Reframing your parenting challenges

This week, my husband has been away on a work trip. This marks the first time he and I have been apart since February 2020, and the only time I’ve been home with our daughter for an extended period of time without him. I’m spoiled in a big way.

I won’t lie; leading up to this week, I was definitely nervous. What if she had a tough growth spurt week? What if my patience faded under the pressure of around-the-clock care? What if I couldn’t juggle our daughter, our dog, managing the house and being pregnant? And aside from all of that, I actually like spending time with him 🙂 Spending that much time apart after so long seemed so abrupt and lonely.

On the first day he was gone, everything was business as usual. I stuck to the baby’s routine and before I knew it, I was starting her bath time. I was so relieved and felt confident that things would continue to go smoothly.

On the second day, something shifted. Our day flew by, and as I was putting her to sleep, I got really emotional. I wasn’t ready to put her to sleep and was struck by the realization that I was enjoying her companionship. Our relationship has shifted from caretaker and baby. We genuinely have fun together. We communicate with and without words. We laugh. And this is just the beginning of a lifetime of creating memories together.

As a new parent, it’s so easy to get hung up on the caretaker role…which is in many ways a thankless job. You can easily lose sight of the big picture and the future under the strain of the day-to-day grind, the monotony and the stress. That’s why I thought of this week with trepidation: I was focused on how I would manage. By reframing it as getting to spend more quality time with my daughter, just the two of us without dad around, it shifted from something stressful to a memory I’ll never forget.

Reframing can be a powerful tool in parenting, moving your perspective from…

….frustration about a baby’s sleep schedule to gratitude for seeing every sunrise.

…feeling unproductive in how much you accomplish every day to appreciating the opportunity to slow down.

…missing your old self and former life to welcoming growth, transformation and the new you.

It’s not always easy to reframe while you’re in the thick of a challenging situation, but if you set the intention, I’m confident that the right perspective will come.

A bonus tip for introducing your baby to your dog

Several months ago, I shared 3 tips for introducing a new baby to your dog. They worked so well for us when our daughter was born, and I’m so thankful that we spoke to a professional dog trainer in advance.

Last week, we went on a road trip to the beach, which was the first time the three of us and our dog Kona were in the car together for an extended amount of time.

It got me thinking that while we prepared Kona for the changes a baby would bring to our home (the smells, noises, new gadgets, etc.), we never prepared him for changes in the car. So I’m adding a fourth tip for introducing your baby to your dog….

#4 – Get your dog comfortable with riding beside a car seat. Kona is a large dog (husky mix), and before our baby was born, he was accustomed to having the entire backseat to himself. In hindsight, I wish we’d installed the car seat earlier so that he could get used to having less space. And since I’ve often ridden in the backseat with our daughter if she’s especially fussy, I also wish we’d let Kona practice riding in the front passenger seat as well. Introducing him to a new seat with much less space during a stressful car ride with a screaming baby (like we did last week) doesn’t set anyone up for success.

So take it from me…play out different scenarios of who will be in your car, where they’ll sit and what you’ll want on hand to keep them happy beforehand, and you’ll be much less likely to compound an already difficult situation.

What’s the origin of your fear?

Yesterday, I had my 15-week prenatal appointment with my midwife. During every appointment, she goes through a checklist of questions related to my physical and emotional wellbeing. This time, when she asked about how I’m doing emotionally, I paused. I told her about the anxiety I’ve felt related to violence in our area, particularly gun violence related to kids. I also talked about how my fears around COVID really flared up around the holidays and into January.

As she let me ramble, I had a major realization: my anxiety and fear actually had very little to do with COVID and the violence we’ve seen on the news. Rationally, I know that we’re safe. We make thoughtful choices, and we’re not taking many (if any) risks to put us in harm’s way. I realized that I have some unaddressed fear as a new mom that’s been compounded by the fact that I’m pregnant again. Out of shame for not living up to my own standards, I wasn’t allowing myself to express that fear, so instead I attached it to two very real, widespread and acceptable fears…COVID and gun violence.

The reasons those fears have persisted and evolved into anxiety is because I hadn’t addressed their root cause. By allowing myself to be honest about the more vulnerable cause – motherhood can be scary – I continue to accept my whole self and show myself some grace. I also have the opportunity to evaluate my own expectations. Do I judge other mothers for their fears as parents? Absolutely not. So why do I judge myself?

All that to say, our fears as parents are valid. But there’s a big difference between recognizing fears, taking proper precautions and letting them go and what I was doing…taking proper precautions and then continuing to worry.

If you find yourself caught in a fear-based cycle of feeling anxious and attempting to control situations, it’s worth checking in. Have you taken precautions? Are you still worrying? What can you let go? Know that your fears are valid, but they don’t have to control you.

One piece of advice that’s worked for me is to find an emotional anchor that you can come back to again and again when you feel yourself slipping into anxious mode. For me, that’s a deep conviction that the house we moved into a couple years ago was divine intervention. The timing, the features and the neighborhood were exactly what we wanted. We are meant to be there as a family and so we are safe.

Parenting as a catalyst for personal growth

Topics related to personal growth and parenting have been on my mind a lot lately: how we’re raised as people pleasers, how to recognize childhood trauma and ways that postpartum healing is as emotional as it is physical.

Digging deep to explore your psyche, separate your true self from learned behaviors and heal old wounds is so incredibly important, especially during the challenging and transformative phase of parenthood. Under the stresses of parenting, you feel conflict (within yourself and with others) more easily and recognize really quickly when things just aren’t working. You’re reminded of your childhood and spend more time contemplating how your wounds and beliefs directly impact another person. Conflict with immediate family members might arise. Anxiety and fear often become more extreme, but so does love. It’s a time of coming to terms with a stark duality: you are both the best and worst versions of yourself.

While parenting can serve as a catalyst for deeper transformation and healing, these lessons and this work aren’t just for parents. In fact, waiting until you become a parent to begin your personal growth journey isn’t ideal; you’d likely set yourself up for a lot of added stress as well as strain on relationships with those closest to you.

That said, if you’re already a parent or about to become one and you haven’t started your journey, it’s absolutely never too late. Take it slow and give yourself permission to feel whatever arises without judgement. The results are so incredibly rewarding and will dramatically change your life.

If you’re looking for a place to begin, I highly recommend The Seeker’s Manual by Arda. You can find other resources for seekers and parents under my resources tab.

30-day writing challenge: manifesting your goals

Several years ago, I was in a job that made me very unhappy, and the message I kept getting from the Universe was “have faith and quit.” I knew that was the right approach, but I was stuck on the question of what I would do with my time once I quit. I wanted to make the most of it. I set a date in my mind of when I would resign and gave myself a month to come up with a plan.

My mind was swirling with different scenarios, so each morning for a month, I pretended like I’d already quit my job and wrote a page or less on what I was doing with my time that day. I wrote in present tense (for instance, “I am designing” instead of “I will design”) and really explored each scenario as if it was actually happening. I tried to free myself from limiting thoughts and write about not only what I did, but how I felt.

By the end of the month, I had 30 detailed examples of how I could use my time and felt so confident in my decision to quit my job.

Writing challenge tips

This process could be applied to anything — your next job, relationship, health goals, financial aspirations, etc. If the idea of an open-ended topic feels too unwieldly, you could always choose different themes to write about each week; for instance, if your goal is a new romantic relationship, your weekly themes could be: how we met, the first trips we took together, little ways we show each other unconditional love and how we plan for our future.

If you do decide to commit to the challenge, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  1. Try not to cover too many topics at one time. By focusing on one scenario at a time and exploring each idea fully, I was able to silence the chaotic chatter in my brain and unlock my creativity.
  2. Write around the same time each day. By writing everything down at a designated time, I set my intention with the Universe and kept my mind from spinning on the topic throughout the day. I’m not a morning person, but first-thing in the morning worked best for me.
  3. Not everyone is a writer. If the idea of sitting down to write seems daunting, you can explore other creative forms of expression like bullet journaling or drawing.
  4. Don’t overthink it. The goal here is tapping into your inner knowing and setting intentions, not perfection. If you find yourself getting stuck or self editing before you even begin, just start writing. You can even write about your writer’s block or frustration, just get something on paper, and I promise, ideas will start to flow.

Spring is a wonderful time for manifesting and new beginnings. Please let me know if you decide to try the writing challenge and how it goes for you!

Celebrating your whole self

Imagine this scenario: a 10-year old girl has curly hair that she loves. She’s the only person in her class with curly hair. It’s the one way she feels unique and special. It’s a major part of her identity. It’s the one thing about herself she wouldn’t change.

Then one day, her grandmother comes to visit. The little girl has on her favorite dress. She runs to give her grandmother a hug, and her grandmother makes a comment to the girl’s mother about her wild, frizzy hair. The little girl is devastated by her grandmother’s offhanded comment. She feels ashamed of her hair and embarrassed that it’s not like the other girls in her class. She starts asking her mom to blow dry it straight for her. Every day is a battle to cover up her true self. Years go by. When she’s in high school, a well-meaning hairdresser suggests a Brazilian blowout to chemically straighten her hair. The old belief that she’s not good enough is reinforced…

Now imagine the same story, but replace her curly hair with a quirky sense of humor, a “nerdy” hobby, below average athletic skills or any other quality that might set a child apart. We all have experienced childhood trauma in some form. We all have had a moment or moments like this one that profoundly changed how we viewed ourselves and how we in turn presented ourselves to the world.

The details don’t matter. What matters is that those viewpoints are lies…lies that we initially believed because we were young and impressionable. More often than not, they came from someone else’s hurt….their feelings of inadequacy. Maybe the little girl’s grandmother was told by her own mother that her hair needed to be straight, so her pain trickled down to haunt another generation. The lies start small, but they compound as the years go by.

It’s so incredibly healing to trace those lies back to their origin…to the moment they all started…and see them through the eyes of an adult, not a child. Recognize that the person who said them was weak and hurting and that their actions or comments actually had nothing to do with you. Let that sink in: they have nothing to do with you.

This process takes time, but once you see your past in a new light, you can’t unsee it. You will become more accepting of yourself, the real you. You’ll proudly show that side of you to the world. And when that happens, you will stop attracting situations and people that reinforce the lies you once believed. It will dramatically change your life and set you on your true course.

How we’re raised as people pleasers

I’ve written before that I’m a fan of Gretchen Rubin and her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. You might know her from her book The Happiness Project, which is one of those classics that I revisit periodically.

Several years ago, Gretchen wrote another book, The Four Tendencies, that examines what motivates people. She outlines four personality types – Upholder, Questioner, Obliger and Rebel – based on how different people respond to expectations, both external expectations from others as well as internal expectations from ourselves. It’s such a fascinating framework, particularly as you set New Year’s resolutions, raise kids, navigate politics at work and pretty much any other aspect of life that requires interpersonal skills. If you’re curious, you can take the quiz to determine your type here.

Gretchen states that:

  • Upholders want to know what should be done.
  • Questioners want justifications.
  • Obligers need accountability.
  • Rebels want freedom to do something their own way.

As I was taking the quiz, I remember feeling a familiar conflict welling up inside: how we respond to expectations from others, from a sense of duty, from the pressure to put others first. I was a people pleaser for most of my life, but that wasn’t my true nature. I felt trapped, unfulfilled and impotent. If I felt pressured into doing something I didn’t want to or if I worked long hours for a boss I didn’t respect, I lived for mini rebellions like showing up late, missing deadlines or doing something entirely for myself instead. I felt caught yo-yoing between feeling helpless and feeling selfish; during several particularly repressed times in my life, I let the people pleasing go so far that I had to take drastic action to recover (like calling off a wedding, moving to a foreign country, going to a large out-of-state college where I could feel anonymous).

It’s been years since I felt that way, but taking the Four Tendencies quiz took me back to those moments. I felt some unseen pressure to respond the way I was “supposed to” rather than how I actually felt. Because of the work I’ve done to get to know myself over recent years, I know those obligatory “supposed to” answers are not me; they’re a product of my upbringing.

I grew up in a very small, conservative, religious community. I was under constant surveillance and unforgiving scrutiny by adults in the community, and I felt enormous pressure to fit in and not step out of line. The people pleasing started there. The fear of standing out started there. And after almost 20 years of not living in that environment, I still feel its tug. Those are the lingering effects of childhood trauma.

Not surprisingly, the Four Tendencies quiz told me I’m a Rebel. I act from a sense of choice, authenticity and freedom. I don’t rely on others for guidance or power; I get them from within. And my heart breaks for that little girl, that powerful little girl, who was robbed from knowing her own strength for so long.

Learning & development toys for newborn – 7 months

As I’ve written before, I regret not including more learning and development toys on our baby registry before my daughter was born. It wasn’t the end of the world, but as a first-time mom, I was really surprised how quickly she was ready to engage with her environment, and I felt a bit unprepared. The good news is, you can have a lot of fun with some pretty basic toys and items from around your house!

There’s absolutely nothing magical about this list. These toys and activities worked for us based on our daughter’s developmental timeline. I highly recommend these two resources on learning and development to help with your journey. A note on this list: one item is included for each stage; the month listed is the month we introduced the toy to our daughter, but she’s continued to play with each toy (and still does today at almost 9 months).

Newborn – 2 months: Black and white art cards

There’s not a lot that you need during those first two months, but there is evidence that visual stimulation, particularly during the early months, may have a profound effect on baby’s development. As newborns, babies can only detect large contrasts between light and dark, so unfortunately those serene pastel nurseries aren’t doing much for them. That’s why products like Black Wee Gallery’s Art Cards for babies are so helpful. The company recommends placing the cards in a baby’s crib, above the changing table or any other place the baby spends time. It also describes how the cards facilitate a baby’s development over time, from birth through the first year.

3 months: Touch and Feel Board Book

Right after the newborn stage, our daughter starting showing an interest in textures. A friend of mine gave her the Jellycat Baby Touch and Feel Board Book If I were a Kitty. Each page of the book features a different texture, and the book itself has a curly cat tail. Unlike the other board books in our rotation during those early days, this one actually held her attention. If cats aren’t your thing, Jellycat makes the same book featuring bears, sloths, dragons and just about any other creature you can imagine.

4 months: DIY ribbon rattle

At around 4 months, our daughter started developing more motor skills and began showing more interest in her toys that made sounds, like rattles. Drawing inspiration from this post on DIY sensory shakers and noise makers, I made filled a plastic bottle with rice and colorful pom poms and attached ribbon to the lid. She likes her other rattles, but to this day, this one is her favorite because of the ribbons and all of the different colors.

5 months: DIY sensory bowl

Our daughter began to show a lot more curiosity at the 5-month mark. Coupling her increased interest in her environment with more awake time, and we found that it took more to stimulate her and keep her active. I started reading about sensory play, and got the idea to fill one of our mixing bowls with items from around the house that had a unique texture (sometimes called a sensory bowl or treasure basket). I went from room to room looking for candidates, but you can also find lists online. We started with a whisk, loofah, ball, wooden hairbrush, silicon cupcake mold, a board book and a few of her bath toys. I periodically rotate out her bowl friends to keep things fresh. I’m not exaggerating when I say we drag this bowl out every day, even now.

6 months: bath time animal stickers

At around 6 months, our daughter started to reliably sit up on her own. Up until that point, we were giving her baths lying down in the bath tub, but she loved her bath time, and I wanted to find a way for her to safely be able to splash around and play more. After doing some research, I got a Munchkin Sit and Soak Baby Bath Tub that we absolutely love. It has a built-in seat with back support so my husband and I can focus on washing and playing instead of trying to keep her in a seated position. That bath tub enabled our 6-month MVP: Weird and Wonderful Animals Bath Time Stickers. She always enjoyed bath time, but she’s absolutely obsessed with these foam stickers. They cling to the bath walls when they’re wet and float on the water surface if they fall in. My favorite feature is that the animals each come in three pieces, so she’ll have fun being silly and mixing and matching them once she’s older.

7 months: Bubbles

At 7 months, we faced a bit of a teething crisis. Our normally very happy girl started to get very cranky around 4 pm every day. I’d heard that babies love bubbles, so I ordered these Bubble Tree Sustainable Bubbles and saved them to play with during the most challenging part of each day. They immediately shift her mood and get her moving. I’m also really glad we didn’t introduce bubbles until we were having teething and crankiness issues; the novelty makes them even more special.

Nudges from angel numbers

When I began my spiritual journey, I awakened to the fact that there is a majestic fabric of wisdom and love connecting all of us with one another and with nature. I opened myself up to receiving information from my surroundings and got so much more present in my daily life.

One of the most incredible tools for receiving guidance I’ve experienced has been angel numbers, also known as number sequences. Joanne Sacred Scribes says, “Angels and those of the spiritual realm do their best to get our attention and to communicate with us. In this way, they help us heal our own lives. However, we often discount the signs that they give us, writing them off as mere coincidences or our imagination.”

Numbers can show up differently for different people. Some come across recurring numbers several times in a row; for instance, they’ll wake up at 6:24 am every morning before their alarm goes off. Or they’ll see the number 4230 show up multiple times in one day: what they owe for buying gas ($42.30), a number on a license plate and as part of a mailing address.

Typically, the angel numbers I receive happen when my cell phone lights up for no apparent reason, when my computer screensaver turns off even though I haven’t touched my computer or some other inexplicable technology phenomenon happens. I immediately look at the time and look up the meaning of the number. Joanne Sacred Scribes is my favorite source for angel number meanings, but try a few and find one that works for you. The numbers I receive typically are specific and tied to whatever I’m going through at that time; they offer support, guidance and advice.

I know this can sound completely far fetched if you’ve never experienced it for yourself, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being skeptical. Try it for yourself and see what you think. You can set the intention by sitting quietly and saying or thinking something along the lines of: “I’m open to receiving angel numbers in my life, and I’ll try to be mindful when I notice them. Thank you.”

Let me know if you try it and what you discover along the way!

5 methods for manifesting positive change in your life

Manifesting is the act of bringing something into your life simply by focusing on it. It’s also referred to as the law of attraction; you attract into your life what you think about and believe to be true. Anyone can do it. In fact, we’re all manifesting our life into reality all the time, whether we do it consciously or not. That’s an incredibly empowering thought: we can do it without even trying. But here’s the catch: manifesting cuts both ways. We can manifest both things that are good for us and things that aren’t, which means our thoughts, beliefs and intentions matter just as much as more tangible behaviors like daily routines, decisions we make and actions we take. The energetic sweet spot happens when we align what we think with what we do and focus all of our attention on one goal.

In our society, we place so much value on what we do and tend to ignore what we think. A friend of mine desperately wants to find her soul mate and actively takes steps to meet people. But the men she attracts are toxic, and she repeatedly feels disappointed. She’s attracting the wrong type of man into her life because deep down she doesn’t feel good enough to deserve love. Each relationship reinforces her belief that she’s isn’t loveable. The limiting narrative she believes about herself is blocking her ability to find a healthy relationship and keeping her in a pattern of unhappiness.

Manifesting can feel intimidating, especially if you’ve never mindfully done it. To make it feel more natural, try to find a method that works best for you. Below are a few suggestions to get you started. It’s also so important to remember that no matter what method you decide on, there’s a fine line between healthy manifesting and attachment; ultimately, you should embody your goal body, mind and spirit and then release your attachment to the outcome. This sounds counterintuitive, but there’s a big component of trust in the Universe and yourself at play. In my friend’s example, she could set an intention like “I want to meet someone who makes me feel unconditional love,” and then let go of attachment to the details like the timeline of when they’ll meet. Any attempt to control the process inherently implies a lack of trust and without full belief, manifesting doesn’t work.

Decision making. In The Real Magic Podcast (episode “New Year, New Witch” from January 17), Mallory Leone describes how she manifested her new home. During the months she was looking, she made every decision based on whether it brought her closer to her goal. For instance, the answer to “do I buy this new purse?” is “no, I want to minimize how much stuff I have to move.” I’ve never tried this approach, but it seems like a very logical framework and a good way to constantly bring your focus back to your goal.

Vision board. A vision board is a great method for manifesting your goals, particularly if you’re a visual person. There are so many variations you can try apart from the traditional poster board approach. You can decorate an entire wall of your home, create a digital version for your desktop wallpaper or phone lock screen. Pinterest is a wonderful source of inspiration. You can try creating it around the time of the new moon which is considered an effective time for new beginnings and manifesting.

Mantra. A mantra is a statement or slogan repeated frequently like “I am worthy of love” or “I will find a career aligned to my purpose.” You can meditate on your mantra, repeat it to yourself first thing in the morning or during predictable times like while driving. You can write in on your bathroom mirror, your phone wallpaper, on a piece of jewelry, in your planner or use it as a password. If you’re also designing a vision board, include your mantra on it. Get creative and incorporate it into your daily life in multiple places for constant reminders.

The Circle. The Circle by Laura Day is an incredible step-by-step guide to manifesting, from beginning to end. The book addresses each phase of manifestation and includes a workbook to work through topics like inner and outer roadblocks, rituals that support your goals and making space for transformation. Laura’s language is so powerful and uplifting. She says, “For every internal part of you — each thought, wish, fear, experience — there is an external coordinate. When you change the message in your being, in your very atoms, this change affects every person and every event on the planet — and sets in motion the unlimited power of the Universe. Miracles begin to happen for you.” I highly recommend this book for those at the beginning stages of making positive changes in their lives.

Daily writing exercise. I was in a job that made me very unhappy, and the message I kept getting from the Universe was “have faith and quit.” I knew that was the right approach, but I was stuck on the question of what I would do with my time once I quit. I wanted to make the most of it. I set a date in my mind of when I would resign and gave myself a month to come up with a plan. My mind was swirling with different scenarios, so each morning for a month, I pretended like I’d already quit my job and wrote a page or less on what I was doing with my time that day. I wrote in present tense and really explored each scenario as if it was actually happening. I tried to free myself from limiting thoughts and write about not only what I did, but how I felt. By the end of the month, I had 30 detailed examples of how I could use my time and felt so confident in my decision. You could try this process to write about anything — your next job, relationship, health goals, etc.