Kids Activities, side hustles

How I Wrote and Self-Published a Children’s Book using Kickstarter!

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With small children, my days are filled with requests to read a book.

Especially before naptime or night time!

As a book lover, perusing stores for wonderful children’s stories has been a fun part of parenthood and I hope to instill a love of reading in my children with beautiful stories and rich imagery.

Do you remember in elementary school getting the little scholastic flyer with books you could order, and you’d get so excited waiting for your order of new books? Ahhh, such a good memory (if you liked reading of course!)

There are some amazing childrens’ books, and I’ve taken to buying independently published books like this incredible book by adventurer and photographer Chris Burkard. Check out his Instagram account, by the way!

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The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth, my Favourite Childrens Book That I Found on Kickstarter!

Truth be told, there’s some shitty ones on my bookshelf as well.  And my kids pull those to read alllllllll of the time, and I catch myself moaning and promising I’ll get rid of them secretly.

As a side note, never be afraid to get rid of the books you don’t like.  The whole point is to actually read to your children and if it’s a book that YOU don’t enjoy, it’s pretty unlikely you’re going to read it to them, right? 

Here’s the process of how I self-published a children’s book (step by step overview)

There are so many things we can decide to do with our money.  We all make decisions around where we want to spend it.  What if you took some of your money you were going invest in your child’s education, or toys, or clothes, or whatever, and created a permanent, long-lasting legacy for them, by writing a book just for them?  Honestly, it is such a cool thing to do, regardless of whether you want to sell the book later on.

I personally couldn’t find any beautiful fantasy-inspired children’s books with gorgeous artwork (I grew up loving fantasy stories, mermaids, Pegasus and other magical creatures) so that got me thinking, it would be nice to have one for my children.  I also wanted to impart some really important lessons to my children.

We all raise our children hoping to share the truths we’ve come to discover in our time on earth.  What legacy do I want to pass onto my own children?

-A beautiful, creative and magical imagination they can tap into and escape to.  I want my children to have a vivid inner world. I believe magic exists if you believe in it.

-A sense of stewardship and love for the natural environments they have the privilege of growing up in.  Our next generation are the caretakers of this earth.

A sense of adventure and playfulness.

-A connection with bravery and courage.  I want both of my children, both male and female to know that courage is being afraid and doing it anyways, and that the greatest rewards & growth come with the greatest challenges.

-The knowledge that they have a deep inner well of innovation and creativity.  I believe this is something no computer, no technology could ever replace, and it is our duty to encourage each generation to tap into their brain’s potential (the human brain is not used to its full potential yet, we have far to go.)

The importance of lifelong learning and the constant pursuit of gathering knowledge and wisdom.

Big stuff, right? I decided to put these into the story.

 

The project was daunting and in all honesty, I didn’t know where to begin. But it felt right.  And that’s an important point.  You can have the biggest bucket list in the world but you also need to have an intuitive sense of when the time is right for one of those projects, and the patience to wait if it doesn’t quite feel right. I thought about this for 2 years before I did it, and felt ready in 2016.  I consider this the biggest check mark off of my maternity leave #2 bucket list (I started it on mat leave #2 and finished it just before mat leave #3.)

 

SKETCHING OUT THE STORY LINE & WORLDS OF KINTARA + FIND OUT A WAY TO BRING THE IMAGES TO LIFE

I started with sketching out some visual representations of the images I had in my mind for this story (many are based off of recurring dreams I have had since I was a child.)

I turned to Deviant Art.com, an incredible community of artists, and found a spectacular fantasy artist who took commissioned work and who had a beautiful visual style that matched my vision for the book’s artwork.  Over a number of calls and emails back and forth, we decided on 8 different worlds and renderings for a negotiated price.

BOOK COST RESEARCH

Next, I researched how much it would cost to put the whole thing together and print it, using different size dimensions and options.  I went with a Canadian company to start with, because it felt right to do so for the first edition print which was for my Kickstarter backers, and it was also my first time doing it.  It worked out to a few thousand dollars.  On-demand printing seemed to be in the $30-$40 range through blurb.ca (eventually I’ll find a more affordable printer but in the beginning my priority was to just get it done!)

RAISE SOME FUNDS TO PAY FOR ARTWORK AND A FIRST PRINT RUN

Obviously, I don’t have thousands of dollars to throw around on mat leaves, lol, so I decided to put myself out there and launch a Kickstarter Campaign to raise funds to pay for the artwork and print about 50 copies for backers.

I set the reward to be a copy of the book. It was my goal to cover the graphic design and printing with my campaign, which I set at $2000.  I really didn’t research Kickstarter a lot, I just figured it out as I went and looked at campaigns for books that I had bought for my kids and studied what they did.  I’m sort of glad I went in there so naive and overly confident.  It’s a lot of work to run a good Kickstarter campaign and once it got going, I threw myself in with daily updates, sharing of the story and development as it went along.

The Gates of Kintara Childrens’ Book Kickstarter campaign was successful.  To be honest, you really have to hustle hard on Kickstarter and social media to raise funds in time (Kickstarter prefers you stay within a 30-60 day window btw.)

Kickstarter also works on an all-or-nothing basis.  You have to meet your stated goal.

I was so grateful for my network of family and friends who were incredibly supportive and generous – they were the primary source of startup funds (95%) , with a few random donors  (5%) from the Kickstarter world!

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DEVELOPMENT OF THE ARTWORK:

The process was very fun, taking each image, developing the structure, then the colours, and sending each written page to the artist with an outline of the message I wanted to convey.   It is a surprising amount of work.

I spent every lunch time at work, over the course of a year working on the book, but what a cool way to spend lunch hour!

Here’s an example of the forest world.  In this world, the little girl (in her dreams) meets a magic being who encourages her to take her magic talents (caring for the natural world) back to her earthly life.

 

The little girl in this book is actually my daughter (I sent a photo of her to the artist) and each world is the landscape of recurring dreams I’ve had since I was a child.

PUTTING THE BOOK TOGETHER, FORMATTING AND PRINTING:

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This is where things got technical and if I’m being honest, super frustrating because this is where I hit a wall with technical ability. I simply couldn’t get the hang of how to use the Blurb Book formatting software or In Design software, and the terminology for the book dimensions and setup was like another language entirely to me.    Not to mention at this stage, I was very pregnant and about to go on maternity leave #3 and wanted to be done!

My brother has graphic design knowledge and totally helped me out with the formatting,  I pretty much sent him the artwork and he managed to get it all into the dimensions and pdf format for printing through Blurb.  The thing with blurb is that they offer discount codes of up to 40% so WAIT until one comes out and THEN print.  A 40% off code was conveniently released just in time and the second it came out, I jumped on it.  WITH the code it still cost over $30 per book, so anyone serious about self-publishing and selling printed copies should definitely consider other means, as you simply cannot compete with the children’s book market at those prices.

GETTING A BAR CODE IN CANADA:

In Canada, you have to register (free) for an ISBN Code (ISBN = International Standard Book Number) and all of it is done through the following Government of Canada website for no cost. Simply follow the steps and it is a very quick (less than 2 weeks) process start to finish.  I did this step right before formatting the final book for printing, as you’ll want to put the ISBN on your book cover (I put it on my back cover.)

PRODUCING AN E-BOOK

Once the hardest part is done (formatting for printing) I had to think abut formatting for an E-Book and possibly selling on Amazon.

I approached the project as three parts:

1.) Develop the book (1 year)

2.) Get the first edition printed and Kickstarter pledges fulfilled (2 months)

3.) Share the second edition with the world 🙂

     This third and final step has a lot of pieces to it:

– Edit a second edition (I am picky and want to edit the fonts and story now that i           have read it to my children many times!)

– Find cost-effective printing to make it commercially viable.

-Share it on my Podcast, the Great Parental Leave (read it for the kiddos!)

-List the 2nd edition on Amazon as a paperback and E-Book

I hope this gives you some inspiration!  Of course this is a major bucket list item and isn’t for the faint of heart but truly, you can do anything your heart desires and if you approach it the right way, it doesn’t have to cost a small fortune to self-publish a children’s book.  I did mine for less than $500 net cost when all was said and done.

I have a beautiful book written for my children now (my daughter loves that it is her in the book!) and a permanent legacy to leave them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happiness, Technology, The Great Parental Leave Podcast

Thriving in Early Parenthood. The Great Parental Leave Podcast is Coming! Sneak Peak.

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I believe that you can THRIVE in early parenthood, not just SURVIVE.

Truly.  I am passionate about this.

Back in my 20s, I didn’t want to be a parent.  EVER.  Why?  I found the overwhelming was that being a parent, was about losing your sanity, identity, free time and happiness.  In the media, in the grocery store, everywhere I saw people who were walking and talking this type of parenthood dialogue. I also saw a lot of unhappy parents. Frazzled, unhappy, short tempers and devoid of their own sense of identity.  I saw this happen to my mum who was a single parent at various stages, too.  Especially in my teen years (sorry, Mum!)

I became pregnant, and those voices amplified. Especially the voices from society and media that said, you’re not Carina anymore, you’re a MUM and just that. Even now, I find people calling me “Mum” when my name is Carina and lumping me into “Mummyhood” when all of us parents are so much more than that.  We are multi-faceted and multi-passionate. When I talk about my bucket list (this comes up in the podcast) and the ways in which I am thriving and loving life and continuing to grow personally, well-meaning people seem genuinely surprised that I am able to do this with 3 kids.

I decided to start this blog and now a podcast because I passionately believe that as a parent, you can continue on the path of rich personal growth and self-development. If anything, it is the best time.  Our children have arrived as the most amazing mirrors and teachers and we are all embarking on an accelerated growth path.  There is never a better time to do some personal development.

On the podcast I will be bringing some amazing guests to help you grow and evolve as a human being.  This is *NOT* a parenting podcast.  It is a personal growth podcast in the context of early parenthood, and it is designed to get you moving forward toward the lifestyle and future you want.  If anything, children helps us gain crystal clear vision on our values, opportunities for growth and the life we want to design.  Now, it’s time to take action.

Here is a sneak peek of the first episode.  I’ll continue to refine it technically (sound quality etc.) as we go along, bear with me, I’m still learning… but in the spirit of getting sh*t done, I present to you the first Great Parental Leave Podcast Episode, where I tell a fascinating story behind the blog and podcast.

In this podcast I talk about:

-What conversations with the dying in a hospice taught me

-Why well-meaning parenting advice made me not want to have kids

-How I turned my maternity leave around from surviving to thriving

-How a simple bucket list changed my life

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Have a listen, and leave me a comment.

 

What would you like to hear about on this podcast?  Who would you like me to bring on as a guest? THIS IS FOR YOU!  A sacred space where each week, you can listen to incredible guests and receive tools that will forever shift and improve your life.  Podcasts have profoundly changed my life and elevated my maternity leaves.  I hope this will serve you in the same way.

 

Xo,
Carina

Book Club, Creativity, Grounding, Happiness, Learning, Lifestyle Design, Mental health, Personal Development, Spirituality

Design your Own Parental Leave

wildflower (1)Welcome back from the long weekend, everybody!

A thought for you to meditate on today, as you go about your day.

Story telling versus story making.

Think about where you want to be in 5 years.  Are there changes you want?  I’m guessing the answer is YES.

So let me ask you this:  Will that future version of yourself, living that future life, still be walking around telling the same stories about yourself?  The world?  The way things are going?

Will you get there if you keep telling all of those old stories, that keep you where you are today? 

Or is it time to start writing some new ones?  How can you shift a little bit of your day?  Your thinking? The way you talk about yourself? What you commit to doing with a friend this week?  Start writing some new sentences.

It’s your story. Take the plot where you want it to, but remember to pick up the pen first.

Xo

Carina

 

Grounding, Happiness, Life Hacks, Mental health

How to Reset Your Mood, How to Reset Your Energy, How to Reset when You Return Home from Work to your Family

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You know that time… at the end of the day, when you are totally tapped out with your kids. Or, perhaps, when you are coming home from work a bit drained, and feeling entirely unprepared to step into “Mom?” with little people full of sparkles and light and energy, when that’s hardly what you are full of?   Yeah, me too.

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It’s always hard resetting our energy, our body language, our mindset and attitude.  Collectively we can call these our “disposition.” You can see dispositions in your partner too.  When they come home from work, are they still in work mode? Do they step right into family mode?  or somewhere in between?  The shift is hard, and it takes a lot of awareness.   At work I am paid to come up with ideas, be creative and be deep in thought and research whilst sitting still (mind body and emotional states are different).

At home, I am most effective as a fully present, playful, yet grounded mother.

I’m a scientific person and I like evidence, so when I heard about breathing exercises, I liked the scientific evidence that it downregulates our nervous system and rushing mind, but it didn’t quite land.  What I need is to connect the dots in my own life. I need to practice something myself and see for myself the benefits.

Years ago, I discovered a very quick and easy technique that I do literally every time I step into different roles or environments.  I’m a visual person so I like rich visuals – so once again I have engaged with my terrible water colour painting skills to help “paint” a visual of this exercise.

I originally learnt this exercise from a Navy SEAL Commander, Mark Divine and to make it connect for me, I adapted the application and visual how my brain works.

You may think at first that that world is very different from the maternity leave world, but it is not at all. For example, we are all humans, we are all working with 60,000 thoughts a day, how to not engage with all of them and stay focused on the clear priorities, values and results we want.  Some of the most useful things I have acquired from people like Mark, are super relevant in my own life.  I absolutely loved his book The Way of the Seal and most of the practices from that book, I have adapted to my own Commander Mom life, haha.

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So, I present to you, a very quick adaptation of Commander Divine’s Box Breathing Method that is very, very useful and relevant to our life as mothers.

A Tool to Help you At the End of Your Day After a Shift, or A Day With The Kids

Breast Reduction, Happiness, health coaching, Lifestyle Design, Personal Development, Physical Wellness, The Projects

What is Breast Reduction Surgery Like? What is the recovery like from Breast Reduction?

BREAST REDUCTION SURGERY AFTER BABIESWHAT IT WAS LIKERECOVERYAND MORE!3 days ago, I had a long-awaited breast reduction surgery.  It is hands down one of the best things that I have ever done and I am absolutely overjoyed with the results!

As surgery day approached, I did find myself googling what the surgery was like, and recovery would actually be like, and I questioned friends who had breast surgery.

In the spirit of allaying fears of surgery, I wanted to share with you what the recovery is actually like.  By contributing my story, I hope to reassure you that if you are considering the surgery, it is the best thing you’ll ever do and way, way less painful and much easier than you think it is.

The Fear of Surgery:

Undergoing a surgery with general anaesthetic is not an easy decision.  Regardless of how gritty, mentally strong, or courageous you are, the idea of being put to sleep and sliced open does awaken a primordial fear, and I definitely felt it when I was wheeled into the operating room. Watching everyone waiting to be wheeled into their surgeries on Thursday morning, you could tell that everybody gets nervous.  It’s soothing knowing you are not alone and the staff are so empathic and aware of it.

 

Being wheeled into the operating room did make me nervous, but the staff were so friendly and immediately put me at ease with introductions and a description of what the anaesthetic would feel like.

On the operating table, the iv was started which was probably the most uncomfortable part of the whole procedure, this was only because the iv was fresh out of the fridge and the cold liquid going into my hand made it ache.  It was just like running your hand under a cold tap for too long. That only lasted for about a minute, because once the anaesthetic started, I was out and off into a nice sleep.  I don’t remember anything.

I woke up in the recovery room quite dozy and relaxed, it did feel like a great nap.  I was gently eased into the environment by a lovely nurse putting a warm blanket on me and telling me I was in the recovery room and everything went great. I had been worried about being nauseous and I expressed these concerns to the anesthetist, so he was generous with administering anti nauseants.  They had also recommended wearing warm socks in surgery to keep my body warm, and I can confirm these did the trick! I wore my ski socks and wasn’t shaking or cold when I woke up.

The difference between expectations and reality is funny. I totally thought I’d wake up with blazing pain across my chest.  Reality? I felt nothing.  Seriously, nothing!

In a pleasant haze, I was wheeled back to the day surgery area (I stayed for 24 hours after surgery) and the nurses were diligent with administering pain meds, providing water and checking vitals.  They let me cautiously try some food to see if my stomach was up to digesting anything.  I was glad they encouraged me to take it slowly and carefully, as I was surprised by how ginger my stomach was – I did feel overly full just trying a bit of apple sauce, so I laid off and sipped on ginger ale instead.

You may be asking, how did the boobs feel?  I felt nothing in the first few hours after surgery!  I honestly was expecting to wake up feeling that hot knife burn of freshly cut skin, but I didn’t feel any of that thanks to pain meds.  I was in a comfortable front-fasten “granny bra” and the incisions had self-dissolving tape, with a layer of soft gauze on top.

Get used to sleeping upright!

I was very dozy after surgery, which is also influenced by the medicine, so the last three days have mostly been chilling in bed, drifting in and out of naps and getting up occasionally for a snack, to see the kids or make some tea.

The sitting up part is pretty important – you will be propped up with pillows and cannot lie down, or on your side. It will hurt too much if you try anyways, so you won’t 🙂

My husband bought a pillow from home which was fantastic . I highly recommend bringing a squishy pillow that you can manipulate to find a comfortable resting spot. I also couldn’t help but think that a travel neck pillow would work really well as well.  I’ve lived in my house coat or kimono the last few days which has been great, too. They recommend a button up shirt but tbh, fiddling with buttons and lifting my arms at the elbows was too sore. A housecoat tie has been way easier.

A big piece of recovering after surgery is staying in an upright position, even when you sleep.  It doesn’t make for the best night time sleeps, which is why you should really take some downtime the first 3-4 days after surgery, because you’ll want to sleep in the daytime.  Ironically on day three here, the source of most of my discomfort is my neck, which is seized up on one side from sleeping upright in awkward positions.  It’s bothering me quite a lot and giving me a headache! Make sure you do some gentle neck stretching after surgery and while you recoup, I wish someone had told me that!

I did have drains under either breast in the hospital, which they took out on the day of discharge. I was super nervous for this, because I remember having a drain removed after my emergency appendectomy a few years ago, and it was excruciating – I remember yelling as they pulled it out.  The nurse reassured me it was a painless and very quick removal and she was right.  She pulled the thin drain tube out and I didn’t even realize it was out. I was lying there, bracing myself, and there was nothing to brace for.

Appetite & Food:

I slowly got a bit of an appetite back about  8 hours after surgery, but not much of one, so I’ve focused on drinking lots of water, healthy fruits and vegetables and fibrous food.  The pain medication does constipate you, so I’ve been drinking 2L + a day along with restoralax. It’s been 3 days since surgery and I haven’t had a bowel movement yet which is not ideal, but this is the norm for me without even taking pain meds, lol. So definitely go with your own bowel movement benchmark for what constitutes constipation.

Other things I’ve been taking to help with healing are fish oil, vitamin c, collagen protein smoothies with lots of greens, and a good multivitamin and a fibre supplement.

What is the incision pain like?

I know that pain is very subjective and really depends on the person, so I’ll start with saying my pain tolerance is quite low.  For example, I completely tapped out at 3cm dilation in all three of my labours. I turned into a grey, puking mess and then it was epidural time, lol.  I’m not a pain hero and I don’t pretend to be. I don’t see the point in suffering and am in favour of pain meds. They offered me percocet in the hospital and aside from being curious having never taken it before, I was also like, why not?

The doctor will prescribe you a pain medication that will keep your pain very low, and you can certainly discuss opiate versus non-opiate painkillers.  I am currently on a medication that is an opiate, so it leaves me feeling a bit spaced out, very chilled out and pain-free.  I’ve never been on them before, so I started out just taking one and playing it very cautious, but two seems to make a real difference and give me a good stretch of no discomfort.

Right now, on the pain medication prescription, I do not feel any pain if I stay still. If I move, I feel discomfort on the incision spots that is very similar to a grazed knee.  I did accidentally move too much last night in my sleep and I woke up to hot burning, which was unpleasant but not worse than a bad cut.

In the interest of reporting for this blog, yesterday evening I did not take any pain meds in the evening to see how it naturally felt. I can say that the pain was probably up at like a 6/10, 10/10 being the worst I’ve experienced (labour!) The medicine does make a different and if you are prescribed it, just take it. Why suffer?  However, I believe that with breast reduction surgery, if you have high pain tolerance, you can get by simply taking tylenol or advil.

The pain of breast reduction surgery is more of a skin/ tissue pain.  It is a grazed / hot / cut / knife feeling.  Personally I find that kind of pain much more manageable than deeper muscle or joint pain.  It is very different for example, from the labour pain which I describe as a deep, aching, body turning inside out type of pain that overwhelms your senses, lol.

Asking for Help:

I am a mom of three children four and under, including a 20lb baby, which is problematic.  After breast reduction surgery you definitely cannot pick things up or move with the same freedom.  You’ll want to move in a configuration that is not unlike a T-Rex when you are up and about.

A, You are sore , B You will risk all of that beautiful work your surgeon has just done.

Just because you want to feel useful and contribute to your family does not mean you should risk the $10,000 worth of surgery you just had.  You can afford to take a week off of parenting.  You’ve got the rest of your life to be a parent.

It’s time for a Pep Talk. I know I am struggling a bit with this, so it’s partially a pep talk for me, but I hope you find it useful too!:

Please note you just had reconstructive surgery.  Don’t deconstruct it.  I don’t care if your toddlers are melting down and you are slightly dying inside because you can hear your husband getting frustrated with them. Let him struggle.  You have your own work to do. Don’t throw a life ring and in the process put your own recovery on the back burner.  If you are with someone who needs, wants and relies on your help (plenty of couples have this dynamic when it comes to kids) this is your time to test out a different dynamic and really advocate for yourself and stepping back for a few days.  I am feeling pretty lucky that my confident husband has been a rock star with the kids and we have a totally shared responsibility with the kids, but it is still hard when I hear the usual toddler meltdowns and him getting frustrated as he tries to wrangle everyone, especially while I lie here sipping a smoothie.

My 12 month old is crawling, but he needs a lot of picking up, dressing, helping and I have basically planned for not being able to do that for at least 4-5 days.  My mother in law has come to stay and is for the most part taking care of him, while my husband wrangles the toddlers.

My four year old can mostly dress and manage herself but the issue comes with preparing meals – I can’t get up to the cupboards or lift my arms.  So as much as I thought “yeah, she’ll be ok to deal with” the reality is you do need help for small children as well, even if they are independent.

If you have toddlers or a baby, make sure you have help with you for the first five days at least, and that the help is staying with you.

My husband and mother in law have totally taken over parenting duties from me and I truly, truly appreciate it. I’ve set up camp in our bedroom.

The eternal joy of being a mom is that even if you are incapacitated, your children will still want to be all over you.  I’ve been knocked and bumped and that has been unpleasant so we’ve had to have a few chats and I do have a few defensive pillows around my fort in bed.  🙂   I felt terrible doing this but I have also locked the door if I am feeling sleepy so that I can have some sacred space.  The toddlers are particularly clingy as well because mum’s just gone through surgery and has a big owwie.  Rather than them backing off, your children will be curious kittens and ever so sweet in their desire to help you in every way, right down to the hello kitty bandaids proferred with a sweet little smile “for your owwie boobies mommy.”

I’m really having to work at not jumping in and helping. It’s amusing to observe the typical mom dialogue in my brain that is feeling a bit bad for lazing around in the bedroom. It really kicks up when I hear my husband dealing with melting down toddlers, but you know what? I deserve this, I deserve to heal and take this downtime.

I often play the game of “what would my husband do” to shift my mindset and disempower these unhelpful thoughts, it helps me gain some much-needed perspective. If he’d had a surgery, he’d take it easy and recouperate while I jumped into action and made sure he was taken care of. So, I will let him do this for me.

Don’t play the mummy martyr game.  REST and ENJOY the downtime.   Go to chapters, get a nice book, read some gossip mags.  Line up snacks on the bedside table, lock your door and let your help deal with the children.  Ask someone to bring you something.  Nap if you need to, get up only if you want to.

When You Are Feeling Ready to Get up and About:

If you feel like you are ready to do something, take the following approach:  You as a mom will push your body further than it should go, all in the name of “momming” so whatever you *think* you can do, reduce that by half.

Think you can go to stampede with your toddlers for 3 hours in a couple of days?  (I genuinely considered this, this morning) – NO.  Instead, attempt a 10-minute walk around the block.

By the way, 3 days after surgery I’ve been attempting getting up and pottering around the house but I find after 30 minutes I”m ready to go back to the room and snooze or chill.  Also, listen to your pain.  If it starts increasing, it’s time to retire to your place of recouping and take ‘er easy.  Pain is such a good internal barometer of whether we are doing too much.

I prepared dinner plates for the kids last night and kind of regretted it afterward, as my incisions were burning (this was also when I had decided not to take any painkillers as I wrote about above, so I was already uncomfortable at that point.)  Today, I’m not going to bother that again.  It was a good little warning for me not to push it.

 

Time Off of Work:

Talk to your surgeon and take into account your own pain tolerance, energy levels, work requirements and healing tendencies, and err on the generous side when it comes to taking time off of work. Personally, I have opted to take two weeks off from work, and I’m really glad I did, as I have a long commute, 15 minute walk and usually have to carry a few bags to and from the office.  I’ve been waiting 15 years for this surgery and it’s a huge, momentous event in my life, so I want to honour it and give my body the time that it needs to heal.  Everyone’s healing time can vary from person to person depending on their general health and even how much tissue they have taken out.  It’s an individual story and an individual journey. We can’t perfectly predict the body, we can only use general assumptions and categories which no one person ever fits perfectly into, so when you decide on time off, I’d say, give your body the time it needs.

I hope this write up is helpful to you, whether you are considering breast reduction surgery, are awaiting the big day, or are fresh out of surgery.  Connect with me in the comments and please, offer any healing tips below!  I am told that the self-dissolving tape will do a great job of healing the incisions but I am definitely open to any scar healing advice you may have!  And if you’ve had the surgery, tell me what your own healing was like? We are all so different! 🙂   I enjoy the diversity of stories and experiences.

xo

Carina

Happiness, Personal Development, Productivity, time management

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Add this Approach to your Time Management.

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Time management. It’s a word that fascinates me. I study it. I present on it. I coach clients and students in this topic extensively. It is one of the most frequent requests that I get.

When we want to improve ourselves – either professionally or personally, the first place many of us go, is google. A close second is people we look up to or trust.

We open the laptop. We google, and then we search. Scrolling down the page, we select the links that stand out, delve in and read the practices, the tips, the tricks and the life hacks. Then, we go back to work with the best intentions, but quickly settle back into the same routines, the same habits and a sense that simply acquiring knowledge is notall there is to this puzzle of how to effectively manage our time.

Time passes, whether we use it or not.   We are so, so acutely aware of this as our babies grow before our eyes and their faces change in a DAY!  A DAY!

We are hyper-aware of this, aren’t we? Here I am writing this article. Here you are, reading this article. We care about how we use our time, and we want to use it better.

It turns out that time management is deliciously complex, and a perpetual balancing act. Any outstanding time manager knows it is an incredibly dynamic area of their lives with ever-changing needs. I’d be worried for a client if they weren’t having to juggle their lives. If they weren’t struggling. To struggle with time management is to engage with it. The people who say that they are constantly working to manage their time? I want to hear that. They are actively avoiding becoming entrenched in a routine. They are engaging with changes in their daily lives. They are moving forward with intention and avoiding becoming stuck. Struggling with time management means growth. Perhaps that is why it is such an enjoyable and ever-rewarding topic to dive into as a coach.

IT IS NORMAL to say you are struggling to balance your schedule because when you tell me you are struggling, it means you are working at it.  Remember that 🙂

There will actually never be a point in your life where everything is running smoothly.  Unexpected variables will come in – call from Daycare for a sick kid. Mega project at work and an injury at the same time. But there is a point in your life you can get to, and that is the ability to not stress when things aren’t running smoothly, to just embrace the bumps and not let it throw you off.  When you see “not normal” as “normal.”

 

Are you the general, or the soldier?

I could direct you to the time management matrix by Stephen Covey, or print out a nice Monday to Sunday schedule and have you analyze your day-to-day existence. Perhaps I could coach you on the way you conceive of time and your mindset around time.  You don’t need that. You already have had an advanced course in time, because you had a baby.  Time compressed, duties increased and you found yourself re-thinking all of your old routines , which got thrown out with the first diaper.

There is an important skill that these people  – these amazing mamas have – with mad schedules – BUT the calmness and presence and peace of mind that we all envy.  This is a skill that is not discussed as often as other time management practices:

This skill is the the ability to fluidly work at two different levels. The ability to operate at a strategic level (think of a Army General doing the goal setting, planning, assessments) and the ability to operate at a tactical level (think of a Soldier carrying out the work, boots on the ground.) You’re going to have to bear with me using military analogies, but I think we all have the gist of what each role involves.

The strategic level of time management is about consistently having the overarching goals and objectives nearby as the plan is made. A strategic time manager defines and understands priorities, can anticipate influencing factors, incorporate changes in those factors, and decide where, when and why to apply their efforts. They don’t lose site of their goal and are anchored. A strategic time manager takes the time to analyze and assess how things went, and looks at the execution of that plan (the tactical level.)

It is absolutley critical to set yourself a few goals, or things you want to get out of the maternity leave experience.  For my first born, it was learning about motherhood and choosing which parts I wanted to embrace, and other parts where I needed to define my own style.  And  embracing it (because I hated the idea of motherhood before I got pregnant.) A key theme was also slowing down. For my second born, it was about integration of motherhood with my professional goals and testing out balancing the twos.  Mental health improvement was also a big goal during my second maternity leave.

The tactical level of time management is about grounding oneself in the overall strategy, and then deciding exactly how to execute that strategy in real life. Tactics are the way that we actually achieve our goal in real, day-to-day life. In my opinion, the bulk of time management resources lie here. For a mother this may be, how do I manage the crushing fatigue, how to get some sleep in to gain some energy for other tasks.  Meal prep, scheduling some solo time, team work with husband and family, sharing a family iCal, and so on.

The weeks expand into months all too quickly. Do we take the time each week to circle back, think about the previous week, and the next week – do we carve out that 20 minutes? What does our execution look like? Did our week wind up being in line with our goals? What did we say yes and no to? Did we take new things on?   How many of those goals do we accomplish and how do we get them done? Were they done in a sustainable way and at a pace that we can keep up with over many months?

A strategic planner will ask these questions.  But a strategic planner will schedule this time into their day and protect it, as well. Outside of the work world, the best time managers I know are ones who get up before everyone else in the family – or take some alone time – in order to have some strategic planning time. They are also adept at dealing with unexpected events or variables because they have practiced thinking at the strategic level.  Those unflappable Moms who just get to work when all of a sudden their kid breaks a leg and they are trying to manage a baby at the same time but seem to make it to the hospital and deal with it all okay and with a good attitude.  You know those moms.

Months turn into seasons, and with this longer view, we are able to see which area we are dominant in, and how this has influenced our daily lives.

Productivity is great! Do more! Be more! There is a strong drive to be an excellent tactical executor. There is an INTENSE pressure in the Mom world to live in the execution world.  Diaper feed satisfy the baby satisfy the family do more be more do it faster.

And the thing is, we are creatures of habit, our brains want us to get into a routine so that it can automate some of its tasks. The danger here is that in this style of time management, this leads to the situation where we wake up one day and think wow, I am really overwhelmed, I’ve taken too much on, and I am feeling a bit out of control. My goal for you with this article is for you to think about how much time you live in the strategic time management world versus the tactical time management world. I want you to gain some awareness.

What does it mean to make good use of strategic planning? To use an analogy, these people are firmly anchored with their boat and know everything about the environment (including weather) around them, but their sails are not catching the wind. They’re not actually moving forward, despite knowing what they need to do. They’re so busy planning and studying the environment they forgot to put the sails up.

Some mamas are dominant in tactical execution.  I would argue this is the most common theme with mothers.  They are productive machines and there is powerful momentum in this approach. Efficient, fast, they don’t think past what has to be done right now and take on more.  But a departure from strategy means that these hard workers can (and do) take on extra tasks that result in loss of identity & fulfillment – away from the objectives and priorities set out in the role, in the sake of boots on the ground / get work done.

Living in a purely tactical time management world is, in a sense, to lose some power and control in ones daily life. Where all of a sudden you realize “I haven’t had a single evening to myself in three months, wtf.”  or “Wow, I am running on empty at this point and coffee and wine are literally helping me survive it.”

A purely tactical sailor, to go back to our analogy, has lost their anchor and are moving at a fast clip, with wind full force in their sails – however, they are so busy managing the full sails, that they don’t have time to assess, plan and reflect on the environment they are entering. They’re moving so fast in their day, that they cannot look up and are heading for bad weather – and when that bad weather comes, they are so busy managing their sails that they cannot adjust – CRISIS! A tactical time manager will experience a shakeup – perhaps the kids are home from daycare because they are sick – or a project has hit a road bump – and say, and I quote this: “I JUST DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS RIGHT NOW!”

With these analogies, you now have a feel for what it means to be a strategic thinker or a tactical executor. The most effective time managers get things done – yes – but they also know when to take a moment – to request from their husband or boss, to carve out space in their day and PROTECT that space in their day – so that they have a sacred space to plan, reflect and set their goals and intentions.

What do you truly want to make a priority in your life? What do you want to say yes to, and what do you need to say no to?  What does a week or a maternity leave, even,  look like with sound strategic thinking? Hindsight and foresight? Clear priorities and goals?

The most effective time managers are able to dance with strategic and tactical approaches, never losing sight of either one. It’s a fluid dance, sometimes we must put our heads down and go tactical, and survive it (with above mentioned coffee and wine) but when there is time to take a breath, we retreat inside ourselves to the strategic and find our anchor. And if there is no time to do so? Ask yourself why this happened.  Why didn’t you make space for this important part in your life. Were you caught up in the day to day?

To work at the strategic and tactical level in time management gives us the awareness and knowledge to clearly and effectively say “yes,” “no,” or “let’s renegotiate this” in our day to day lives.  If you struggle with setting boundaries, saying yes or no clearly, perhaps this is the right article for you. As a mama, life (and our families) will always be banging on our doors, and when they do, our answers need to be given with clarity, courage, confidence and the knowledge that, as Stephen Covey says, there is a “big yes” burning inside.

For further reading and inspiration around the “bigger yes,” you may want to read this fantastic article by Derek Sivers.

 

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Building a Business, Essays, Life Hacks, Lifestyle, Productivity, time management

Why you should reject the “OMG I AM SO BUSY” Busy Mom Mindset

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In my professional job at a Canadian University, I design and give seminars on a variety of topics that help students be successful at University.  It’s one one my favourite parts of the job and it has some selfish benefits – I get to learn and experiment with these principles in my own life before I share with clients.  I get to read books and research and then teach principles to others, that help me, too.

At this year’s class of 2020 induction the University brought in NYT best selling author, Psychologist & TED Talker extraordinaire Kelly McGonical speak to the class of 2020 on her new book, The Upside of Stress.

At its core, this amazing book is really about how to reframe stress and use the power of our own perspective and our own mindset, to reframe stress into a good thing. Chock-full of anecdotes and research, The Upside of Stress demonstrates the power of mind over body – and mind over life.

Those Books that Make a Difference

Often, the books that resonate with us the most, are the books that simply frame in English language, some kind of principle we’ve understood or known all along, but couldn’t fully frame. I think that’s why the book did so well.  The Upside of Stress hit home in so many ways. I only wish I had read it when I was in undergraduate studies myself.  It would have saved me so much self-imposed “I’m soooo busy!” drama.

I didn’t figure out my stress stuff until the age of 30, when I experienced really heavy stress.

In the spirit of this book, and the approach McGonigal takes on reframing stress, I wanted to talk about how we can re-interpret stress & the cult of “busy” in the journey of motherhood. We can’t change events or circumstances, but we can work on how we viewtalk about and decide to interpret things.

 

Mom 1 to Mom 2:  Hey…are you a member of the cult?

Mom 1:  wtf?

Mom 2:  The cult of busy of course! WE ARE SOOOO BUSY! (takes off chasing toddler)

 

Whenever I mention to people that I have two small children (toddler and 1.5 year old) the first thing they do is shake their heads and say “oh, that’s busy.”  I often don’t even mention that I have children because I don’t want to induce such worry!

Sometimes I get “oh my god, you must be so busy” with a shake of the head, other times, slightly more worringly, it is with genuine concern / resignation.  I catch myself thinking  “oh?” and sort of start to doubt myself, like I should be more stressed than I am.  Maybe I’m not working hard enough?  Am I not doing something right as a parent?  Because I feel actually ok? Am I being a horrible parent because I’m obviously taking time out of parenthood to work on some business goals and people don’t do that?  Oh yes, they creep in.  As much as I keep them out, they creep in when someone looks at me with an alarmed look on their face with the mention of two children under three.

The problem is, I kind of don’t want their perspective.

If bought into this whole “my life is so horribly busy and I work so hard and I am exhausted and omg” it would be a bit of a disaster.  I would have immersed myself in the cult of busy. I’d probably be on a really high SSRI dosage.  I’d be in counselling.  I’d be struggling to deal with the left curve balls that sometimes get thrown my way.

It’s a devious cult, this cult of “busy” and it is hard to emerge from because it takes over the way you see things.  It’s a mindset.

If my mindset is like this:  MY LIFE IS MAXED OUT, I AM SO BUSY AS A MOM HOLY SHIT, I definitely would not be giving myself the mental space for anything else to happen, ever.  Because I’d be red-lining on everything, all the time. I wouldn’t have done any of the things I’d done on mat leave, or started any businesses or projects.

It led me to wonder, how come everybody says “you must be so busy.”

Why?  There’s tons of influences. In coaching we call it societal discourse.  It’s the hum of conversation around a topic that seems to be widespread.

First, it might be a cultural thing.  There’s a sort of pride, achievement in saying how busy you are.  If you are busy you must be super productive and successful.  I must be super productive and successful.  Therefore I must be busy. That’s the underlying assumption that occurs out there in the world when you have a lot on the go.  The ego likes that.  Then it doubles down when you are a Mom, because we have this weird guilt thing where we feel like we have to justify our very existence with double the hard work, right?

Some people are genuinely maxed out with life, and that’s totally cool.  I’m not judging.  But I write this post to help others who want to “catch” themselves in the mindset and take the edge off of it, because I think a lot of opportunity opens up with just a shift in mindset.

Where else does this whole busy mom thing come from?

There’s movies about the harried, flustered Mum.  Commercials that want you to think you are busy because then you’ll need their product.  Capitalist society wants you to be busy and stressed, because then they have solutions for you for only $10.99.

Moms are always portrayed as stressed and frazzled, aren’t they?  Everywhere we go, everything we see.  And it’s kind of our fault.  We don’t look up from our phones to pay attention to a mom calmly playing with their kids in the park – we only notice the exceptions.  They’re more interesting.  The 5 minutes in the day where the kid has gone bat shit crazy, and is about to take down a shelf at the grocery aisle, with Mum valiantly trying to save the kid from himself.  But we don’t notice the quiet moments – not the other 1440 minutes where they are doing well and things are calm.

The exceptions become the norm, then media and society immerses us in that norm.

 

Because of reading books like McGonical’s – books from different people with different mindsets, who all experience the same things we do yet see them in a different way –  I discovered that there is more to it.  There are people out there who achieve amazing things as parents, and they think differently.

The key is if we want to be something, or do something, we need to study those who are successful at it, and look at their mindsets.  

We are not resigned to this fate of busy, harried, stressed out moms.  We can be busy, yes but we can be in control and cooly, calmly and pleasantly say no if we need to, or yes if it’s a priority. We can choose yes or no and make our lives as busy, or quiet, as we want to.

The luxury of choice also extends to our own minds.  We have the luxury of making a choice of whether to believe we are busy or not.  With two under three, I decided that I was not busy; I still had time.  And with that time, I could pursue goals and dreams and projects and priorities.

Sure, free time was compressed from 3 hours (luxurious evenings pre-children) to 1 hour (while children or napping, or while I am on lunch break at work.)  but I still had an hour free time each day in some form or another.  Free time is free time.  I sat down and looked at my week, and where the gaps of free time happened (6-7am, lunchtime at work, and 8-9:30pm) and decided what my most deeply held goals and values / priorities were. A crystal clear priority plan I still have on my iPhone notes when I need to remind myself what I want to say “YES” to, and as a source of strength when I have to say “NO” to things.

In this or that hour of free time, there went the goals and projects.  Writing a childrens’ book.  Running an Etsy store.  Reading and learning.  Finishing my coach training and launching a coaching business.  But they weren’t OMG JUST MORE SHIT TO DO.

These were all consciously chosen and pursued dreams and goals that I looked at as my idea of fun on free time.  I wanted to do these.  That’s just me. That’s what I define as enjoyable and rewarding.  Others may be Netflix or catching up on laundry, that’s okay too!  But do you tell yourself “AAAAGH!” or “COOL, IT WILL BE NICE TO SWITCH IT UP AND DO THIS INSTEAD.”

Is your approach an “ I HAVE TO” approach or a “I WANT TO” approach?

I don’t mean to be a jerk but I do mean to give a cold hard dose of reality with this post –  if you came back and said to me NO SERIOUSLY I HAVE NO FREE TIME I would debate that. I would want to see a week’s breakdown of your life, and I would ask you about your mindset.  I would ask you about what you said yes to, what you said no to. I’d ask you to put “yes and no” in the box according to what you said when that opportunity came up.

What qualifies in your life as free time?  What activities are you designating as “I have to” and  as “I want to.”

Let’s take this external event, I’ll show you an “I have to” and “I want to” mindset.

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Deciding to take the kids to the library.  Two different experiences.

Mum 1:  Agh I have to get them out of the house and this is my to do today.  It’s just one more thing on this massive list of things I am supposed to get done today. Work work work! Busy busy busy! I have to get this done!

Mum 2:  Ah awesome, with this hour I’m going to decide to take the kiddos over to the library, that’s a treat for us, a fun excursion and a break from the day’s routines. I want to do this !

SAME external life event for both moms.  Two TOTALLY different ways of perceiving it. No wonder when you come across people in the library everyone is in a totally different state of mind; look at how different their beliefs can be.

Mum 1 is living in the  “holy shit I’m so busy / stressed” narrative. Mum 1 feels that everything is outside of her external control and she’s just dragging herself along.  Mum 2 is living in a more in-control narrative that doesn’t see everything as obligations and duties.  Mum 2 is operating by choice.  They may both have busy lives and the same schedules, but they have different mindsets and ways of perceiving the situation.

What do you think Mum 1 and Mum 2’s lifestyles look like?  Do their thoughts serve them well?  Do their mindsets move them closer to goals they have?

 

 

When you wake up in the morning and you have a particularly big day of activities coming up – whether you work or stay at home, do you feel that anxious energy and think “I JUST WANT TO STAY IN BED OMG LIFE IS SO OVERWHELMING AND THIS IS JUST CRAZY”  Or do you feel that anxious energy and think “cool, this is a little tingle of excitement and anticipation getting me ready to execute a big day!”

The brain quite literally  changes its wiring and neural pathways to accommodate your thinking patterns.  Each time  you choose to think a certain way, you are either reinforcing the pathways present – or helping the brain to reshape itself and habitually think a different way.

If you start reading books by all of these cool women who have kids and have achieved awesome things, youll notice that most them tend to go through the exact same scenarios that we moms do – but they frame it differently.  They make the choice to think things, and form their brains in ways that will help them toward their goals. You as a mama know how quickly time passes, so think about what you want to achieve.  Whether you use it or not, time will pass.  You already know this better than anyone, as you sit with your baby and think “where did the time go?!”

If you want to join the cult of busy and the stress narrative, that’s your choice but ask if it serves you and gets you towards your goals.  There’s an alternative that will help you take on new things and grow.  You just have to choose it.

xo

 

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Extra reading *and viewing

 

Amazon link:  https://www.amazon.ca/Upside-Stress-Why-Good-You/dp/1583335617

McGonical’s online course through Stanford University http://online.stanford.edu/course/upside-stress

Kelly’s personal website http://kellymcgonigal.com/

 

Happiness, Lifestyle, Personal Development, The Projects

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave: Create a Vision Board on Pinterest – It May Change Your Life.

 

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Do you remember watching the Secret years ago, when it came out?  John Assaraf, one of the entrepreneurs talked about setting up a cork vision board and he’d pin magazine pictures, etc. to it.  Back in the 90s I had what was like the early predecessor of a pinterest board or vision board.  I had a black journal and in it I added pictures of Britney Spears, dream wedding rings, TONS of nail polish art and urban decay makeup swatches, my dream car, my wedding dress, all that usual teenage dream stuff.

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The strange thing is, I found it the other day and I was more than a bit taken aback by the photos of women I wanted to look like, and the engagement ring I had pinned all the way back then.  I have that wedding ring.  My husband chose it out independently.  My dream car in that book. I am driving it now.

At the time, when I added those magazine pictures at the age of 14 these were all just pipe dreams.  Yet, so many images from that book, I have in my life now.

This brings  me to today’s topic:  How Pinterest has been an absolute game changer for me in strategically and intentionally crafting my goals and lifestyle.

I started Pinterest about 3 years ago and have accumulated thousands of pins and hundreds of boards.  One of my most active ones and a regular practice to this day, is pinning images from the future that I would like, to a board I called “My Future Life.”

It is the most relaxing, enjoyable activity. I could have the worst day possible and aside from having a nice craft beer, lol, this is one of the single best tools to lighten my mood.  But, my pinterest habit has turned out to be more powerful than that.  My life is slowly becoming that board.  I am skeptical and I don’t like woo-woo. I shut down at the mention of feelings, emotions and heart chakras and dreams.  But there is most definitely something going on here.  So what is it?

Actively pinning images onto a vision board has profound effects in the brain, and your own awareness/energy flows.  The act of immersing yourself in visualizing a future life that excites you is good for the body, the mind, the emotions. It turns your attention to your goals and a place of deep motivation.

After an evening of pinning, imagining the future life you will have, it is implanted both in your conscious and subconscious. You can’t help but subconsciously and consciously make small decision that will get you closer to that vision.  I have one beautiful image of the hot tub at the  Willowstream Spa, up here in the castle of the Rocky Mountains – the Banff Springs Hotel.  It is VERY fancy, VERY expensive and something a bit outside of my lifestyle.  But, I pinned it to my board as a future goal, a future vision.  And I wrote under it “one day I will be doing my work from a laptop here with a glass of wine.”

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Pins from my future life 

 

 

I pinned that 3 years ago, and this past March, I found myself sitting in the hot tub at the Willowstream, sharing a day pass with a good friend and business mentor, having a business strategy summit.  The moment I realized it, an excited chill went down my spine.  This stuff works.

The beauty of that hot tub and spa never left me after I pinned to that board, and as I went along my in my day to day life it was there, sitting in my unconscious.  When an opportunity to go there came up (that required some shuffling of schedules) I didn’t even hesitate.  On the secret they talk about how events, people and things are attracted to you if you put the intention out there. Is it a coincidence of all people, my friend asked me to go to the Willowstream Spa with her to do some business coaching and strategizing?

The brain takes in a lot of data, both on the conscious and subconscious level.  It is estimated that it is crowded with more than 50,000 thoughts per day.  We are always thinking of random things we want to do , or see things that make us think “oh wow I want to do that!!” but they disappear just as quickly as the thought arrives, lost in the mass of brain activity. What if we took that thought, captured it on a pinterest board and came back to it once in a while, to keep it there, and present, floating on the surface?

 

Let yourself be absurd. Interior design. Exotic vacations. Laughing family winter pictures.  A hike that looks like it belongs on an outdoor magazine.  Pin it, and in the notes write down how it makes you feel, or something about that image.

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Underneath a hiking family I wrote “our best adventures will be outdoors” – my values and dreams wrapped into one image, and at that point my family was unborn. You can probably guess what we do these days.  I go back and review what I pinned and my weekends with the kids are anything but dull in the pursuit of these dreams.

So try it.  Pin it.  The activity of just pinning is so enjoyable, to let your mind dance among dream places, things and people.  And let your soul go to work on achieving it behind the scenes, because one day you will wake up and realize, holy shit.

I am here.

Happiness, Personal Development

I Didn’t Have a Motherhood Mentor or a Mom to Help Me – But Everything Worked Out.

Most of the motherhood and entrepreneurial podcasts I listen to emphasize again and again the importance of finding a mentor.  Someone whom you can learn from, look up to, aspire to be, and converse with along this complex journey.

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I couldn’t help but think that this is  an area of life in which I have not had a lot of luck / success.  I’ve had an interesting life path in which I haven’t had many mentors in my life other than my god father and grandfather (family.)

When my daughter was born, I was fresh out of losing my Mum to cancer and swimming in a world of overwhelm and grief and total lack of knowledge in the whole motherhood world.  I was terrified and insecure.  Unprepared, I was thrown into the deep end without water wings. I didn’t know how to bathe her, dress her, or anything.  (We chose not to do birth and babies classes because we were so busy caring for my mum through chemo, medical emergencies and the hospice process.)

In those few months of the fourth trimester, my friends all banded together and supported me in various ways, whether it was showing me the ropes, explaining the totally overwhelming world of baby bottles, or how to dress a newborn (this was totally intimidating to me.)  I also did SO MUCH you tubing, from figuring out my stroller, to installing my car seats in the car.

I have become pretty open to (and comfortable with) asking for help, knowing the day will come when I can help others.  Asking for help is hard, because you never want to be the one draining resources, but there is something more challenging than asking for help – finding a mentor. It is a two-sided process.  The mentee has to seek out or expand their social networks in the search, but the mentor also has to open up, and voluntarily step into that role, which is a commitment in itself, because it asks the mentor to open up and share their insights, successes and failures.

Last year, I met a wonderful friend who also became a business mentor – from whom I have learnt an absolute ton, which I am so thankful for.  Mentorship in this area has been deeply foundational for me as I step into the entrepreneurial world.  Mentorship can be as simple as a voice that says “I believe in you” and “these are some of the ways  you can do it” – someone to learn from as well as bounce ideas from.  The value of mentorship is being able to have open, honest conversations about strengths, weaknesses, fears and excitement.

Do you have a mentor in any area of your life?  In your spiritual life?  Motherhood life?  Self development life? Athletic life?

I longed for a motherhood mentor whose style I looked up to and identified with.  Being one of the first of my social group to have kids, was in it alone.  I had a few friends with older children, with styles of their own, who gave me tips and tricks which was wonderful, but the deeper stuff was experienced internally and at counselling.

People like to complain about the internet but I am SO thankful for it – for vloggers and websites like the pregnant chicken – who kind of became my mentors as I figured things out.

Eventually, I found my groove and the confidence to try things out myself and get a system going that worked for me.  But it was a lonely journey.

But then, looking back, maybe it was a good thing I didn’t have a mentor.  Because, in the absence of information, I went out looking.  I read about RIE parenting, I read about mothers bringing up babies in foreign countries, I created a Pinterest board with about 10 different lifestyle / mom blogs, and threw friends and older parents a million random questions.  I listened to podcasts and searched the internet for different perspectives.  The best way to learn is to seek out the information yourself.

I gathered information, sifted through it, picked a few things I liked and tried them out.

 

But there was a second piece to developing my motherhood style:

I went through a process of journaling, strengths exploration and values exploration with a life coach. I figured out what I really stand for, who I am and what I am good at.  What kind of life I had, and what kind of life I want for my children.

Knowing what your foundation is is so important.  It becomes your own compass – a compass upon which I base my parenting and all decisions regarding the life I am creating for these lovely children. No decision feels 100% correct or secure, but if the compass is pointing in the right direction, I just go for that decision with no regrets.

Mom mentors are wonderful, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry – you’ll find your way and you will develop an internal compass within a few months – or maybe a few years.  As long as you keep exposing yourself to information, exploring yourself, learning about who you are, and reflecting.   Who knows, maybe one day you will be a mentor to another mama.  Maybe they will look at you and think “I want that person in my life.”  Maybe they will look at you, and admire you, and want to understand your journey.

And the thing is, you’ll understand how they are feeling and what they are going through.  And that is what makes the best mentor.

The challenges you go through now – including feeling isolated or lonely – are meant to happen to you, because they are forming who you will become.

And maybe the person you are becoming, is going to help another mama somewhere down the road.

 

 

 

Essays, Free Life Coaching Guides, Happiness, Personal Development

How to Have a Great Maternity Leave – Listen to Podcasts (Like Tim Ferriss and Tony Robbins)

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As usual, listening to the Tim Ferris podcast this morning blew my mind wide open.  Sure, it could have been the bulletproof coffee too, but the combination of the two are magical on a morning commute.  Especially when he has Tony Robbins on.

Like me, Tony Robbins is a life coach, albeit a very experienced and world famous one. 🙂

If you haven’t heard his work, maybe check out his TED talk, “Why We Do What We Do” with more than seventeen million views (!)

Early in the podcast, Tony asks Tim an important question.

Usually I just sit and listen to the podcast, but the moment he asked this question,

I was off in another world, contemplating my 34 years of life up to that point.

I love it when Tim Ferris is stumped on his own podcast =)  There was some serious contemplative silence on the podcast.

(insert suspenseful silence here.)

When I work with a client and they don’t answer, are stumped or say “I don’t know” it is so exciting. In coaching this is gold.  

One of the main goals of a professional coach is to help the client dig deeper, discover and become aware of things they were previously unaware of.  It’s like walking into a dark cave, but this time, you have a flashlight, and as you shine it into the dark, you see pictographs on the wall, stalactites and stalagmites, perhaps the sparkle of some crystal formations.

All of a sudden the story of the cave, and everything about the cave has changed.  Your perception of the cave and your expectations of it have totally changed.  And now, your experience and actions inside the cave are going to change.  Instead of afraid at the entrance, you are immersed in exploration and wonder at the natural world.  Because of a flashlight.

Life is a bit like this, too.  These are “ah hah” moments which are precipitated by powerful questions.  Which is why Tony is so good at what he does.

Magura cave, Bulgaria
Rock formation inside the cave Magura near, Belogradchik, Bulgaria – Image from Colourbox

 

A coach like Tony Robbins shows you how to pick up the flashlight and switch it on, and as you explore the cave, and undergo discovery, adventure, and reassessment of everything you thought you knew, the coach is there, at your back.

 

So back to the podcast…

What was the question that stumped Tim Ferriss?

Tony asked “whose love did you crave growing up

 I thought about this in my own life.  As should you.

My Mum was love itself.  I don’t remember craving it from her, but like Tim, I do remember craving love from my dad.

 

Next, Tony asked this gem.

 “Who did you have to be for your parent, to have his respect/love.” 

“gut reaction, no filter…”

 

This takes a while to answer because it is deep in our subconscious.  We’ve never consciously thought about it.  Ah hah.  Here’s a dark cave.  And Tony’s question is the flashlight that has just been handed to you to shine into that dark abyss.

I don’t mind sharing my personal  life here, if it helps you examine your own questions.  And I admire Tim for going there with Tony live, on a podcast.

In my interpretation, I had to be brilliant, intellectually of high calibre, and also athletic, to  have my dad’s respect / love.  

I think back to childhood, I remember the pride and recognition I received from my dad on my first black diamond ski run, his frustration at my slower learning curve, disappointment when I was cut from teams in my teens or when I cried on said ski runs.  The hard pushes beyond my comfort zones in athletic activities,  and his focus on learning, pushing higher, doing better in mathematics, homework and study time, bring home good grades, the hours spent at the dining room table trying to grasp math and counting coins.  Lots of pushing.  hard.  To be extraordinarily talented was to be loved.

He wasn’t around much from the age of 11 onward, but I do remember all of those phone conversations, the first thing I’d bring up was sports and academics, in a bid for his love and attention, which with an absent father, was so craved.

What about you?  Think about what you needed to be for the parent whose love you craved?

Then Tony asked, what about your other parent?   What did you have to be?

Tim, like myself, felt like he didn’t need to be anything with his Mum.  He could just be himself and she embraced and encouraged it.  Same boat with me. The love was there, unconditional, no strings attached, but most importantly, my mum rolled with who I was and encouraged it.

 

Why do these questions matter so much now that we are parents? 

Because we are in the journey of learning about and thinking about the love we express to our children, and how to nurture and encourage them. These questions make us realize that we carry things with us forward into the present day, that were established long ago in the past.  We have the power to become of aware of them, and change them if they do not serve us.

Until 2010 I unconsciously struggled with the impact that my father left on me.  Hard driving, hard pushing to achieve, and show him I am smart. I can do this. A masters degree, no doubt completed in part as one final attempt to get some love and acceptance which I so craved from him (we have an estranged relationship.)   Now I can just accept that pushing myself so hard in grad studies and the difficult journey in 2007-2010 was in part, due to this dynamic in early childhood. I was able to let this go after 2010 through a heck of a lot of self reflection and exploration, but Tony beautifully encapsulated and explained it today and finally gave me a better framework with which to understand the process.  He also made me much more mindful of what I want to do with my own children, and the importance of unconditional love and celebration, and encouragement of who they are instead of who I would love for them to be.

I’m going to guess there’s at least a few people, like me, who are winging this parenting thing and learning as they go, and what a beautiful lesson this morning that I stumbled on by chance as I drove to work.

We go through this world carrying a master assessment.  Our interpretation of our life.  Our story.  It’s like a filter through which everything, every event and situation, flows.  Even our parenting decisions.

To be a great parent, is to know ourselves, and be aware of that which was previously automatic, unconscious.  So that we can make the decision to either continue, or upgrade.

Aside from googling random shit on parenting, poops, and feeding, we can ask ourselves:

Where do our master stories begin? Where do we start to craft our view of the world? What influenced it?

The earliest place is in the home and in our earliest interpretations of love and recognition from our parents.

You are born a blank slate (though my spiritual beliefs include the journey of the soul through various lives) – I like Tony’s words:  “You are born wide open.”

A beautiful, wide open human, open to experiences and learning.  There is no filter yet. Babies and children are simple, pure human beings, operating with pure emotion and authenticity, from day one. Their world is their family and the love surrounding them.

I see this every day in my professional work coaching students.  They walk into my office with a proverbial suitcase rolling behind them.  Before I even work with them on study skills, as a coach I work to unpack and understand the master story they walk in with.

 

Just like the body learning motor patterning (like learning to catch a ball,) we begin emotional patterning. We see and interpret things, craft a master story and then walk with it the rest of our lives. Sometimes it serves us well, sometimes it no longer serves us and we desire change.

I love this idea.  It is beautiful.  

It’s not even an idea, I’d say it is a truth.  

As we think about how we express our love to our children (when, where and how)

we can begin to think about the imprinting that is going on.  What are we passing on? How are we modelling love to them.

It’s such a tricky balance between passing on great morals, values and shaping them into good people, but also embracing and encouraging who they are.  Allowing them to be them selves and the best version of themselves.   That’s why parenting is so diverse!

Ask yourself the questions above.

I’ve said from day one that maternity leave, and parenthood cracks you wide open and you are in a state of deep learning.  There is no more powerful time in your life to explore, understand and reconfigure.

Which brings me to close this long form blog post.

With your child, are you working to model them, or are you working to embrace and let them go with who they are?  It’s a fine balance between passing on great values, morals and shaping them into good people, but also embracing who they are and providing a font of unconditional love.