The Evolution of The Self-Care Solution

The Self-Care Solution cover

Two decades, three separate attempts, 10 zillion “I can’t”s, five zillion, “I/you never will” (a few of those coming from my beloved, well-intentioned children), and many of them coming from the naysayer, the self-doubter, the disbeliever who hangs out in my mind. The one who nearly every single time I sit down to write pulls up a chair next to me and asks me cynically, “who are you to…?” and “who really cares about what you have to say?” (Quick interruption: I hope that you do! And if you do, I want to let you know that pre-orders from Amazon often determine the fate of a book’s sales. You can pre-order The Self-Care Solution—A Modern Mother’s Essential Guide to Health and Well-Being today)!

“Well…umm…I am a woman, a wife, a mother, a deep thinker, a reader, a questioner, a truth seeker, and a writer…and I had to write this book. I have a story to tell. A message to deliver—a message of hope and inspiration to other moms,” I would respond, some days more confidently than others.

I could not, would not let that big bad voice win.

Because this time was different. This time I implemented all of the necessary self-care tactics needed to take me to the finish line. I sat alone in my office for thousands of hours, sometimes feeling lonely, sad, anxious, and thinking of all that I was missing on the outside, wondering if it was all worth it, especially when my writing was stale and the big bad voice would not shut up. There were days when I ignored friends, family members, the laundry, the grocery store, and sometimes even my children and husband because I needed that kind of focus—the block-everything-else-out kind of focus. I dug deep, practiced yoga, meditated, saw a therapist, was painfully honest with myself, faced my demons and my insecurities, and reminded myself of my gifts and strengths. I listened to voices of hundreds of other mothers who were willing to share their truths with me, and pored through hundreds of pages of research on physical, mental, emotional, and relational self-care.

And most importantly, after nearly five years of this behind the scenes work, I filtered through all the information, insights and advice I gathered from other moms, various experts, research, and my own personal experiences, and documented the most essential elements of self-care for moms in The Self-Care Solution.

“Aren’t you scared,” the voice would ask me. “Terrified,” I say, my voice shaking. “I reveal myself in ways that I never have. I feel uncomfortably exposed. I am petrified of being judged.”

The voice still doesn’t understand, “If it feels so scary, then why are you doing it? You don’t have to, you know.”

“Oh, but I do,” I say.

“Because it’s time. To trust. To believe. To let go. To release the thoughts, the feelings, and the words, and let them soar.

This is my self-care.”

And it is my deepest hope that through your reading of The Self-Care Solution, you will find yours.

Go ahead and preorder your copy (and a few extras to give to your favorite mom friends and family members) from Amazon today! They will arrive in time for Mother’s Day 2016!

Friday Faves: Next Time Your Teen Does Something “Stupid”… Remember This

This Friday Fave is an excerpt from Book #1 and deals with gaining a better understanding of why your teen acts the way she does.

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“Troublesome traits like idiocy and haste don’t really characterized adolescence. They’re just what we notice most because they annoy us or put our children in danger.” (National Geographic, October 2011, Beautiful Brains by David Dobbs)

In a November 28, 2010, article in the Star Tribune’s Parade section entitled “What’s Really Going on Inside Your Teen’s Head,” the author, Judith Newman reveals “When my friend’s son—a straight-A student and all-around sweetheart—recently ended up in the hospital getting his stomach pumped because he went out drinking with friends for the first time and had now clue how much was too much, that is when I realized: There is just no predicting. Even for the most responsible kids, there is always that combustible combination of youth, opportunity and one bad night.” Newman goes on to explain, “Truth is, the teenage brain is like a Ferrari: It’s sleek, shiny, sexy, fast, and it corners really well. But it also has really crappy brakes.”

Researchers and scholars have been studying and writing about the adolescent and teen years for centuries. Aristotle characterized adolescents as lacking in sexual self-restraint, fickle in their desires, passionate and impulsive, fonder of honor and of victory than of money, and prone to excess and exaggeration (AC Petersen, BA Hamburg – Behavior Therapy, 1986 – Elsevier). More recently scientists and researchers have been analyzing the teenage brain in an attempt to find a scientific basis for teens’ frequent unpredictability, moodiness, carelessness, and an almost frantic desire to take risks.

Currently, there are some conflicting theories about the teenage brain. One theory states that a young adult’s brain is not fully developed until the age 25. However, Dobbs looks at recent research that sheds a slightly different view of the teenage brain.  Instead of looking at the adolescent brain as an immature of a work in progress, Dobbs discusses a theory that closely resembles the principle of natural selection. The “adaptive-adolescent story,” as Dobbs calls it, “casts the teen less as a rough draft than as an exquisitely sensitive, highly adaptable creature wired almost perfectly for the job of moving from the safety of home into the complicated world outside.” B.J. Casey, neuroscientist at Weill Cornell Medical College concurs, “We’re so used to seeing adolescence as a problem. But the more we learn about what really makes this period unique, the more adolescence starts to seem like a highly functional, even adaptive period. It’s exactly what you’d need to do the things you have to do then.”

Research reveals that the when a child is six years old, her brain is already at 90 percent of its full size by and that most of the subsequent growth is the thickening of her head skull. However, between the ages of 12 and 25, ”the brain undergoes extensive remodeling, resembling a network and wiring upgrade,” according to Dobbs. During this time, the main difference between and adult and teen brain is that teens value rewards more than consequences and are thus more apt to make riskier decisions.

In a study that compared brain scans of 10-year-olds, teens and adults, while the participants played a sort of video game with their eyes, that involved stopping yourself from looking at a flickering light or “response inhibition.” It turns out that 10-year-olds fail at this almost half the time but teens, by the age of 15 could score as well as adults if they are motivated, resisting temptation 70 to 80 percent of the time. The most interesting part of this study, however, was in looking at the brain scans, the teens brains were virtually the same size as the adults but “teens tended to make less use of brain regions that monitor performance, spot errors, plan, and stay focused—areas the adults seemed to bring online automatically.”  So, as it turns out, teens do understand risk, but value risk versus reward differently than adults. “In situations where risk can get them something they want, they value the reward more heavily than adults do.”

So the next time your teen does something really “stupid,” remind yourself that he is flexing his adaptive muscles. You can certainly set rules and limits on what behaviors are acceptable, appropriate and safe but know that there is more going on his brain than we may think. He will continue to push his boundaries, and according to this research, this is exactly what he should be doing.

Even though the above-mentioned principals make sense on paper, the reality of living through the adolescent and teen years with your children can be terrifying and maddening at times.

Here are a few pieces of tried and true advice that the moms I surveyed offered about managing the adolescent/teen years:

“We did (and still do) our fair share of “biting our tongue.” There are so many times I want to tell them what they should do, or offer suggestions, but I think the times that we have sat back and let them make mistakes on their own have been good and have helped prepare them for the real world.  I’m glad they made those mistakes while they were home with us and we could help support them.” (Mother of three children, ages 24, 22,18, married 26 years)

“My key strategy is TRUST! Trust your teenager until they prove other wise. They will respect you a lot more! I have seen parents who hover and get really involved. I have trusted my teenagers and when they get off track we re-direct, but I think they value my trust and genuinely want to hear what I have to say. It’s the ‘I’m on your side’ kind of attitude.” (Mother of four children, ages 18, 16, 14, 12, married 19 years)

“I tried to allow them as much privacy as possible while also encouraging them to share as much of their lives as they were comfortable sharing. That was the only strategy I had. Fortunately, it worked. Of course, there were many difficult moments, or maybe I should say months, but generally I felt they knew what they were doing and I supported them as best I could. When the anger level rose to red, we walked away from each other, but never for too long.” (Mother of two adult children, ages 42 and 40, grandmother of four, divorced)

Friday Faves!

photoFor the past three years, as most of you know, I have been working on a book about motherhood. The book has taken many different twists and turns. It started out as a book that was more of a “what to expect” book, which would guide moms through the motherhood journey from their child’s birth to leaving the nest. I felt that this would be helpful to moms at every stage of motherhood, whereas a mom of a toddler could be able to peek at what age 16 looks like. Well, the publishers and agents I queried did not agree. “The subject matter is too broad,” they said. “Moms want to read about whatever they are dealing with RIGHT NOW, such as, ‘My infant won’t sleep so I want to read about infants, not teenagers.’ ” Okay, fair enough.

After I moped around in my rejection haze for too long, I decided to change my focus a bit. One issue that is universal to moms no matter what stage they are in with their children is self-care. This is also an issue that nearly every mother struggles with, so, my new and improved book angle, which is in its final editing and polishing stage, covers how moms take care of themselves personally, relationally and professionally while raising their children. I am really excited about the project and hope that all the mothers who read it will find that it provides them with the tools to live more authentically and happily as they journey through motherhood. Personally, the research I have done for this book has taught me so much and has helped me find strength during times when I felt that my life had begun to spin out of control.

But here’s the catch. As I made the transition from Book #1 to Book #2, I had to leave a heaping amount of extremely valuable material on the cutting room floor… which leads me to my  Friday Faves. I have decided that every Friday, I am going to share some of my favorite quotes or stories from the 400 moms I surveyed and interviewed over the years for Book #1. Some of you readers will see yourselves in these quotes and stories. But your identity is safe with me!

The following story is this week’s Friday Fave:

A friend of mine, who we will call Ruth, explained to me how frustrated she was with her 10-year-old daughter who refused to pick up her clothes in her room after being asked to do so over and over again. One day Ruth walked into her daughter’s room and was furious when she saw her daughter’s clothes still covering the floor of her room. Ruth proceeded to take off all her clothes and drop them on the floor and said, “See, this is what it is like! This is my house and you are not picking up your clothes in my house, so I am going to leave my clothes on the floor of your room!”

And she stormed out of the room.

If you haven’t done something like this yet, you most likely will have moments when you will or will want to! Dramatic, yes, but surely Ruth’s daughter now thinks twice before she drops her clothes on the floor of her room. She may still do it, but she certainly will think about it differently. And at some point, she will have a great story to tell her own daughter when she won’t pick up her clothes in her room. “You’ll never believe what Grandma Ruth did when she was upset with me for not picking up the clothes my room.”

We moms have to give our kids some good stories to tell our own kids, don’t we?!

If you have any good, funny or memorable stories you’d like to share (and you can certainly request to remain anonymous), please email me at unscriptedmom@gmail.com. I would love to post them on my Friday Faves!

Exiting the Nest: Don’t Cry Because it’s Over…Who Said That?!

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“Don’t cry because it’s over, be happy that it happened,” my older son preached to me nearly every time he saw me for weeks after my daughter left for college. Even if my eyes weren’t filled with tears (I really tried to cry privately), he could see that there was sadness and loss that I was feeling deep from within. “She’s gone but she’s not GONE,” was the message my brain kept sending to my heart. I talked to many moms who forged this trail before me; who sent their children off to that never-never land place they call college. I heard, “It feels like someone died, like you are in mourning. You walk into their room and just weep. You kind of wander around in a fog for a while. But it does get better with time. And then when they come home again, it reminds you that it was definitely time for them to go.” I also heard, “I was so happy for my daughter and felt like I did my job in raising her. Now she’s off doing what she is supposed to be doing and that makes me feel good.”

I would put myself right smack dab in the middle of those two sentiments.

It has been exactly one month since I left her in that Ann Arbor parking lot across the street from her dorm and I am just now able to write down how it feels to launch a child. Although, ironically, I recently heard author Wendy Mogel speak and I had a chance to chat with her briefly. “I just launched my first child,“ I told her. “Did she graduate from high school or college,” she asked as she signed my copy of her recent book, Blessings of a B- (fantastic read, by the way). “High school,” I said with a questioning smile. “She’s not launched,” she said with such authority that it took me aback. She recommended a book called “Letting Go” by Karen Levin Coburn http://amzn.to/16VPYnG , which talks about the various stages your child goes through when in college, some of which can be very difficult as your child is trying to navigate the world as a young adult. I wasn’t sure if hearing this from Dr. Mogel made me feel any better or worse.

When doing research for my book, I interviewed many moms about the process of letting go. Some of my favorite responses include:

“The letting go process is sort of like walking off a cliff and praying you land safely! Or, letting a bird fly free, hoping it travels in the right direction. This is what we have all worked so hard for, to let our kids go, experience life…we just pray we gave them the foundation they need to be successful on their own terms. Sometimes it is very hard to parent while on the sidelines of college. Issues can be tough. Just remember you did the best job possible to get your kids where they are and hopefully they will take it the rest of the way—and they need to.” (Mother of three children, ages 23, 20, and 17, married 27 years)

“They always see you and need you in some sort of Mommy capacity. It’s the hugest relationship of their life, whether they realize it or not. So smile and give the independence and try to keep the advice in the solicited category, but also feel free to smirk a bit when they still need you, which they will. And realize they may still act like a baby around you sometimes. You are their safe place.” (Mother of three children, ages 19, 15 and 7, married 20 years)

“I don’t really think you ever really let go. It’s reorganization. It’s just a different way of thinking about things and shelving things. The worries…I do think they become bigger in some ways. You are not worried that they are going to get hit on the playground but you worry for their safety out in the world. You hope that you are still the voice inside their head that guides them when they are making decisions.”  (Mother of three children, 21, 19, and 17, married 22 years)

As for me, I am still somewhat raw with emotion and yet, am finding my way to embrace the letting go process, which, in my opinion, cannot be rushed.  I just recently stopped automatically pulling out six placemats when I set the table for dinner. I still find myself wandering around the grocery store, feeling a little lost as my daughter was the one with the STRONGEST opinions about what food MUST be in the pantry and in the refrigerator, and what she would and wouldn’t eat for dinner. I just booked her ticket to come home for fall break and when searching for flights, I habitually typed in round trip from Minneapolis to Detroit. After a few minutes, I stopped in my tracks and stared at the screen. “She is not traveling from Minneapolis, she lives in Michigan,” I had to remind myself. I also caught myself saying to a friend when she asked if I could go for a walk on a recent Sunday, “Well, Soph will be home studying, so I can leave the younger kids home with her.”  And I finally re-patterned my brain to stop thinking that she was going to walk through the door when I heard the chime that goes off every time a door in our house is opened.

Letting her go was indeed very painful for me. Moreso than I thought it would be. My acupuncturist suggested that there should be a ritual for moms when their child leaves the nest.  Moms need time and space to allow themselves to deal with the separation. They need not be immediately thrust back into life and almost shamed for feeling sadness and loss. They are almost expected to shake off any sadness and to feel overjoyed that they have a kid in college. “She’s super happy, right? She’s doing great, right? Aren’t you sooooo happy for her,” wonderfully good-intentioned people would ask.  Yep, she is and I am. Yet, I was sad too. For as much as I knew it was time for her to go, the reality of her leaving knocked me off balance…for a while.

People say that it takes about a month to regain your stability, and this was right on for me. Time has truly been a blessing, and I can now say that I have transitioned to a new normal. And it feels good. With the support of family and friends, I am now able to say without crying (most of the time), “My daughter is away at college.” My family is happy and adjusted at home, and Sophie and I have figured out our mother-daughter long distance rhythm via text, face time, email and phone calls. I try to give her space and she tries to connect when she has time. It works…for now.

I realize that there will be many more transitions that I will go through with her, and with the other three kids, but this one was momentous for me, and I am grateful to be on the other side of it.

I did cry (a lot) because it was over, HOWEVER, I am eternally grateful and overjoyed that it happened…And, in a slightly different configuration…continues to happen.

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