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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am bringing one of my deepest passions to the blog today, and gosh, it makes me so happy to talk about this and what it has given us! So let’s get started!
Every Saturday morning for two hours, we engage with nature through an “Urban wild program” put on by a researcher and Royal Rhodes Student here in our city, sponsored by the Canadian Wildlife Federation through their “Family Nature Club” program which provides resources & insurance for families to set up their own nature clubs (how incredible is that?)
There are story times, free play, guided activities, nature based arts and crafts and educational components, with Alex’ wonderful ecologist/biologist knowledge. Each week, we submit a journal with reflections upon our experiences as a family. For example, this was my submission 2 weeks ago.
Each week, we explore the incredible parks and provincial park areas that are dotted across our city with different units and activities. The mornings are a combination of free play & exploration, story time, an arts or crafts activity, and a biology / ecology learning component. Today was learning about wetland invertebrates and wildlife, with nets for the children to catch animals to examine and identify.
Growing up a “wildling” who spent her days in the forests of southwestern Britain, I knew that I wanted my legacy to be giving my children a love and appreciation of nature, and a sense it will always be a home for them. In any type of upheaval in my life, I always go back to the forest, and walk among the trees, asking them for their stable and grounded energy.
Standing, watching my daughter romp in creeks, throw rocks and construct stick structures in muddy mole piles gives me nothing short of true joy. But today, the gift was given to us, the parents – particularly as we walked down this path dappled with sunlight, that was lightly fragranced with wild roses and featured the singsong of busy bees buzzing away.
Pulled away from the program for 2 weeks due to death in our family, we have been scrabbling to keep ourselves above a chaotic tide of emotions, the business and administration of death and critical illness, while trying to balance work and my husband’s intense training with the fire department. Not to mention, rearranging all of our childcare so we could both show up at our jobs. (When it rains, it pours.)
We were feeling maxed out in all senses of the word when we came to the urban wild program on Saturday, squeezing it in before our fathers’ celebration of life.
There was something in the air at Pearce Park in Calgary, those 2 hours we spent in the park, much like the pollen floating softly in the air, had a gentle, restorative energy.
Both of us walked at an easy pace, as the air we took into our lungs was let out with big sighs – silent to the bystander, but a full-body experience for us.
As we stood in the dappled shade, watching our daughter wading with a net, we were able – for just a moment – to let the outside world go and enter the delightful world of chubby toes wriggling in the water and little fingers picking up smooth pebbles.
So today, the urban wild program gave us, the parents the biggest gift. As we sat at home having a cup of tea afterwards, our tuckered little ones gently snoring, we realized that nature has an unparalleled power to reconnect us, to ground us, and to steady us in the chaotic tides of life.
Our little Urban Wild Nature Club also introduced us to some wonderful nature-based books for children. Each Saturday, I joined the kids on the picnic blanket, equally enthralled with these books, which I intend to add to my daughters’ library!
(page from the book Noisy Bird Sing Along, link below!)
My daughter for weeks now has been able to respond to the chickadees singing in the trees, thanks to the one week we had a morning read *and sing* along with a bird themed nature club.
Below are links to two of the books from the program. Please note, I get a very small commission if you decide to purchase either of these books – which means the Great Maternity Leave can continue to grow and offer more posts 🙂
Have a look at the children & nature network of the Canadian Wildlife Federation. Is there a club in your area? If not, perhaps start one. For yourselves and a few family friends. Nature is a gift & it is waiting for us, waiting to open its welcoming arms and take us home.
Here are some of my favourite resources that inspire me to get out with my family in YYC and surrounding mountains and reconnect with nature.
This week is a HUGE week for me this week. I’ve wavered back and forth, wondering if I should go into the week casual, and not put too much significance in it… or whether I should honour the significance of it and treat it as a big deal.
MATERNITY LEAVE IS OVER.
On Monday I returned to work, full time, after an amazing year off with my second born. Here in Canada, we are blessed with a years’ leave.
My first maternity leave I as quite excited to return to work. I absolutely love what I do for work and the people I work with. That sentiment did not change. I was excited to return this week.
However, things shifted a bit between my first and second maternity leaves.
My first, I was not feeling particularly sad. I was excited for the opportunity to get into a nice motherhood / working professional balance.
My second, I came home after the first day of work and cried. And cried, and cried.
I know, in my heart, that I love my job, my career and wanted to go back. I know that being full time at home is not optimal for me. Yet, this time I was so much more sad and full of emotion.
I think I have grown leaps and bounds in terms of comfort with expressing emotion. I don’t hide it any more. I just honour it and let it be. I am not petrified of crying like I used to be. It’s just water on my cheeks. Not the end of the world. And I’ve learnt after 3 years of multiple joys and tragedies, that if you don’t let yourself experience emotion for what it is, it gets trapped inside of you in all sorts of strange ways. Perhaps in the body as pain or ailments. Perhaps in the mind as depression, or anxiety. I’ve learnt to just let it be.
So, after wiping up the snot, crying into my husbands’ shoulder and coming to work two days in a row with puffy eyes, I decided to do a bit of analysis. After all, I am a life coach and I can do this stuff on myself!
I think this may be a very useful thing for some of you who are going through, or are about to go through the same thing.
The first thing I needed to do was understand my sadness, to pinpoint exactly what I was going through. And that is the point of my post today. Pinpoint your sadness and give it the attention it needs.
I sat down with a piece of paper, to put some words to the tears. Here is what I figured out.
Lists are supposed to make things easier, simpler, but how do you reduce the complexities of emotion down into a list?
Well, I think it’s a decent start. What was interesting about doing this, is that each item on my list is just so subjective. It’s all based on my perceptions of reality, the unique viewpoint I bring to it.
Let’s take number 1. Getting wrapped up in 5/7 days away from my kids. 2/7 days on the weekend.
That sentence has been on loop repeat in my mind and gosh, it makes me feel crappy. I hate that it’s there, over and over and over whispering in my ear.
I know right now that full time work is what I need to do, and if you are in a tough situation you either CHANGE IT or ACCEPT IT.
So, what can I do to help myself accept the fact I am away 5/7 days working?
There is something we do in life coaching called “grounding our assessments.”
Yes, the reality is I am away 5/7 days. But my assessment is that “5 days is too many to be away from home.”
There are a few things you want to do to tackle each assessment that is NOT HELPING YOU.
Figure out if it is serving you in any helpful way
Dig into the details of it (deconstruct)
What discounts this assessment (reconstruct)
So. 1. Is this helping me in any way, thinking like this? Shit no. It makes me feel like crap. I want to be done with it. How do you get rid of an unhelpful assessment? Deconstruct and reconstruct.
Deconstructing it means asking myself, what does 5 days mean?
Well, a work day for me is 8:30-5:30 including commute.
Thing is, I’m home 7-8:30 and 5:30-8:00. My kids are there. That means in a day I can be home with them for 5 hours of quality time.
Wait a minute.
That’s almost as much time as what I spend at work. Huh.
That got me thinking and reconsidering this little assessment or “dragon” I am fighting.
Another helpful thing is to think of reasons that your assessment might not be the truth. Reasons it may not be accurate.
One of my favourite ones has to do with the nature of going back to work and being in the Monday-Friday mindset.
AT LUNCHTIME ON THURSDAY, YOU ARE ONLY HALFWAY THROUGH A WEEK.
Let that settle in.
Interesting, isn’t it?
I have this mindset that my week is “shot” being at work Monday to Friday, yet at (what feels like) the end of the work week, technically, the week is only 50% over.
So here I am, sitting here, hung up and making myself sad about the fact that between 9 and 5 I am at work, Monday to Friday.
Yet at lunchtime on Thursday the week is only HALF done. I have an entire weekend, and mornings, and evenings to fill my family time with quality experiences.
Getting my brain into this positive flow of thinking led me onto other things, like…
If I get a break by being at work, doing something I enjoy, I’m not totally tapped out by 5:30 by the kids.
Honest to god, on mat leave I was ready to crack the wine, oh wait, I did often crack open the wine, at 5:30 every night.
At work, I am so excited and ready to come home to my kids each evening that 5:30-8:00, formerly a window reserved for tv time, some half assed reading of bed time stories and playtime in the park, is “super engaged/motivated/excited mother Carina who is ready and willing to have quality time.
So there you go, take a shitty thought that doesn’t serve you, that you do not want, and deconstruct it. Then reconstruct it with positive mantras, helpful thinking and silver linings.
I’d love to hear what mindsets helped you get through that first week back and extinguish the thoughts that didn’t help you.
As I write this post I have a large, imposing fortress sitting on a hill top in my mind. And inside that fortress I am sitting, blissfully happen, ALONE and not BEING TOUCHED OR CRAWLED ON BY ANYONE.
Can you tell I’m PMS-ing a bit today? My poor, sweet husband wanted a cuddle last night. I wanted TO NOT BE TOUCHED BY ANYONE OR ANYTHING including the cats. I was done.
Which brings me to today’s topic. It’s really about defending your fortress. Your last bastion of solitude from what I call the slow creep.
As mamas, the slow creep is something we have to be super mindful of. Each part of the slow creep seems innocent in itself. But x365 days of mat leave, making choices over and over again, each one you make sets a precedent – and enough times, will set a pattern.
It leads to us feeling guilty and checking our i phone at the gym or not leaving until everything seems peaceful and perfect at the house.
(The slow creep is “I’m just going to pause my workout to answer this question / solve this problem I just got texted about.”)
It leads to us choosing the “easier” option – not going out, not bothering to dress up, skipping the makeup that day, eating cereal instead of a balanced meal.
(The slow creep is “I’m going to change back into my runners to walk with the stroller later, there’s no point in bothering with a different outfit.”)
It leads to us not even being able to go to the bathroom or shower alone.
(The slow creep is answering a question from someone from behind the door.)
It leads to us doing the bulk of housework or chores.
(The slow creep is “ugh, I just want this done NOW so I’m just going to do it myself.” )
It leads to us slowly losing our self confidence.
(The slow creep is that one morning where you think “I haven’t done that in __years/months since I had my baby, I won’t be any good now!”)
It leads to us slowly losing a sense of our own self-identity.
(The slow creep is that one night where you don’t bother going out with some girlfriends because you just don’t feel like it.)
Sounds pretty sinister, right?
The problem with the slow creep is that it is each seemingly innocent moment that we are not always conscious of. Those have a huge compounding effect over the duration of a year, and set precedents, set patterns.
One day you are in the bathroom. Your 2 year old is being especially cute and you let her in, just once to watch you do your hair and makeup. *This is the slow creep.
One day you are in the bathroom. Your husband opens the door and your baby comes crawling in, hanging on to your leg while you are trying to pee. *This is the slow creep.
One day you are in the bathroom, your husband has a question and asks you through the door. You answer. *This is the slow creep.
Each time is innocent enough to say “yes” or let it happen right? But now three humans can do it. And you are just one person.
A precedent has been established.
You are now accessible whilst in the bathroom, to three people.
This is an example RIGHT out of my book. Last week I realized, of all things, I at least deserve to take FIVE MINUTES to complete basic bodily functions in privacy. I got annoyed at myself because I had fully let it happen each time somebody wanted something from me. I didn’t defend my fortress from the slow creep.
I cracked down. I reinforced my moment to myself physically with the lock on the door and in words, with a request: “This is one time I need to not be interrupted. I give a lot of myself all day to all of you, and this is a time you will have to be without me” (ok, the words I used for my two year old were a lot simpler than that!)
THE CHILDREN EXAMPLE
It’s the weekend. Or maybe a week day if your husband does shift work. He’s not working. One of your two children has a playdate.
You decide to take both, you might as well since you are going out. *This is the slow creep.
What precedent / pattern / routine are you setting up if you always offer / settle for taking and managing both kids and your husband gets the downtime?
This is one I also have to work on. If my husband has specifically requested some downtime, no problem, I will take both. But I don’t want to set up the precedent that both kids all the time is my responsibility. I frequently have to remind myself of what we have agreed is 100% equal in our books and what would / would not lead to a pattern of resentment settling in
For me, I would feel great resentment if it became a pattern – if he was kid-free all the time, by my own doing – by settling for just taking both kids “because I might as well.”
(-please note this is in our own family’s situation, other people may have a different balance point that works for them.)
Have a think about it. Has there been anything that slowly, innocently enough, has seemed to have faded away. What is important to you, that you should put in your fortress and defend with words and actions from the slow creep? What does the slow creep mean to you?
Why read this? I teach you how to ask for what you need with power and confidence. I teach you how to avoid the slippery slope of resentment during your maternity leave.
I went into labour with my firstborn at 11pm. After a long hard labour, she was born at 6pm the next evening. That night, I was with her in my hospital room, EXHAUSTED and overwhelmed (my husband couldn’t stay overnight.) I was so hooped on fatigue and so busy with visitors the next day, I stayed a second night and again, not an ounce of sleep. Until a kindly nurse offered to take her to the nursery at 3am so I could get four hours.
72 hours without sleep fucks anybody up. AND labour AND giving birth?
The birthing experience is intense. Women’s recovery should be treated with the same level of sacred respect as the baby itself. By everyone, most importantly the mother herself 🙂 And yes, visitors and partners too. It’s not other people’s fault though, people come from a place of genuine love, support and happiness, and lack of knowing how you are feeling, because every mama is different.
I came home wrecked with exhaustion, overcome with emotion and spent the first 3 months in a haze. If there is one thing I know, my mental health starts and ends with sleep. It’s a biggie. I was so worried about this when I was pregnant.
What I did not have at the time was the power and confidence to ask for what I needed. Things like: No visitors, at least 2 days of rest, and support during the nights. Luckily, my husband volunteered after our first night at home with our little nocturnal bat, and definitely the second night at home after seeing me walk straight into the door of a local shoppers drug mart (after discharge from hospital we drove around to get set up with a breast pump rental…first time parent mistake!)
Many, many mums I either coach or chat with deal with a nasty little presence in their lives which I think is born in sleep deprivation. Resentment. It is a sneaky, lurking, gnawing creature that is a mix of anger, and disappointment, and a sense of – if I am being totally honest – injustice.
I think this is one of the greatest enemies of women and one of the most important things we have to work on during maternity leave. There are mannnny situations we will be in during maternity leave that may produce resentment. Particularly towards our partner. And the thing is, it’s not our partners’ fault.
Resentment is purely self-created. It is the disappointment we are feeling over not getting something we expected, combined with the jealousy that the other person has what we so badly want / need / expect.
Today I want to offer you some coaching. One of the most useful (but difficult) skills to master on maternity leave is how to make requests with power and confidence. You need to step into your strength and self-respect and clearly outline what you need.
We haven’t been taught how to make powerful requests, so when I was trained in speech acts during my professional coaching, my mind was blown.
I had never thought about things this way and really wanted to share it.
Read on for a way to make requests that will get you a “YES”
I’m going to take my #1 cause of resentment during my 1st maternity leave and break it down.
SWEETIE, I REALLY NEED TO SLEEP.
(I WISH CAPS + BOLD CONVEYED THE DESPERATION IN THIS SENTENCE.)
When we make a request, we are asking for our future to unfold in a different way. When I make this request, I am afraid. I request from a place of fear. That I am not going to get sleep that day. That my mental health is going to crash. And I am desparate.
There are several things that need to happen in a request:
1.) (You) need to be present and asking with intention, and not coming from a bad place (like fear.)
You can’t be avoiding eye contact or looking at your phone or cooking. You need to put everything down. Make eye contact. Touch their arm. Have your energy be neutral. Nobody can negotiate or request effectively from an emotionally charged place.
2.) (Your Partner) needs to be present too. 100% focus.
Gain your partners’ attention by preceding this with “sweetie, I need your attention for a second here, do you mind just stopping what you are doing.” Don’t let them do something else, or eat, or fiddle physically with something.
We may think it is easier to ask when they are distracted with something they enjoy, but it’s not… That’s a myth we have taken on.
3.) To make a damn clear and effective request we have to clearly outline what we need using the background context of what led to this need, and what a condition of satisfaction would be. What do you need to feel like your need is met?
When we make a request there is an invisible background. When I say “I need sleep” there is this movie loop of a screaming baby, my eyes rolling back into my head as I fall asleep rocking, the quiet desparation of lying on the couch, the bolts of terror with every snuffle once the baby wakes up. There’s some intense shit behind a request when you are on mat leave, because we often wait until we’re about to go bonkers.
“Sweetie I need sleep” (angry whisper that terrifies husband who answers in a somewhat noncommital ‘sure.’)
“Sweetie, I am physically, mentally and emotionally shattered after 6 hours sleep in three days. I’m starting to make big mistakes in my driving, in my daily activities that concern me. I need to get some sleep in so that I can get a better grip on my emotions and get through tonight’s shift with the baby. I need you to go out for a bit with the baby so I can fall asleep for at least 30 minutes without waking to their sounds.” (bam super effective request that engages husband and gets a solid ‘yes’ and concerned nod of understanding.)
We need to provide the details and outline what a sleep means to us. Our definition of sleep is a fucked up one on mat leave. It’s “I desparate need the recovery I haven’t gotten yet, so at least 4 hours unbroken without the baby around.” Meanwhile, my partners’ definition of sleep may be a quick cat nap while the baby is crying somewhere in the house.
Why don’t we provide details when we make requests. Why don’t we outline what “AAAARGH I JUST NEED TO BE ON MY OWN!” means?
-We always assume the person we are talking to, knows what we mean.
But is that a fair assumption for us to make?
Have they had the chance to reach a desparate level of desire for alone time or sleep? Have they been alone in the house all day with a baby clinging to their bodies?
No. It is hard for your partner to imagine, so you must outline clearly and provide a bit of context to your current state.
Here’s a great analogy a coach once shared with me: When you ask a waiter for water – you mean tap water. The waiter has a different background of knowledge. Water could mean carbonated, non carbonated, tap or mineral. You have to be clear and never assume they know what you mean. Set the context and clarify what you define your need to be.
I am giving you in this article the permission, the encouragement and the AUTHORITY to request what you need with power, clarity and context.
4.) Think about what emotional place you make your request from.
If you walk into the room, anger crackling off of your body, or tears building behind the eyes, it instantly puts you in a disempowered situation. The receiver is going to instantly go on the defense, or be uncomfortable. The asker is going to compromise their request because emotion may take over.
Reset yourself. Walk into the request from a feeling of power and confidence and self respect. Not anger and resentment. It takes the wind out of your sales. Not only in your voice and the way you word things, but also in your physical presence, the vibe you are giving off and your posture. Nobody got what they wanted by asking from a defeated, curled up position.
I love this quote by the Chalmers Brothers “The right conversation in the wrong mood is the wrong conversation.”
5.) Follow up. In order to help our partners support us better and take our requests seriously, we must express gratitude, explain to them how honouring your request helped you and them. You must be sincere and display that we did something with the gift we were given. They need to see that by following through on your request, everyone has benefitted.
After every sleep I go up and give my partner a huge hug and explain a few ways I’ll be better able to cope. 🙂
Please take this article and deconstruct a request you need to make. Or perhaps, the requests you make that have led to no follow through and have created a situation of resentment toward your partner.
Early in the maternity leave days, I found it hard to have the time to read. This was frustrating for me as a lifelong learner, because I had a deep need to continue learning, growing and exploring topics. Though I was undergoing a steep parenting learning curve, I wanted to continue to learn about things that had nothing to do with parenting or babies.
So, I decided to start watching TED Talks each morning as I drank coffee.
In the spirit of the Great Maternity Leave, I made it a formal goal.
WATCH 30 TED TALKS IN 30 DAYS
Here, on this blog today, I present to you the most important lesson I got from this Great Maternity Leave (GML) Project.
I thought I’d walk out of the month with insane knowledge and a different life. But something interesting happened:
Out of 30 videos I could only remember key points from less than FIVE videos.
I beat myself up over it, thinking if I am so passionate about growth and learning from successful people, why can’t I remember the lessons from a famous TED talk?
Then, I got caught up in a particularly common Maternity Leave discourse “mommy brain.”
At first, I chalked this up to simply being a mom and the message that gets circulated that with everything going on with a new baby, your ability to learn and grow and involve yourself in topics outside of being a mom…well… they all just dry up.
I’m really pleased to report from my current maternity leave deployment that this is horribly, horribly untrue.
Because this is something that even the success stories, the “greats” in their respective fields, experience.
Have I caught your intrigue?
So let’s get to the big issue at hand, the one I beat myself up for:
Why Can’t I Remember all of These Awesome Lessons from thirty, THIRTY TED TALKS!
Because you bet I was asked this A LOT once I announced my project.
The answer: A lesson (In this case, the TED TALK) has to land with you and meet you where.you.are. And it’s a numbers game.
Let me explain with an example…
About two years ago, I came across a video of Former Admiral (and Commander of Special Operations Command) William H. McRaven giving a commencement speech at the University of Texas Graduation in 2014. It was a game changer. It is one of the few videos that has stuck with me to this day.
(What I love about Mr. McRaven is his accessibility and incredible life advice that transcends the military.)
This video changed the game for me. I make my bed every single day because of what this man said in his video.
These are just two of his many points that stuck with me. Yes, I actually remember this every single day.
-If you want to change the world, make your bed.
-All you have to do to quit in SEAL training is ring a brass bell in the training area. With that bell rung, everything is over. All of the hardship, all of the suffering is gone with one ding. McRaven teaches that if you want to change the world, don’t ever ever ring the bell.
Why was This Video so Profound?
This video hit me to the core, because I watched it while I was in military & strategic studies. It met me where I was. And the examples made total sense to me. They hit home, were explained in a style I like, and how he framed them made sense to me. I happened to be experiencing some of the challenges he spoke to in the video. I was also going through a lot of huuuuge challenges in my life where I wanted to “ring the bell” so to speak. The video met me where I was. The lessons had direct relevance and application.
-Which Means You Need to Keep Looking. Never Stop Searching.
The key message I want to give you in this blog post is to keep exposing yourself to podcasts, videos, blog posts, influential people, ideas, stories. There are more than 6 billion people on this planet, and an awful lot of them are sharing knowledge, wisdom and lessons. Especially now on this beautiful thing called the internet.
Not all of them will impact you. Like the handful out of THIRTY Ted Talks.
But do know that you will find one or two gems, that stick with you, that meet you where you are, in your present level of awareness and at Mile 6, or 7, or 8 of your current journey!
Ignore the “Mommy Brain” Messaging. You are in a Great Place for Growth.
I was told I was nuts – an acquaintance looked at me with great skepticism in their facial expression and said “good luck with that and a baby, your brain won’t keep up.”
Don’t worry if you keep reading books and watching videos and can’t remember much.
Stop telling yourself it is mommy brain. Stop listening to people that say “mommy brain” shuts down your intelligence and growth. It isn’t that.
You are not in some sort of holding pattern. You’re practically doing an accelerated masters degree right now in a totally new domain (parenthood.) You’re MORE than capable of learning and being exposed to new information and retaining it.
It’s just that you haven’t yet come across a message that is resonating with you.
The more you explore the world and the lessons people want to share, the higher the chance you will find a diamond in the rough.
It’s a numbers game. For every 10 TED videos, or interesting blog articles that you take the time to read, you WILL find 1 or 2 that forever shift the way you see life.
Successful People Keep Exposing themselves to New Content and New Wisdom
After studying and working with many successful people – moms, business people, entrepreneurs, visionaries, it is crystal clear that all of them are voracious consumers of knowledge. Just like us, they only remember fragments of what they have read or learnt.
Because they, too, retain only the pieces that fit with their present level of awareness and make sense to their lives at that present moment. For every 10 Podcasts they listen to, only 1 or 2 will precipitate an “ah-hah” learning moment for them, that they take away and retain for months to come.
It is so easy to go through an entire mat leave being caught up in the day to day. The surface level tasks of maternity leave. Goodness. There are SO many. You could create an infinite list of things to do every day, that you couldn’t possibly accomplish in 14-16 waking hours.
The routine is soothing on many days, but after the first few months of adjustment passed, I felt ready to dig a bit deeper beyond the surface of my everyday. To go deep.
I knew this was becoming a need, because I felt a tingle of frustration when somebody asked me surface level questions like how many hours my little girl slept the night before. Valid question, but surface conversations left me hanging, craving more, wanting more connection. I didn’t want my conversations to match the surface level tasks of each day.
I started listening to my mind, beyond the hum drum of to dos and other tasks of daily life. I realized there were some profound thoughts swimming just below the surface. But I had a baby brain. It was foggy. Each thought would fade away so quickly.
As I write this I see a snowflake coming down, and catching it. But as I try to take in the beautiful patterning, it melts away before I get an idea of the shape. Those deep thoughts in maternity leave are just as tricky.
Over the months I began to research, study and listen to others. I came across a common theme among “the greats” of various disciplines. They all talked about flow.
And I began to play with it.
And that was when it all made sense. You know those moments of realization where your entire world has shifted a bit? Like when you were a kid and finally solved a math equation and understood how to do it? Ah-hah.
Most often, the magical, deep thoughts would appear immediately after times of flow.
What is Flow?
Flow is a state of being where time disappears, where the thoughts cease to whir, where you lose yourself in the task at hand. It is a fascinating frontier of human psychology and research. Almost every incredible great philosopher, thinker, inventor, creative, entrepreneur. Every.Single.One of them talks about using the flow state to unlock the power of their specific talents. Here is a wonderful TED talk on the state.
Guess what? Maternity leave is very, very special because you’ve been given the gift of flow. by that sweet baby you have. Maybe you don’t even know it… .
Think about the last time you rocked your baby to sleep but got completely lost in their eyes, looking at the beautiful little rivers of light and starbust shapes in their retina, thinking that there is an entire universe in there.
Or do you remember their first days on earth? When they had that strange, oily film over those deep, dark newborn eyes?
Each time, you had beautiful deep thoughts as you got lost in those eyes and rocked that baby. You have the opportunity to go into flow every.single.day with these babies.
What a gift.
Other forms of flow:
My other flow state is also trail running. I am so with the present moment that my mind shuts down. I am just existing; just breathing in a rhythm going along with feet crunching in the soft snow. Totally unaware of everything and anyone. Runners call it the “zone” – it’s just another word for the flow state.
After each run, as I slow my pace down to a walk and enjoy the last 500m back to my house at a leisurely pace, it’s like a tap starts flowing. All sorts of ideas for projects, all sorts of topics I want to blog about, all sorts of creative ideas. The tricky part is these thoughts fade away as quickly as they arrive.
When your mind is “flowing” it’s like waking up from a dream.
The moment you get out of bed, those dreams fade away. Just like a snowflake you try to grasp them, and remember them. But alas.
I think there’s some magic in there.
These awe inspiring ideas and thoughts we have, that start flowing out of the deep recesses of our brain after being in the flow state. These thoughts we have that don’t even exist physically in any form… yet have the ability to change our physical life.
Enter the Journal
So I started capturing them. The thoughts, the images, the ideas, realizations. I carry a paperblank journal wherever I go, in my handbag with a pen that I love to use.
The ink flowing on the paper is deeply cathartic as I release that idea into the world by acknowledging it, and placing it in a journal for safekeeping.
What have been some of the things I captured after flow state?
~The first idea to become a fully certified ontological coach. It forever altered the way I live my life and fast tracked me to happiness.
~Ideas about how to launch my coaching business & the name for it
~The idea to start The Great Maternity Leave
~The entire mission statement for the Great Maternity Leave
~The rich imagery for a childrens’ book I am writing at the moment. After my flow state I record each now “idea” that come for the next page in the book.
~New jewellery designs for my Etsy store
The list goes on, and on.
I’ll confess, I’m addicted to journalling in itself. I love the process of buying beautiful journals, whose archival quality paper are a dream to write on.
Make it a Beautiful Ritual
Every time I start a new journal, I assign myself an evening once the kids are down and go to chapters or a stationary store. I get a hot drink and leisurely look through all of the journals and pens, and pick one of each. It takes me back to the thrill of stationary shopping at back-to-school time. Do you remember how much you loved doing that?
It’s important to remember to infuse enjoyable little things into our lives. Sometimes we don’t have much time to spare, or money to spare. This activity costs less than $25 and takes less than an hour. It is such a perfect treat on mat leave and is so enjoyable.
But What if Flow State is Too Much for Me to Take On Right Now?
Of course, flow is easier said than done. Because you’re not in flow if you’re thinking about it.
Sometimes you don’t have time to go into flow state for profound insight.
In this case, I say, get into the flow state during journalling.
It’s like having someone sitting there, asking you fascinating questions; about your life, your childhood, your philosophies, what makes you happiest – things that you never sit down and think about in day to day life.
In fact, in our selfless service to our babies and family, do you ever think, “I wish somebody would just ask me about my philosophies or ideas about x, I have so much to offer on this topic.”
I’ve often caught myself at dinners, dancing in surface level conversation about my maternity leave days, feeling a bit resentful, thinking “why aren’t you asking me deep questions? I do more than just look after these babies!” You see the crazy stuff I write about on this blog. It’s like a glimpse, a teeny tiny preview of my mind on a minute to minute basis.
It’s a pleasure to work through this particular journal. Finally! Being asked to think deeply, about our lives, our imaginations, the silly little things through out our lives that have made us happiest, our favourite childhood memories. Every page is beautifully illustrated as it asks a new question. Though it is a conversation had in silence, the craving to honour and dance with our own depth is fulfilled.
It sits beside my bed with a beautiful pen. And once in a while, I dig it out and turn to a page randomly. In the quiet hours before sleep, I dig into memories, peel back the layers and make connections between my childhood and who I’ve become today. What a beautiful activity as I create and shape my own childrens’ lives, as I decide what my gift to them will be in this earthly life.
In these days of selfless duty, service to others, and outward living, it is all the more important to have the opportunity to recharge; to turn inward, and fulfill our inherent need to go beyond the surface and access our own deep intelligence, creativity and problem solving.