The Hidden Heroes of This Pandemic

Moms are heroic. Yes, you are a hero.

We set up the meal chains, sewing circles and food drives. We do the essential or remote work and make it look seamless, even though we juggle. Struggle. Zooming kids, looming deadlines and grocery-bingo fade in and out of days without edges. We manage our fears and just keep on soothing. We remain available and reliable to the people in our lives. Being at home has always meant being busy.

The next great act for Moms may just be learning to self-care ‘in place.’

Together, Forward

You may have found your footing emotionally, financially or professionally before the pandemic. Or you were about to unravel and needed a serious reset.

Continue reading “The Hidden Heroes of This Pandemic”

How to Manage the Increased Mental Load Under Quarantine

I gave my son the same math homework twice, started my daughter’s Zoom call late and forgot to pull chicken from the freezer. That was yesterday. Because it hasn’t felt holiday-like, I forgot to buy jelly beans. Between debates about ‘carrying the one’ with my oldest and playing musical-rooms for video calls, I’ve been working at half-speed. When I spoke with my attorney, a mother of 3, to apologize for ignoring her emails, I admitted to fighting mental fog. She agreed and said, “I feel like I did when my kids were babies!” Exactly.

The mental load for Moms, from the to-do list in our heads, isn’t new. It starts when our kids are in diapers but it’s increased with COVID19. Big time. We’re relearning how to work, live and parent all at once, which strains our cognitive capacity. When the routines dissolve, school’s at home and housework multiplies, what are our options? Although we have to approach it differently, we can lighten the mental load during this surreal time.

Why we Can’t Concentrate

In most families, Moms remember the haircuts, permission slips and camp deadlines. This invisible choreography is at the heart of overdo and never-done. We tend to forget our brains have limits and it helps to understand what they are. I spoke with Dr. April Seifert, Psychologist and Co-founder of Peak Mind and she explained, “Any time we’ve got way too much on our mind that we’re trying Continue reading “How to Manage the Increased Mental Load Under Quarantine”

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?”

It’s Time for Moms and Dads to Have an Open Conversation

Share housework, childcare and the mental load with your partner!

Me: Visibly surprised to see my son on screen after calling to FaceTime with my husband. “Hi honey. You’re still up? Where’s your sister?”

Son: Moves the camera over an inch. “She’s right here.” My daughter, who doesn’t look up, is eating popcorn while staring intently at her iPad.

Me: “I actually called to talk to Daddy, can you put him on please?”

Husband: “Hey…”

Me: Hi. “Sooooo…. do you know what time it is?”

Husband: “It’s late, yes, I’m sorry.”

I ended the call frustrated. When traveling for work, I still micromanage from afar. Whether it’s homework, or bedtime, the routines fall apart if I’m away. I fret and we fight. I called earlier and spoke with the kids. This call, the after-bedtime-call, was to catch up with my husband.

My seat neighbor on the train looked at me, before he said, “If it makes you feel any better, we have that exact conversation in my family.” I smiled. Yes I  Continue reading “It’s Time for Moms and Dads to Have an Open Conversation”

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 If You Could Pre-Empt This Year’s Holiday Stress? Two Things You Can Do Today!

Pre-Empt This Year’s Holiday Stress

Yes. You heard me. Holiday stress. It’s the polar opposite of the joy we hope for. The holiday bliss every greeting card claims we are due. There are magic moments. We savor them, but briefly, in between the hard work of ‘magic making.’ Sometimes, the holidays are just stressful. An overscheduled, overwrought time when forced fun competes with our massive to-do list. The strain is enough to threaten every shred of patience we have.

If you sought the escape hatch, at least once in the past few months, I’d like to share a simple way to make the holidays work better next time.  Not perfect…but better. I tried this last year and it radically improved Continue reading “What If You Could Pre-Empt This Year’s Holiday Stress? Two Things You Can Do Today!”

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?”

Own Your Story, Love Your Strength & Heal With Hope

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting Jeannette Walls, Author of the NY Times Best Seller, The Glass Castle. Her stirring memoir, detailing a childhood of poverty and trauma that would unravel most people, is among my all-time-favorite books. Once she was introduced, she said, “I was invited to speak because I had a weird childhood.”

We all laughed…until she shared some of her stories, including being severely burned at age 3 because to eat, she had to cook meals in a small trailer on a gas stove. After six weeks in the hospital, her father decided to “rescue her.” Hastily…prior to a medical discharge. She affectionately referred to his art of the quick-exit as the ‘skedaddle.’

Her presentation was about hope, strength and beauty. She beamed with enthusiasm sharing the many gifts she received from her experiences. Yes… Continue reading “Own Your Story, Love Your Strength & Heal With Hope”

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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