Understanding The Background Of A Mother’s Love

Understanding The Background Of A Mother’s Love

That’s me at the ripe age of 2.5 months, gently cradled in the hands of the women who had dreamt me up in her mind for over 20 years.  When asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Terri’s response was always simple: She wanted to be a mom.

October 30, 1987 that dream was realized for her, and she managed to push all 8 lbs. 13 oz. of me out and into this world.

This woman rocked me to sleep in an old wooden chair (that she still owns), and as she gently lay my tiny little frame into the crib, she hoped for me.

She prayed that life would be good to me. That I would be a woman of great kindness and courage. She pictured our lives together and the world she would show me. She saw visions of laughter and joy. Of great teaching and wisdom that she could share with me. She saw a future for me, better than her own.

She also sacrificed. She refused to squash my dominant, strong-willed personality—despite what other’s tried to tell her about “kids like that”. She traded in her dream of being a stay-at-home mom for a career so that she could support us and our dreams instead. She wore the same few outfits to work week after week, using her money instead to make sure we had new clothes for school and cash for extra things.

My mom loves almost-30-year-old-me as much as she loved little-tiny-newborn-me which makes sense to me now that I’m also a mom, because I can’t ever imagine looking at my boys any differently than I do now. I still see them in my mind’s eye being placed on my chest directly after birth. I can see their delicate limbs and I can feel the swell of my heart growing.

Thinking about the love I feel for my own children has led me to take a closer look at my own mother and the feelings she must experience.

Fun fact: Becoming a parent looks the same in the brain as falling in love.

Source: The neural correlates of maternal and romantic love

There are astonishing similarities in the areas of the brain that are activated from maternal and romantic love.

You know when you first fall in love and start ditching your friends to spend more time with your new boo? That same prioritization happens in your brain happens when you have a baby and both are due to levels of oxytocin and dopamine being released.

In fact, the simple act of caring for your baby (regardless of whether you gave birth to them or not) forges new neural pathways and creates changes in your brain that scientists are still trying to learn about.

So yeah, I guess you could say motherhood changes a person.

And that shows why mother’s carry around hearts full of unexplainable amounts of love for their children that never go away.

Have you ever thought about the background of your mother’s love?

Now that you know the science, let’s talk about your mama herself. Have you ever thought about the woman she was when you were a little itty bitty ball of gushy perfection? Have you ever taken some time to think about her age? The environment she was in? The sacrifices she made? The feelings she had for you?

If not, it’s an exercise I highly recommend. Taking the time to appreciate your own mother’s journey will not only give you a deeper love and appreciation for her, but it will also help heal wounds you may have from your relationship.

My mom and I have always been extremely close. I have been blessed in that way. Still, we have had our moments of disagreement, hurt feelings, etc. and one of the greatest things I did for our relationship was deciding that I would take the time to really think about how she loves me and who she was before me.

If you’re currently having a difficult time letting go of some negative feelings toward your mom, or you just want to understand her a little better, I’ve got a little exercise for you guys that’s completely free and very effective.

Click here to get my FREE Understanding your mother workbook + meditation

How To Teach Your Children About Diversity

How To Teach Your Children About Diversity

“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” – Dr. Seuss

It’s Read Across America Day! 20 years ago, it was decided to create a day of celebration to get families and children excited about reading. And since the Dr. is such a household name, they decided to hold the celebration on his birthday, March 2nd.

I know everyone loves to showcase their best Dr. Seuss inspired crafts, projects, costumes, etc.— and I totally love them! But today isn’t just about him, it’s about reading in general. And I’ve got a feeling that Dr. Seuss wouldn’t mind sharing his birthday celebration with any author who is out there trying to better this world, one story at a time— just like he did.

UPDATE: My friend Katie (founder of The Conscious Kid) brought this to my attention about Dr. Seuss and it really struck a chord. Warning: this is extremely offensive and disturbing content: A Call To Action To The NEA: Read Across America Day, the Racist History of Dr. Seuss & What it Means in Today’s Social, Political, & Educational Context

“I know, up on top you are seeing great sights, But down here at the bottom, we, too, should have rights.” – Dr. Seuss

In a world that becomes increasingly divided, it is so important to teach our children about inclusion and love that has no prerequisites.

And what’s the best way to raise your kids to love and celebrate diverse people, cultures, and lifestyles? Read books to them that celebrate people, cultures, and lifestyles that are different than their own.

My dear friend, Katie, started an incredible non-profit with her husband called The Conscious Kid. Their mission is to reduce bias and empower youth through “diverse children’s books featuring positive, empowering & authentic depictions of characters from underrepresented & oppressed groups.” (theconsciouskid.org)

It’s a subscription library — think Stitch Fix, but for books — allowing you to enjoy three new books each month without ever needing to walk through long aisles combing indexes and keeping your voices down.

In fact, you can cheer as loud as you want when each month’s books come to your doorstep, without fear of some older librarian in oversized glasses telling you to “Shhhhh!”. And at the end of the month when you’re ready to get your next shipment in, you just put the current borrowed ones in the prepaid return envelope provided and get ready to jump for joy over your next books.

But the best thing about this subscription is that it’s something you can do to make this world a better place and raise inclusive children who love and embrace everyone.

Most books that we find in stores have white, middle class protagonists, who all speak similarly and act similarly to white dominant culture.

I did a little recon on this and went through my own children’s book collection. Many of our books were given to us, so I felt like we had a wide range of diversity. But to my surprise, I only found three books out of 50+ that had even the slightest nod. One was a book about children with disabilities, another was a short book in Spanish, and the last really doesn’t count, because it just showed different ethnicities on two of the 6 pages (not including the cover).

Photo of a bookshelf

If our children are never exposed to anything outside of themselves, they are being indirectly told that nothing outside of what they know is as important or valuable. After all, if it was, wouldn’t they be learning about it and exposed to it?

That’s one of the many reasons I feel like The Conscious Kid is so important. With this new subscription, we are exposed to books of all diversities, allowing my children to learn about the world outside of themselves, and giving me the proper tools to teach them from a viewpoint other than my own.

Rather than trying to blindly find diverse books to add to our own library, I have the experts at The Conscious Kid hand selecting them for me. And I am already so excited about the books we have received and can’t wait to buy our own personal copies of them to add to our bookshelves.

(Image from The Conscious Kid)

Many people who hate and reject do so because they don’t understand and fear the unknown. But if you expose your children to lifestyles and cultures and people that are different than they are, then those things will no longer be unknown to them, and the cycle of irrational fear will halt.

Join me in raising children who are brave. Brave enough to love, brave enough to trust, brave enough to defend.

Let us raise them to include. To sit with the lonely, to help the needy, to befriend the outcasted.

We have a remarkable opportunity to change the world, and it starts with showing our children what this place could be like if everyone loved one another. You can do that through reading, and I hope you’ll join me in teaching your children— through books, that “a person’s a person no matter how small.”  No matter what ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or culture, or lifestyle.

A person is a person. And it’s up to us to make sure our children know that.

How To Use Hug Time To Create A Happier Homelife 

How To Use Hug Time To Create A Happier Homelife 

We all hear about the terrible twos and threenager stage, but I once had a friend explain to me that four is where the real chaos starts, and as we creep up on D’s birthday I’ll just say this— the struggle is real.

“Why” and “No, I’m not going to” have taken reign over my son’s vocabulary like an alien in a host body.

I never would have thought that someone would question me so extensively and upsettingly about mundane things like stopping at the gas station or putting on the socks with two grey stripes instead of three, but alas, it appears that mother does not know best and that my almost four year old is positive he’s got this world figured out. And hey, maybe he’s right.

After months of losing my cool and then promptly hating myself for it, I finally decided to step back and get some perspective.

Kids do what they want to do. They are instinctive to a fault. They rarely question something’s safety or social acceptability. They just live.  They simply love life. That is, until we convince them to question, fear, and conform to it.

And no, I’m not saying that we should all live in anarchy and just do whatever the hell we please without any thought to the consequences. I’m not saying we should wake up the whole house at 3:30 am because we really want to play with our drums and we don’t care about what stage of the REM cycle anyone else is in. Or that we should stick to a strict diet of ice cream and Oreos without considering the very real possibility of Diebetes.

As adults, our knowledge is what allows us to succeed. But it is also blinds us to the beauty of this world. To the simplicity. We have gotten so damn complicated that we tend to forget about our most basic human wants and needs.

Have you seen the movie Trolls, yet? If not, go grab it. It just came out on DVD and no, I’m not partnered with them. I just love that movie and think everyone should see it.

Anyway, in the movie, the main character Poppy (Anna Kendrick) goes on an adventure to save her friends from a Bergen that has captured them and wants to eat them. Although she has never done anything even remotely like that before, she is confident and optimistic and ready to take on the world with her glass half full mentality.

Branch (Justin Timberlake) who joins her, is the polar opposite of Poppy. He is pessimistic and sarcastic and sees everything through a “worst case scenario” lense.

While on this wild adventure to save their friends, Branch finds that true happiness has been inside of him all along and that he just needed someone (Poppy) to show it to him.

Friends, our children are the Poppy’s of this world, and they are trying to remind our grumpy Branch hearts what true happiness is.

When I realized this, my life started to change.

I started to care less about what was socially acceptable and more about what would bring joy to the people around me. I started singing in grocery stores and having dance parties at the park and talking to more strangers. I let my children’s light shine through me, to serve as inspiration for the kind of person I should be, instead of getting frustrated with them for simply being who they are at times that felt inappropriate or annoying.

And the biggest thing I’ve done is implement hourly hug time. 

In the movie, all of the Trolls wear these little watches that go off once an hour letting them know it’s time to hug.

So, to combat the tantrums that both my kids and myself seem to throw on any given day, I decided to take a page out of the Troll handbook and hug my children every single hour, on the hour.

I set alarms in my phone with a whimsical tone, and they go off from 6 am- 6 pm.

No matter what we are doing— arguing, grocery shopping, etc. — we stop and hug. I hug them while I’m in the middle of teaching a fitness class, with my hands covered in cooking ingredients, and we even “hand hug” if we are driving.

Did you know that hugs produce the love hormone oxytocin which helps to improve your physical and mental health?

I’ve been hugging my kids every hour on the hour for over a week and a half and I can honestly say it has had such a positive impact on our lives.

In fact, Declan can be mid-tantrum but when he hears that tone, he swings his arms open, grins from ear to ear, and yells, “HUG TIME!” while running to each of us for a nice big embrace.

Declan loves on his brother more now as well. The rule is, everyone gets a hug. And even my 18 month old opens his arms and lets us in for an hourly cuddle.

Outside of our hugging moments, I’ve noticed that we are all in better moods thoroughout the day. There has been less yelling, less tantrums, and less stress.

Needless to say, hug time is here to stay in my house! If you’ve been struggling with tantrums, or stress, or really anything— give it a try. Set some alarms on your phone, choose a fun tone with it that is upbeat and will excite everyone, and get your hug on. And then let me know how it goes. I hope this method works as wonderfully for you as it has for us!

 

How Do You Do It All?

(Photo by Brenda Munoz Photography)

“How do you do it all?”

A friend asked me this at dinner a few weeks ago, and our conversation stuck with me like a magnet to a fridge.

In the moment, I was quick to respond with an “I don’t!”— perfectly timed and delivered for comedic effect.

I went on to explain to her that in order for me to succeed on any given day, something has to suffer.

There are days where this space of mine goes untouched. (Read: I haven’t blogged in almost two weeks). Others where my laundry piles high, I skip my workout, or the kids spend too much time in front of the tv. Some days I don’t respond to a single message on social media.

Every single day, something suffers.

I simply try and make sure that it isn’t the same thing suffering each day. And at the end of each week, I hope that I was able to give each thing equal amounts of attention— with the exception of my kids, who hopefully receive above and beyond what everything else did. PS: that unfortunately, isn’t always the case.

If there is a better way to do things, I haven’t found it yet. Maybe it’s just this season of motherhood. Maybe in the future I will be able to pursue all of my passions without a single stone going unturned on any given day.

But right now, this is where I sit. And after the conversation with my friend, I really wanted to express this. Because the downside to social media is that we hand select every corner you see. Even our worst day photos are the best version of our worst day— carefully angled and edited to draw the eyes in, so that you will stop and listen.

It’s smart, really. Because science has shown that most of you won’t stop scrolling long enough to even see our words unless we captivate your eyes first. But these images— 90% of them— are art. The photo I used for the main image on this post, is art. Damn good art. Brenda is amazing and knows how to make me look slightly less awkward than I am in real life— but it’s still art, none the less.

Think of it like watching a documentary. They show an overdramatization, a reenactment— because people respond to visual stories. Social media is the same thing. A carefully planned image of what is trying to be expressed has been created for you. It’s for your enjoyment. To encourage you. To inspire you. To make you think.

So next time you’re scrolling and feel you see nothing but posts from moms who have perfect kitchens, perfect outfits, perfectly lit photos of their children reading books quietly while they enjoy a cup of coffee that looks like it could still be hot (it’s not)— just remember that those images are not the now. They are art. Still frames used to speak to you. And they do, obviously. But I pray they aren’t whispering ideas of inadequacy to you. I hope that when you are on social media, you are not finding yourself plagued with jealously or comparison. Because they are art— not perfect depictions of reality.

I want you to know though, that this— is art too.

The unedited, unfiltered chaos of a mother’s living room.

The place where she tries to do it all by folding laundry while the kids watch tv, so that at least she can still engage with them and ask them questions.

The dimly lit, dirtiest corners of the home— the lived in ones. They are art.

With every crunch of a goldfish on the floor and spilt glass of milk, memories are being formed. Mental images. Art.

I know that one day I personally, will look back on photos like this one much more than the ones that have been deemed “postable” by our society.

So take heart, mamas.

Because the truth of the matter is, we don’t do it all. Don’t ever let those pretty pictures make you think any differently.

We all just simply, do our best. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it forever: Your best is enough, picture perfect or not.

 

Mamas Are Killing Themselves: We Cannot Continue To Ignore It

Mamas Are Killing Themselves: We Cannot Continue To Ignore It

I wonder what photo they would use? Probably one I hate. Like that one where I’ve got that big goofy grin and you can see my baby fat and double chin. That’s the one they would grab, I’m sure. They would use that dopey face and vast dimples to paint me as a loving, caring, happy mother. They would tell of how none of the warning signs were there, and they would use the photo with a shirt I made myself to drive home the shock of how a mother who appeared so joyful, could have been filled with so much darkness. 

 This is the photo I imagined they would use— you know, if I finally really did snap. If the weight of my world came crashing down on me and I thought my only option was to crumble beneath it.
It’s a morbid idea, but it’s one that I frequently found creeping into my late night thoughts when I was in the thick of postpartum depression. I knew I could never actually harm myself or my children, I knew that. But I also knew that I really didn’t know much of anything. I knew that pain has a way of clouding even the soundest of mind. And I knew that all it would take was one moment for me to turn those thoughts into actions.
I remember driving in the carpool lane. Driving with eyes so heavy, it felt like the only way I had been able to keep them open was because they were sewn that way. As I gazed out at the road ahead, I wondered what would happen if I veered to the left. Would the crash kill us all? Would it spare them and take me instead? Could I somehow execute it so precisely that it only impacted me, and spared those two small frames in the back? Again, I knew I would never do it. Still, my mind wondered what would happen if I did.
Who even allows their minds to wander somewhere like that? What in the hell is wrong with me?
There is so much fear that accompanies a thought like that one. It’s enough to make you lose your mind all on its own. It’s enough to make you question your sanity, and your heart, and your self-worth.
The minute you believe— truly believe, that you don’t deserve to be a mother, is the minute you find yourself in real danger. Because if motherhood defines you like society says it does, and you don’t deserve it, then why are you even here? I fortunately never found myself at this point. The darkest thoughts in the corners of my mind were ones that I quickly turned away. But we aren’t all so lucky.
At the risk of changing your opinion of me forever and losing your support, I had to tell you this. I had to, because last night I read another report of a mother taking her own life, along with her child’s— and it crushed my soul.
I think we naturally lean towards hating the mother for taking the life of her innocent child, and that hate clouds our ability to see the entire picture. The picture here, if you can push the anger aside, is such a sad one all around. It’s a scene of a woman— a mother, who crumbled underneath the weight of her world. Though outwardly she seemed so content and happy, she was filled with the thoughts of the dark. Her heart was broken down by the anxiety and the fear and the feeling of loneliness. She is not the first woman this has happened to— and crushingly, she will not be the last.
And my heart, well it can’t help but wonder if things would have turned out differently if she had felt the support and love and strength from others that she so desperately needed.
Too often we allow ourselves to take things at face value. Too often we double tap and move on, without saying a single word of love or encouragement. We assume that because someone says they are happy, that they are. That because they have 11,000 followers or 100 likes that they are doing great. And we reserve our support only for those who outwardly ask for it.
But what if I told you that even the most put together of us is in desperate need of words of affirmation. Of a helping hand. Of encouragement? What if I told you that you could literally save someone’s life by taking the time to notice them— by taking the time to do a little more than simply “like” them.
My friend Amanda saved my life, and she had absolutely no idea. What she did know, was that she saw a bracelet that made her think of me, and so she sent it. Me— the blogger who was always smiling. Candid and honest about her struggles. Truth be told, I didn’t even realize how far gone I was until that bracelet came in the mail. It was a simple gesture— but it transformed my heart. Without even fully meaning to, my friend told me that day that she saw me. She told me that I mattered. And she gave me the strength to go on.
That’s when I knew that I needed to recreate this feeling for other moms. I needed to come up with a way for moms and husbands and parents and friends to encourage the hearts of moms— I needed to provide them with something put together for the sole purpose of telling a mother that she is seen and she matters. And so, the Mama Love Collective Box was born.
These boxes are my passion because I know that so many mama’s out there are silently suffering in the trenches and I know that all it takes is a slight veer to the left to crumble them. But I also know that a slight veer to the right can save their lives, and that is where you come in. We are the Mama Love Collective, because I need your help. I need you all, collectively, to help veer mamas to the right— away from that wall.
The mama who makes it known that she’s struggling right now, and especially the one who doesn’t. The mama who lives on caffeine and wine, and the one who wakes up every morning to exercise and always seems so motivated. The mama who never does her hair and lives in yoga pants, and the mama who looks like she’s on her way to an interview every time she leaves the house. The organized, the cluttered, the introverted, and the outgoing. Every single mama— every single one, needs to feel encouraged. Every single one needs to be told that she is seen— that she matters.
I know that the New Year is right around the corner, and we’re all gearing up to revamp ourselves and our lives. But I wonder if we can also resolve to revamp the way we love others. So here’s my challenge to you.
Don’t wait to act. Don’t say, “I totally want to send a box to my friend, but I’ll do it next month.” Don’t say, “I’ll like this Instagram post so-and-so did and then comment on it later if I have time.”

Don’t wait.

Don’t give yourself the opportunity to forget. Don’t allow yourself to miss out on the chance to love on a mama. Because those 2-5 minutes that it will take you to act in the moment, could literally save a life. And if you take the time to shower other mama’s with love, they will return the favor. And you never know when you too, will need your heart saved. Mothers are killing themselves, friends. We cannot continue to ignore it.
So pick a mama that you know, right now, and send her some encouragement. That could be as simple as commenting on her social media with some words of affirmation. Or send her a Mama Love Collective box, either anonymously or with a small note. (We ship direct so that you don’t have to). You can view the boxes here: Mama Love Collective Box

We were not meant to do this journey alone. Let’s be there for one another, collectively. Let’s show love and support in a world that is constantly trying to tear one another down. Together, we can change the world and pull mama’s out of the trenches, one by one.

When The Days Feel Longer Than The Years


Mommin’ 101 teaches us that “the days are long but the years are short”.

Throughout the younger years of your children’s lives, especially, you will hear this countless times from older and wiser women in the grocery checkout line. From grandmothers at the park with their grandkids. From moms of teenagers. From pretty much everyone who knows, because they’ve lived it.

You’ll feel the weight of those words in your own heart as your baby’s first birthday approaches, or the first time they deny a kiss from you. You’ll gently brush the hair off their face as they sleep and declare with a pinch of mourning that you have no idea where the time went. You’ll finally understand the stage five clinger mom in “I’ll Love You Forever”, and suddenly that old woman crawling through her grown son’s window to cradle his limbs won’t seem so completely insane.

It’s a beautiful sentiment, meant to give perspective on the hard days. But when one day feels longer than the sum of an entire year, it can be hard to maintain that positive outlook.

When the minutes and hours and seconds of each new dawn begin to blend with the night, and you can no longer tell if a new day is upon you or not, because sleep has abandoned you and the needs of others— of your ever-growing little loves— take precident over your own.

When the days feel longer than the years because one day is a year. Because when you are finally able to rest, so much time has already passed.

What then?

How can you embrace the days where the sun never seems to descend? The ones that last longer than a telethon or a Ragnar race or that damn Lamb chop song from your childhood? This is the season that never ends, yes it goes on and on, my friends. 

It would be easy to say, “think about the future! Remember that you’re going to miss this!”— but telling someone that they are going to miss the days of sleepless nights and zero moments alone is like telling someone they are going to miss weeks of rain. There’s just no way for them to know until it’s gone. There’s no way for them to see that until they are face to face with a California drought.

So instead, maybe we can do something different. Maybe, when the days feel longer than the years, we should be encouraging one another to merely look at that day. Break it up into sections. Tackle it piece by piece. Hour by hour. Can you get through another ten minutes of this? Yes, you can. What about another hour?  If your answer is unsure, then go back to minutes. And if that seems overwhelming still, then ask for help

Mamas, we have to start asking for help when we need it. I don’t know what it is, but every single mom I talk to tells me the same thing:

They feel an intense mom guilt whenever they have to ask for help with their kids.

Why do we do this to ourselves? When did we decide that it would be better to raise our children from a place of overwhelm than to simply ask for an extra set of hands when we need them?

I wish I had the answer.

I wish I could hunt down the first person to ever whisper in a mama’s ear and tell her that she was somehow less than if she asked for help— because I would slap them in the face.

Mama’s, hear me out.

All of you.

The working mom who feels guilt because she’s already gone 40+ hours a week— so she feels like she needs to spend every second of her spare time with her kids to “make up” for being gone so much.

The stay-at-home mom who feels guilt because her job is to care for her children, so asking for help feels like she is quite literally unable to fulfill her job description.

The work-from-home mom who feels guilt because she thinks that either her work gets neglected or her children do, almost every single day.

The momtrepeneur who feels guilt because she chose to pursue her dreams and feels selfish for doing so.

All of you— listen up.

Your children do not and will not suffer from you getting help. They will be better for it. 

Yes, I’m going as far as to say that they will not only be okay, but better for it. And the reason is simple.

If you’re out on a run and you sprain your ankle, you need to go home and care for it. Ice, wrap, elevate, and rest. You wouldn’t ignore the pain and keep walking on it, because if you did then your condition would worsen.

Think of being overwhelmed as spraining your ankle. You can’t keep carrying the weight of that around because the symptoms will only worsen.

Likewise, you wouldn’t teach your children to push through the pain of a sprain, would you?

If you want your kids to ask for help when they need it (something I know you say to them) then you need to be willing to live by example. Because I promise you that yes, even your newborn baby, can tell when you are overwhelmed. And if you are pridefully pushing through when you should be leaning on others, your children are going to see that and think that is how they too, should be.

We are not meant to do this life alone, sweet friends. God made Adam a companion for a reason— because even the very first person on this earth needed someone. We all need each other, and there should be absolutely no shame in that.

So when the days feel longer than the years, do not lose hope. Focus on that single day. That single hour. Those single seconds. And do not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Because when the days feel longer than the years, that is our souls way of telling us that it needs a break. So give your soul a break, mama. Your heart and your children will both thank you for it.