How To Create Healthy Relationships in a Culture of Toxicity

What makes a relationship toxic? “They lack the following: empathy, compassion, respect, mutuality and reciprocity. And they may also include the following, invalidation, disrespect, gaslighting or insulting. It’s both what’s missing and what’s present,” said Dr. Ramani Durvasula, Author, Clinical Psychologist, Professor and Relationship Expert.

Our lives open to new levels of fulfillment with the relationships we have. And we all want satisfying careers, romantic partnerships and friendships, but it requires careful navigation. Maintaining self-love, confidence and respect, while balancing the needs of others gets tricky. How do we hold firmly onto our values, yet stay vulnerable enough to grow?

We discussed all of this and her newest book, “Don’t You Know Who I Am?”: How to Stay Sane in an Era of Narcissism, Entitlement, and Incivility. Ramani, an expert on narcissistic abuse and champion for positive relationships, shares wisdom about how to protect our Continue reading “How To Create Healthy Relationships in a Culture of Toxicity”

Do You Know How Motherhood Helps Your Career?

That’s Right. There’s Upside to the Work/Life Juggle!

“I didn’t realize it would be psychologically painful. It surprised me, how it would all feel, going back to work when my child was 2 months old,” Said Dr. Yael Schonbrun, Clinical Psychologist, Author and Co-host of the Psychologists Off the Clock podcast. 

The hard parts of working Motherhood are felt immediately. Within hours of returning to work, we fight to compartmentalize. We think about what our kids and our jobs need. All. Day. Long. Even if it were possible, just trying to quiet that inner dialogue, feels disloyal. As if we’re trying to make Motherhood’s messy emotions smaller. Less demanding. Work, once a refuge, begins to fragment us.

What about the sunny side? We rarely think about the Continue reading “Do You Know How Motherhood Helps Your Career?”

What Happens in Your Marriage When You Try to Set Personal Boundaries?

Coupled Moms who try to set limits get different reactions. However most experience extremes. They are either, rewarded with stronger connection or penalized with passive aggression, from their partners.

How does setting boundaries with your partner affect the relationship? Nearly 200 coupled Moms responded to this question anonymously. The results? Like everything-married-life, it’s complicated. Positive outcomes only slightly outpace negative ones for surveyed Moms. Trying to protect time and energy by renegotiating expectations with your spouse, gets tricky.

“It’s hard to ask for time for myself. When I do ask, even after a full day at work and taking care of the house and kids, I feel like my partner isn’t supportive. Even if he’s not doing anything productive himself. It makes me resentful.”

One surveyed Mom’s response

Did you understand how marriage would change after kids? Right. Few people do. Hours of togetherness become little scraps of Continue reading “What Happens in Your Marriage When You Try to Set Personal Boundaries?”

Wondering How to Honor Your Values With Better Boundaries?

Use Design Thinking as a Tool to Prioritize Your Values

Pre-kids, self-care and personal growth fit into our ‘spare time.’ That extra space between activities. Perhaps after work and life’s other obligations. Post-kids, there is no extra space anymore, we have to make it. To make it, we must set boundaries.

Intellectually we understand this but working it into real life is different. After sharing results from the Personal Boundaries survey April Seifert, Entrepreneur, Psychologist and Supermom, took a group of us through a ‘Design Your Life For Values Based Boundaries’ webinar that blends the best of design thinking with psychology. Moms are hungry for more space. Why is making it so difficult? Just like assembling sippy cups, Pokémon® rules and the afterschool calendar, we must learn.

Does Your Calendar Reflect Your Values?

Moms generally power through the lists of ‘shoulds’ like machines. We ensure our families are well cared for and cut corners for ourselves. Relaxation is a foreign land we never visit. Protecting some time to take care of ourselves, when there isn’t any extra, means Continue reading “Wondering How to Honor Your Values With Better Boundaries?”

Is The Myth of ‘Having it All’ Hurting Our Work/Life Boundaries?

Work. Is. Different.

“I generally prioritize my family and work over myself,” admits one surveyed Mom. “I am the breadwinner … and turn myself inside out at work to try to keep my standing there. Then I come home and want as much time as I can have with my kids. And there’s little time left for me. I feel like my kids are little once and I can’t get the time with them back.”

Nearly 200 Moms shared their struggles, triumphs and feelings in the survey about setting personal boundaries. The context and consequences for drawing lines at work are different. Somewhere in the back of our minds, despite grim statistics about the motherhood penalty, we believe there’s a loophole. We were promised life without limits, and want to prove to ourselves that being great Moms while doing Continue reading “Is The Myth of ‘Having it All’ Hurting Our Work/Life Boundaries?”

How Can Moms Set Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty? 

Six strategies to move past the dreaded mom-guilt

“…I realized I was a puppet. I tried to not hurt (others) feelings, but often mine were hurt…”

“… I’m a people pleaser by nature and I don’t want to disappoint. I’m better at meeting outer expectations versus inner.”

Moms already suffer from external pressure. Yet, we compound it, by poisoning our choices with self-doubt. Why do we feel so guilty about our decisions? Nearly 200 Moms responded to the Personal Boundaries survey and 12% said, guilt associated with trying to please or meet other people’s expectations, is what makes it hard to set healthy boundaries. As one surveyed Mom shared, “I struggle with this. I often do what pleases others, then feel resentful.”

I asked Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a Psychologist, Professor, Author, Supermom and Jedi-boundary-setter, about how we can conquer the emotional conflicts that surface when setting limits. She did not hold back with her candid and thoughtful observations!

Stare Down Resentment

Many of Ramani’s patients are parents. She said, “People feel guilty about putting resentment and kids in the same sentence.” So true! The Mom-role is among the most time-starved yet Continue reading “How Can Moms Set Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty? “

If Setting Better Boundaries Can Improve Your Life, Why Don’t You?

“I think part of the problem is that I hardly have any boundaries. I’ve given up eating, sleeping, showering on a regular basis just to maintain work and family. Forget self-care, tv, movies, reading or seeing friends. No time!”

“I’m not sure what to say about this… I don’t know that I have rules for myself at home, other than the ‘alone time’ trigger, which is less a rule than an escape clause…”

What rules do you set to protect your time? What routines help you keep commitments, to yourself, and others? In an anonymous survey, nearly 200 Moms shared their experiences setting, modifying (and yes, ignoring) their personal boundaries. We spend so much energy navigating external boundaries, the barriers between what we have and want, that we forget to erect our own. Protective ones.

Strong personal boundaries are the answer to over-do and never-done. The tenuous states of anxiety most Moms call home. We fritter from must-do to have-to and rarely make space to think. Practicing regular self-care, or just relaxing, begins to feel impossible. It’s scary when the life we wanted doesn’t leave room for what we need. We do it for our children, partners and communities. We do it because it’s  Continue reading “If Setting Better Boundaries Can Improve Your Life, Why Don’t You?”

What Will You Say Yes To?

Book Review For The Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in The Sun & be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I loved this book. It’s a survival guide for ambitious women. It’s also a masterclass on how to overcome limiting beliefs. Shonda makes sharp observations about everything from working motherhood and nurturing creativity, to career growth and feminism’s next act, intersectionality. She applies the Shonda-Rhimes-story-telling-magic to her own life. Even though she highlights (and challenges) many of the social norms that limit women’s progress, it’s a fast, engaging read.

Learning to Say Yes

“’You Never Say Yes to Anything.” The truth of her sister’s casual comment unsettled her. In response, Shonda decided to say ‘yes’ to what scared her… for an entire year! The book takes us, from her struggle to honor this commitment, to the resulting personal Continue reading “What Will You Say Yes To?”

Is There Room For Self-Care in The Sandwich?

“My migraines were getting worse and I went to see a doctor. He asked about my life…I told him I worked full-time, had 3 kids and helped care for my dad who had dementia and was living with me while my mother recovered from surgery. The doctor said disapprovingly, ‘that’s too much.’” Jody Gastfriend, my friend and former colleague admitted, “The doctor was right.” I nodded and sighed. We met for breakfast to discuss self-care and lessons learned from her years in social work, building Care.com’s Senior Care services, and tending to her aging parents. In her new book, My Parent’s Keeper The Guilt, Grief, Guesswork and Unexpected Gifts of Caregiving, Jody shares how she ultimately had to prioritize self-care and pay attention to what her body was telling her.

Watch For Signs

We lamented how Mom-martyrdom is universally accepted and reinforces patterns of self-neglect. Making changes feels even worse than the to-do list treadmill. Envisioning a better way requires energy and creativity…inaccessible to most when overloaded. Jody shared what was happening in her life before the migraines worsened. “There were other signs from the universe… before I realized how worn out I was.” Jody eventually hired a home health aide to help with her father’s care and temporarily reduced her work hours.

Caring for adults is unpredictable. Whereas healthy children follow similar developmental paths, seniors defy patterns as they age. At 90, some remain very active while others at age 70 can’t live alone. An estimated 75% of family caregivers are female. Absorb that for a moment. The likelihood that your parents will need your help as they age is high! Few think of themselves as ‘family caregivers’ and just doing what ‘is Continue reading “Is There Room For Self-Care in The Sandwich?”

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