Mothers’ thoughtful expressions: What do you cherish most about being a mom?

Being a mom is like being a gardener — it’s hard labor that gets accomplished regardless of the conditions. It is the kind of work that requires fortitude, dedication, and an abundance of patience. We tend to our children, nourish them, watch them grow, and reap what we sow. All the while, we are continuously mesmerized by their essence and beauty.

Today, as we celebrate the unique and precious role of a mother, we bring to you these thoughtful expressions from mothers around the world:

What do you cherish most about being a mom?

Megan Bell, Fox Valley API, Illinois USA: “I cherish the spontaneous proclamations of love my toddler gives me, and when she shows me empathy. I love watching her grow. Our children really do learn by example. It’s beautiful and stunning to witness.”  

Rochelle Kipnis, New Jersey USA: “As a homeschooling mom of 3, I cherish the moments spent with my children. Hugging and kissing them, watching them laugh, learn, smile, grow, and play brings me the most joy in life. No matter how big they get, they will always be my babies and I will always be here for them. They are life’s greatest joy and blessings.”

Lisa Feiertag, API Leader Applicant Liaison, Maryland USA: “The unconditional love that my children shower on me is what I cherish most about being a mom. I love the snuggles, laughs, giggles as well as the long conversations that we engage in. I love watching my kids grow into the young adults that they are becoming and seeing them share their love with others.”

Effie Morchi, API Assistant Editor, New York USA: “I cherish most the growth and transformation; mine as well as my children’s. I marvel at how parenting has taught me that the simple moments and things in life are truly the profound ones: a day spent together at the park, a gentle smile, a trivial goal achieved; they are the bits that make our life wholesome.” 

Jillian Amodio, Maryland USA: “What I cherish most largely depends on the day. On a good day, it’s the smiles and laughter emanating from my children. On a bad day…bedtime and wine? No, really though, all jokes aside, what I cherish most are the memories we make each day. Every night before my children go to bed, regardless of what kind of day we’ve had, we cuddle in their beds, read books, and sing songs. We talk about what happened that day and it helps us realize that even on the days that are ‘mundane’, ‘boring,’ or just plain not very good, we have a really great thing going — we have each other, and we certainly do have a whole lot of fun together.”

Kelly Shealer, API of Frederick, Maryland USA: “My favorite moments of being a mom are when my children and I are able to take a break and relax together — like lying down together at bedtime or reading a book to my daughter while she sits on my lap. I love these times when we’re able to pause from all the busyness of our day and just be together.”

Shoshana Hayman, Israel: “Being a mom has been and continues to be the most fulfilling aspect of my life. No other role gives me the power to develop loving, deep, and lasting relationships with those who are dearest to me while at the same time helping my children bring their human potential to fruition.” 

Katelynne Eid, Connecticut USA: “The thing I cherish most about being a mom is just getting to witness as these little lives develop. I’m so grateful for being able to be a consistent and supportive presence as they figure out who they are.”

Kassandra Brown, Boulder CO: “I cherish the moments when my perspective broadens from the day-to-day busyness of eating, sleeping, school, transitions, and stuff-to-do to notice the feeling of loving my children. How my heart softens, a smile comes to my face, and I realize how lucky I am that these thoughtful, loving humans love me. Once my perspective shifts, my parenting shifts and I find myself effortlessly working-with rather than doing-to or managing.”

Inga Bohnekamp, Ontario Canada: “I think what I cherish most is the experience of this unconditional, pure, and infinite love, which I have felt for my daughter ever since she came into my life (started growing inside my belly). I am so grateful for every moment we share, the challenging ones as well as the ones filled with pure happiness, laughter, and joy. She inspires me every day; she reminds me of what really, really counts in life, and I cherish this incredibly unique and intense opportunity to continue learning and growing alongside her as she grows up. But, if I have to boil it down to one thing, it would be the LOVE.”


A Mother’s love is a gift that gives forever and her legacy is life

In gratitude, consider a tribute to a Mother in your life while helping a mother in need of support at the same time.

It’s a gift that that keeps on giving because you help mothers receive much needed information and support.

This is the heart of API.

We invite you to share a gift of love that gives on in her honor.

  Happy Mother’s Day from Attachment Parenting International



This is how my son started to enjoy reading

Editor’s note: May is Get Caught Reading Month. Founded in 1999, this campaign was launched to remind people about the joys and fun of reading. Reading can be informative for parents as they navigate through the challenges of parenting and the various stages of their child’s development. Reading can also serve as a supportive way to deepen attachment and nurture relationships:

When my son was 6 and recently started reading on his own, he didn’t enjoy reading as much as I’d hoped he would.

I was a little discouraged, because I know how important reading is for children and because I felt that I’d done everything I was supposed to do in order to instill a love of reading in my child. I’d read to him since birth, had plenty of books around the house, made sure he saw me reading frequently, and provided opportunities to go to the library since he was a baby. It seemed that he should like to read.

The Best Encouragement May Not Be Any at All

I was somewhat torn about what to do. I wanted to encourage him, because I believe that reading is important and beneficial to children. But I didn’t want to push him too much to the point where reading became something that was a chore rather than a fun hobby.

I knew I didn’t want to make a reading log, because I knew the research showed that they actually backfire and make kids less inclined to read on their own. If he was going to read, I wanted it to be because of an intrinsic desire to do so, and I didn’t want my efforts to backfire.

So, I backed off a little bit and accepted that maybe he just wasn’t going to love reading.

Like all things with parenting, even when do we everything “right” to encourage the best habits out of our children, we also know that they are their own person with their own desires, interests, and personalities. I’d done my best to encourage an interest in reading and continued to do so, but I also accepted that even if he wasn’t a book lover like me, perhaps he would instead find other ways to learn and spend his time productively.

Shortly after this shift in my mindset, he had a sudden desire to start reading more. Part of it was returning to school for the start of first grade and having a friend who enjoyed reading the Magic Tree House book series. Soon, my son was interested in these books, too, and couldn’t get enough of them.

Now, he reads most days on the way to and from school and also at bedtime, though I don’t force it and I’m fine if he wants to take a day off.

An Unexpected Connection Point

Many nights, as he’s reading, I’ll sit beside him reading my own book — he really enjoys this. Even though we’re not talking, we’re sharing this activity that we both love. Just like when I read aloud to him when he was a newborn so that he could hear my voice, it’s a great way for us to connect.

Smartphones and parenting


Editor’s note: This week, May 1-7, is Screen-Free Week — an annual observance founded by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. Plan to unplug from digital entertainment this week and instead connect with your family. Need more inspiration? This post was originally published by Attachment Parenting International in 2015, and it is as thought-provoking today as ever:

Instinct tells you it’s been too long. She’s been too quiet. It has only been a few minutes since you held her. Probably all is well, but you can never be sure without checking.

And, even if all is fine, you long to lift her, hold her, gaze at her. You wonder why you didn’t carry her everywhere today as you often do, wearing her and, instead, have put her down across the room. As you look toward her, just out of sight, you consider loading the dishwasher. You walk toward the sink, but mid-stride, that first instinct wins out. You tell yourself it will be just for a minute and then you’ll get back to work. Just a quick check in.

You always have an ear listening in her direction as she often calls for you first.  But this time, you are the one to seek out, lift and hold the rectangular little body of…your smartphone.

Could it be that our smartphones are hijacking our inborn biological systems, the bonding instincts that are activated when we become parents? Are we actually driven by borrowed biological systems to hold these devices, carry them, interact with them and be concerned about “feeding” — aka, charging — them in ways that go beyond our tendencies with other tools?

While pregnant with our first child at age 18, I worried that one day I might forget the new baby in the grocery store. I knew I would love our baby, but what if I became distracted for just long enough to get in the car and drive away? Once our son arrived, I was thrilled to discover that not only was it impossible to forget him, but that it was challenging to leave him home with his dad because he was perpetually on my mind and I felt empty without him in my arms or at least nearby. When I went back to college, I studied maternal attachment in an attempt to grasp the science behind the apparent magic of maternal attachment. I was awed to learn from the research of Klaus and Kennell that mothers of newborns have instinctive ways of touching, holding and gazing at their babies in their first moments. How much, I wondered, did instinct support our roles as mothers and fathers?

kim allsupNow, 45 years later, I am an elementary school teacher. I started to think about a potential link between smartphone addiction and parental attachment systems just after I taught my students about the cuckoo bird. My students had looked curious when I told them how the cuckoo lays her egg in the nests of other birds that, unwittingly, raise the nestling as their own. They grimaced as I spoke about the interloper pushing the natural offspring out of the nest and how the baby cuckoos behave in ways that trigger an instinct to care and feed from their new mother.

I wondered, could our smartphones be like baby cuckoo birds that activate the magical bonding system I experienced as a young mother? Teenagers today certainly appear to be as attached to their smartphones as I was bonded with my baby back in the era when all phones were attached to a wall and did not offer Facebook, Twitter, a camera and a flashlight. Is addiction to our smartphones and their ability to connect to social media rooted in a deeper place than a fondness for cute cat videos?

In the case of the birds that unwittingly become foster parents, the calls and the gaping mouth of the chick automatically trigger the feeding instinct. Similarly, are there features of the smartphone that automatically turn on our biologically based attachment behaviors?

I can hear readers saying, “Hold on there. One baby bird looks similar to other baby birds, but my smartphone looks nothing like my baby!” This is true enough. It seems far more believable that pets, especially dogs, with their expressive faces, hijack our attachment systems. In fact, research highlighted in this April 2015 New York Times article suggests that that our dogs routinely utilize our parental attachment mechanisms, that gazing into the eyes of our own dogs and our own babies both cause a surge of oxytocin.

This bonding hormone that is released in some animals and in people in a variety of pleasant social interactions, oxytocin is especially strong in women during and after childbirth and during breastfeeding, and high levels of oxytocin are found in both mothers and fathers of babies. We are all likely to experience a surge in this hormone that reduces stress hormones when we get and receive hugs. Now scientists are discovering that contact with others through social media or a phone call from a loved one also causes the release of oxytocin.

So, while a smartphone does not look like a baby, it is — like a baby — associated with a frequent surge of this hormone that brings relaxation, reduces fear and promotes bonding. A second similarity between the smartphone and a baby is that they are carried continually or, when not carried, kept in continual awareness. We also maintain an awareness of the need to feed babies and to charge cell phones.

Finally, the classic pose of the phone cradled between the palms of two hands is very similar to the “encompassing palm contact on the trunk” along with “intense eye-to-eye contact” observed by researchers Klaus and Kennell when studying mothers’ first contact with their babies. It is not that the baby looks like a smartphone, but that our inner experience of ongoing awareness along with bursts of the bonding hormone during connection is similar whether we carry and connect with a baby or a socially connected smartphone.

Do you experience your smartphone as a cuckoo in your nest?  Please share your thoughts about the possibility that your smartphone could tap into your instinctive attachment systems.

Core beliefs and parenting

Editor’s note: Today, April 30, is SpankOut Day — an annual observance founded by the Center for Effective Discipline, working to eliminate physical punishment of children and to promote nonviolent discipline. This can be a different change in perspective for parents accustomed to spanking their children. It can be tempting to shift from hitting to other shame-based forms of punitive discipline. This post explores the beliefs and thoughts behind motives for human behavior and subsequent discipline of our children:

Shame was a mainstay of parenting in past generations. Many of us parents can remember feeling shame, probably often, while growing up — along with threats, intimidation, and other forms of coercion. Although parenting trends have made great strides to align with what research shows to be the healthy way to discipline our children, remnants of shame-based parenting still remain.

Shame-based parenting behaviors may be subtle, hidden in seemingly innocent messages meant to encourage cooperation from our children, like “You should know better than that,” “Nice girls don’t do that,” “Good boys do this,” or “You already had enough; you shouldn’t want more.” But if you were to turn these phrases around, how would you feel about yourself?

These phrases, while not abrasive, are still implying that a child is having thoughts that are “wrong” or “bad,” when actually, anyone can have whatever thoughts they desire — what we as parents really want is for children to be able to discern which behavior would be more aligned with the values we hope to be passing down to them.

Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting guide parents in setting appropriate limits on behavior while promoting a secure parent-child attachment, empathy and emotional literacy, and peaceful conflict resolution.

It’s important for parents to continue working toward knowing themselves better and how this affects their parenting and relationships with their children. Especially for those who were raised themselves with a shame-based parenting approach, becoming stagnant in personal growth can cause regression back to the parenting behaviors they were raised with.

Without intentional parenting, the shame-based parenting we experienced as children will be reflected in how we relate to and discipline our children, even if only through words we intended to be gentle reminders or even through expectations we have in mind of how our children are “supposed” to be behaving.

While shame, as a normal emotion, is felt from time to time by everyone — being the result of conflicting interactions within a social group — it generally doesn’t have long-lasting effects on a child’s self-worth as long as the child is able to lean on a supportive, unconditionally loving parent to help him process his feelings.

However, there is a distinct difference between a relatively fleeting feeling of shame from unconnected incidences and the long-standing, pervasive feeling of shame at a child’s core that is the result of shame-based parenting. Shame-based parenting instills a pattern of thinking in the child that she is unworthy and, inflicted by the parent, there is no unconditionally loving support person to help the child process her emotions and be able to see herself as separate from the ongoing messages of shame.

Many parents who grew up in a shame-based home may worry that they are inadvertently instilling shame in their own children, despite their best efforts to not do so. It’s understandable where this concern comes from — a parent who is conscious of the emotional wounds in his or her life is also conscious to not want to pass down this family legacy.

Examining Shame-Based Core Beliefs

Healing from a shame-based view of oneself is best done with a professional counselor, but there are various ways that adults can help the healing process along. One way is to examine their core beliefs.

Core beliefs are the messages our brain tells us about our self-worth. Core beliefs “color” how we think about ourselves, how we think about others, and even how we react to situations in our lives. Think about core beliefs as the color of who you are:

Negative Core Beliefs —
I am unlovable
I am not good enough
I am a bad person
I am stupid
I am ugly
I am abnormal
I am boring
I am worthless
I don’t deserve love or good things in my life

Positive Core Beliefs —
I am lovable!
I am good enough
I am a good person
I am smart
I am beautiful
I am extraordinary
I am very interesting to be around
I have a lot of worth
I deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, and love

When you have the same situation as someone with the other color of core beliefs, you actually both look at the same situation in different ways. For example, let’s say you meet a mother at the park and think about asking her to go with you to your local API Support Group.

Negative Core Belief: I’m boring, I’m not good enough, I’m worthless.

  • Thought: “Why would she ever go to the meeting with me?”
  • Behavior: You don’t ask the mother to go with you.

Positive Core Belief: I’m very interesting to be around, I’m good enough, I have a lot of worth.

  • Thought: “We might have fun together.”
  • Behavior: You ask the mother to go with you.

The behavior that results from your core belief reinforces that core belief. If you think the other mother wouldn’t want to be friends with you, and then you don’t ask her to come with you to the group meeting, you will then feel even more like you’re not worthy of having friends.

Of course, there is a possibility that if you do ask the other person to go to the group meeting with you, that she will say no or she may say yes but you find that you two don’t click. This may stir up more core beliefs, but it can also empower you to ask the next person you meet that might be a better fit.

How Core Beliefs Affect Parenting

Likewise, when you encounter the same parenting scenario as someone with the other color of core beliefs, you both look at and react to the same scenario in different ways. However, there is a complicating factor in the case of parenting. It’s all too easy to unconsciously transfer your core beliefs about yourself to your child. People who grew up in shame-based homes, who haven’t addressed their emotional trauma may unknowingly project what they see as the “bad” qualities of themselves on others. This natural act of self-protection is the emotional brain’s way of avoiding the original, unaddressed issue — that the parent himself is “bad.” It’s much easier to continue not feeling the pain of this “realization” by passing the blame onto someone else.

For example, let’s say your 6-month-old baby just started waking up at night several times after previously sleeping through at least 6 hours.

Negative Core Belief: I am not confident in my parenting ability.

  • Transferred Core Belief: My baby is manipulating me.
  • Thought: “My baby should be sleeping through the night.”
  • Behavior: You try cry-it-out with your baby. Your baby may be very distressed, and you may react with anger or anxiety, reinforcing the core belief.

Positive Core Belief: I’m a good mother and a good problem-solver.

  • Transferred Core Belief: My baby must be waking at night more because of a developmental need.
  • Thought: “I need to learn about why my baby is waking more at night and what to do about that.”
  • Behavior: You learn that your baby may be going through a growth spurt, teething, or otherwise needs your comfort at night and adjust your expectations to continue providing a sensitive response.

Let’s look at another example: No matter how many times you have talked to your 2-year-old toddler about “gentle hands,” she still hits when she’s upset.

Negative Core Belief: I am not confident in my parenting ability.

  • Transferred Core Belief: My toddler isn’t learning from this discipline approach.
  • Thought: “I need to be more forceful to teach my toddler to not hit.”
  • Behavior: You yell at or hit her when she hits. She may feel angry and act-out by hitting more, or she may be confused and hurt. You may then react with anger or guilt, reinforcing the core belief.

Positive Core Belief: I’m a good mother and a good problem-solver.

  • Transferred Core Belief: My toddler’s hitting frustrates me, but there must be a reason for her behavior.
  • Thought: “I need to learn more about what to expect developmentally at this age and what to do about the hitting.”
  • Behavior: You learn that your toddler is acting very age-appropriately and is still developing her impulse control. The best way to address this is to continue telling and modeling to her to not hit, while teaching her other ways to express her anger.

With this final example, let’s look at a teenager who has side-swiped a mailbox with his car, breaking a headlight and scratching the paint.

Negative Core Belief: I am not confident in my parenting ability.

  • Transferred Core Belief: Teenagers are careless, rebellious, and irresponsible.
  • Thought: “He doesn’t care about anything. He thinks he can get away with anything.”
  • Behavior: You take away his car keys, demand that he pay for the damages, and punish him by taking away privileges. He may act-out. You may then react with anger or guilt, reinforcing the core belief.

Positive Core Belief: I’m a good mother and a good problem-solver.

  • Transferred Core Belief: Teenagers sometimes make mistakes, as we all do.
  • Thought: “He needs to learn from this situation, but he also needs understanding and help with problem-solving of how to address it.”
  • Behavior: You talk with him about what happened and his feelings, and help him problem-solve what his next steps are.

Whether you have negative or positive core beliefs, the thoughts that come from these will transmit to how you feel toward your child and her behavior. Negative core beliefs are linked with shame-based responses.

Turning Negatives Into Positives

If your core beliefs tend to fall in the negative list, remember that each negative has a positive option. If you encounter a situation where you don’t feel worthy, you need to get into a practice of positive self-talk and coming up with positive options other than the negative default that may naturally arise in your mind.

Here are 3 ideas of how to begin turning your negative core beliefs into positives:

  1. Tell yourself that you are awesome! Start repeating positive statements, like “I am smart” or “I am a good mother (or father),” to yourself many times a day. You can try writing them on sticky notes and stick them to your bathroom mirror, your desk, or other places around your house, vehicle, or work space to give you reminders throughout the day.
  2. Turn the negative into a positive. When you begin thinking negatively, take a deep breath and intentionally turn the thought around to a positive. If you make a mistake, when the thought “I am so stupid” or “I am such a bad mother (or father)” comes to mind, tell yourself: “No, I am smart. Everyone makes mistakes, and I can learn from this.”
  3. Join an API Support Group. It is incredibly empowering to be surrounded by like-minded, supportive parents who are all working toward the same parenting goals as you. The opportunity to ask questions to a nonjudgmental group and to receive ideas that are in line with your values and that can apply to your parenting situation is invaluable. There is great positive power in a parenting support group when they can be both a sounding board and a source of validation, while encouraging your personal growth.
  4. Respond to yourself in the way you would ideally want to sensitively respond to your child in the same situation. Since negative core beliefs are often grounded in thought patterns from our childhood, such as from shame-based parenting or another emotional trauma, it’s not such a stretch to address the “child you” in your mind — the emotional part of you that is trying to protect itself with the negative core beliefs. That “child you” has to heal for the “adult you” to be able to move forward — toward a healthy self-worth and more confident, positive parenting.

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Get outside and get into nature

Tomorrow, April 22, we celebrate Earth Day. As you renew your commitment to care for our planet, keep in mind that the absolutely greatest contribution we can make toward Earth’s stewardship is to raise children who care.

Children raised in a caring family environments have greater capacity for empathy not only toward themselves and others but their communities and world. Children tend to care more deeply about what their parents hold and express as family values. To nurture their interest in nature, children need a parent or another caring adult to take them outdoors and share in their curiosity and wonder.

It’s not enough to say you care for the planet — you got to live it and model it to your children.

So, get the whole family out into nature. Plant a tree. Pick up litter in the park. Construct bee, bat, and bird houses. Participate in citizen scientist pollinator or toad counts. Watch nature documentaries. Visit your local natural history museum. Go camping. Turn over a log to discover insects underneath. Go to the zoo. Watch the birds and squirrels. Take a walk. Go cloud-watching. Pick wildflowers. Wade in a creek.

Need more inspiration? Children who get unstructured playtime outside are healthier, earn better grades, and receive other benefits — learn more in this video from the Nature Kids Institute:

Why Kids Need Nature” from Kenny Ballentine on Vimeo.