Own the road you travel

OwntheRoadMediumPostAfter giving birth to my first son, I made choices and decisions based on my instincts and the purest love I’d ever known. I wasn’t following another’s footsteps. I wasn’t asking for advice. I wasn’t questioning my abilities or my commitment to this miraculous gift of life and love. I wasn’t afraid.

I experienced love in a way I’d never experienced before. I trusted that love to provide what I needed in order to raise this precious, tiny, human being. I became a mother.

Soon after becoming a mother, others expressed — either to my face or behind my back — what they believed I was doing wrong in terms of parenting and/or otherwise. I was often told I wasn’t doing things the “right way.” I was whispered about, talked about, and judged. Through that, I became stronger and more grounded on the path I chose and continue to choose, as a mother of 2 boys — in spite of the skeptics and the doubters.

I aim to stay connected to my higher purpose. I am always in search of what exactly that is, but being a mother is a big part of it. This I know, and I am doing my very best — with pure intentions, patience, acceptance, and love in my heart.

Many people thought I was crazy for not enrolling our boys in school and choosing the path of traveling. They didn’t understand. What wasn’t what they saw as “normal” made them uncomfortable. I see that now.

The world became their school and education is in front of and around them every day — with ancient history, new cultures, languages, art, architecture, nature, different ways of life, and so much more. I may not know what the future holds — who does? — but I will always do what is best for my children based on who they are and what they need at each juncture in their lives.

I believe traveling is one of the best ways to open the mind to curiosity: To expand beyond what we know to be possible, every time and then we rent a pickup from Flex Fleet and go outside to explore and visit new places, we will not learn everything about the world while traveling, but we will be exposed to new ways of life and things we never knew existed. I believe this is one of the most important decisions and choices we made in our decision to travel around the world: To expose our boys to the reality that the world we live in is not the only world there is.

Everyone has an opinion. Everyone believes they know best. Many can’t help expressing their doubts and fears. I learned to accept this and not to take their stuff on as my own and not to doubt myself. I continue persevering through and beyond it, and I am deeply grateful each day as I enjoy and witness the miracles of these precious human beings thriving before me.

My boys are strong, independent little souls. They have beautiful, uninhibited, expressive spirits. They are centered and free. They live on this solid foundation built upon the stability that comes from being loved, no matter where they are: An adaptability that expands from the excitement of a new place to play, explore, and sleep in after various modes of transportation to get there…the open-mindedness that develops when you witness all walks of life and truly understand and embrace that we are all different, yet the same.

My kids are not perfect, nor am I. I do not live a perfect life. We struggle and suffer and face challenges just like everyone else. I don’t claim to have everything figured out. I simply choose to have a positive outlook and a lot of gratitude for each day I am given. I choose love.

As I type this right now, I question whether I should just let all of this go and not express my feelings about this matter. Maybe I should do what Abraham Lincoln used to do — write this letter, let it sit on my desk for a day and file it away, never to be sent.

I decided to share this, because I want to encourage you to LIVE YOUR OWN LIFE. I want to encourage you not to let others put their self doubt, their unfulfilled dreams, their negative attitudes, fear, or insecurities on you. I want to encourage you to be strong and brave enough to recognize them as such and define and walk your own path and truly own it.

I am happy to know that home exists within myself and with the ones I love. I am happy to be away from the microscopes, the expected norms of society and the self-appointed, parental- and “life”-control officers. I am happy to be free in a world where togetherness and intimacy are not only accepted but encouraged. I am happy to raise my boys with the beliefs and values I choose, rather than the ones others impose upon them or society dictates. I am happy they love and respect nature and are participants in other cultures and societies beyond the comfortable bubble we popped.

I am happy to make mistakes and learn from them. I am happy we are all growing and enriching our lives each day. I am happy we are in this together, through the good and the bad.

My boys will be healthy, contributing parts of the society they choose to live in. This is what matters.

As for those of you who can relate to my feelings, my wish is for this to serve as a reminder that the life you are living is yours. You have been given what and who you see in the mirror, and your choices are yours. Ask yourself if you are running away from something or chasing your dreams? Choose based on what you feel and believe in the deepest part of your heart.

I am not here to justify why I believe this journey is amazing — or why I do anything for that matter — although this piece seems to be doing exactly that. I am sharing this with you, because I hope you don’t feel the need to justify or defend yourself against these types of people in your own lives: People who refuse to look in the mirror and would rather look out the window and tell others how to live.

Today is a gift. Today is yours.

Own the Road You Travel,

❤ Sandy

Sometimes it is all about me

Editor’s note: Welcome to APtly Said’s celebration of mothers! This year’s theme for Mother’s Day is “Life Lessons” as Attachment Parenting International celebrates with an inspiring series from May 7-11. We hope you are enjoying your Mother’s Day and find time to reflect on what you’ve learned through your motherhood journey.

Jillian AmodioThis year’s theme for Mother’s Day at APtly Said is “Life Lessons.” We were asked to reflect on what we have learned since becoming a mother. Well, I think the easier question to answer would be what haven’t I learned since becoming a mother?

Motherhood changes you so deeply. Every aspect of your life is transformed to reflect your new role — no part of your old life or old self is left untouched. This is simultaneously wildly exciting and unimaginably overwhelming.

If I had to choose the most prominent life lesson, the one that has most profoundly affected my day to day living, it is this: Sometimes it is all about me.

What I mean is this: In order to adequately love my children and my family, I must first love myself. I cannot give from an empty tank. When my personal reserve is depleted, there is nothing left to give to those I love.

As mothers, it is our natural desire to serve, love, and protect our family. We tend to put our needs and our desires on hold in favor of tending to the needs of those in our care.

While this may seem admirable, noble, and selfless, it can also be self-destructive and disadvantageous to our well-being and consequently the well-being of our family. Our children’s need for us is undeniable. But they also need us at our best — they don’t need us stressed, broken, tired, and consumed…although those are sometimes unavoidable.

They simply need us.

We don’t need to be “the best” — we just need to be our best. In order to be our best, we need to take time for ourselves. This can seem like it is easier said than done, but once you commit to taking time for yourself, it becomes a part of your schedule and fits seamlessly with day-to-day living. The Iron Samurai is your solution to all things fitness. More importantly, having been given time to re-fuel and compose our self physically, emotionally, and mentally, we are better prepared to provide for the needs of our children and partner. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, giving ourselves breathing space and time to decompress is one of the most selfless things we can do.

When parenting stops being enjoyable and starts to become a chore, that is a sure sign that you are burnt out and in need of a little “me time.” Whether it is a simple shower in solitude, 15 minutes of meditation, a fitness class on HealthEd Academy, a contemplative walk, or a much-needed nap, taking time for “me” is essential to our personal well-being.

Personally, I love yoga. I love to teach yoga and I love to practice yoga. Several times a week, I make it a point to get this time to myself. Other times, I simply go to the grocery store alone, and while I am fulfilling a task for my family, I am also getting some much-deserved and much-treasured down time.

There is nothing I love more than being a wife and a mother, and there is no one I love more than my children and my husband. But sometimes, just sometimes, it is all about me. And that, my friends, is perfectly okay.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Going back to work, but not the way I expected

APM 2015 logoEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) recognizes the amazing creativity of parents to balance their children’s attachment needs with their financial needs and/or career in order to provide consistent, loving care especially in the first few months postpartum but also throughout the early childhood years when parental presence is most critical to establishing a secure attachment relationship. This year’s Attachment Parenting Month focuses on the theme: “Parental Presence: Birthing Families, Strengthening Society.” We thank API Leader Tina McRorie for sharing her story of how she was able to balance working with her child’s attachment needs.

tina mcrorieWhen I was pregnant with my first child, I was a social worker in the foster care system. I had recently earned my master’s degree in clinical psychology and was on track to become a Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). I was working for a nonprofit, which predictably didn’t pay a lot, but it did provide me with a supervisor who could sign my log sheets, getting me closer to my 2,000 hours so I could take the licensing exam.

After only 4 months at the agency, I learned I was pregnant. I knew I would not want to go back to work there, since the commute was too long, so I did the responsible thing and informed my employers and clients that I would be resigning near my due date. Unfortunately, this disqualified me from receiving the only paid leave we had in California at the time: state disability leave.

I was annoyed that I was being penalized for doing the right thing, but fortunately, my husband made a good income in Silicon Valley, so my integrity didn’t hurt us too much in the wallet. We estimated that I could take 7 months off before finding a new job nearer to our home.

When my boy was approaching 7 months, I found a daycare center after — I admit — not much research. I did what many mothers do, taking him there for a few hours at a time, a couple of days a week to get him used to it while I started looking for a job. Well, I didn’t find a job, and he most emphatically did not get used to it. He cried and needed to be held most of time. I found it hard to pump enough milk for him. After a couple of months, the director let me know that they would not be able to meet his needs.

My husband and I decided that we should keep him home for the time being, and I could look for work again in a few months. I did continue sporadically to look for work, but I didn’t ever put him in daycare again.

When he was 18 months old, I learned I was pregnant again. At that point, I did the math and realized that if I went back to work when the new baby was 1 year old, even logging the maximum number of allowable weekly hours, I wouldn’t be able to get the 2,000 hours in the 6 years allotted since I had registered as an MFT intern. I had fallen off the therapy wagon.

I had been an advocate for children since college. My plan had been to help adults process their childhood traumas and find healing. Now I was changing my perspective. As a parent, and as a member of API, I was seeing that many childhood traumas could be prevented through secure attachment with better-informed, better-supported parents.

Though I still believe that therapy is an important part of preparing for parenting, there are many therapists who can help.

I reflected that the foster parents I had worked with were told that they could make a huge difference in the lives of the children in their care by allowing the children to bond to them, but we did not tell them how to do that. I remembered learning about attachment in college — noting that psychologists, social workers, and a whole range of researchers and professionals in the child-development field knew about Attachment Theory, the protective power of a secure attachment and the specific parenting behaviors that built a secure attachment, but that knowledge was not making its way to the public in any significant way.

I decided that focusing on parent education and support as a volunteer API Leader was how I wanted to spend my energy. It would not make me any money, but it would allow me to make a positive impact on my community and be where my kids needed me: with them.

Fortunately, we were able to stretch my husband’s income much farther than we originally thought. Although I did not contribute money to our equation, I was able to spend much less than I would have if I had gone back to work. First, I wasn’t paying for childcare. As my children got older and more comfortable with being without me, we started having playdate childcare trades with a few families we knew from our API group.

Not having a job also allowed me to spend less money on gas, food, clothes and other expenses — like a better breast pump. I did other in-kind trades; for instance, I did childcare once a week for my Jazzercise monthly pass. As the kids grew to preschool age, I enrolled them in a co-op preschool, which was much more affordable because I assisted in the classroom one day a week. Then I found an excellent alternative public school where parents were expected to volunteer on a regular basis. My husband had started talking about private schools soon after our kids were born, so I count this as a major savings that my being home afforded us.

After several years, my API coleader decided she wanted to follow her dream of opening an educational lending library, and I wanted to take my education and training and become a parenting educator, teaching attachment-focused parenting. We tried to find members to take over the leadership, but when none came forward, we regretfully closed the group.

I spent a year or so procrastinating on writing my curriculum — well, I did have 2 kids keeping me busy — then I learned that API’s cofounders had written a parenting curriculum! So I started on the road to becoming re-certified as an API Leader, opening a new API group and building infrastructure and awareness of Attachment Parenting in my community.

When the co-founders presented a training in Los Angeles, I jumped at the chance to take the next step in my plan! I learned so much about meeting parents where they are and giving them evidence-based information about what children need for optimal development — that nevertheless often runs counter to the cultural norm. Meeting API Cofounders Barbara Nicholson and Lysa Parker, and other API Leaders as well as other helping professionals, was very inspiring.

I am excited to be poised to use the workshop format to reach parents-to-be and parents of young children in my community. I believe that learning about the importance of secure attachments and API’s Eight Principles of Parenting will make a difference in the lives of many families, as it has in mine.

My two sons are in middle school and high school now. I know that I am very privileged to have been able to stay home with them this whole time. My volunteer work for API, as well as at my kids’ schools, has allowed me to feel belonging and significance — to borrow a phrase from positive discipline — while balancing my work and family life with a degree of control that is not affordable to many.

The API Support Group that I started 5 years ago, Monterey Bay Parenting, will always be free for anybody who wants the information and support, because that’s how we roll at API.

However, I will soon be able offer “Attached at the Heart” workshops on a tuition basis. This will make my husband happy, especially since he’s still paying off my college loans! It will also allow me to set my schedule so that I am there for my kids when they need me. As teenagers, they need to stretch their wings and feel their independence, but they also need connection and guidance as much as they always have.

partners logo - with WYSH

The sunrise of balance

first-sunrise-1257802It was a Tuesday morning, years ago.

And like many other mornings, I awoke and started into my day. Awaiting me was housework to be completed, emails to be answered, errands to be accomplished and deadlines to be met. If not for my then 6-year-old son, I likely would have stayed in this state of mind.

He woke after me, ready to begin his own day. Within moments of waking, I saw him approach the window and look toward the sky. He then spoke, offering words to describe what he was seeing. In awe, he exclaimed, “Mama, the sky! It’s so colorful!” I turned to him, and seeing his exuberant joy, my heart flooded with deep gratitude. I looked out the window, too. It was indeed colorful. In fact, in that moment, it became the most spectacular sunrise I’d ever seen. My son’s gentle reminder, gifted to me in one sentence, had given me so much.

My sweet son is older now. He’s almost as tall as me, and calling me Mama has been replaced with Mom. However, I’ve never forgotten his message of that morning. To this day, years later, I still carry those words with me: “Mama, the sky! It’s so colorful!” — six words encompassing the gentle reminder to move a little slower, appreciate a little more and pause long enough to enjoy the moments of delight our days have to offer us.

I have served as an API Leader for almost 10 years. In this time, I’ve supported parents in learning more about and practicing API’s Eight Principles of Parenting. One of the principles is Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life. In a busy life, balance may appear out of reach. We all know the importance of balance, but grasping it for ourselves is seemingly elusive.

On an unassuming Tuesday morning, my son showed me where balance can be found. Balance doesn’t have to be a big fanfare. It may come quietly, simply and in the moments you’re least expecting it. It may be found in nature’s beauty, in the laughter of a child or in an impromptu living room dance party.

Wherever it may be for you, I believe it’s there, waiting to be uncovered…a moment, a simple moment, where you’re able to pause long enough to truly enjoy the beauty that surrounds you…a moment to regain perspective on what is truly important. Today, see if you can capture a moment of delight for yourself, and take one step closer to balance.

For Today, a poem for parents

yvette lambIf we are honest, it really isn’t possible to enjoy every moment of parenting.

Another bad night’s sleep, a tantrum in the park, or frantically rushing between home and work is hardly the stuff family dreams are made of. It’s perfectly natural that we don’t — and can’t — spend every moment basking in how blessed we are by our children.

I know that I am so lucky to be a parent, and my days are peppered with gratitude as I watch my son laugh, play or sleep: ordinary magic moments which make me so thankful. But of course, I can also get lost in the stuff that surrounds and is part of being a mother, and the challenges that take my time and energy and that clutter our day-to-day lives.

Family life is busy. It throws curve balls. And sometimes I can lose sight of who I am and what is most important. I get stressed. I feel tired. I become impatient. Difficulties and dramas come our way. It isn’t always easy, but it is normal.

Sometimes — even if just for today, perhaps because we’ve had a reminder to or maybe just because we know deep down we need it — we can let go of everything else and embrace the moments that matter. And if we do, we might just have a blindingly lovely day…

For Today

Today we’ll do things differently, today is just for you
I’ve stopped the world from spinning round, today’s about us two
We won’t rush to get dressed or clean the breakfast from your face
We’ll linger with your favorite toys and take things at your pace

Let us give the shops a miss today and scrap doing the chores
Let me oblige and sing that song each time you tell me more
Let me pick you up each time you pull and ask me for a cuddle
And if I don’t attempt a million things, I won’t get in a muddle

And when we wander out today, I won’t make you wear your hat
You can pause at every flower, say hello to every cat
If you want to, you can walk about, even though it takes us longer
And when you’re tired, I’ll scoop you up ‘cause your love makes me stronger

You’re a million kinds of precious, and though I shouldn’t need reminding
I sometimes have to stop and think, but thanks to you I’m finding
That our lives are full of magic in between the other stuff
And what you give is all I need, love really is enough

So let us read an extra story, let us make a bit more mess
No worries that we’re running late, no calls to make, no stress
I’m going to try and see the world just like you do each day
As an exciting big adventure and a brand-new game to play

For today, my task is not to clean or wash or tidy up
It’s to chase you ‘til you laugh out loud and beg for me to stop
It’s to play the silly games you love and take you to the park
It’s to be with you ‘til evening falls and the sky outside turns dark

Then I’ll carry you to bed tonight with a happy, tired yawn
And hold you close for twice as long, just like when you were born
And if sleep does not come easily, tonight I will not mind
The world can wait, I’ll stay with you until your dreams you find

And tomorrow might be different as that’s just the way it goes
But whatever stuff life throws at us, I hope you always know
You fill our hearts up to the brim and make the dull seem new
You grow and laugh and share and love, and teach us all this too

Finding balance through play

1386612_mom_and_kidEditor’s note: Attachment Parenting International (API) hopes every mom enjoyed her Mother’s Day on May 10 and every dad is looking forward to Father’s Day on June 21. This week, in honor of all mothers, API gives you a special “Inspired Mothers” celebration. We hope these posts inspire you in your parenting journey.

Earlier this year, I started taking time each evening to write down in a journal what my best moments of the day were. Sometimes it was time spent playing with or cuddling with my kids. And sometimes it was time without them, when I did my self-care or finally met up with a friend.

Never was it doing housework or time spent on Facebook.

I haven’t kept it up all year, but looking at it helps me to prioritize and make time for what is important and what really matters to me. Obviously the dishes have to be done and you can’t just ignore them, but making some extra time for lying down with my 3 year old each day has been manageable. So is — at times — saying “no” to cleaning and “yes” to play. My children enjoy playing more, and so do I.

Keeping this in mind helped me rediscover how much fun it could be to play outside in winter, something I hadn’t done willingly in nearly 20 years. Together, my boys and I climbed snow mountains, and they were excited to see me join in on the fun of rolling down snow hills.

Lately my best moments generally involve time spent outside watching my 5 year old run through the grass, full of pure joy, or having my 3 year old run into my arms and spinning him around until we fall down dizzy in the grass.

I recently attended a meeting on self-care where we were asked to write down three things that made us happy. The goal was to have more of that in your life. One thing I wrote was “my kids’ laughter.” I want to be a part of that every day at least once.

Of course, not every moment or every day is happy. Plenty are full of frustration or exhaustion, or both. But taking time to play, to enjoy my children and to just be happy helps me find balance and helps me to better enjoy being a mother.

What presence means to me

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Oct. 24, 2008, but it echoes a sentiment many Attachment Parenting parents have heard from well-meaning friends, family members and even strangers to take some time away from our infants and toddlers, without realizing that ample presence with our children may be exactly what gives us balance.

By Christina Geyer of An American Expat in Deutschland and Mamas Worldwide

1386612_mom_and_kidI can’t count the number of times that someone has told me that I need to get out of the house without my son.

I’ve been told to get a regular babysitter or to put him in daycare, so that I can have time for myself. While I agree that moms do need time to themselves — I like to de-stress in a long bath with a book by my side once a week, and go to dinner and a movie with friends occasionally — I am happy to share my life with my 15-month-old son.

What does giving him my presence mean to me? It means allowing him to be present in my everyday life.

I am a stay-at-home mom. We are extended breastfeeding and cosleeping. We’re in playgroups — a German-speaking one and an English-speaking one. I also take him with me when I go to town, to the store, even to the doctor’s office, when possible. He joins me when I get a massage, sitting below the table, playing with blocks, smiling up at me every few minutes.

We eat at restaurants together. He doesn’t have a high chair with a tray, he sits right at the table with us, taking part in the family meal. I’m thankful that most places here in Germany, where we live, are kid-friendly. He loves to flirt with the waitresses, and he even tries to pay the bill.

By including my son in my everyday life, I feel I’m teaching him how to interact. He doesn’t act out like some children I’ve seen out, especially at restaurants. He sits and watches the faces of everyone around him. He laughs when we laugh and tries to eat like we eat. He happily eats sushi, caviar, all sorts of vegetables, octopus, mussels…all without even needing a bib. My friends invite us over to dinner so that their children will try new foods. They’ll say, “Look, the little guy likes it. Why don’t you give it a try?”

Now I know that some of this is just his easy-going personality and that we might have to peel spaghetti off the ceiling with our next child, but I think part of it is due to my, and my husband’s, willingness to share practically our whole lives with him. We love his company, and I think that this will help him to grow up loving our company as well.

Compassion, balance and truth in parenting

lisa feiertag 3Compassion.

What does this word mean to you?

I see compassion as being open to seeking the truth in any given moment. As a parent, I am constantly invited inward in order to seek my truth. Our children and partners have their own truths. It can be challenging when I am forced to find the truth that lies within each person in my family.

Truth.

What does this word mean to you? It may mean being honest, open and vulnerable. It might mean only speaking what you know to be right or it could mean a variety of other different options.

Truth, as I am speaking of now, is the inner voice that each person brings into the world. It is that innate wisdom that we each hold. It is the intuition that guides us forward as we are making decisions within our lives.

Our children are born with their own truths, and as parents, we are invited to take part in assisting our kids as they open to that guidance. Compassion arises when we are open to seeking out those truths.

“Compassion is the basis of all truthful relationship. It means being present with love for ourselves and all of life.” ~ Ram Doss

This quote is one that resonated with me the minute I heard it. The words brought on a new level as I began to understand how they may play out in my role as a parent. It reminded me of one of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of ParentingStrive for Personal and Family Balance — for it is when we are in love with ourselves that we can find what is needed to nurture another.

Finding balance and taking time for my needs has been one of the most challenging aspects to the role of being a parent.

When my daughters were both under the age of 5, I thought that taking time to myself was a joke. How could any parent do that? Don’t we need to be fully engaged with our children all the time no matter what?

I could not have been further from my truth. What I was missing in my thinking was that when I took time to engage in activities that nourished me, I was able to offer myself compassion…which leads to hearing my wisdom…which allows me to be fully present to my children and their truths.

What I needed in those early years was permission to allow for self-compassion. I needed to know that not only was it OK for me to take a few moments to myself, but it was absolutely vital.

Compassion requires balance and a willingness to be available to yourself. This is the key to my parenting that has served me well as my daughters are growing older.

The beauty is that I have taken the steps to implement this message into my daily routines and my daughters have both been witnesses to this. They have seen what it looks like when I am in balance and what it looks like when I am a mess — yes, those days happen! From those observations, my children are empowered to find what is needed for them to be centered, mindful and aware of their own truth.

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