Editor’s Note: API’s role in “growing up” as a mother

Fifteen years ago, I celebrated my first Mother’s Day. I was 25, a few years out of college and into my journalism career, and in my fifth month of pregnancy with my oldest daughter.

While parenting was a future goal, this pregnancy came a few years earlier than I was planning. Neither my husband nor I had given any thought about our parenting approach, or even that there were different approaches to raising a child. I figured it would come instinctively.

Oh, it came alright…about three months early. My daughter was born about a month after Mother’s Day 2006, and I was unceremoniously propelled into full-on motherhood without a clue of what to do when.

But having a preemie proved to be a blessing in this way, in that I relied on the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) nurses to teach me everything I didn’t know about how to care for a newborn with special needs. Kangaroo Care, breastpumping, bottle nursing, consistent and present care, nighttime parenting, finding a like-minded parenting support network

This was only the beginning.

Today, my oldest daughter is a month shy of her 15th birthday. Her sister is 13, her brother is 9, and her angel sister has been in our hearts for three years. I have been a mother for 15 years. My children have grown leaps and bounds physically and in maturity, but more so have I.

API served as my foundation for learning how to be a mother, and motherhood served as my foundation for learning how to be the kind of person I always wanted to be.

I am a firm believer that women are meant to “grow up” as mothers at the same time that they are guiding their children to grow up as people. I know that I, at 40, am a long way from my 25-year-old self and feel that I owe most of my personal transformation to the life lessons learned through motherhood…with API as my own guide.

I’m excited to be back as Editor of API, to help parents by highlighting research-backed ideas as we nurture our children and youth for a more compassionate world. Check back often to API’s blog to get inspiration and support on your own parenting journey.

                      ~ Rita

10 Things I Do Each Day to Build an Unbreakable Bond with my Children

API welcomes this special guest post from Viki de Lieme, reprinted with permission from Happiness in Heart and Mind.

Smiling mother and elementary aged son touch foreheads

Relationships are work, sometimes even hard work. But when it comes to our state of mind, our children, and partners, this is the most gratifying work of all, because it directly reflects upon our happiness, and theirs.

Something about my mindset, and my state of mind, had always been different. I experienced this difference throughout my years. But it wasn’t until I came across one of Marshal Rosenberg’s videos on YouTube, some six years ago, that I finally “handed-down” with the dictionary to the way my brain works.

Wow.

I suddenly understood why I don’t fight, don’t yell, and manage to keep my balance (almost) at all times. I understood the structure behind the way I choose to parent my children daily. That video was the first step on a journey, still very much in progress, to master Nonviolence as a mindset.

A conscious, deliberate mindset that makes me a happier person, a happier partner, a happier mother, a happier me.

It took years of practice, and I am still learning. Every single day. I learn from myself (how I feel about situations, how I react to situations, what triggers me and how I react to these triggers). I learn from my children (they teach me what being a human being really means). I learn from my partner, my family, my friends, and my clients, of course.

I study Nonviolent Communication every day. I practice breathing, I practice shutting off my automatic responses, I practice feeling, I practice seeing, I practice thinking, I practice speaking, I practice making choices. I  practice not being controlled by my own thoughts.

This constant and ongoing practice empowers my peace of mind, my undivided focus on what’s really important. This practice empowers me, my children, my partner, and everyone else around me. Whether they are taking an active part or just being in its proximity.

All these years of learning and practice boil down to the following 10 things I do each and every day, to live life for what it really is, to feel, to love, to be. In full presence.


10 Things I Do Each Day To Make My Family Stronger and Happier

I ask for help. I’ve been doing it since day one. I ask for a glass of water, I ask for help getting up, I ask for help tidying up. This helps make EVERYONE givers and teaches giving through receiving.

I expect nothing. I am the only one responsible for my needs. Losing the expectations frees my loved ones to give – because they want to, not because I want them to.

I treat EVERYTHING given to me as the true present that it is. The glass of water, the bit of help, the pure intention. Everything is met with a kiss, a huge hug, and a smiling heart. This teaches that giving IS receiving, and that the joy is mutual.

I love – for free. Nothing can ever, and I mean – ever – condition my love. No matter what happens, no matter what was said or done – it will never cost my connection, the cuddles, or the bedtime story. These are sacred. This teaches that nothing can ever come between us.

I respect and accept all emotions. Even when it’s hard, even when I’m tired and out of patience. Emotions are the beating heart of a child. Loving a child is loving all his emotions. This teaches acceptance, coping skills, and resilience.

I don’t judge. “Amazing,” “lovable,” “my sunshine,” and “my love” are the only words I ever utter after “YOU ARE”. This teaches the freedom to be.

I don’t interpret. I can’t ever know why someone did something he did; my guess is as good as anyone else’s. I ask. And if I can’t get an answer – I accept whatever happens as is, knowing that my interpretation will only cause ME harm. This teaches the freedom to act.

I come closer. I never push away. I am always there. No matter what happens. This teaches the real strength of unconditional love.

I express myself. Authentically. I share my feelings, all of them. I share my desires, and my wishes. I am always honest about what lives in me. This teaches honesty and acceptance of self.

I let myself be. I let everyone be. Themselves. In their most authentic self expression. Without judgment or interpretation, without expectation, in a world where love is free and all emotions are welcome. In a world that celebrates the power of connection, where every day is the purest, most beautiful present. This teaches peace, love, and nonviolence.


These are the 10 things I do each day to build a strong relationship with my children. These are the 10 realizations I live and swear by, they are my roots in this world. Growing these roots, strengthening them every days allows my family and me to grow, nurture, and care for each other. These 10 practices unite us, make us one, inseparable being. As such – we are unbreakable.

 

 

Chest-up, casual portrait of the author, Viki de Lieme, who smiles while sitting in her living room, head propped in her hand

Viki de Lieme is a mom, a wife, a daughter, but first of all – a human being. She’s a life and a parenting coach, who firmly believes that the journey to the world we all want to live in, begins with each and every parent who chooses to parent from the heart.

API Live Podcast Interview: Christina Bethell, PhD, of Johns Hopkins – Positive Childhood Experiences

API Live Episode: AP Month 2020 Parenting for PEACE: Positive Childhood Experiences

Guest: Christina Bethell, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University, Program Host: Patricia Mackie, Special AP Month Episode Host: Artemisia Yuen, Welcome by Samantha Gray, API Executive Director

Portrait photo of Christina D. Bethell, PhD

Christina Bethell, PhD, of Johns Hopkins University on Positive Childhood Experiences sits down via Zoom with API’s Art Yuen.

API brings you a new interview with this leading researcher and advocate on positive childhood experiences (PCEs).

API Live Podcast Episode with Christina Bethell and Art Yuen


Restoring relatedness should be taken as seriously [in public health] as curing cancer.

Christina Bethell

Have you been feeling stressed lately?

You don’t have to be a parent to watch, soak-up, and share this mega-dose of care, straight news about stress, and simple healing tools from Christina Bethell.

Christina puts relationships at the center of her Captain Marvel-sized work in public health.

She’s working to shift big health systems and services to focus on relationships as the most fundamental element of health, especially for children.

In this episode of API Live, Christina gives a birds-eye view of that work, then quickly shifts to share immediately useful examples of the way systems might work so that everyone can access healing “through any door.” She shares new ideas about stress, healing and gives us several simple tools and supports we all have available and can begin using now. These tools aren’t merely for coping, but they help us grow, even in the face of stress.

In a year that feels like a big loss, especially for health, everyone deserves to hear how we can access our very own health super-powers – for us, our children, and our world. May your 2021 be filled with healing and health.

API Live Podcast Episode with Christina Bethell and Art Yuen



Join API in this episode to hear from Christina about:
  • How cultivating positives may not cancel out stress, but does allow us to heal and evolve
  • Recommendations for individual, family, and work resilience plans
  • Acknowledgement of how parents are often called to provide nurturing warmth when we least feel able
  • Tips for engaging in art, movement, music, play, and time in – because we all need a “sense of mattering”

API Live Podcast Episode with Christina Bethell and Art Yuen


references & selected publications from christina bethell

Nurturing parenting is an essential basic need of all children

“There is a sensible way of treating children. … Never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say good night. Shake hands with them in the morning. Give them a pat on the head if they have made an extraordinarily good job of a difficult task. Try it out. … You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it. … When I hear a mother say ‘Bless its little heart’ when it falls down, or stubs its toe, or suffers some other ill, I usually have to walk a block or two to let off steam. Can’t the mother train herself when something happens to the child to look at its hurt without saying anything…?” ~ Psychological Care of Infant & Child by James B. Watson, Norton Press, 1928

Reading this excerpt of a wildly popular parenting book from 1928, as you breastfeed your baby or cosleep with your toddler or cuddle with your preschooler or hug your preteen or put your arm around your teen’s shoulders, how do you feel it was like for your great-grandmother to be admonished for instinctively loving her child, only to be told that her instinct is exactly what would damage that child?

Parenting has come along way since 1928. john bowlby with richard bowlbyBy the time our grandparents were caring for their babies in the 1950s, psychoanalyst John Bowlby was making great strides in scientific circles with research demonstrating the enormous impact that nurturing — and lack of nurturing — had on child development. This important body of research has since greatly influenced parenting advice.

Eventually Bowlby’s work would be integrated into the ever-expanding domains of research, including breastfeeding science, that has sent a shock wave of nurturing-oriented parenting around the world.

In 1994, as our parents were caring for us at home, La Leche League Leaders and schoolteachers Lysa Parker and Barbara Nicholson cofounded Attachment Parenting International as a way to educate and support parents in raising children with abundant warmth and nurturing. The tide was still changing then, but today, we are free to nurture our children without a feeling of shame. We can kiss and hug them. We can let them sit on our laps.

best-gift-yourselfThe child-rearing “experts” just a few generations ago would be appalled at how today’s parent educators encourage affection, nurturing touch, and comforting of our children. Research has since established how incredibly beneficial — in fact, absolutely critical — to child development that we are nurturing toward our babies and children.

But the impacts of the hands-off approach to parenting that our great-grandmothers experienced has had far-reaching effects. Remnants survive still today. They’re there whenever someone asks us if our baby is sleeping through the night yet, or suggests we try “cry it out” to teach our baby to self-soothe, or warns us that holding our baby too much will spoil her, or insists that babies be weaned by their first birthday, or maintains that children be spanked, or advises any parenting approach that promotes so-called early independence and obedience over normal, healthy child development and sensitively met needs.

We hear it from our family members, our schools, our pediatricians, our politicians, parenting books that continue to be published influenced by this old-fashioned thinking despite the mountains of research to the contrary — ideas of how children should be raised, based on personal opinion rather than research-backed fact, subtle revelation of how our society is still scared of giving “too much” nurturing to our children. It’s a pervasive situation that still needs to be addressed.

janetThe fact is, nurturing isn’t damaging. Babies and children need nurturing like they need food or shelter — nurturing is an essential basic need — and they are biologically designed to expect and receive nurturing.

Nurturing parenting is actually easier in the long term than the hands-off approach first touted to our great-grandmothers and continued to be promoted in widespread advice, not only because responsive parents are not constantly fighting their own instincts and therefore undermining their confidence, but also because responsive parenting prevents future parenting lornaissues, like behavior problems, that arise from not meeting our babies’ and children’s biological needs. A child who grows up learning that his biological needs for nurturing will go unmet or be misunderstood is a child who will increasingly develop ways of communication and interaction that are less healthy in future relationships.

Nurturing parenting is an early investment whose payoff continues well beyond the short term. When a child’s biological need for nurturing is consistently met, positive discipline naturally emerges. The trust that children develop 865056_grand_mother_and_childas a result of having their emotional needs met sets a foundation of parent-child interaction that doesn’t have to rely on threats, shame, punishment, rewards, or other forms of coercion for behavior control.

Research and children unanimously agree that warm and nurturing parenting is not only optimal, but required for healthy development. The child’s brain develops in response to the care received, so children with less optimal caregiving are more likely to experience challenges not only in their childhoods but across their lifetimes.

Reams of research tell us the obvious: that high levels of family stress can contribute to profound effects on a child’s ability to learn, remember, emotionally self-regulate, and succeed in adulthood.

Many parents carry with them the unaddressed traumas of childhood with limited nurturing or harshness, passed down through the generations since their great-grandparents’ time. This trauma legacy may show up in subtle, or obvious, over-reactions or under-reactions to normal, healthy child behaviors. We silently pass the legacy to our children and their children when we fail to observe the effect on our families and instead find confirmation and justification in the surviving remnants of 1928 child-rearing advice still popular today.

Research is continually finding new ways to illustrate the impact of abundant nurturing on our children. Brain scans show physical differences between the shape and connectivity of different areas of the brain involved in socio-emotional and cognitive functioning. Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) studies outline shockingly common, everyday interactions and events that are processed, but remain unrecognized, as traumas that can increase risk of not only mental but physical illness. Tests on heart function and hormone levels reflect how the body reacts to emotionally stressful events that were previously assumed limited to our thoughts.

Increasingly, we are learning that our emotional psychology has as physical roots as our bodily health — and how much our experiences as babies and young children, especially, form a foundation that can either be stable and secure, or predispose us to a susceptibility of lifelong difficulties.

Attachment Parenting International works to bring a wide body of authoritative, decades-worth of scientific evidence, as well as emerging research, to support parents and influence professionals and society. The common theme of this research clearly points to the critical importance of nurturing our children and describes behaviors that can provide this type of caregiving.

The research calls for parents to examine their assumptions, expectations, and thoughts regarding child-rearing and to then make changes to how they view themselves, children, and parenting to better reflect their goals, values, and healing. Many parents choose not to do this — to instead parent on autopilot, which is easier than parenting with intention — but our unexamined, default modes of parenting are how family legacies of pain pass silently from one generation to the next.

support1Our children are worth the effort to do the best we can. They’re our future, and we want them to be ready and excited for that future, free of emotional traumas borne of parenting ideas of nearly a century ago. Your donation helps Attachment Parenting International support parents. Every dollar counts.

A Holiday Gift Guide to Cultivating Fewer Collections and More Connection

emily holiday post memeEnjoy this APtly Said reprint by Emily Van Bogaert

The holiday season is upon us. As chilly winds begin to blow and the days become short and gray, we are given the opportunity to draw our loved ones near and celebrate what brings warmth, light and love into our lives in the face of cold and darkness. We return to family traditions, created and recreated year after year, to strengthen the ties that bind and celebrate the joy that comes with feeling connected to family and friends near and far.

And then — like a scratch in the record playing our favorite carol — we are bombarded by harsh interruptions at every turn: Glossy newspaper toy ads and email specials blanket our surroundings like a fresh blanket of consumerist snow…loud, boisterous commercials on the radio boom into our speakers as an overwhelming list of wants and needs, and often lies and insecurities, fill our minds…our children, so sensitive and eager to celebrate, start to fill up their elaborate wish lists as visions of sugar plums dance in their heads…grown-ups race from place to place, checking off lists, and fulfilling obligations, wondering in the back of their minds, Will our gifts be enough to bring joy to our loved ones? Will our funds be enough to provide a bounty of food and drinks on our table? Are we doing enough to make this holiday season special?

emily van boegartSo, before those discouraging feelings start to creep into your warm heart, I need to tell you something: You are most certainly enough, friend. I see how much you care about your loved ones, and the incredible attention and effort you put into making the holidays picture-perfect and full of good cheer. And I also want to tell you something else. You, yes you, are the greatest gift you can give your friends and family. Ask them; they’ll tell you it’s true.

Instead of getting carried away with the pressures of consumerism, let’s put our heads together and find a way to reclaim this season for the values and truths we hold dear in our hearts. Don’t get me wrong — giving amazing gifts can feel magical for both the giver and the receiver, and we absolutely can and should share our bounty with one another. But as we give gifts and spread joy, let’s use the occasion to be intentional and celebrate who and what actually matters most to us.

Since breaking patterns and changing habits can be hard work, I’ve gathered a list of ways you can make the season a little bit brighter as you give to those who are closest to you:

  1. Buy local, support artists and artisans, and invest in quality — You can use your holiday gift-giving as a way to connect with people and things that matter to you. Find local and independent businesses that share your values and worldview. That could include a boutique that sources fair-trade merchandise, businesses that support diversity and equality, shops that feature lovingly handmade items and goods made with sustainable materials, performances that move you, services delivered with great care and skill, and nonprofits that benefit causes close to your heart. You can maximize the goodness of your generosity by supporting businesses that in turn support the vibrant, ethical and thriving communities to which you would like to belong.
  2. DIY, thrift, trade and upcycle — Creating useful crafts or making food can be a relaxing way to spend time, and a fulfilling way to meditate on how much someone means to you as you make their gift. Not crafty? There’s no shame in scoring a one-of-a-kind vintage item, a perfectly broken-in hardback book, or a nearly new toy or game at a second-hand shop. Reach out to friends to swap new-to-you items into your family’s rotation. Save time and resources by reusing gift bags or by wrapping gifts with cloth that can be reused again and again: Pillowcases make great gift bags, and baby’s outgrown receiving blankets make excellent Furoshiki-style wrapping cloths. Think outside the box, and let your creativity flow.
  3. Set some boundaries — This is a challenging one. Nobody likes to be told how and what to give. However, if a gentle and thoughtful request is made to express your family’s need for more connection and fewer collections, your loved ones will likely hear and honor those feelings. Go ahead, be courageous and ask grandparents to limit themselves to 1 gift per person or the gift of an experience if your child’s toy chests runneth over. Chances are that their beloved grandchild will end up with a truly thoughtful, useful, meaningful gift they will be elated to receive, and grandparents can kick off their shoes and spend a little more time snuggling and less time shopping. Parents can use the “want/need/wear/read” method to cover the basics and the fun stuff for the littles without going overboard. Families big and small can also benefit from gift drawings, and there are many ways to make them fun and easy, from online gift-drawing generators to gift-swapping games.
  4. Give to those in need — Feel a twinge of sadness and guilt when you drive under the expressway with a trunk full of groceries and gifts only to see a person who is cold, homeless and hungry? Me, too. It’s easy to become paralyzed in those uncomfortable feelings, but we have the power to make a difference. There is more than enough to go around, but only if we stop spending frivolously for the benefit of huge corporations and simply share what we have with our fellow human beings. There are so many ways to share our relative abundance and to connect with those who have less. You can donate individually or collectively to your favorite charity, spend some quality time with friends and family volunteering for a great cause, or plan an acts of kindness advent for your family. Reach out to someone who is lonely or suffering by sharing your meal, listening to their story or simply letting them know you care.
  5. Don’t believe the hype — Stuff does not equal joy. After joyous celebrations, many of us wake up to an inevitable overwhelming and treacherous mess the day after our gift-giving holidays: piles of items we neither want nor need, trash bags full of discarded papers and packaging, the heavy and heart-wrenching burden of returning and regifting. The waste and inefficiencies of the holidays can put a big ol’ damper on all the fun festivities. The practice of over-consuming often turns good intentions and generosity into drudgery and uncomfortable obligations. Blech.
  6. Give the gift of not getting gifts — What do you get for the person who has everything they need and the means to get what they want when they want it? Um, nothing? Let’s face it, purchasing a gift for the sake of going through the motions feels contrived and wasteful. Sometimes we have the option to let each other off the collective hook and simply agree to ditch the ritualistic consumerism. Feeling sassy — or fed up — enough to try it? High five!
  7. Treat yourself — The holidays can be a very stressful time of year for many, but you don’t have to consume material goods to get a boost. Taking the time to fill your own cup with something warm and nourishing gives you more energy to share love with others. Recharge your batteries by bundling up to take a walk in the woods, laughing — or crying — with friends or by taking a nice long bath. In the hustle and bustle of the season, simple pleasures are where it’s at.
  8. Presence over presents — Ultimately, there are many ways to use holiday gift-giving as an occasion to share your time, talents and loving kindness with your special people. Whether you surprise someone with the promise of a fun outing or opportunity to learn something new, offer to lend a helping hand, or simply show up with hot buttered rum and make someone smile, time spent together can be an incredible gift. We can celebrate the relationships we already have and invest in them with our time and attention. You have the option to spend more time baking cookies with a child and less time sitting in traffic in cold, dark parking lots. We have a nearly endless supply of opportunities to create memories and a lifetime’s worth of time to enjoy them.

Now is the time to take a moment to start thinking about how we celebrate this season and determine if it truly enriches us in the ways we want and need. We may not have all the answers to make a perfectly peaceful and joyous holiday season, but we can start asking questions:

  • What will we do this year to bring more joy into our own hearts and the hearts of others?
  • Will this be the year we stop participating in rituals that make us feel sad, insecure and financially overextended?
  • How can we replace unhealthy habits with ones that make us feel more grateful, united, connected and harmonious?

The pressure to spend our social currency, time and hard-earned dollars feeding a never-ending cycle of insecurity and greed through the consumption of mass-produced material goods is immense. It’s up to us to remember that we have the power to spend our time, resources and energy wisely and generously to build relationships and communities that lift us all up. Maybe, just maybe, we can start to set down the shopping lists and bags of presents so that we may reach out our hands, hold those we love closer, and begin to spread love and kindness all year long.

Feeling Tense? Find Peace Amidst the Chaos.

It’s 3pm and my husband and I are beginning the office swap. There are conversations to have, phones ringing, toddlers fussing, and a pre-teen asking if she can watch TV in exchange for watching the baby. I have 15 minutes to transition from mom to professional. I have to fill my husband in on the school work, the plan for dinner, and what is going on with the kids – and he is still two hours away from the end of his workday. The irony of this all is that we chose this long before any virus forced us into it!

Laptop on crowded desk with infant toys, coffee, and planner

Our competing needs clash every day. And it isn’t just the competing needs of my husband and me. In the mix are also the needs that our children have for love, attention, affection, and time. This often crashes into our need to provide financially for our family, and our need for professional and personal fulfillment. Every day, I wake up to the challenge of balancing the needs of two working parents and a family of five children ranging from 1 to 11.

It is a life full of opportunities to recognize my limitations as a human being.

One of my favorite songs is “I’m no SuperMan.” And I often find myself singing it as I go through my day. Occasionally it is accompanied by an equally valid and important mantra from St. Joan of Arc, “I was born for this.” These two phrases are my mantra as a mom: I am no Superman or woman and I was born for this. The first step in balancing all of this competition for time, space, and attention is to recognize that I have needs that are just as valid as my children’s and husband’s.


I can love my work and love my children. I can be excited and sad about the same things. By cultivating a mindfulness practice in my life, I can walk in that uncomfortable both/and place.


When I am working with clients, it becomes clear that most adults don’t know how to name their needs, often having wrongly learned that their needs are just ‘wants.’ They believe themselves to be selfish. When we show up in our lives believing that we are selfish, we see everyone else as selfish. We  then stop being able to read the needs of the people we love the most. The reality is that if we cannot name and honor our own needs, we can never hope to honor those of children. To help you think about what your needs may be, I have compiled a list.

Examples of Adult Needs:

I need to use the bathroom

I need to hydrate – (drink a cold icy glass of water, or in the winter maybe a hot cup of tea)

I need to eat

I need to move my body

I need to go outside

I need to go walk / run

I need to see a friend

I need to breathe deeply

I need to stretch

I need my spouses/ loved one’s support

I need to know that someone is proud of me

I need empathy

I need a hug

I need to complete a task

I need to be alone

I need to take a shower

I need to learn something new

I need to talk about something that is bothering me

I need to laugh, sing, dance

I need to play

I need to reminisce

I need to pursue my career

I need to use my talents & skills & gifts

Steaming hot cup of tea in woman's hands with soft light streaming through window

Like most adults, I used to believe that my needs were just ‘wants’ and sacrificing for my children was the most important thing I could do; it made me an A+ mom. I put on the SuperWoman cape every morning and melted into a heap of tears, wondering how I could be better tomorrow. More patient. More kind. Give more of myself to my children and husband. Having 5 children means I have spent a significant amount of my adult life questioning how I could be a better mom, how I could perfect this doing it all.

And then I woke up to the reality that I couldn’t; I absolutely could not do it all. I had needs, and no amount of ignoring them would make them magically disappear.

One of my needs was to return to work. I needed a break from being ‘Mom’ all the time, every waking and sleeping moment being about these five amazing little beings. Through great providence I was offered a position that would allow me to return to my career, still be home with the kids, and even have the time to homeschool them.

Returning to work came with a slew of trade-offs. They included guilt, shame, fear that I was/am messing everything up, less time to cook, clean, and be everything to eYoung child asleep in starfish position with foot on dad's headveryone. But the transition also came with room to breathe in a whole new way. It brought conversations that went beyond does your baby sleep in the starfish position or the dreaded H? (note mine do both and perform baby gymnastics all night long…) And why don’t they make washing machines that can handle cloth diapers?

I remember my first day at my new job. This was the first time I had gone to work in seven years; I had on high heels, slacks, a blouse, and I was carrying a computer bag – not a diaper bag. It was freeing and scary all at once. I can still remember walking down the street, waiting for the crosswalk sign to change and feeling the wind in my hair. I existed outside of being just a mom, and it felt amazing! I also remember getting home at the end of that first day, which had lasted five hours, including the commute. Oh the tears as I raced inside to give my babies kisses before they went to bed! I couldn’t get the work clothes off fast enough, raced to snuggle down next to them and breathe in their sweet baby smells. It felt amazing.

In a world of either/or, I am living something uncharted – both/and. I can love my work and love my children. I can be excited and sad about the same things. By cultivating a mindfulness practice in my life, I can walk in that uncomfortable both/and place.light blue animated brain in the shape of a heartSometimes living both/and – allowing competing needs to exist – unleashes a fear response. Those thoughts of I am screwing everything up arrive on the scene. And when I experience fear, it triggers a physiological response known as the sympathetic nervous response (SNR).

For me I know my SNR is engaged when I am short of breath, or my shoulders think they are earrings. My jaw struggles to open and shut with ease. When I notice these body sensations, I remind myself to stop what I am doing. I ask myself, what am I scared of? Is there an active danger I need to be aware of?

 

Curious toddler peering over wooden ledge with look of amazement on her face, black and white photoIn that moment of asking, I become a better mom, a better wife, and a better human being.

In that moment, I cultivate curiosity.

Fear and curiosity live in opposition to one another; there is not room in the mind for both. When I ask questions about my surroundings, my beliefs, and my experience, I signal to my body that there is no immediate danger. It’s okay to disengage that SNR. Sometimes I need to stop and tell my husband or my kids, “Hey, I’m feeling keyed up and I’m not sure why, so can you help me out?” Sometimes the help I need is for them to stop making so much noise. Or perhaps I’m asking if they notice any of my triggers that I may be missing.

When we can recognize our body’s messages to stop and take in our surroundings, we can plan. Maybe I need to attend to an email that is bouncing around in my brain, or maybe I need to recognize that I am off until Monday, and my work will be there when I turn on the computer. Balancing family life and professional life requires awareness and tools for the clash of needs that is inevitable. The SNR  is one of our body’s greatest tools, and yet so often we seek to numb when we experience it, moving frantically through our life, desperately seeking an escape. That makes perfect sense. After all, the SNR just communicated that we were in danger and we needed to take action and move.

Those physical symptoms of heart racing, palms sweating, and holding my breath are the stop signs in my life. They are an invitation to slow down. They are an invitation to pause. They are an invitation to be mindful. Mindfulness for me is about filling my mind, filling it with the information about my surroundings, my emotions, my needs. And it provides me with the ability to move forward with purpose and intentionality.

dandelion stalk with single seed still attached on vibrant green blurred background

Part of that intentionality is leaning into the discomfort that comes from competing needs and desires. I have learned to embrace Brene Brown’s Mantra, “discomfort over resentment,” since returning to work has included many moments of discomfort and conflict. Children beg to be read to, played with, and taken out for bike rides – but I have case notes to fill out and studying to do for the licensure exam that expired while I blissfully rocked away in the nursery.

It’s uncomfortable to tell my kids no, I can’t play that game right now, because I have to finish studying this chapter. But I never want to resent playing that game with them because it means not achieving my dreams. In the world of both/and, the same is true for accepting the discomfort of saying “no” to a new potential client because I want to spend my days building block towers and playing heated games of Risk. I never want to resent my work because it stole these precious moments of my children’s young lives.

There will always be competing needs. Balance means embracing the invitation to mindfulness that comes with both/and, accepting that I have real needs, and seeking a plan to meet my needs so that I am prepared to meet those of my children.

mother and four children sitting on a blanket, having a picnic in the park

Community Means Cherishing One Another: API is here for you.

 

Anieken Udofia mural of diverse group of children watering garden togetherOur days are filled with compassion–and passion–as our world grows in awareness, shares, speaks out, and supports change for equity and justice for our Black families. We are moved by generations of families, fathers, mothers, children, together acting to examine and make systemic change against racism.

Making a change is a road fraught with failures and doubts, including for parenting decisions and actions. In the midst of that, practicing sensitivity, connection, and understanding and nurturing others, including our own children, is also immeasurably rewarding. The ultimate key to navigating the challenges and ensuring the immediate and long-term change is support. Taking time, becoming vulnerable, reaching out, and finding, or even creating, support may be the most difficult and most important effort we make.

That’s why we’re here to help you find support, help you offer support if you can provide it, help you connect and make change–at home, in your community, and in our world. We can work and support each other to change how we parent and through it, even reform the disparities that exist in our communities.

API has many resources on talking with your children about racism, the effects of racism, and more – selected from thoughtful and informed parenting leaders. Use them in your home, in your support group meetings, and in your community. We will continue to add to this resource and invite you to share your Attachment Parenting resources as well.

Text Choose Compassion overlaid on drawing of outstretched hands

At this time that we are still sheltering, and as families face new waves of COVID-19 outbreak around the world, we continue to manage children’s disappointments, expectations, and agendas.

 

We invite you to let us know how YOU are doing through two surveys:

For parent group leaders, our leader survey will help us support you and give you the tools you need to serve your community.

If you’re a parent, we would very much like to hear from you too. How are you doing? Let us know by completing this 1 minute parent survey so we can provide support that fits best.

Only by reaching out to one another, by being honest with ourselves and with each other about how we’re doing, can we work toward communal health and the healing of social rifts.

Now is the time to lean on one another. API is here for you.