I was putting them in, an older woman came up and said, ‘I just want to tell you that you are doing a great job at being a mom. My daughter only has 2 kids and she is a mess, so keep up the good work.’ I said, ‘Thanks.’ Then I got in the car, and yelled to my son, ‘Shut up! Not another word ’til we get home!’ It could’ve been such a good ‘mom moment, and I had to go and ruin it.”
- “Growing up, I was pretty afraid of my mom, so I try to make sure my kids don’t feel that from me. One day, a few years back, I’d gone off my medication (I suffer from anxiety) to try and get pregnant. My kids were not cleaning their playroom like I asked and I lost it. The angry voice came out. I was throwing things and saying who knows what, and my 3 year old daughter is crying by now and she says to me, ‘mommy stop it you are scaring me.’ I had to walk out of the room. It didn’t matter anymore if it got cleaned. I felt horrible. But I know I’m not the only mom who feels like this. I’m just grateful my daughter called me out on how I was making her feel.”
3 Things Every Mother Needs to Know This Mother’s Day
1) You’re Not Alone. She’s right. She’s not the only mom who feels this way. In fact, we can relate, can’t we, to at least one of the scenarios above? We all have “mommy fails.” We all feel less than adequate from time to time. I see it with every mother I meet, whether they openly acknowledge their “failures” or try to hide them. It’s no secret we all make mistakes. It’s part of being a mother, and it’s ok.
2) You’re better than you realize. You’re not a failure. We see what’s wrong because we care. If we didn’t care it wouldn’t bother us if we yell or if our kids get hurt. The fact that it bothers us proves we love our kids. And when we can see this and then choose to learn from our “fails,” it proves we’re actually better at this mom thing than we may have thought. In fact, one of my Facebook friends decided to ask her daughter what her “mommy fails” were. She says, “I expected a heart wrenching conversation. I have at times completely lost it with my kids. Yelling, tears, the works. But her response was, ‘Oh that’s easy. When I was sick and made toast I asked you to watch it and you burned it black!’ I asked her, ‘That’s it? What about me yelling you and making you cry a few weeks ago?’ ‘Mom,’ she said, ‘that is just real stuff. It doesn’t make you a ‘fail.’ I have done that to you too, and I kinda like knowing your not some super hero and that you cry too. Besides everyone’s mom freaks out on them sometimes.” See, chances are, you’re doing better in your kids’ eyes than you realize.
3) You are enough. This one is important, so I’m going to say it again, “You are enough.” Being Mom is a daunting task, but you have what you need to do the job only you can do. You have enough love. You have enough wisdom. You have enough of what it takes. You are enough. Happy Mother’s Day, Moms.
How do you handle your “mommy fails?” Feel brave enough to share one with us? Leave a comment, below. I did.
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 Huge thank you to Elizabeth, Diann, Jesica, Jana, and Holly, for sharing your “Mommy Fails” with us! You just proved how incredible you are as moms, owning up to your mistakes like that. Big hugs to you!Read More
I won’t lie. It’s been a rough week. A perfect storm of trying to meet a deadline for two book proposals while kids were having all kinds of issues, husband was MIA golfing in tournaments, hormones were at their evil low, and so was quantity of sleep. A “squall” of epic proportions started growing in my head and heart until I finally crashed on myself, feeling like such a loser mom.
Yes, I feel that way too. And now that my head is clearer, I can tell you this: it all stems from my thoughts. This week, I could hear them, loud and clear, bossing me around. It wasn’t pretty. You know when your 5 year-old asks, “Are you still nuts, Mom?” that it hasn’t been pretty! So, what drives these “loser mom” feelings? And what do I do about it? Here’s a little glimpse.
Why I Feel Like a Loser Mom
1) My kindergartner keeps getting notes sent home: “Please remember to help Sydney do her homework!” And, I keep forgetting to call my kids out sick from school (which has been at least once a week in winter). They always have to call me. “Oh! Yep. They’re home sick today,” I say. “Sorry I forgot. Again.”
- Loser Mom Thoughts (LMT’s): “The schools think I am a loser! They probably have a wall that says, ‘Loser Parents—Keep an Eye Out!’ with my face on it! I mean, I can’t even remember to sign my kids out or get my Kindergartener to do her work! I’m never on top of anything and I never will be!”
- What I did: Once I finally came down from my “catastrophizing,” I reminded myself: “First, it’s just calling for attendance and kindergarten homework. It’s not the end of the world. Second, if the teachers think you’re a mess, oh well. You don’t know what they’re really thinking, and they don’t know your situation. You’ve got a lot on your plate, and you’re doing the best you can.” Then, I made sure the homework got done and tried to remember to call. I do try.
2) Monday, my 9 year-old daughter told me I “never listen” to her, and that no one else in our family does either.
- “Loser Mom” Thoughts (LMT’s): “What kind of mom doesn’t listen to her kids? And you’re supposed to be a psychologist?”
- What I Did: First, I wallowed in it, bringing myself down. Eventually, though, I told my daughter I was sorry she felt that way, then kindly explained: “We have 6 kids. Usually, two or three of you are talking to me at the same time. I can’t always hear everything you each say. Maybe next time, you can put your hand on my arm until I’m ready to hear you.” Hmmm. I guess I do listen to my kids.
3) With so much I always need to “do,” my philosophy has become: “If it doesn’t absolutely have to get done now, it can wait.” I shouldn’t have been surprised, therefore, when my boys’ basketball coach told them they couldn’t play in the game on Tuesday if I didn’t get their physicals turned in by 3.
- LMT’s: “You’re always waiting ‘til the last minute! Now your kids are the only ones who haven’t turned in their forms. How embarrassing—for them and for you!”
- What I did: Now that it had to get done, I finally dug up the physicals—one hour before the game (though I almost had to call the doctor and get new copies because they weren’t filed away, “of course”)! “At least you found them in time,” I reminded myself. I may be last minute, but I do get it done.
4) Seeing that “addicted” look on my 9 and 5 year-old daughters’ faces after forgetting they’d been playing Animal Jam on the computer for way too long because I was “tired” and veg’ing out in my own way (chocolate and crappy TV).
- LMT’s: “You forgot about your kids? How could you forget? You know it’s not good to let them sit in front of a computer for hours! You never have enough energy to be the kind of mother you should be, and you probably never will!”
- What I did: I brushed their teeth, read stories, said prayers, sang a lullaby, and hugged them to bed. “Hmmm. Doesn’t sound so ‘losery’ to me.”
5) Yelling at my kids. Tuesday afternoon, when several were whining, I started. “You’re all ungrateful! I can’t believe I am raising ungrateful kids!” (I was then called out by my oldest for “lumping” all the kids together, once again, instead of remembering they’re individuals). Wednesday morning, when they weren’t up on time and were complaining about their lunch options, it got much worse: “What do any of you do for ME?! I’m so tired of it all! I’m just going to say ‘no’ to everything you ask me for the next week! I mean it! What? You don’t believe me? Just try me! You can’t beat me!” Not my finest moment.
- LMT’s: “Seriously? You’re not only yelling at your kids, you’re threatening and competing with them? You don’t need me to say it…”
- What I did: …because I was in my room crying and feeling like the most horrible person in the world. Feeling ashamed. And, acting out of shame is never good. It led to…
6) Yelling at my husband in front of the kids because he “doesn’t get it” and “just stands by while I’m falling off a cliff,” and because he has “the nerve to ask to go on a golf weekend when I’m drowning!” (It’s really more of a rant than just a yell). Then, hearing my kids tell each other they’re afraid we’re going to get divorced because we were fighting.
- LMT’s: “Rock bottom. Nice move. Now your whole family is feeling terrible. Because of you.”
- What I did: I let my husband help by taking the kids to school. I went back to bed and slept for an hour. I got up and finished my proposals before the kids got home. And, later that night, I told my kids: “I’m sorry. Yes, I was frustrated because of some of the things you’ve done, but I need you to know you’re not ungrateful kids, even if you say ungrateful things sometimes. And I need you to know I was more upset by how I was acting than by what you each did. And I really love each of you. You’re very important to me. And Dad and I are not getting divorced. Sometimes we just get frustrated with each other, kind of like you feel with each other sometimes too. I should not yell at you or Dad. I’m very sorry for that, and I’m working on doing better.” My oldest then said, “I think it was just a stressful day for us all, Mom. We’ll all be better tomorrow.” They really are good kids. Then I apologized to my husband for how I acted too; we “kissed and made up.”
7) Finally, my constant nemesis, this week and always: Telling myself way too many times, “I can’t handle six kids. Why was I given six kids if I can’t handle them?”
- LMT’s: “You really are a loser if you can’t handle your kids. Other people handle even more and with much more grace.”
- What I did: First, I told myself to shut up. Then, I showed myself compassion. “You have six kids. That’s a lot. You may not have planned on having six, but that’s what you’ve got. And you love them. It’s hard, but you really do love them. And you know it doesn’t matter what other mothers do (or appear to do). You’re doing the best you can. It’s just been a stressful week. That doesn’t mean anything about who you are.”
How I Know I’m Really Not
When I look back on what I actually did this week, I might not be such a loser after all. I’m feeling much better as I write this. Yes, the hormones and deadlines have passed, and yes, I’ve gotten some sleep. But, mostly, because I can hear my “loser mom” thoughts, I’ve been able to tackle them. I realize, now that I’m not in it, that most of the “problems” that make me feel like a loser are not really “problems” at all. They’re small and insignificant but I blow them way out of proportion. We have a rule in our house that we don’t say, “Shut up,” but I allow myself to say it to myself when I hear those LMT’s try to get me down. Because they’re wrong.
I’m not a loser mom. I’m a great mom. I know that. And it’s not even because of what I did in response to my LMT’s this week. I’m a great mom simply because I show up each day. I mess up and create problems and feel ashamed. But I keep showing up. I admit my mistakes, apologize, and try to do better. I keep loving my kids, my husband, and myself. And I show my family who I really am—a person, like anyone else—simply trying to be the best I can be.
If you haven’t already, check out Thought Management Parts 1 and 2. They explain more about how our thoughts control our bodies, emotions, and behaviors, and give tools for how to get out of our heads so we can recognize, and “call out” our “LMT’s” before they cause any more trouble!
Do you ever have LMT’s? What drives them for you? What do you do to stop them and remember you’re really NOT? Leave your thoughts, ideas, and questions below!
“If Self-Esteem is a Myth, then what is the Truth?”: Understanding Self-Worth
I appreciate the feedback I’ve received on my article, “5 Reasons Self-Esteem is a Myth”. Some of you were excited about the insights I shared; some weren’t so sure. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you give it a look. In this post, I hope to build upon those ideas, to help us understand a little better why self-esteem isn’t the way to go & why “self-worth” is.
Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth
“Aren’t Self-Esteem & Self-Worth the Same Thing?” I’ve heard this question many times, and if you’re using a dictionary, then the answer is: “Yes”. In fact, most definitions for “self-worth” simply say, “See self-esteem”.
I, however, disagree that self-worth and self-esteem are one and the same. Self-esteem, to me, is more external, surface, conditional, and changing, while self-worth is internal, deep, unconditional, and enduring.
Here are a couple definitions I found for “Self-Worth”:
1) Respect for or a favorable opinion of oneself
2) One’s worth as a person, as perceived by oneself
3) The sense of one’s own value or worth as a person (origin 1960-65)
The last two seem closer to what I’m talking about but they’re awfully simple definitions for such a deep, core principle.
What I’m proposing is a new definition of self-worth. Yes, it includes our sense of value or worth as a person. But I take it a step further.
To me, Self-Worth means: The ability to comprehend and accept my true value—to understand I am more than my mind, body, emotions, and behaviors, to see myself as God sees me, to accept His love for me, and to learn to love myself in like manner.
Self-Worth is Deep
I know this is getting a little deep and spiritual, but to me, self-worth is deep and spiritual. Too many of us settle for “self-esteem”—for feeling good about how we act, look, feel, think—instead of seeking what lies beneath. We fail to get to know our true selves because we’re too caught up in the selves we create.
No matter how much we learn to love who we seem to be on the outside, we will never fully embrace our worth until we dig deeper. Self-worth isn’t about our outsides. It’s about knowing who we really are on the inside. It’s about connection—to other people, to our true selves, and to our Higher Power.
Self-Worth is Accepting the Truth
As I accept the Truth—that I am not a “personality” but rather a “soul,” with innate, unchanging potential and worth—I learn to accept all of me: my strengths and weaknesses, my “good” and my “not so good”. I see that I can choose to become stronger or weaker, but these things don’t define me. I can then let go of who I or others think I am and just be who I am. Because who I am is a divine soul, full of light and love and joy and all things good. I just have to go deeper and see it.
Perhaps Marianne Williamson’s brilliant (and now famous) quote says it best:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and famous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
I agree. We were “born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.” And it is ”in all of us.” Understanding this Truth not only allows us to freely accept and love ourselves, it opens the door for us to help others do the same.
Self-Worth is Possible for All
I know some of you don’t believe me. I know there are some who are reading this and thinking, “Yeah, right. That might be true for some people, but it’s not true for me.” You don’t believe you will ever experience self-worth.
Well, I’m here to tell you you’re wrong. You are of worth. You are valuable. You are loveable. You are important. You are essential to this world. And you don’t have to believe me. Not yet. You just have to open yourself up to the possibility. Open yourself up to the idea, and you can and will someday know for yourself that what I say is true. For everyone. Even for you.
More on this Topic: Check out Self-Esteem vs. Self-Worth: Q & A w/Dr. Christina Hibbert [plus video]
Coming Soon: “Self-Worth is a great idea, but how do you learn it and teach it to others?” My Theory of How to Learn Self-Worth
What do you think about self-worth and self-esteem? Questions? Challenges? Comments? Join the conversation below.
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 Online Dictionary in “Reference Tools,” Microsoft Word.
 Webster’s Dictionary, hardcover, 1998.
How to NOT be Un-Grateful:
10 Things for which I Am Not Ungrateful
I’ve written a lot about gratitude this week. But there’s a lot to be said; there are reasons why we should focus on gratitude, there are ways to do it, there are benefits for doing it. But today I want to take us beyond simply “feeling” grateful or even practicing gratitude, to how we can not be un-grateful.
Being Grateful vs. Not Being Ungrateful
There’s a difference, you know, between being grateful and not being ungrateful. I know what you’re thinking—the double negative essentially means that the two are the same. But really they’re not. It’s easy to say we’re grateful. It’s a little less easy to act like we’re grateful and practice gratitude. But it’s much harder to not be ungrateful, because, for me, not being ungrateful means not taking for granted, not forgetting my gratitude, and not failing to express it.
We don’t want to take the blessings in life for granted. We certainly don’t mean to. Be we do, don’t we? I know I do, and I hate when I do it. For example, I can easily tell you I am completely grateful for my children and husband (and I really am). I work very hard to acknowledge my gratitude for them each day and to help them feel it too. But how often do I end up frustrated with them, letting them “have it” about how they’re “putting me out,” complaining selfishly, and behaving very ungratefully? Too often, I’m afraid. In fact, when I think about it, it’s much harder to find things for which I am definitely not ungrateful (things I never take for granted) than to find things for which I am definitely grateful (which are many).
How to NOT Be Un-Grateful
So what can we do to not be ungrateful? While I’m certainly no expert on this, I have a few ideas:
1) It’s human nature to find ourselves ungrateful at times. Yes, we will all have moments when we find our selves feeling ungrateful–taking our blessings for granted, complaining about our gifts and opportunities. Unfortunately, it’s part of human nature; it does no good to beat ourselves up about it.
2) The important thing is to acknowledge our ingratitude when we notice it. Being able to point out, “I am really taking this for granted right now,” or “I am behaving very ungratefully,” is an important first step, for acknowledging our ingratitude is what helps us turn it around.
3) Life’s lessons teach us how to not be ungrateful. Every difficult experience we go through has the power to teach us to better appreciate the small and large blessings of life. When things get really rough, we start to realize just how great we had it before. And this, in turn, helps us to recognize during the “good” times how rough things can really be. Yes, we can and must learn from these life lessons; they are meant to teach us how to not be ungrateful.
4) Acknowledging, listing, and remembering the things for which we are not ungrateful is key. Recognizing the things we do not take for granted helps us better remember these things, and remembering is the key to overcoming ingratitude.
10 Things for which I Am Not Ungrateful
Following my own advice, I’ve given this a lot of thought and come up with my list of 10 things for which I am not ungrateful. I hope this will inspire you to come up with your “Not Ungrateful” list too!:
1) “Normal Life”: I know it can feel boring at times, but having experienced “crazy life” far too often in our past, I can honestly say I am full of overflowing gratitude for “normal.” In fact, I made a pact with myself (after the 2 years in which 6 family members died), that as long as no one is dying, I need to appreciate whatever normal life has to offer. “Normal” life is a good thing. I am not ungrateful for it.
2) Waking up Each Morning: I may not always be completely looking forward to every day, but I do feel deep gratitude for being alive. Having lost so many loved ones, including my dear sisters, I am humbly grateful for each new day. Life is the ultimate blessing, and I am not ungrateful.
3) Health: I remind myself each morning how grateful I am for my health. I’m well aware of how illness can ruin plans, dreams, and ability. I am not ungrateful for each healthy day.
4) Talents/Strengths: This may be the one thing I most often thank God for. Recognizing and using my strengths and talents to strengthen others brings the deepest satisfaction and joy, for which I truly am not ungrateful.
5) Feeling my value and self-worth: Working with so many people (especially women) who honestly cannot see or feel their worth as a soul makes me ever more grateful to know who I am, why I am here, and where I am headed.
6) The ability to see beauty in the small things and teach my children to do the same: I love that they pause for a flower, revel in a sunset, and catch the beauty of the drifting clouds, and I am not ungrateful that I do that too.
7) To see my weaknesses and limits: I’m strage that way. It’s certainly not always easy, but I want to know the truth about myself because I believe in overcoming my weaknesses, and acknowledging them is the first step. I’ve even asked friends to tell me the 3 things they admire most and least about me! It can feel a little like “ouch!” at the outset, but those things, when I let them in, lead to the best growth, and for that I am truly not ungrateful!
8) Growth: I may be ungrateful for changes sometimes, but I can honestly say I am not ungrateful to know that I can always choose to grow through each and every change life has to offer.
9) Knowing that all will always be well in God’s hands: I may not always remember this at the start, but deep down, I always know it. And that is something I am definitely not ungrateful for.
10) Counting my Blessings: I forget to do it sometimes, but I am always grateful that the opportunity to count my blessings is there, that I know how to do it, and that I work on it. In my darkest hours, I can say a prayer of gratitude–for the gifts I’ve listed above, for all the other things for which I am grateful, and for all the blessings for which I am working very hard to not be ungrateful.
What are you not ungrateful for? Share your list, or other thoughts, with us by leaving a comment below!
“My Kids Are Driving Me Crazy!”
10 Ideas to Drive Us Back to Sane
A little too often, I get to this point where I feel like I’m in the back of a beat-up pick-up truck, hanging on for dear life as it drives perilously along winding cliff’s edges, the sounds of laughter and snickering mocking me from inside the cab. And who is inside that cab, driving the truck? My kids! (And sometimes my husband too). I know, this may sound a little extreme, but it’s how I feel a lot of the time—like my kids are driving me crazy! (Some weeks, in fact, I could swear they’ve taken a secret oath to push me all the way off the cliff, or make me so insane that I choose to just jump myself!)
So, may I just “vent” for a moment?
Besides the usual “sibling arguments,” “lack of doing zones (chores),” “ignorance of bedtimes,” and “morning grumpiness” (see photos above, left, for a visual), here are 5 categories (even when venting I prefer to be organized!) of things my kids have done lately that have been pushing me closer to the edge of crazy!:
1) “I just forgot…”:
“…that I had a major science project due today.”
“…that I was supposed to pick up my little sister and drive her home from school.”
“…that I was supposed to call you when I got to my friend’s house.”
“…to come home after school, to do my homework, to bring my homework to school, to bring my lunch to school, to wake up for school!” You get the drift.
“…I dumped a bottle of glitter on the floor and ‘just forgot’ to clean it up!”
“…I wrote with red marker on the newly-painted front of the house, oh, and on our friend’s car too!”
“…I just gave my brother a swirly!”
“…I spilled ‘Yoo-Hoo’ on the carpet (and ‘I just forgot’ about the rule of no food out of the kitchen!)”
“…the computer just magically stopped working while I happened to be downloading YouTube videos!”
3) “By the way,…”:
“…I have a field trip today and need to be there early—in ten minutes, in fact.”
“…(said at 8 pm) tomorrow I have a soccer game at 8 am at the Grand Canyon (1 ½ hours away), because, (by the way) I signed up for the soccer team at school!”
“…I have a golf tournament on Friday…and on Saturday…and Tuesday (this is my husband, and this is constant).”
“…I promised I’d bring a homemade dessert to the church activity tonight (one hour before), so what are you making?”
“…I’m over you!” (Sent by my 9 year-old daughter via note when I told her we really might not be getting a dog–See the actual note in the image, above, left).
4) “Sorry, Mom…”:
“…We didn’t mean to; we just thought it would be fun!” (To dismantle the new pink chandelier I installed above her bed, into literally dozens of tiny pink pieces with her friend–proof is in the image, right).
“…We just wanted to look pretty!” (So we smashed your makeup and dumped it all over the floor to do so).
“…I just thought it would be cool to have my name in tape on the wall!” (and color it with a permanent black marker, thus smearing marker all over the walls).
“…but I just went to the neighbor’s house to see if I could pet their dogs!” (Said the 4 year-old, when her older brothers were supposed to have been babysitting, about the scary neighbors we don’t even know).
“…I told [brother x] to watch her!” (to which [Brother x] replies:) “I told her not to go, so I didn’t think she would!” (Unsaid: “…While we both played video games downstairs!”).
5) And, of course, there are the plethora of ways in which my kids interfere with precious sleep:
“I just wanted to finish the movie, mom (so I was 1 hour late for curfew, thus making you wait up, wondering where I was).”
“My covers are all out of order, Mom (whispered the 4 year-old at 3:30 am, three times this week so far).”
“’Whoops!’ ‘Sorry, mom!’ We forgot you were trying to sleep!” (Said the boys playing nerf basketball just below my room at 11 pm).
“Oh, ‘sorry, mom.’ I wasn’t that close to your room, so I didn’t know it would bother you.” (Said the boy playing the drums when I’d just begged everyone to please help me get a nap!)
Whew!…I feel better now.
I don’t care what anybody says–”More kids=More trouble.” And, with 6, I am hopelessly outnumbered. So, thank you for letting me have my little “vent”–it really does help to get it off my chest. It helps me feel like, perhaps, I’m not the only parent in the world whose children can push them sometimes. Also, when I vent it all out, especially in writing, like I just did, I can once again see the truth:
1) That these are all little issues–certainly nothing to jump off a cliff about! And…
2) That no one can really “drive me crazy”.
Sure, life is hectic and frantic, and too-often, chaotic. But, that’s just the name of the game when we parents are trying to raise kids who care, when we want the best for them and are trying to teach them to be the best they can be. Yes, it is our choice to let them get to us! And when I vent all my complaints out, I start to see just how much I let these “little” things get to me. I let the “craziness” of parenting drive me crazy far too often. Instead, I need to remember that I am in the driver’s seat of my mental well-being. I choose to let the crazy in or not.
Driving Back to Sane
So, today I’m choosing to take back the wheel and implement the following 10 ideas to drive me back to sane. (If you’re feeling near the “crazy cliff” with your kids too, give these a try, and add to or alter them as needed!):
1) Breathe more deeply and more often.
2) Laugh more.
3) Nap more.
4) Let things go more.
5) Make Mr. Golf (my husband) take over so I can get a break.
6) Take more baths with the jets going (so I can’t even hear what’s going on outside).
7) Call a friend and “vent” or write out my frustrations, just like I did here (thanks for listening–it really does help).
8) Remember that they are children—it’s their job to mess up and it’s my job to love them as they learn to clean up the messes (and believe me—I make them clean up!) (Maybe I should write this one down and put it on my bathroom mirror?).
9) Pray for strength, energy, patience, and greater love for each child. Then…
10) Love them. And love myself while I’m at it.
I love my kids, really I do. But if I’m not careful, I can let the challenges of parenting prevent me from loving myself. And self-love is something every parent needs a little more of. For, when I love myself, I have more love to give–I am more patient, understanding, and can see just how “little” the little things really are. When I love myself, I teach my children to love themselves and others. Then I can let their love for me into my crazy little heart, and watch my heart soften. Yes, love is the key to driving away from the cliffs and right on back to a happy, loving (and sane) home.
I want to know: Am I the only one whose kids drive me crazy? It’s tough to admit, but oddly, it’s very freeing. Let me know about your “cliffs” and how you avoid them! How do you drive yourself back to sane? We parents need all the advice and support we can get, so leave a comment!
30SecondMom Tips from Dr. Hibbert:
10 Major Mistakes I’ve Made this Month
& Why It’s OK
(From a Psychologist & Mom of 6)
It’s been heartwarming this week to see women congratulating women for “being real” in Facebook posts, and Moms tweeting to moms, “It’s ok! Hang in there! None of us is perfect!” But it also made me wonder why we need to say those things? Why don’t we just know that none of us is perfect? Why do we ever have to wonder if we are the only ones making mistakes, or be afraid to admit them?
Allow me to just admit: “I make mistakes all the time!” Being a psychologist doesn’t stop me from making them–I’m just trained to see them better! And being a mom of 6 doesn’t help–I’ve just got more kids with which to make my mistakes! Of course, I make plenty of little mistakes that seem huge (like eating too much dark chocolate to escape [see photo] or failing to see the bottle of glitter in my daughter’s pocket before doing laundry—we’re still finding green sparkles everywhere!). But it’s the big mistakes that seem little (until I realize what I’ve done!) that really matter, for they are my teachers. Acknowledging my mistakes makes me grow.
So I share with you 10 major mistakes I’ve made this month alone. I’m pretty sure I’ll make many of the same mistakes next month. But—and this is the part we all need to get—it’s ok. It’s part of being a parent, a partner, a human being. We all make mistakes. Progress comes in acknowledging and growing from them. Each month, I get a little bit better. And you can too.
10 Major Mistakes I’ve Made This Month
1) Letting Fatigue Rule my Mood: Yes, I can be cranky when I’m tired. But on those days when I’m just plain exhausted, it’s hard to even be nice. I’ve had a few irrational days this past month, including almost canceling our family trip to the lake at the last minute, almost missing my 20 year reunion because I “couldn’t handle” the 2-hour drive and late night, and having a mini meltdown when my husband decided to golf 3 days in a row instead of helping me get a break! Not my finest moments.
2) Doubting my Children: When two of mine begged to join a new sport, I told them, “You always say you want to do it, but then you want to quit! I don’t think you’ll stick with it.” But, they’ve proven me wrong. Wish I hadn’t doubted them.
3) Arguing with Dad in Front of the Kids: I just couldn’t stop myself! It wasn’t until the kids started asking, “Mom & Dad, will you please stop fighting?” that big time regret set in. I stopped, humbled myself, and apologized.
4) Failing to Acknowledge the Good in My Kids: I admit—sometimes I’m just so busy “keeping up” that I fail to see the good right in front of me. I was reminded of this by my oldest a few weeks ago, when, after telling him, “Your attitude was great all summer, but this week, it stinks!” he replied, “Well, if you thought I had a good attitude, why didn’t you tell me? It would be nice if you could tell me what I’m doing right once in a while!” Touché, son! He was completely right.
5) Blaming my Husband for how I Feel: I “let him have it” over a stupid thing that hurt my feelings, but I definitely felt worse after letting him have it. If I love him, then why would I want him to hurt too?
6) Zoning out from my Family with Social Media: Yep, guilty.
7) Complaining to my Family: Always telling my husband how little sleep I’ve had or telling my kids how much work I’ve had to do for them—it gets old! And not just for them—I’m sick of hearing myself!
8) Using TV as a Babysitter: More often than I care to admit.
9) Taking My Children’s Behavior Personally: Sometimes I can’t stop from engaging with them, and beneath it all is the belief: “They are reflecting poorly on me!” But it’s not about me—it’s about them—and if I could just stop being offended, I would be able to help them so much better.
10) Rejecting Love: This is a biggie and probably the one of which I’m most ashamed. It’s sadly ironic—the times I most need and desire love are the times I push others away. My husband gets the brunt of it—coming in for an “I’m sorry” hug after I’ve just let him have it for too much golf (again!), and what do I do? Push him away—literally. And I know I do it in subtler ways with my kids too. It wasn’t until my littlest gave me a big hug the other day and said, “Mom, you need a hug,” that I realized how much I need that love. “Yes, honey,” I replied, “You are right. Mommy really needs a hug”.
What do you think about this post? Does it make you respect me less to hear my mistakes? Do you feel inspired to admit some of your own? I’d really love a discussion on this one, so leave us a comment below!
Back-to-School Mental Health:
7 Strategies for School-Year Sanity
Ok, I admit it–Last year I was so wiped out after the first day of school that I dropped my husband and kids off at a “back to school” party and checked myself into a hotel. I’m not proud of it, but it was necessary at the time. I used to think summer was the toughest part of the year, but with the sudden shift back to early mornings, various schools, sports, activities, appointments, and homework, adjusting to the school year can be just as challenging. In fact, between trying to get kids to bed on time, mountains of paperwork, and school supply shopping (see this year’s $350 “required” pile in the photo above!), the first week (or day) alone can zap my sanity!
Yes, I’ve learned the hard way that I need a “back to school sanity plan,” and over the years, I’ve boiled it down to 7 strategies that, when followed, will ensure a successfully sane (and sweet) school-year for my family and me. I hope my 7 strategies will help make your school year a little more sane (and sweet) too!
1) Write down your top 5 priorities for the school year. Perhaps this year you need more family togetherness, or more focused study time with the kids. Perhaps you need to loosen up a bit, or maybe you need to tighten the reigns. What are your top 5 prioirities for the school year? For me, getting my family together for dinner, prayer, and family night is my main focus this year, whereas when they were younger, getting them out and entertained took top priority! Things certainly do change, so make it a habit to check in on what matters most at the start of (and throughout) each year. (Read “What Matters Most” for tips)
2) Get organized. 1) Create an area to keep all school-related papers, homework, and projects. We have a desk in our kitchen with two cubbies where I keep papers and to-be-completed work. Completed homework goes in the child’s backpack, in our “mudroom,” where each kid has a cubby for backpacks, jackets, and shoes. Whatever your system, having one place for everything helps everyone stay on top of things. 2) Set up a calendar and write everything down. I know, I always hated “day-planners” and “calendars,” but with a large family, I need them. I have a personal calendar on my phone, and a corkboard calendar in the kitchen for the family. They not only help my kids and me stay on top of things (even when I’m not home), but writing it down clears my mind of clutter!
3) Give kids age-appropriate responsibility and share the work! 1) Let them pick their own clothes, do their own hair, make their own lunches, or even walk or ride a bike to school! I know it’s tough to give wiggle room on this one, but giving kids age-appropriate choices and responsibility will not only make your life easier, and it will empower your child too. 2) Then, Share the work. Let’s face it, we parents are all working 24/7 and we need help! I know kids are busy nowadays, but housework is important in building responsibility and keeping kids connected to the family. All 6 of our children have chores, according to their age and ability; at age 8 I even have my kids do their own laundry—it helps me out, but, more importantly, it’s teaching them to take care of themselves.
4) Let go of the need to meet some parenting “ideal”. Not everyone’s cut out for homemade lunches, walking kids to school, and chaperoning field trips–that’s why we have school lunches, busses, and other parents! Instead, ask your children what matters most to them. It not only teaches them to prioritize, it will enable you to be present for the activities/events that they really care about and to let go of unrealistic and unnecessary expectations about being a “super parent”. Trust me, everyone will benefit if you learn to just let go! (For tips, read “Getting Good at The Let-Go’s”)
5) Commit to the “Yes” and “No’s” of After School Time. 1) Say ”yes” to being available after school. It’s hard, I know, but the fact is that the “second shift,” as I call it, is very important. When kids come home, they’re more likely to talk about their day, ask for advice on problems, and let you into their world. Often we parents have so much on our own schedules we end up frustrated by our children’s after school needs. Learn to accept that they need you after school and make it happen–it’s one of the most important things you can do! 2) Then, just say “no” to overscheduling! Spending all your time in activities wears everyone out and diminishes family time. With your top 5 priorities in mind, set limits on activities—it’s good for your children, you, and your family. Remember, saying “no” to an activity really means saying “yes” to something else–something that matters even more.
6) Make bedtime and sleep a priority. When you or your children are suddenly feeling stressed, when grades drop, or performance suffers, it can almost always be traced back to being too tired.We live in a sleep-deprived world, and too many of us underestimate the damage of too little sleep. Help your children sleep better by helping them wind down at night, getting them to bed on time, and getting yourself to bed on time too. A good night’s sleep will improve attention, focus, performance, and mood (and will also make the mornings much smoother)!
7) Take a break each day. If your kids are in school, make sure you take some time for you in the middle of the day. If you have little ones at home, set up “quiet time”. Even 15-30 minutes to do something you love–to take a short nap, a bath, to read, or to call a friend–can be just what you need to dive back in when that “second shift” rolls around.
What are your tricks for a back-to-school mental health? Share your school-year sanity tips with us by leaving a comment below!
Parenting Practice: “Sit back and enjoy the ride!”
Making the Most of Drive Time
The past three weeks I have been: 1) to Sea World with my daughters and their friend for my 9 year-old’s birthday, 2) to basketball camp in Utah with my 3 teenage sons and their friends, and 3) back to San Diego with my husband and our 6 children for our family vacation. I thought school-year chauffeuring was exhausting, but summer-time can be even more so!
Fortunately, I’ve also learned a valuable lesson from all this “drive time”. See, I love to travel with my kids, to show them new places and people, but it can definitely be loud and stressful. Past experience has taught me that the more people you cram in a car and the more hours you drive are positively correlated with the level of noise, crankiness, and arguing that’s bound to occur. But I was prepared to handle the stress, to keep order as much as possible, and to employ my music/audiobook-stocked iPod and headphones the minute the noise and stress became too much. You can imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered that my plan wasn’t benefitting me at all! In fact, by tuning out I was missing out! And so, I ended up letting go of my need to “be the parent,” to “keep order,” or to “tune out the noise” and instead decided to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Drive Time=Time to Connect
Sitting back, observing, listening, or even joining in the fun can turn “drive time” into a time to connect with our children and open our eyes to things we might otherwise miss. For example, these past weeks I have learned that: My 4 year-old daughter, “knows” mermaids are “real” and that they “live in Japan, of course!” My 9 year-old daughter is “crushing on” One Direction and intends to go downtown and perform their songs with her BFF to “make some money”. My 11 year-old son has been stalking the Verizon ads and telling his brothers, “They can do up to 10 phones now, so mom can’t tell me we already have the 5 cell phone lines we’re allowed!” My 13 year-old has apparently been doing very well with his “business” of selling sodas, chips, and iPod covers to his older brothers’ friends, and my 15 year-old is astoundingly good at doing accents (his “Russian” gets the most laughs)! Finally, I overheard my almost-sixteen year old son share his best pick-up line for when we finally let him date (in two months): “Kiss me if I’m wrong, but is your name Optimus Prime?”
See? There is so much to learn about and from our children, and even if they seem like small facts or unimportant details, to our kids these facts and details mean everything. Drive time is the perfect time to get to know our kids, if we’ll just be present and pay attention.
Here are some suggestions:
1) Let them choose the music—The music your child selects can give great insight into how they are feeling and what matters to them. I was pleasantly surprised last week when I let my oldest “DJ” our drive home only to find he’d given up the angry “rap” he was into last year and settled back into the “acoustic” music we used to play together on our guitars (a sure sign his teenage “angst” is coming to a close)!
2) Join in the games and the fun—For longer trips, play a good, old-fashioned car game (we prefer the A-Z game where the first to find all the letters of the alphabet on road signs wins), or participate in whatever games your kids come up with (my sons and their friends took turns drawing pictures of each other on an iPad. It was creative, hilarious, and highly entertaining for us all!)
3) Engage in conversation with your kids and with their friends–Kids act different around their friends. If you want to get to know this other side of them, drive their friends around too. Ask questions that help you get to know them, (What do you guys think about…?), joke around, make them feel comfortable. You’ll not only get to know your kids better, you’ll get to know the kids they’re hanging out with too!
4) Sing together!—Let everyone take turns choosing a song from the radio or MP3 and sing along. This not only helped me stay awake on our 8-hour drive from Utah, but I was shocked to find that my sons and their friends knew all the words to “Living on a Prayer” and “Jessie’s Girl”! Learn the words to their favorite songs, too. (I can sing along to Eminem (the clean songs), Katy Perry, Coldplay, or One Direction–and my kids think I’m pretty cool when I do!)
5) Laugh together!—Take turns telling jokes, share fun and humorous memories, or trade interesting stories. Laughing together makes for a very memorable ride!
6) If all else fails, just sit back and listen. Sometimes the best you can do is observe. Not every kid at every age will let you participate in their fun. (I’ve had my share of “Mom, can’t you put your headphones on?”, believe me!) I try to respect that sometimes kids just need to be kids without the eyes and ears of a parent overseeing everything. In these times I sit back, watch, and listen. You can learn so much by tuning in to what your kids say and do when they think that you’re tuned out!
I know it can get old chauffeuring kids to and fro (I’ve certainly had my share of complaints about it)! But trust me, if you make the most of your drive time it can help you get to know your kids (and their friends) in a whole new way. In fact, it can improve your relationship if you let it! So, the next time you are driving hither and yon with SUV-loads of kids, sit back and enjoy the ride!
Any tips you’d like to share for making the most of “drive time?” We’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment below!
Hello everyone! I am so happy to announce that I am now a regular contributor for 30SecondMom!
30 Second Mom is a fabulous website and smartphone mobile app that gives tips to moms in 30 seconds or less. All you have to do is visit the site, set up your login, select the topics and contributors you’d like to follow, and voila! Tips appear on your “stream,” tailored just for you! So, if you’re a mom-on-the-go, take a moment and visit www.30SecondMom.com. This just might be the “tip” you need to make your full life just a little smoother!
Check out a couple of my tips:
Summer Survival: Helping Your Kids Set Summer Goals (watch the 30 second YouTube video of this tip)