Mothering » marcy axness http://www.mothering.com/articles Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 5 Out-of-the-Box Ways to Make Your Child “LISTEN!!!” http://www.mothering.com/articles/5-box-ways-make-child-listen/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/5-box-ways-make-child-listen/#comments Fri, 18 Jul 2014 01:11:22 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=23610 One of the most frequent questions I get is, How do I get my child to listen to me? What lingers in the roots just beneath this question is, How do I get her to respect me? The two are intimately entwined. As so often happens with Life’s sticky questions, sometimes we can unstick things […]

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MotheringBigImageOne of the most frequent questions I get is, How do I get my child to listen to me? What lingers in the roots just beneath this question is, How do I get her to respect me? The two are intimately entwined.

As so often happens with Life’s sticky questions, sometimes we can unstick things a bit by turning the question around: Rather than How can I get my child to listen to me?, a frustrated parent can get far more traction by asking, How can I make myself more “listenable”?”

The fact is, you can never “make” your child do or be anything! Oh sure, we’re lulled into the comforting illusion that we can during the very early years, when their sheer existence and protection depends upon us in very basic ways (not to mention we’re way bigger than them!).

But in a fistful of years that streak by in a blur we are face to face with them… and with the sobering reality that they can and will do what they choose regardless of what we “make” them do. For many parents this is like that classic nightmare in which it’s time for the final exam, and you realize you haven’t attended any of the classes!

This is the time to be preparing for the final exam that comes at puberty and adolescence. Here are five ways to ensure your child will listen to you, both now and later:

KidWon'tListen1. Talk less… and more clearly –  This is especially effective with the young child (under seven). When working with parents I often ask them to cut back on their chatter with their toddler or pre-schooler by at least 50% so they avoid TTD (Talk To Death) syndrome, which is reaching epidemic proportions. Do you remember how the adults were portrayed in the animated versions of Charlie Brown? A noise-skein of Whhhaaaaaaa – whaaaaaaaa – whaaaaaaaaa that had no meaning (neither for Charlie and his pals nor for us the viewer). Point made. This is how most of what we say bounces off our young children: just so much white noise!

Say less and have it mean more. This helps cultivate the essential nourishment of wonder while also avoiding TTD (Talk it To Death) syndrome. Over-explaining and other yammering almost always covers up a lack of truth or conviction in the exchange. We need to always check the reason why we want to say something to a child: Is it based on our wisdom or our anxiety? Does it come from a place of real knowing, or a place of fear? If it comes from a place of real knowing and complete conviction within you that it is correct, the child will usually behave in harmony with it. (A good example is that children almost never fuss over putting on seat belts, largely because within the mind of the parent there is 100% conviction: seat belts are an utter non-negotiable and the child picks up on this conviction.) If it’s coming from worry or insecurity (which includes our need to manipulate them), we best refrain from speaking.

When we offer endless choices to the young child… or engage in extended explanations, justifications or negotiations… or phrase our language in equivocal terms (“Do you want to get your PJs on?”  “It’s time to get ready for bed now, okay?) we undermine our standing with him. Talking to a young child in this way essentially enlists him as a co-decision-maker, with a level of influence and responsibility that makes him extremely anxious — though he doesn’t know why. This anxiety and insecurity (“Mom doesn’t really know what should happen now…”) reorients his biochemistry and neurophysiology toward protection rather than growth. And it’s hard for him to listen when he’s in protection mode.

This is a vicious cycle: the more the child perceives that you are looking to her to participate in important decisions (and to a young child even the basics seem very important), the less trust she’ll have in you, the more insecure she will feel, and the more controlling and bossy (i.e., “difficult”) she will become. And the less she’ll listen.

She wants you to be the calm, loving leader who knows, without consulting her, what’s happening next, what color shirt she should wear, what she’s having on top of her cereal this morning. That lets her relax back into optimal growth mode, because her world is safely in order. And she’s much more apt to listen.

2. Listen — The primary mode of learning for the young child is imitation. First and foremost, be what you want to see in your child. Do you listen? To your child? To a person who tries to engage you while out in the world? This requires actual effort. It requires a mindful slowing down from the techno-speediness of today’s iTwitterFaceLinkInPod culture, in which our “wildly overstimulated brains” have been trained to follow the default impulse, “What’s next?”

If you were the proverbial fly on the wall looking in on how people are living in today’s must-go-faster world, you’d find that many homes of even the youngest children echo with the chill of cool, expedient efficiency. We’ve become a hyper-practical, results-focused culture too often too busy to slow down to child time, which is inherently more molasses-paced. To kneel down to our child’s level to listen to her story, to put our arms around our son and look at that bug he just caught, doesn’t often jibe with our lockstep schedule. But when your child can sense (and they do sense, keenly) that you really are listening, this fosters a deep level of trust in you… and children (and teens) listen to those they trust. (And don’t to those they don’t.)

3. Meditate — This is one of the stealthiest “big-bang” parenting tools around, and way too under-recognized as such! Meditation has turned up in the research as a superstar for increasing wellbeing in many different areas both physical and mental / emotional. To begin a meditation practice, you don’t have to go out and find a master or even a group; simple guidelines are available everywhere (including my book), and even just five minutes a day, done on a reasonably regular basis, reduces stress, invites health, and cultivates the ability to direct your own mental focus — all of which makes for a bankable investment in the success and enjoyment of your parenting and your child’s wellbeing.

And here’s the secret power of meditation for our topic today (How do I get my child to listen?): meditation practice helps you answer Yes to an essential question –  Do I as a parent have mastery over something as fundamental as the movement of my own thoughts? And here’s the deal: your child wordlessly perceives your level of self-possession, and when your answer to that question is Yes, this in turn fosters a respect for you that is deep, implicit, and rarely wavers. Many common discipline issues therefore never even materialize. And, they listen to you!

4. Be surprising — I write a lot about the importance of rhythm in the life of children, and indeed, rhythm is one of the 7 principles at the heart of my book. But one of the greatest gifts of a consciously rhythmic family life is the delightful refreshment of breaking the rhythm, especially for your teens or tweens, who will be especially enchanted when you’re willing to exit the sameness.

“Let’s forget about homework and go to a double-feature!”

“Instead of picking up dinner from the restaurant, let’s spend that money on flowers for all over the house and have PB&J sandwiches for dinner.”

Aim on occasion (once every month or two?) for something impromptu, unexpected, whimsical — and if it’s absurd or outrageous, so much the better! Remember, your inner experience of being a teenager is being awakened by virtue of living with one, so conspire with your inner teen to find ways to delight and surprise your child(ren), and believe me, they’ll keep listening to you. They won’t want to miss anything!

5. Be inspiring — A coaching client of mine was saying her 7-year-old daughter was being disrespectful, and I’m sure I stunned her by asking point blank: Do you behave in a way that inspires respect? When she really got honest about it, the answer was “no.” For example, she had a room in her house that she was always saying she was going to de-clutter but never did. That was her a-hah. As she cleaned up that room (and also de-cluttered her parenting style), her daughter’s attitude improved dramatically.

Our children are like another appendage of ours — they will act out whatever material in us that we aren’t owning or being congruent with. Our children are our mirrors.

And this intensifies as they enter adolescence: paradoxical to her seeming disinterest in all things parental, you will be subjected to the most unsparing scrutiny by your teen, your child who no longer looks up to you, literally, but rather, eye to eye with you. She so recently saw you as perfection personified but is now trained on you like a heat-seeking scope, watching for you to contradict your ideals, your word, your integrity… and hoping more than anything that you don’t. One of the supreme tests in parenting adolescents lies in their need for the adults around them to be steady, strong and sure in who they are, what they stand for, and whether their actions line up with their words.

In other words, are you listening to yourself??

 

Images:
epSos.de under Creative Commons license
o5com under Creative Commons license

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Are You REALLY Independent…In Your Birth Choice? http://www.mothering.com/articles/independent-in-birth-choice/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/independent-in-birth-choice/#comments Fri, 04 Jul 2014 00:03:08 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=18362 As long as our country continues to show up so poorly in world rankings on maternal health, I continue to run this article every year on America’s birthday, hoping to illuminate issues around our perceived birth choices. Am I naive in thinking that individual independence around these issues can help pave the way to us […]

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As long as our country continues to show up so poorly in world rankings on maternal health, I continue to run this article every year on America’s birthday, hoping to illuminate issues around our perceived birth choices. Am I naive in thinking that individual independence around these issues can help pave the way to us being a safer nation for mothers and babies?

It is sad enough that the U.S. sits so poorly in world infant mortality rankings, but a new report published in the prestigious medical journal Lancet and reported in the Washington Post points out that our childbirth-related maternal death rate continues to rise and is at nearly its highest point* in twenty-five years. [*Aside from its sharp spike in 2009 due to the H1N1 influenza virus.] American mothers die in or around childbirth at double the rate they do in Saudi Arabia, and triple the rate of the United Kingdom — and at statistically the same rate as in Iran.

In terms of where it is safest and healthiest to become a mother, America — land of the free and the brave — ranks 60th of 180 nations. In that context, is there any real birth choice?

Okay, now that I’ve totally bummed you out so you feel like you’ve got to reach for an early margarita with a little flag in it, let’s talk about what individual Americans may be able to do to improve the situation. (And even if it doesn’t improve the national situation, it cannot help but to improve your own birthing and parenting wellbeing!)

Moms & Dads, Who Is The Boss of You?

4thOfJulyParadeAs we celebrate our nation’s independence from oppressive rule, I want to explore a related kind of oppression you may experience all the time: the force of culture on birth and parenting choices. The fact is, the status-quo of today’s culture — media, medicine, education — exerts tremendous pressure on well-meaning parents to make choices that simply aren’t good for kids. This is where some knowledge can be a very empowering thing!

The more we know about where our decision-making “blind spots” are, the more we can free ourselves from the prevailing fear-based group-think, and become capable of making positive choices that are in the true best interests of ourselves and our children.

Are We Truly Free to Choose?

Let’s begin where it begins — how we ourselves are born, how we birth our children, and how we perceive the choices involved. Robbie Davis-Floyd, a cultural anthropologist specializing in birth, discovered something both subtle and powerful at work in our attitudes about the safety of non-medicalized births.

“I long ago gave up talking to women about giving birth at home,” writes Robbie. (She’s become a dear friend, thus I will call her by her first name, lol.) “The idea that only hospitals and their technology can make birth safe so permeates this culture that there is simply no point in trying to convince anyone otherwise, even though it is completely untrue and there is plenty of scientific evidence out there to prove it.”

One piece of evidence to which Robbie refers is this classic: Back in 1974 two certified nurse-midwives were put in charge of all normal births in a small county hospital in California for three years in an experimental pilot program. During that time, the rates of obstetrical intervention (like C-sections) fell dramatically, the incidence of prematurity dropped by almost half, and the rate of neonatal deaths dropped from 23.9 per thousand to 10.3 per thousand — less than half of what it had been before the midwives arrived. At the end of the three years (some say due to fear of competition) the local obstetricians fired the midwives and resumed charge of all births in this hospital. Within a few months, the rates returned to their former high levels.

In light of LOTS of research showing that routine interventions & procedures — such as Pitocin augmentation, electronic fetal monitors, IVs in place of drinkingand eating, episiotomies and epidurals — don’t lead to better outcomes and are indeed counterproductive in most normal births, Robbie wondered, “What might explain the standardization and technological elaboration of the American birthing process?”

She came to recognize that there had to be something other than rational logic at work in the vast majority of Americans who trust and believe in the relatively higher degree of safety provided by a hospital birth, despite all contrary evidence. Her discoveries led to the landmark book Birth As An American Rite of Passage.

“In all societies, major life transitions such as birth, coming of age, marriage and death are times when cultures are particularly careful to display their core values and beliefs. Thus, these important transitions are so heavily ritualized that they are called rites of passage. Through these rites of passage, each society makes sure that the important life transitions of individuals can only occur in ways that actively perpetuate the core beliefs and values of their society. Could this explain the standardization of American birth? I believe the answer is yes.”

Birth Choice, or Cultural Rite of Passage?

One characteristic of rite of passage rituals is that participants are in an altered state of mind, whether through music, drumming, dance, chanting, breath work, meditation, or mind-altering substances. In the case of labor and birth, the potent biochemicals flowing through mother and baby — and even father — are extremely mind-altering! Any of these kinds of altered states makes participants highly receptive to symbols, which are prominently featured during ritual and which are imprinted on the image-oriented right brain.

Robbie: “Obstetric procedures are far more than medical routines: they are the rituals which initiate American mothers, fathers and babies into the core value system of the technocracy” (the term for a society driven by an ideology of technological progress. In a technocracy, we constantly seek to “improve upon” nature by altering and controlling it through technology.)

LaboringWithEFMShe writes, “These procedures are profoundly symbolic, communicating messages concerning our culture’s deepest beliefs about the necessity for control of natural processes. They are a perfect expression of certain fundamentals of technocratic life:

~ The IV, for example, is the umbilical cord to the hospital, mirroring the fact that we are all umbilically linked to the technocracy, dependent on society and its institutions for our nurturance and our life.
~ The fact that the baby’s image on the ultrasound screen is often more real to the mother than its movement inside her reflects our cultural fixation on experience one-step removed on TV and computer screens.
~ The electronic fetal monitor wires the woman into the hospital’s computer system, bringing birth into the Information Age.
~ Consider the visual and kinesthetic images that the laboring woman experiences — herself in bed, in a hospital gown, staring up at an IV pole, bag and cord, staring down at a steel bed and huge belts encircling her waist and staring sideways at moving displays on a large machine. Her entire sensory field conveys one overwhelming message about our culture’s deepest values and beliefs:  technology is supreme, and you are utterly dependent upon it.
~ The episiotomy, in which the quite sufficiently stretchy perineum is routinely cut with scissors to speed up delivery of the head, enacts and displays not only our cultural tendency toward impatience but also our extreme commitment to the straight line as a basic organizing principle of cultural life.
~ The technocracy asserts societal ownership of our babies via the ritual separation of newborns and mothers shortly after birth (yet another procedure that is overwhelmingly contraindicated by over 50 years of research on attachment, trauma and brain development).
~ The plastic bassinet in which the newborn is placed metamorphoses into the crib, the playpen, the plastic carrier, and the television-set-as-babysitter—and a baby who bonds strongly to technology as she learns that comfort and entertainment come primarily from technological artifacts. That baby grows up to be the consummate consumer, and thus the technocracy perpetuates itself.

Yes, most of us have been baptized in technology. So let us embrace the blessings of that 21st century brilliance, which was originally meant to bring freedom! Nothing has the power to control our moves once we can clearly name the players and the game.

As we light up the skies in celebration of our independence as a country, let us fire up our own informed independence: let’s be the bosses of ourselves, the masters of our own will. Our children will flourish in that freedom, and the healthy choices it allows us to make!

** Read more about Robbie Davis-Floyd’s fascinating work at her website here. **

Images:
cyanocorax under Creative Commons license
miguelb under Creative Commons license

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A Precious, Radical (Free!) Gift for Fathers http://www.mothering.com/articles/radical-free-gift-for-fathers/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/radical-free-gift-for-fathers/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 21:18:51 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=9409 This post features a personal story illustrating what I call “counter-intuitive brilliance.” It’s the story of an interaction between a new father and a new mother. It’s about how to diaper their baby. It’s a conversation that surely takes place alongside the changing table in virtually every home where there are new parents blessed with […]

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This post features a personal story illustrating what I call “counter-intuitive brilliance.” It’s the story of an interaction between a new father and a new mother. It’s about how to diaper their baby. It’s a conversation that surely takes place alongside the changing table in virtually every home where there are new parents blessed with a newborn. But this conversation went very differently.

Elly Taylor | Becoming UsFirst, by way of setting the stage: I recently had the best, juicy conversation with relationship counselor and Becoming Us author Elly Taylor. We talked about some of the common ways that new parenthood takes a toll on marriage. And more importantly, we covered some really practical ways we can ease that toll, and nurture our relationship as much as we nurture our kids!

We discussed some of the signs to watch for, signs that may signal stress on the relationship of new parents. Two of these stress signs  are being competitive and reducing your life. The first is somewhat self-explanatory, but the concept of reducing your life was a revelation for me! I think this is a very common dynamic with new parents, particularly new mothers for whom — either temporarily or longterm — their “new normal” of being with baby is unsettlingly foreign territory.

By “unsettling” I mean…well…terrifying. That is how it can feel when we have a handle on nothing, whereas in our previous life we had a pretty good handle on most things. Some new parents roll with the new flow more easily than others, but it’s common to sort of “seize up” and try to  wrestle this new territory into submission —  you know, try to force it into the recognizable shape of “how things used to be.”

So one of the ways new parents may try and manage the stress of life being so different with a new baby, is to try and get back to the “old normal” rather than patiently letting a “new normal” find its shape.

Here’s a thought or two from Elly on this:
EllyTaylor--Expectations

Don’t Be a Lonely “Expert”

Another way new parents may try to resuscitate their gasping sense of self-esteem in the topsy-turvy new life is to become really expert at some small aspect of it. (I’m guessing this is on big reason why some new parents really get into tracking and cataloging Baby’s poops — it’s something to (pardon the image) hold on to!) This  “expertizing” can lead them to reduce their life, as they tune out everything else (self-care, friends, their partner) and zero in on this one area of mastery. As Elly writes,

“This gives the person a sense of being on top of that one thing (and this is normal in the early weeks of parenthood) but if it continues, it can cause further problems.”

This tendency toward “becoming expert at” can also lead you down some dicey pathways in your relationship, toward competition and resenting your partner’s interference (another sign of stress on the relationship). You can end up in separate corners of the marriage, where things can get pretty lonely.

Here’s where Elly’s story comes in — a particularly instructive story from her own life with her own husband. She had an unexpected inspiration about how to respond when he asked for diapering instructions — for the exact reason that she did not want to be a lonely expert!

A Precious (Free) Gift Idea for New Parents

This illustrates  what might be (counter-intuitively) a wise move to keep your parenting partnership strong and balanced. (And this doesn’t just apply to new dads wondering about diapering — it can apply to ANY area where us moms can tend to be The Experts!) Here’s Elly’s 2-min. anecdote:

EllyTaylor-Great Gift

Please note Elly’s important clarifications:

“How we ourselves were parented comes back to us when we become parents. When a husband asks a wife if he is ‘doing it right’ with a diaper, he may unknowingly be inviting his partner into a space that used to be occupied by his mother. Expecting to be instructed was something my husband had learned and had I stepped in and taken over, it may have too easily set the tone for other aspects of our parenting. I didn’t want take that leadership role: I wanted us to learn together. Had I used a different tone of voice, my husband may have taken it badly, but the words were said with both an internal and an external smile and they felt like liberation to him.

“If a partner has grown up with a dismissive or abandoning parent however, there is always a risk that they are likely to interpret comments in that light–so my same comment that was a gift to my husband could have been felt as dismissal or abandonment by another man with a different upbringing.

“Part of the gift of parenthood is insight into how we and our partner were parented, to see below the surface into our partner’s unique history and to give them opportunities to heal it in the day to day parenting present.”

So with your individual partner’s experience & sensibilities in mind, consider giving this precious gift to the new father in your life. And actually, because these “Expert Power Struggles” can take place at any point in your parenting life,  this is a gift that can be given on any Father’s Day… or any old day the rest of the year!

Because remember…

“We disconnect in tiny little ways…
we reconnect in tiny little ways.” 

HeartRed

Find more about Elly’s resources at her website here, including her helpful Layers of Intimacy model.

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I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, and also the adoption expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans, earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to Mothering readers I’m offering a free copy of my “Empowered Birth Checklist for Couples” ebooklet: 25 concrete ways you can confidently parent during this momentous family experience!

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Men and Pregnancy: Inviting Fathers In http://www.mothering.com/articles/men-and-pregnancy/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/men-and-pregnancy/#comments Sat, 07 Jun 2014 09:51:10 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/?p=7945 A mother’s attachment to her baby begins long before birth. By the last trimester many mothers feel like they know their babies, having been enjoying for months their familiar, reassuring movements in the womb. But what about men and pregnancy? What are a father's experiences during those wondrous nine months?

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A mother’s attachment to her baby begins long before birth. By the last trimester many mothers feel like they know their babies, having been enjoying for months their familiar, reassuring movements in the womb.

But what about men and pregnancy? What are a father’s experiences during those wondrous nine months?  How does the attachment process begin for them? Is a father’s only option to look on with wonder (and sometimes envy) at the beautiful relationship forming between his once-doting partner and this tiny interloper? Is it the extent of his calling to act as back-rubber, chauffeur and coach? Do these “staff support” roles reflect the monumental potential influence fathers have in their family’s life?

Fathers actually have a natural, even biological, inclination to begin attaching to their babies during pregnancy, but this is largely ignored by the scientific community and by our collective culture. We bemoan absent fathers, but do we really nurture the seeds of their involvement from the very beginning, when supporting men and pregnancy may lay a critical foundation for later attachment?

When a couple announces that they are having a baby, the role of the mother is tightly defined. Her family, friends, co-workers and even strangers treat her in an unambiguous fashion: she is doted on, showered with attention (sometimes to their dismay), and regarded in a way that emphasizes her mother-to-be status. Her partner**, on the other hand, has no designated, well-choreographed role to play. He is usually left to stumble along his path to fatherhood with little direction, or acknowledgment of his own internal processes.

[**Mary's comment below is important: with a few hormone-specific differences, most of what I present here as father- or male-specific applies to non-gestational expectant parents of either sex.]

Michael Trout, director of the Infant-Parent Institute in Champaign, Illinois, writes,

Our language and our culture clearly support the notion that it is never he, only his mate, who is expecting a baby. He is often treated as a donor, a bystander and — if he is any good at his multiple but vaguely-defined jobs — it is understood that he will be supportive of the one who is truly important, the only one who is doing any work, the truly pregnant one.

Yes, pregnancy is a lot of work for a woman’s body — rearranging ligaments, building blood volume and cranking out hormones. Oxytocin, the closest thing in Mother Nature’s pharmacy to an elixir of love, spikes just after birth and is responsible for biologically inspiring many maternal behaviors. But guess what? A father, too, experiences a cascade of hormonal changes during pregnancy that quietly echoes that of his partner.

LPDadAndBellyBabyDuring his mate’s pregnancy, a man’s oxytocin level begins to rise, encouraging him to desire closeness with his mate and child. Together with vasopressin, it makes a male more protective of his family and committed to their care. (Vasopressin has been called “the monogamy hormone” because it causes males to desire the comforts of home as opposed to the thrill of the chase.)

Pregnancy, birth and parenting awaken for all of us, mothers and fathers alike, old feelings and sense-memories of our own womb and babyhood experiences. (This is one of the lesser-known reasons that parenthood can be a wild, challenging ride.) Though it is rare for a father to be considered pregnant along with his wife, why should he not be given this consideration and status? He, too, is on a profound, life-altering journey!

When Trina was pregnant, her husband Doug often spoke in terms of “us” and “we” with regard to the pregnancy; his language was reflecting his sense of feeling emotionally and psychologically involved in a shared monumental life event. One of his female colleagues was annoyed by this and would indignantly declare, “You, Doug, are not pregnant! When you get fat and have stretch marks and an aching back every night, come and talk to me!” This response is typical of our culture, a staple sitcom punch-line that unfortunately reflects the prevailing attitude.

Devon, a 29-year old computer technician, said that during his wife’s pregnancy he felt as if he had become invisible to everyone, including her (from whom he later separated).

I wanted a baby so bad!  But after the initial excitement wore off, it was like, what do I do now? Michelle was totally into the baby and how her body was changing and how I didn’t get it. Everyone else acted like that too, like I could never understand since I wasn’t the one who was pregnant. But I felt like I was. I know it sounds really corny but I really did. It made me feel crappy that no one cared how I felt.

Fathers often feel uninitiated and awkward with their newborns, perhaps as a result of this early exclusion and feeling insufficient support and opportunity for forming a prenatal attachment. It is also common for a new father to carry deep, if unconscious, distress — even shame — stemming from a hospital birth experience in which he had to stand by and witness his partner’s and newborn’s pain, feeling powerless to protect them. Infants are exquisitely sensitive to emotional cues, and may react with discontent to a father’s insecurity. This can set off a cycle of uncomfortable and not-quite-right feelings between dad and baby. Defeated, the father may interpret this as confirmation that he is simply not good with babies and decide his efforts will be better received (and rewarded) “when the kid is older.”

Men and Pregnancy: Ways to Jump-Starting Fathering

So how can dads begin to enjoy fathering during pregnancy? Some find that laying their hands on the mother’s abdomen and making contact is a powerful experience. I know a musician who plays his guitar near his partner’s belly as a way to communicate with his daughter in the womb.

Kevin recalled lying with his wife in the early evenings and placing his hands on her still-flat belly. He whispered to the baby quietly, so his wife couldn’t make out what he was saying, and when she inquired, he’d grin and say, “This is a private conversation between me and my little girl.”

Mothers-to-be can be encouraging and sensitive to these delicate first steps of fatherhood, putting forth every effort to making their baby accessible. Brett, father of eight-month-old Elissa, described the weeks when Elissa’s movements were first noticeable under his touch. He said an emotional tidal wave washed through him, carrying with it the reality of his unborn child. He reminisced about times when he could scarcely attend to his work during the day because he was so anxious to get home and feel his baby moving beneath his fingertips.

I liked to just lay with my head resting on Jae’s belly so I could breathe on her skin. I thought that maybe somehow Elissa could become accustomed to the feel of my breath surrounding her and she’d know how much I couldn’t wait to see her, and maybe she’d know me when she was finally born.

DadWithBellyBaby_optFathers can be full participants during pregnancy, parents who are deeply affected by the experience of conceiving and loving their child in the womb. They process the experience in their own profoundly personal ways. We don’t need to designate a new “role” for fathers regarding this process; a role already exists, naturally — not as replicas of women or as assistants to carry the suitcase, but as the biologically inspired caregiving partners they are designed by nature to be, and as men who long to be enthralled with the very presence of their unborn babies.

One important way research shows an expectant father can contribute to his baby’s optimal development during pregnancy and beyond is to reflect on his own childhood and how he himself was parented. And during pregnancy one way he can help foster his baby’s most vibrant development in the womb is to love, celebrate and cherish his baby’s mother…to dream of the great and noble qualities he dreams of for his coming child…and to hold a positive outlook on daily living. Just as a mother’s perception of life powerfully influences their baby’s prenatal development, a father’s perception of life deeply influences his baby’s mother, which strongly influences her perceptions of life! A pregnant mother particularly relishes strength, creativity and a sense of optimism in her partner at this momentous time.

*******
Trina Strauss contributed to this article | Adapted from Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers.
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Black & white images by Lisa Pflaum used with permission
Color image by Photos by Lina under Creative Commons license
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I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the Next Generation of Peacemakers, and also the adoption expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans, earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to Mothering readers of this special post I’m offering a free copy of my “Empowered Birth Checklist for Couples” ebooklet: 25 concrete ways you can confidently parent during this momentous family experience!

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Period Power — Rethinking Menstruation http://www.mothering.com/articles/period-power-rethinking-menstruation/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/period-power-rethinking-menstruation/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 22:15:35 +0000 http://www.mothering.com/articles/period-power-rethinking-menstruation/ The spring season is all about ripeness, fertility and the regeneration of life. These are also the qualities of  a woman’s menstrual cycle, and yet we’re not quite as breathlessly delighted for the arrival of our flow as we are for springtime! But we’d do well to regard our cycle with at least a bit […]

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Period Power: Rethinking Menstruation | Marcy Axness, PhDThe spring season is all about ripeness, fertility and the regeneration of life. These are also the qualities of  a woman’s menstrual cycle, and yet we’re not quite as breathlessly delighted for the arrival of our flow as we are for springtime!

But we’d do well to regard our cycle with at least a bit more friendliness: a  woman’s attitude toward her menstrual period impacts how she lives, labors and births. And it also helps shape her children’s attitudes about the intimate ecology of woman-power.

The Missing Vagina Monologue

Okay, I’ll confess, finally, after all these years: I was desperately disappointed with The Vagina Monologues! In her supposedly ground-breaking play — two hours of dialogue and monologue dedicated (supposedly) to the sexual dimension of a woman’s psycho-anatomical makeup — Eve Ensler includes not one single mention of <gasp> menstruation. No period, period.

Oh, there are plenty of other reasons to not embrace TVM (or as Camille Paglia calls it, “the perversion of feminism that Ensler represents”), but I’m focusing on this one. Period.

I was inspired to revisit my period passion by some extraordinary Dr. Oz segments, in which he boldly went where few men (or women) are ever willing to go — particularly in the tepid waters of daytime network television: to the flow. And true to Dr. Oz’s style, he didn’t pussyfoot around (no pun intended): he invited women’s health and hormonal specialist Alisa Vitti to help women decode the bloody display they see in the toilet or on the pad for important information.

As thrilled as I was to see this happening in such a mainstream forum, I was equally saddened to hear what some women had to say about just looking at their own menstrual flow: “Ew.” “It grossed me out.” “It was just so disgusting.”

Let’s remember that what they are talking about is the nutrient-rich uterine lining that is lavishly prepared by our amazing bodies each and every month — in case a wee, potential human should happen along (in the form of a fertilized ovum) and need to embed itself there to begin growing. No fertilization, no need, and so we shed that source of nourishment as our monthly flow.

What Mothers Convey About Period Power

What was your mother’s attitude toward her period? This sets the tone for how we embrace, or subtly (and not-so-subtly) reject, our awesome but culturally taboo creative powers as women. I invite women to reconsider this intimate ecology, an ecology that was central to the late birth and environmental activist Jeannine Parvati Baker‘s work. In her landmark book Conscious Conception (written with Frederick Baker and Tamara Slayton) Jeannine invited women toward “an increased sense of trust and appreciation of their reproductive cycles — an invitation to reflect upon these cycles as a means of soul-making and spiritual development that will vibrantly color all aspects of our lives.”

And all aspects of our daughters’ lives! Whether our daughters are teens, grown (like mine), or just wee babies, it is in their interest as future fertile and well-birthing women that we as mothers do some womanly self-inquiry, and perhaps heal an intergenerational passage of attitudes: Are our bodies a locus of integrity, honor, power, or are they reservoirs of “unfresh” odors that need to be tamed with FDS? Are we empowered by the life-giving energies of our miraculous, mysterious bodies, or are we diminished by the onslaught of cultural messages that casually characterize those energies as “the curse”? By commercials that counsel young women about the best product to medicate away the entire experience, cheerfully pronouncing “your period is more than a pain (it’s bloating as well!)”?

(And don’t even get me going on the subject of the contraceptive pill that gets rid of the whole nasty business of menstruation altogether — yikes!  Sistahs, don’t fall for it!)  And, saddest of all, aren’t we all too familiar with apologetic monologues in which uncomfortable mothers hastily explain to their embarrassed daughters about “that time of the month” in terms that engender disgust and shame (or at the very least, apprehension) rather than a sense of the sacred privilege and power of fertility unfolding within them?

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True, privilege and power aren’t usually associated with our “visit from Aunt Flo”! But Jeannine Parvati urged us to reconsider the true meaning of our monthly moon time: “Menstruation is the red flag that salutes the hard work of the preparation for another conception. Modern women suffer premenstrually because they do not fully comprehend the magnitude of the psychic and nutritional preparation that is required to build a healthy lining for an embryo. Your body has not slackened off from its commitment to reproduction and pulls from every cell to fulfill this mandate.”

In other words, our bodies and psyches work hard to create conditions for new life and our obliviousness to that fact (for many) brings suffering. In traditional cultures who abide by natural cycles of many kinds, menstruating (and likely pre-menstruating) women typically withdraw from many of their regular duties and activities, to have time and space for contemplation and self-nurturing. To me it makes sense that the modern multi-tasking woman might become irritable or snappish as something primitive in her may be urging her toward solitude but her culture has raised her to be machine-like: an unpausing, linear automaton rather than a cyclical, sacredly fertile woman!

Embracing the Power of Cycles

Jeannine dedicated her life to raising (or more accurately, restoring) women’s — and men’s — awareness of their connection to the earth and its cycles, and of the innate wisdom and power that resides in each of us. Dr. Jackie Guiliano, a professor of environmental studies, points out that early people knew they had to understand nature’s cycles and work with them, particularly the cycles of the moon. The new moon heralds the sowing of seed or the harvesting of crops. During the waxing moon, all things that need to grow must be tended to.

He reminds us that a woman’s menstrual cycle is indeed a powerful force that intimately connects women to the Earth and the moon. The average menstrual cycle is 29.5 days, the same as the cycle of the moon. Before the era of artificial light or chemical contraception, women may have ovulated and menstruated throughout the world at about the same time because of the moon’s influence! (Many women today have experienced the synchronization of menstrual cycles among woman who are living or working together. Do we pause to consider how amazing this is??)

Period Power, for Living, for Birthing

Women, our attitude toward our period — our very generativity! — in turn impacts how we live, how we labor and how we birth. In her writing and worldwide teaching Jeannine Parvati decried our modern alienation from our own bodies, from our knowledge of them and our trust in them. Not only is this bodily knowledge and trust fundamental to healthy birthing, it extends beyond individuals to our collective mother, our planet Earth.

Jeannine believed that the “lack of attention to the care and maintaining of this planet is sharply reflected in the way we have ignored the messages from our own bodies.” Womb ecology, world ecology.

At any moment we choose, without renouncing our status as “modern women,” we can begin to reclaim our native connection to the earth, the moon and our own sacred, cyclical, powerful nature. I invite you to embrace this deep knowledge, in some really practical ways:

  • Take note of the moon’s cycle, and begin to notice how much more successfully, for example, big projects and important events tend to flourish and attract lots of people and attention when scheduled during a waxing moon… and how much more intimately we can “go deep” with a small number of friends, or lovers, children — and most of all, ourselves — during a waning moon.
  • And vice versa: if you’re hoping to attract a big audience to an event during a waning moon, you may be disappointed; but your small audience will want depth! The moon influences us all, whether or not we take notice.)

We can take some healing cues from Jeannine Parvati’s stories about the evolution of her own “menstrual consciousness” in her classic Hygeia: A Woman’s Herbal. In one, she came to recognize the grief inherent in menstruation:

I intuited that there was no need to create a dramatic upheaval in my home, in order to get my mate to “make me cry”… I could re-own those feelings myself, and have a good cry, letting go of the egg, the hope, with my tears. Then the blood flowed easier and more pleasurably.

And (stay with me here), we can return our monthly flow to the earth, which — as “out there” as it sounds to us “civilized” gals — isn’t that hard and is surprisingly satisfying. In my last years of flowing, I would drop my organic cotton tampon into a cup or so of warm water in a pitcher dedicated to this purpose…let it soak a bit…then squeeze it out completely. (Yes, gals, I actually touched it!)

It’s an awesome fertilizer for your garden. But more importantly, points out Jeannine, it’s a good way to “get in touch” with your period: “Handling your … blood helps to discharge lots of our self-disgust, so inculcated by media, myths and poor health.  …The handling of our own secretions will prepare you for the sometimes bloody experiences of childbirth, and other crises. Blood will cease to ‘freak you out.’”

In other words, it will help reconnect you to your period power!

Images:
Top two royalty-free/Corbis

Birth from WiseWomanChildbirthblogspot.com

 

I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the
Next Generation of Peacemakers
, and also the adoption
expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on
prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private
practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans,
earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to
Mothering readers I’m offering a unique 7-step parenting tool, a
“Quick-Start Guide to Shifting Your Child’s Perplexing, Stuck Behaviors.”

The post Period Power — Rethinking Menstruation appeared first on Mothering.

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My Three Mothers: An Appreciation http://www.mothering.com/articles/my-three-mothers-an-appreciation/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/my-three-mothers-an-appreciation/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 21:54:21 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/my-three-mothers-an-appreciation/ I had three mothers and I needed them all. I’m dedicating this Mother’s Day reflection to all you mamas out there who fill so many roles and wear so many hats in meeting your children’s needs — and you’re each just one mother! You are mistresses of the bob-and-weave, performing complex multi-tasking maneuvers to cover the many […]

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I had three mothers and I needed them all. I’m dedicating this Mother’s Day reflection to all you mamas out there who fill so many roles and wear so many hats in meeting your children’s needs — and you’re each just one mother! You are mistresses of the bob-and-weave, performing complex multi-tasking maneuvers to cover the many bases required of moms.

 

My three mothers divvied up the territory, though certainly not by design. It just sorta worked out that way.

 

Liz, My Birthmother

LizSmokingThroughout my childhood, I was matter-of-fact about the idea of having another mother out there somewhere. I remember fantasizing only once or twice that she was really one of my mother’s friends, someone I’d known all along. When my father asked me, soon after my mother died, if I wanted to find my birthmother, my interest blossomed from its dormancy.

 

Since mine was an independent, open adoption (one of the first ever), there was virtually no “search” required.  My birthmother’s name was right there in the San Francisco white pages. I don’t really remember what Liz and I talked about during that first phone call. I was floating through an unreal place, and our mundane chit-chat felt surreal in juxtaposition. The bottom line was the setting of our blind date.

 

Liz spotted me immediately as I walked into the restaurant.  She had brought me a gardenia.  We hugged awkwardly, and then talked — a lot. The content of that conversation faded quickly from memory. It was beside the point. The point was to gaze at this woman and catch glimpses of my own face reflected back, not as in a mirror but ethereally, like through a lake, or through enchanted eyes.  That was an incredible high, a genealogical fix that would overshadow the negative aspects of our relationship in subsequent years. It was the heady rush of connection that would keep me coming back.

 

She showed me pictures. When I looked at a snap of my birthfather it was the first time in my life I had ever seen my own features on someone else: the freckles, the orb cheeks, the sheer Scottishness. Then there came shots of my half-sister and -brother who’d come shortly after her marriage, which had come shortly after me. Alongside pictures of Ted and Liz (yes, she named her second daughter after herself) were pictures of me that Mom and Dad had sent her over the years.

 

Her story unspooled:  she’d been dating my birthfather, had gotten pregnant, and marriage wasn’t on the menu. (He had recently left a marriage, and a son.) They weren’t teenagers — she was 21, he was 28.  She moved in with him in Santa Barbara, but with no plans for the future. One day she poured out her story to a neighbor, who was named Marcy.  Marcy happened to have a dear friend who was hoping to adopt, and could she tell her about Liz?  Sure, why not.

 

Liz didn’t think much of it until Marcy showed up on her doorstep with Bee and her husband, Bob.  They all hit it off, and soon made arrangements with a lawyer who was one of the pioneers of open adoption. Liz moved up to San Francisco, near Bee and Bob. Liz and Bee chatted, they shopped together for baby clothes, they had lunch at Blums. Liz came to feel that “I was carrying you for Bee and Bob.”

 

“After you were born, I held you once and you spit up on me, and I gave you back to Dr. Norris,” Liz told me during one of our first talks, “and that was that. I never did believe in ownership of children.”

 

Bee, My Adoptive Mother

For me, the modifier “adoptive” is unnecessary. When I say “mother” or “mom” I mean Bee. She was a dark-haired Canadian beauty who was bottle blonde for all the years I can remember her. Her gorgeous face bore the lines and weight of her struggles in life, to get out, to move up, to be more, to get more, and mostly in the sun.

 

She had married young to get away from home, and had a son, Brian, from that marriage. She left the marriage and the son when Brian was nine, and went to the Carribean with a girlfriend. It was in Jamaica that she met my future adoptive father, Robert, a wealthy Jewish corporate executive who was quite the uncatchable cad until he met Bee, who captivated him and landed him for good. Brian came to live with them when he was eleven, and I came along a year or so later.

 

Being adopted by Bee and Bob enrolled me in an interesting, if somewhat unconventional, childhood (which included becoming a championship waterskier, but that’s a different story!). Bee was a charismatic, energetic, powerfully attractive woman with exquisite taste in everything, and a keen business sense. Around the time of my adoption, at five days old, she was overseeing the construction of our custom home in Tiburon, across the Golden Gate from San Francisco. On the heels of that project, she opened a crafts gallery called Many Hands. She wasn’t home much, but there was always some caring housekeeper around to attend to me and do the cooking.

 

I see myself, maybe six years old in my snappy pageboy haircut, and Mom in her silk capri pants, dancing the twist together by the wet bar in the living room. (It could be a scene lifted right out of an early season of Mad Men.) Oh, how I watched my mother so hard, tried to keep in step, tried to swivel my boyish hips the way Mom swiveled her curvy ones, grinding my little foot into the parquet floor — “It’s just like putting out a cigarette, Sweetface” — and shimmying my knobby shoulders back and forth in earnest concentration.

 

From a childhood of few memories, here’s another one that stands out as an emblem of our not-very-connected relationship:

 

“Mommy!?” I call into darkness that separates my room from hers.

 

“I don’t feel good,” I tell my mother when she finally arrives, so silky and smelling of exotic night creams.

 

“Well, come on in the bathroom,” she says, “and we’ll see what we can do. Is it your tummy?”

 

“Uh huh,” I answer, lying. All I want is to sleep in her bed. But I can’t bring myself to ask. (“Big five-year-old girls don’t sleep with their mums!”)

 

“Okay, well, come over here, sweetface, and we’ll see if we can’t make you feel better.”

 

She takes my hand and together we go over to the toilet and then my mother sticks her finger down my throat. When I don’t vomit, she gives me two St. Joseph’s aspirin, and sends me back to my own bed.

 

So many things took my mother away from me — her projects, her work, her social recreation. Was she escaping her own terror of a child and its needs? And was it her ancient absence, the days and nights of care by hired hands, that shaped my own strained experience of motherhood once my babies came along? I certainly did have a vague sense that underlying much of what I did as a mother was a mute flailing to be whatever my own mother was not.

 

This set me up into a bind, though, since I don’t remember a time when my attention wasn’t trained on my mother’s cues for exactly how to be. In the face of Mom’s inescapable will, any native impulse in me withered before budding. This was not a particularly malicious or even conscious act on my mother’s part but rather a simple consequence of her nature, in the same way a firestorm sucks oxygen from a building.

 

Had my mom not died when I was 21, I don’t think I would have felt freed to pursue the growth, healing, and acceptance with which I have been blessed. The paradox there is, I would so very much love to have a day with Bee now. Now I could appreciate her, and have the wherewithal to tell her why. She modeled grit and savvy for me, at a time when women’s lib was a novelty. She knew how to have fun. She sought out beauty and found pleasure in life. What a great grandmother she would have made for Ian and Eve. And what a great friend she might have been at this point in my life.

 

Edie, My Allomother

 

Definition of allomother

Edie is the one of my three mothers who wasn’t actually my mother. Nor a mother at all. And yet, the most maternal of all.

 

Around the time I was born, Edie followed her brother Robert’s lead and left the harsh winters of Chicago in favor of spectacular Marin County, California. She built her house right next door to Mom and Dad, and it was my safe haven. Edie was apparently the only one concerned about whether my home was a healthy place for a little girl to be growing up. Single and childless, she devoted herself to providing me what a little girl needed.

 

EdieAndMeGeraniumsWhen all was mishegoss, as Edie would say, I always knew I could go next door to her place, where I had a room and my special things. She was always there for me, a constant presence, a predictable rock. Edie was usually outside, watering the dichondra or pruning the camelias or applying foul-smelling food to her grateful plants. She  always wore her “uniform”—-a blue denim skirt and shirt with blue Keds and bobby socks. Her short wavy black hair never changed over the years, except for the steady march of grey. Her only make-up was pale loose powder and what looked to me like red greasepaint from a little tin pot. It performed double duty as rouge and lipstick, applied with her pinky finger.

 

Edie wove a comforting routine for me that I could enter whenever I wished by slipping through the bamboo trees and walking the stepping stones down the iceplant hillside to Edie’s House. Together we would drive to the post office, where I helped dial the combination on box 257, then walk across the street to the Embee, where Stan the butcher would give me three slices of salami just to see me smile, and then drive to the nursery where I would get bored while Edie perused the succulents. Then we would sometimes stop by Claire’s for ginger snaps, or Irma’s to sit and watch the fish in her little pond. It was solid, it was loving, it was just the kind of predictable rhythm I now instruct parents to provide for their young children.

 

I would nap on the living room sofa while Edie cooked for me, her sounds from the kitchen slipping into my unconscious to comfort me — the calming sounds of a tending person puttering, the clack-clack of a spoon against the smooth, shiny sides of a metal bowl. Small, careful movements made with extreme watchfulness, quiet out of respect for my sleep.

 

Edie taught me basic life skills that were tedious to teach a young child: how to pee in a public restroom without sitting down, how to cut my toenails straight across so they wouldn’t ingrow, how to properly eat an artichoke. The only one of her family who had had the audacity to wonder about the inner workings of heart, soul, and psyche — she’d even been through analysis, for God’s sake — Edie used to chant to me like a mantra, “Relationships are very complicated.”

 

Missing My Three Mothers

Mom died first, at 56, of ovarian cancer. I was 21. Edie died next, at the more reasonable age of 84, of metastatic breast cancer that she chose not to treat. I was 35, with 3-month-old Eve in the front-carrier for much of the time I spent tending to Edie’s final week at home with hospice.

 

Liz's last birthdayLiz — in a sort of fitting circularity of completion, having been my first mother — was the last of my three mothers to die. Just three years ago this week. She was 78. And in her final weeks we shared an intimacy and authenticity that I hadn’t enjoyed with the others. This says as much, or more, about me as it does about them.

 

By the spring of Liz’ passing, I had done decades of painstaking (and sometimes painful) inner work and dedicated inquiry… delving into and making sense of… choking on and finally digesting… the “complicated relationships” I had had with my three mothers, and how they had shaped me. This enabled me to finally release my grievances of what I couldn’t get from them, and instead embrace the bounty of what I did.

 

Each of my three mothers offered me precious dimensions of themselves to the full extent of their capacities. There was a healing grace in stepping back to see how they’ve become woven into the conscious self-creation that is me — a grown woman, a mother myself, a self-actualized human.

 

A human who would give anything for the opportunity to give them all a Mother’s Day hug, kiss, and my heartfelt thanks.

 

About Marcy Axness

I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the
Next Generation of Peacemakers
, and also the adoption
expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on
prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private
practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans,
earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to
Mothering readers I’m offering a unique 7-step parenting tool, a
“Quick-Start Guide to Shifting Your Child’s Perplexing, Stuck Behaviors.”

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The Power of Example | 3 Cool Mothering Hacks http://www.mothering.com/articles/the-power-of-example-3-cool-mothering-hacks/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/the-power-of-example-3-cool-mothering-hacks/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 17:13:33 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/the-power-of-example-3-cool-mothering-hacks/ It seem that we moms are always seeking more of something: more harmony with our children, more calm & confidence in our parenting, more connection with our partner, more uninterrupted sleep. (That last one is its own entire book, but…) You can get surprising traction on the rest by putting the power of example to […]

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Spring Simplicity SeriesIt seem that we moms are always seeking more of something: more harmony with our children, more calm & confidence in our parenting, more connection with our partner, more uninterrupted sleep. (That last one is its own entire book, but…) You can get surprising traction on the rest by putting the power of example to work for you in a few simple ways!

Example — principle #4 of Parenting for Peace — is the ultimate mode of teaching and learning. Meaning, we are most influenced by example. In my book I focus mostly on ways to teach and influence your child through your own example, but let’s zoom out one step and use example to influence YOU. (Which, in a sneaky twist of paradox, is truly the best way to influence others!)

Here are a few powerful ways of influencing yourself toward shifting into more of what you’re seeking through harnessing the power of example in unexpectedly simple ways.

Seek Out Worthy Models

As mothers we are expected to be unceasingly worthy models for our children. But who are our models? This is a fruitful question to pose to yourself, lest you end up (like so many do) unconsciously adopting cultural norms as your examples. (Think sitcoms and reality shows.) When we consciously seek out worthy models, it enriches us in our 24/7 role-model job through the unstoppable power of example.

  • Whom do you admire? Make a list of these people, and note the specific reasons for your admiration. And you can even think specifically about mothers you admire — famous or not — and spend time in their presence, through a biography, in person, or in writing and conversation (for me one of these admired women was Blythe Danner, Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom!)
  • Read/watch a biography of someone who has qualities you would like to cultivate in yourself, such as confidence, self-possession, grace-under-pressure.
  • Place an image of this admired person where you’ll see it often.

Find the Queen in You

A great Waldorf kindergarten teacher, Patty McNulty, taught me something important about the power of example. She said, “Mothers, find the queen in you, and fathers, the king.” A child needs to sense a dignity about her parents and about their attitude toward parenting (and thus, to her).

Sometimes our insecurities are expressed as silly humor that undermines this dignity. One father would deliver his son to the kindergarten classroom by hoisting him off his shoulders over his head and announcing in a goofy voice, “Here’s my trained monkey!” Such a scenario doesn’t fit this elevated atmosphere we seek. Of course you can — and should — be playful on a regular basis, but let it be from a place of deeply sensing and owning your own dignity and that of your child.

Seek out and cultivate your inner nobility, benevolence, and knowing authority. Sometimes just recognizing the importance of this helps you do it!

Attract the Change You Seek

Power of Example = 3 Cool Mothering Hacks | Marcy Axness, PhDWhatever we surround ourselves with becomes a shaping force on our being. Peacefulness, order and beauty in our environment support our inner wellbeing and health, from cells to organs to the whole bodymind system. Clang, clutter and chaos, on the other hand, can also become embodied physically and mentally. As without, so within.

Even if it takes a Herculean act of will, do your best to shape your surroundings according to what you would like to cultivate in your life. Baby steps. Some decluttering here, some beautifying there.

You can begin as simply as this: find an image or two that exemplifies what you’re seeking — harmony, confidence, connection… and, what the heck, sleep — and place them where you’ll see them often. As you gaze at the image, feel gratitude for experiencing that blessing right now.

A wonderful mantra to help attract the change you seek: “It is already done, and I am so grateful.”

 

 

Image by The Sean & Lauren Spectacular through a Creative Commons license.

 

 About Marcy Axness

I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the
Next Generation of Peacemakers
, and also the adoption
expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on
prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private
practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans,
earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to
Mothering readers I’m offering a unique 7-step parenting tool, a
“Quick-Start Guide to Shifting Your Child’s Perplexing, Stuck Behaviors.”

The post The Power of Example | 3 Cool Mothering Hacks appeared first on Mothering.

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3 Simple Ways to Nurture Yourself http://www.mothering.com/articles/3-simple-ways-to-nurture-yourself/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/3-simple-ways-to-nurture-yourself/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 03:27:58 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/3-simple-ways-to-nurture-yourself/ I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So very true! Children feed on our consciousness, so our mood state becomes the unspoken (but potent) back-beat for everything that takes place between us and them. The more we can nurture ourselves, the more easeful our day-to-day life with our […]

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I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” So very true!

Children feed on our consciousness, so our mood state becomes the unspoken (but potent) back-beat for everything that takes place between us and them. The more we can nurture ourselves, the more easeful our day-to-day life with our children becomes — and the more healthy their development! Here are three simple ways to nurture yourself.

Nurture Yourself with Warmth

In our sophisticated world of central heating and air, we can easily forget the nurturing power of warmth. Fire (candles included), teas, soups, yummy natural fibers (throw blankets, clothing, napkins, towels), the tone of voice you use when talking to yourself inside your head (c’mon, we all do that!!), scrumptiously warm colors on your walls — these are all easy ways to warm up the atmosphere in ways that are very nurturing.

Bedtime is especially a time for warmth: a candle burning during the bedtime story can be very soothing for your child, and one by your own bedside can be nurturing for you. Want a really nurturing treat? Try those buckwheat-filled “beanbags” that you warm in the microwave for three minutes and then drape around your shoulders or lay across your belly or under your feet before climbing under the covers. Mmmmmm….

Nurture Yourself with Slack

If you are in my club — Perfectionists Anonymous — there is always the tendency to relapse into this culturally encouraged addiction. Nurture yourself with the mantra, “I’m letting myself off the hook.”

Choose where you’ll let your high bar stand (the quality of presence with your children and partner) and where you’ll let it relax (the color coordination of your bedding). If this means buying salad in a bag or using beans from a can rather than cooking them yourself… redirect the energy you might have spent beating yourself up over it, and instead bless the lettuce and the beans — along with those who prepared it!

Nurture Yourself with Pacing

3 Simple Ways to Nurture YourselfIn today’s must-go-faster world, too many homes  echo with the chill of cool, expedient efficiency. We’ve become a hyper-practical, results-focused culture. Too often we’re too busy to slow down to child time, which is inherently more molasses-paced. To kneel down to our child’s level to listen to her story, to put our arms around our son and look at that treasure he just found, doesn’t often jibe with our lockstep schedule.

One of the most nurturing gifts you can give yourself (and your children, especially during their youngest years) is time. One of the handiest, all-purpose forms of nurturing that makes virtually everything easier is to slowwww dowwwwnnnn.

And yes, this may require revising the adult agenda of “what must get done” — which is  one of the biggest obstacles to joy and tranquility in the home of young children! Attuning when possible to your child’s unhurried rhythms makes everyone’s life sweeter.

As I like to say — and this pretty much applies to all aspects of life — “slow down, pleasure up.” Allow twice as long as you think it should take to do anything — a trip to the grocery store, a visit to the playground at the park, a stop at the library. Put this formula on your fridge: Perceived Time Requirement x 2 = Sanity, Joy & Peace!

 

Image by mahalie, used through its Creative Commons license

 

About Marcy Axness

I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the
Next Generation of Peacemakers
, and also the adoption
expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on
prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private
practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans,
earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to
Mothering readers I’m offering a unique 7-step parenting tool, a
“Quick-Start Guide to Shifting Your Child’s Perplexing, Stuck Behaviors.”

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Got Trust? The Antidote for Insecurity & Stress http://www.mothering.com/articles/got-trust-the-antidote-for-insecurity-stress/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/got-trust-the-antidote-for-insecurity-stress/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 23:40:57 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/got-trust-the-antidote-for-insecurity-stress/ One fundamental intention in parenting for peace is to foster trust and hope within your child from the very beginning. When we nurture trust in our children’s souls, it can unfold into an unending arc of confidence — in themselves, in you, in their fellow humans, in Life. By trust, I mean a calm reliance […]

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One fundamental intention in parenting for peace is to foster trust and hope within your child from the very beginning. When we nurture trust in our children’s souls, it can unfold into an unending arc of confidence — in themselves, in you, in their fellow humans, in Life.

By trust, I mean a calm reliance upon things that you cannot necessarily perceive, much less control. (What a quaint notion in this era when we can perceive pretty much everything by virtue of our many technological devices!)

Insecurity, the antithesis of trust, carries a scent akin to fear — it repels and undermines the connection and collaboration required be a person of peace and innovation. By contrast, trust is the great attractor; it is possible to tame the most powerful forces simply with deep and abiding trust.

The Antidote for Insecurity & Stress

 But how do we foster trust within our children if we ourselves suffer from a drastic lack of trust? After all, our children learn mostly from how we are rather than things we say. Here are a few tried and true ways to fill your inner reservoir of trust.

Remember What Trust Feels Like

Got Trust? An Antidote to Insecurity & StressThink back to when your baby was in the womb. You probably (at least for the most part) trusted that things were happening correctly on their own, without your direct tinkering. Could you imagine feeling like you had to do all that intricate maneuvering to build your baby yourself??

If you hadn’t been able to surrender into trust that the microns and molecules forming your child were in competent charge of their own doings, you could have easily gone berserk!

No matter what your child’s age now, you can tap back into that place of power-through-surrender — trust in the hidden inner process of your child’s vibrant, healthy development. Because it is there. The days go on and on, each flowing into the next, and you don’t readily see the transformations that are happening, but trust that the forces of life are working to unfold your child. And yes, sometimes you need boosts of inspiration to continue fanning the faintly glowing embers of your confidence in the notion that this too shall pass (whether it’s colic or potty accidents or sleep droughts, etc.).

Harness Your “Automatic” Trust

Bodymind pioneer Louise Hay reminds us that the level of trusting surrender that we bring to our breathing is the level of trusting surrender we can bring to every aspect of life. You probably don’t fret about, try to plan, or even give a thought to whether there will be a breath waiting to come in each time you exhale!

Just as our lungs, guided by intricate mechanisms in our brainstem, breathe without us controlling them, so too our lives very often breathe along better without our meddling attempts at direction. This is certainly true of parenting, in a paradoxical way: of course we need to make plans, have structures and boundaries in place, and have goals and visions, certainly. And then we let those intensions breathe us — we can “live out of pure trust,” in the words of Rudolf Steiner.

Cultivate This Trust-Building Mindfulness Practice

It builds trust to name the giants on whose shoulders we stand — philosophers, educators, scientists, artists. So many people’s  contributions have paved the way for us to thrive here on earth.

Open a refrigerator or turn on the light and mention a gratitude to Edison; turn on the faucet or shower and thank the brilliant engineers of the nineteenth century; flush a toilet and offer a thanks (with a chuckle) to John Crapper, who first mass produced them.

This is a powerful inner practice for parents, and as children enter the school-aged stage of life it is wonderful to involve them in acknowledging these benefactors of humanity.

 

Image by: Ⅿeagan through its Creative Commons license

 

About Marcy Axness

I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the
Next Generation of Peacemakers
, and also the adoption
expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on
prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private
practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans,
earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to
Mothering readers I’m offering a unique 7-step parenting tool, a
“Quick-Start Guide to Shifting Your Child’s Perplexing, Stuck Behaviors.”

The post Got Trust? The Antidote for Insecurity & Stress appeared first on Mothering.

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Mining Joy from the Muck of Daily Mothering http://www.mothering.com/articles/mining-joy-from-the-muck-of-daily-mothering/ http://www.mothering.com/articles/mining-joy-from-the-muck-of-daily-mothering/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 23:31:12 +0000 http://testvb.mothering.com/wp/mining-joy-from-the-muck-of-daily-mothering/ If you’ve followed me much, maybe you’ve heard me say this already: motherhood brought me to my knees. Motherhood broke me open, and then brought me… sometimes kicking and screaming (literally)… through the muck of daily mothering to a fullness of selfhood I couldn’t have even begun to imagine at the beginning of the bumpy journey. […]

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If you’ve followed me much, maybe you’ve heard me say this already: motherhood brought me to my knees. Motherhood broke me open, and then brought me… sometimes kicking and screaming (literally)… through the muck of daily mothering to a fullness of selfhood I couldn’t have even begun to imagine at the beginning of the bumpy journey.

Spring Simplicity Series

I was a walking list of risk factors for maternal depressive symptoms (often narrowly pigeon-holed as postpartum depression). Many hands, many ideas and much good guidance helped me navigate those baby, toddler and preschooler days… days that often seemed like molasses in their pace (they could be pretty sticky, too, come to think of it!)

Here are just two invaluable guiding concepts that saw me through.

Cultivate Wonder

What is wonder? I like to call it “curious simplicity” (simplicity is one of the seven principles that Parenting for Peace is woven around). It is a powerful shortcut into presence, which simply means being fully engaged “right here, right now” with your body, your thoughts and your feelings.

Presence isn’t just another of the seven P4P principles, it’s also a state scientifically proven to be a potent antidepressant. When we can become curious in a simple way about even the most mundane things in the course of our parenting day, we tap into delight and gratitude! It is akin to what my friend and mentor Joseph Chilton Pearce calls “living in constant astonishment.” The more you can do that, the more you will mine joy from the muck of daily mothering!

You can say, “Today I’m going to see everything anew — look at a tree as if I’ve never seen one. Open the closet as if I’ve never before seen a whole wall of clothes hanging for me to choose from.”

One helpful way to approach this is to imagine looking out at the world through your child’s eyes: everything is new and amazing through a child’s eyes. That sense of “Wow — water out of the tap!” or “Wow — text sent over phone lines through squeaky little noises!” brings you right into the moment  (granted, who faxes anymore? But it is pretty amazing).

Dig in Where You Are

This comes from French philosopher Gustave Thibon — on a yellowed, weathered newsprint clipping I put on my bulletin board probably 20 years ago!

You feel you are hedged in; you dream of escape; but beware of mirages. Do not run or fly away in order to get free; rather dig into the narrow place which has been given you; you will find God there and everything. God does not float on your horizon, he sleeps in your substance. Vanity runs, love digs. If you fly away from yourself, your prison will run with you and will close in because of the wind of your flight; if you go deep down into yourself it will disappear in paradise.

 

Image: Leonid Mamchenkov through its Creative Common license

 

About Marcy Axness

I’m the author of Parenting for Peace: Raising the
Next Generation of Peacemakers
, and also the adoption
expert on Mothering’s expert panel. I write and speak on
prenatal, child and parent development and I have a private
practice coaching parents-in-progress. I raised two humans,
earned a doctorate, and lived to report back. As a gift to
Mothering readers I’m offering a unique 7-step parenting tool, a
“Quick-Start Guide to Shifting Your Child’s Perplexing, Stuck Behaviors.”

 

The post Mining Joy from the Muck of Daily Mothering appeared first on Mothering.

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