Being Compassionate with Yourself

toddlerYesterday evening, my family got together with another family for dinner. While my own kids are now 9 and 6, the kids in the other family are 4 and 2.

Dining with a 2 year old, especially, was a walk down memory lane for me and my husband. While my kids are still working on some of the finer details of proper etiquette, they no longer drink from a sippy cup, require a bib or throw their food on the floor. And when my kids aren’t at the table, I don’t need to keep my eyes on them at every moment. They know not to climb up on the stove or run out of the front door into traffic.

As children grow, it’s very easy to forget what life was like a few short years ago. Kids always keep us hopping as they move on to new adventures and challenges. I feel like all of my parental brain space is taken up with what I’m dealing with right now. There just isn’t much mental energy left to recall in fine detail what it was like to parent a toddler.

When I spend time with someone else’s toddler, though, it all comes back to me.

As I look back over my children’s early years, one of the things I wish is that I had been gentler with myself. From this side of the fence, I can see that parenting a busy toddler is a lot of work. Parenting a busy toddler and a baby at the same time is even more work.

It’s no wonder that, when my children were small, my house wasn’t as clean as I wanted it to be all the time — that I was so tired in the evenings, that I sometimes struggled to stay in touch with my friends or run errands or find time to get my hair cut.


One of Attachment Parenting International‘s Eight Principles of Parenting is Respond with Sensitivity. The idea is that we build a bond of trust and lay the foundations for empathy by understanding our children’s needs and responding appropriately. In the process, we nurture a secure attachment with our children. They learn that they can count on us to be there when they need us, and this helps them to develop the confidence to venture off into the world independently when they’re ready.

Our children aren’t the only ones who can benefit from sensitivity. We can benefit from responding sensitively to our own needs. When we’re really busy with life and work and parenting young children, our own needs often take a backseat to everything else that is going on. In fact, we may even beat up ourselves, because we can’t do everything perfectly all the time. I think that’s too bad.

Now that my children are a little older, I can say with confidence that while life is hectic during those infant and toddler years, they don’t last forever and things do get easier. By being as gentle as possible with yourself while you’re in the thick of things, taking care of little ones who need a lot of your attention and energy, you’re demonstrating sensitivity and empathy to your children.

We want our kids to grow into caring and compassionate people. One of the ways we encourage that is by being caring and compassionate toward our children. Another way that we do that is by being caring and compassionate with ourselves. When you cut yourself slack, you teach your children how to recognize and take care of their own needs.

Achieving balance is hard, and it requires us to constantly re-assess and re-evaluate what’s happening in our lives. As children grow and change, the balance changes, too. At every stage, though, compassion is a great tool. Whether that means dragging yourself out of sleep in the middle of the night to respond sensitively to a teething baby or being gentle with yourself because the vacuuming didn’t get done (again), the compassion is the same.

And those lessons in sensitivity and compassion will last long after the toddler years are over.

Slowing Down

I have a confession to make: I am constantly in a rush. In fact, the more I think I about it, the more that I can see how much of my life is spent hurrying. I hurry through my morning shower, through my breakfast, through my work, through my homework, through my shopping, through my cooking and through my cleaning. Often, as I rush around, I have my 9-year-old and 5-year-old in tow, which means I’m hurrying them along.

hurrying rushing time slowing down alarm clockWhen my first child was born, my hurrying habit was temporarily broken. I went from spending most of my time at work to spending all of my time, day and night, with my newborn. Infants don’t understand concepts like schedules, so there was simply no point to hurrying. Any parent can tell you, though, that children grow quickly. My babies turned into toddlers and preschoolers and school-aged children. I went back to work, first in an office and then at home as a writer and editor. My kids started daycare and school and a extra-curricular activities. I went back to school myself. Gradually, almost without me noticing, my life sped up again. I returned to my old habit of hurrying through my days.

Looking back over my life recently, however, I’ve realized that I need to make a change. Our culture gives us the message that if we’re not busy, if we’re not rushing, if we don’t have too much on our plates, then there’s something wrong with us. I say that isn’t true. I want to enjoy the simple moments with my kids. I want to slow down and focus on my children as they are today, because I can never get this time back. Whether you have a baby, a toddler, or a teenager, your child will never be this age again. The big question is just how to take the time to enjoy them as they are right now. I’ve found a few things that help:

  1. Cut back on activities. Kids need free time to play, not tons of scheduled appointments to constantly be rushing off to.
  2. Learn to say No. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, it’s a sign that you may need to cut back.
  3. Take a moment to breathe. If you’re in the habit of hurrying, as I am, you may find yourself rushing when you really don’t have to. Taking a moment to breathe can break that cycle.
  4. Ask your kids for help. Older kids can provide you feedback and offer suggestions. They can point out when you’re rushing needlessly, and come up with solutions so that your family can get out the door on time.
  5. Let go of unrealistic expectations. As I said, our culture looks at busy-ness as a sign of value, which can lead many people to place unrealistic expectations on themselves of being able to do it all. Letting go of those expectations can make life better and help you take things more slowly.

It’s not easy to break the hurrying habit and take life more slowly. Like anything, though, if you practice you’ll get better. That’s what I’m telling myself, as I take aim at my own hurrying habit again.

What about you – how do you slow down when life gets too busy and you find yourself spending a lot of your time rushing around with your kids?

Mother / Student

Two months ago, I returned to school, some 14 years after completing my first degree. It was the first time I’d done anything more than a two-day workshop since I got married and had children. Right now I’m taking three classes at a local university, gathering prerequisites with the hope of eventually studying education and becoming a public school teacher. This has represented a big change not just for me, but for my entire family.

going back to school with kids
The quad on campus
One of the eight principles of Attachment Parenting International is strive for balance in your personal and family life. In many ways, going back to school has been an exercise in upsetting the balance that I had attained. I work part-time from home as a writer. My children were eight and five years old when I attended my first class in January. With my son starting kindergarten this past fall, I’d managed to achieve a sense of equilibrium that hadn’t existed since I went into labour with my daughter in 2005. I was no longer working long into the night after the kids were asleep – I was able to do my work while they were at school, and spend my evenings with my husband. It was pretty sweet, to be honest.

This greater sense of equilibrium is what created space in my mind to ask myself some big questions – questions that I hadn’t really considered since before I got pregnant with my first child. I started asking myself what I really wanted for myself, rather than what I wanted for my children.

I’ve built much of my work life (and pretty much every other part of my life) around my kids since I became a mother. I did so willingly, as well. I know that children grow all too quickly, and you can’t get those early days back. I was thrilled to be able to find a job that allowed me more time with my little ones, and greater flexibility in general. I didn’t ask where I saw myself in 10 years, but rather where I saw my family. As someone who has found attachment parenting to be very fulfilling, this worked well for me.

With a little more time and mental space of my own, things changed. I had something of an Aha! moment last October, when I realized that I still hold the dream of becoming a teacher. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I was a kid, but I pursued my first degree in engineering because it seemed like the more practical choice. I left my engineering career behind some five years ago, though, and had spent the intervening years more focused on short-term goals.

My husband and I talked about the idea of going back to school, and I attended an info session and talked to my kids. In the end, I decided that there really was no better time, and went for it.

Going to school has upset the balance of my life in many ways, but I’ve worked hard to re-establish it under different conditions. I’ve had to say No a lot. I gave up the tap dancing class I loved. I called on my family to help. I also spent a lot of time explaining to my kids what I’m doing, and why. Think, “I have to do some homework right now, so I can’t read to you. I’ll come and find you when I’m finished and we’ll do some reading then.” Balancing my roles, and succeeding as a student, parent and employee, is taking help and support from almost everyone in my life.

I’m going to be sharing my experiences as a mother, writer and university student each month on this blog. I have a lot more to say, about how I’m providing my kids with consistent and loving care, how I’m trying to respond sensitively to my children and myself, and what our days look like. For today, however, I have to run. I have homework to do.

Have you spent any time at school since having children? If you have any tips or experiences to share, I’d love to hear them!

Finding the “Me” in Mommy

Posted by Rivkah Estrin, CBE and API online contributor. Rivkah is a certified childbirth educator, DONA-trained postpartum doula and journalist who puts her passion about Attachment Parenting to use as a writer, mother and educator for expectant and new parents.

As soon as new life is ushered into the world, an old life comes to an end. The birth of a baby is in some ways a death of the woman you were before becoming a mother. As Rajneesh said, “The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.”

All I have ever wanted in life was to be a mother. I naturally attachment parented my first baby because I didn’t know how else to keep her happy. All the traditional tools fell by the wayside as she told me in her 2-day-old way that all she needed was to sleep on my chest and all would be OK. She did everything in my arms, in the sling, at my breast, as did child number 2, child number 3 and child number 4. It’s been a long but amazing nine years.

Now my youngest has turned three and is sleeping in her own space, thinking about potty training and only nursing to go to sleep. And I wonder—where am I? In the past nine years, how have I given to myself? I know I’m not alone in this feeling, but it feels so lonely.

My husband continued on his trajectory. He is an incredible AP dad, but outside the house he’s still growing his business, meeting with clients, going on business trips and eating out with colleagues. I haven’t been to a moms’ night out without a kid because my little ones nurse to sleep for a very long time. And I can’t leave them in order to go play with my friends without feeling incredibly guilty.

Should I just get over it, go out and not worry about the affect it has on my kids? That doesn’t sit well with me.

Is the fault my husband’s for having a life outside the family? No, not at all. He’s out supporting us and allowing me to be home with our kids, to homeschool them, and he spends every spare minute with his family, he makes sure we use the best Charter Homeschooling program.

Is the fault my decision to homeschool? Many parents have six hours free to do as they please, such as work, go to the gym, organize the house, shop unaccompanied and myriad other things. But the time I have with my kids is so special and so limited. The experiences we get to share together can’t be matched on Sundays and holidays. Our everyday family life is something we’ve cultivated and worked hard to achieve, and as exhausting as it can be, it is infinitely fulfilling. So, no, I won’t blame the homeschooling.

Maybe there isn’t anything to blame. Maybe it’s just a very new existence for which there is no preparation or workshop. There is a term known as Mommy Burnout, and I think I may be headed there. Not in a scary, dangerous way. But it’s becoming clear to me that as the nature of my parenting is shifting as my kids are getting older, so too the nature of how I care for myself needs to change.

It used to be that a nap refreshed me to my core. My burnout was sleep-related, and a nap did just the trick. But my burnout issue now is lack of time—time for myself, time to take a class, time to smell the flowers. In the words of Rabbi Hillel, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Foot bridge

API’s 8th Principle of Parenting is about striving for balance in personal and family life, which means “ensuring that everyone’s needs — not just the child’s — are recognized, validated and met to the greatest extent possible.” How does a mom find a way to recharge when the demands have shifted? How does one achieve more time? How does a mom give a little bit back to herself after so many years of joyfully overlooking her own needs? Here are a few ways I came up with that work for me.

Get into a book. More than just reading, finding a book that can transport me to another place and time can be a true mental vacation. I always say my favorite part of reading is being in the middle of a book. Looking forward to the next plot twist keeps me going even on the roughest of days.

Call a friend. My friends have always been my lifeline. And yet I find that months can go by without so much as a phone call! That’s just tragic. One thing I would love to implement is a once-weekly quiet time where I can step outside and call someone. Reminiscing about old times, talking about our current lives and just hearing a familiar voice can be relaxing and refreshing.

Add music. I like to bring the laptop in to the kitchen while cooking dinner or washing dishes. I can put on my favorite tunes, and it turns into a quick and easy escape from the endless to-do lists inside my head. The kids, usually off playing, will even come in sometimes and listen quietly with me. It’s a relaxing way to transition from the activities of the day toward bedtime.

Play a game with a partner or friend. What better way to chill out than to get completely consumed with a game? Recently my husband and I grabbed a deck of cards and played for two hours. We didn’t talk about the kids. It was awesome.

Pour a glass of wine (or cup of tea) and watch something. Two Netflix envelopes arrive at our house every week. One is for the kids and one is for us. Sometimes we get caught up in a great show and wait impatiently for the next DVD. Sometimes we catch up on all the movies we don’t get to the theater to see. Setting aside the time to watch something together is an effort, but it carries a worthwhile payout in distraction from the day-to-day.

Exercise! I can’t say it enough. It feels so good, gets all those endorphins coursing through the body and, oh yeah, it’s good for me, too. Every now and again I pop on some ABBA or Donna Summer and dance around the house. The kids love it and don’t even realize this is part of my master survival plan. On days when my husband is home and I can sneak out, I take a brisk walk around the neighborhood and enjoy 30 minutes of kid-free time with my iPod and my thoughts. Inevitably I return sweaty, energized and refreshed.

Find the spiritual. Our family observes the Sabbath. That means that from Friday night until Saturday night we turn off our cell phones, computers and TV and focus on family, friends and good food. Our walk to synagogue reminds us how much we enjoy being outside. Feeling the breeze, seeing the amazing reptiles we have here in southern Florida, and holding hands with our kids is so grounding. Even in the summer months, when the weather is brutally hot and often rainy, it is wonderful to be at one with the elements. After all, it is only a 15-minute walk. I make it a habit to invite friends for meals, and we sit and talk in a way we never have time for during our normal, hectic weekdays. For my family, reconnecting with nature and our community without distraction is absolutely essential to our spiritual well-being, and that translates directly to our family dynamic.

It may seem that I think of my husband as a babysitter, though I don’t view him that way at all. But I also know that if unprovoked, he won’t grab my walking shoes for me and shove me out the door with my iPod. I have to do it myself. Even though he’s the dad, I am and will always be the mother. As tiring, exhausting and overwhelming as it can sometimes be, that role is mine. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Angels on the Devil’s Backbone

I took a break from my worry and hiked the Devil’s Backbone in Loveland, Colorado. I saw a beautiful family; they were about 400 yards ahead of me, if you uncurled a track and rolled it out. This family screamed AP, although the only noises I heard were tree swallows singing, the quiet meadow hum, and the sizzle of cicadas.

The Devil's Backbone in Loveland, Colorado
The Devil’s Backbone


The mother was wearing her newborn in a pink print sling, her hiking boots anchoring her strong mama legs; the father was holding his three-year-old son’s hand. They were beautiful.

Family hiking on trail
Family hiking on trail


I was visiting my mom in May of 2011. She was in the hospital, facing death.

We had had a scary close call. It came late Thursday evening at 10 p.m. from the nursing home. “Megan, this is John from Berthoud Living Center. Your mom has a high fever and is non-responsive. It doesn’t look good. You should get out here as soon as you can.”

I was on a plane Saturday.

My son had just turned one and we were actively breastfeeding. I say we because breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship. He was not only nursing, I was nursing him.

I had no choice but to pump, pray, and get on the plane.

I was desperately sad in so many hollows of my heart — cracks and fissures leaked for my mom, for myself, for my son. I had to leave my son to go to my mother.

I hated leaving abruptly. I was heartbroken that our symbiotic relationship would end. I felt as if my breast milk had tears.

We scurried around to pack my things and deal with last minute travel arrangements.

I took my shattered heart and stitched it together with my son’s laughter and my husband’s voice. My husband drove me to the airport in Raleigh. We had a forty-five minute drive. I had planned an attached good-bye — if there is such a thing. I planned what I thought was going to be our last breastfeeding session for early morning before we left. I was going to hold him closely in my arms, caress his loose curls, stare into his azure eyes, and fossilize this bond.

That didn’t happen.

What did happen was I jumped in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport and stuck my boob in his face, draining each engorged breast while he was strapped into his car seat as my husband drove ten miles above the speed limit.

This was it. I was heartbroken again. I had planned it differently.

The thing is, it doesn’t work the way we plan.

Damn it all to the Devil’s Backbone.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon


I eventually caught up with the family on the trail at the Devil’s Backbone.

Newborn in a sling
Newborn in a sling


We stopped at the overlook and took in the beauty that is Northern Colorado. I had needed to get some time in just for myself. I needed to strive for balance, although it seemed in vain. I chatted with the family. They had never heard of Attachment Parenting, even though they were so very attached. The mama wore her baby, they both valued touch and responsiveness, and the mama was breastfeeding both children. We chatted some more and walked together to the lookout of the valley.


valley lookout

I am not saying there is a checklist or a way to qualify as an AP parent. I believe if you are trying to build and foster a connection with your children, then you are an AP parent. Many families that practice what is labeled AP have never heard of it. Sometimes a rose is a rose is a rose.

Life doesn’t happen in checklists, plans, or labels; it happens outside of those arenas — when the running track we race around is uncurled metaphorically and we just walk – we just be.

family walking back
Family walking back


I am thinking about this beautiful area now in Colorado — in the midst of its own natural disaster, in the midst of its own heartbreak.

Worry. Heartache. Joy. Such a cycle I live by as a mama, as a wife, as an aunt, as a sister. I am still a daughter, always will be, but my mama is in heaven now with my father. I wanted to call my mom desperately the other day, almost dialing the number I can not bear to delete on my cell phone.

My mom made it through that big scare in 2011. She was hospitalized just in the nick of time.

When we finally got her admitted to the hospital, she was hallucinating and said to me, “There are some folks from heaven here who want me to go with them.”

I said, “Tell them to take a number; I just got to town.”

She was dehydrated and had sepsis from a very bad urinary tract infection. She passed away on Christmas Eve the next year from sepsis.

My son and I continued to breastfeed for a year and half more after I returned.

We just can’t plan for it all. Life happens. As Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” and had postpartum psychosis, said, “Life is a verb, not a noun.”

So I pray, smile, live, worry, pray, smile, live, and worry. I hope, wish, dream, be. I am going to harvest my worry and harvest my hope. What else can I do?

Colorado Beauty

There are ways to help Colorado. You can Google “Colorado Flooding: Ways to Help.” There are several links to various organizations, including The Red Cross. There is also Facebook group called Colorado Flood Relief.



Red Rose of St. Therese

Jealousy, It’s Crawling All Over You

My mom used to sing a song to me as a child every time I got jealous. It started, “Jealousy, it’s crawling all over you. There goes your eyeballs…”

I’m jealous of my husband and his connection to our three year old. Sometimes I feel like a third wheel (I know it is normal; I Googled it). Nonetheless, I feel like a jerk for feeling jealous of my husband for having such an incredible bond with our energetic, spirited toddler. Three years old is such a fun age! Benjamin can express himself. He can open doors. He can lock doors. He can climb on top of a plastic organizer box and turn the light on in the living room. And oh yeah, he can work the Kindle Fire better than I can. And as I write this, I hear him say to his daddy, “I have your keys. I want to go in your car,” as keys jangle and more toddler murmurs come out. Have you ever been locked out of your car or home? Either you can’t find your car keys or you locked yourself out of your home. First thoughts are typically to turn to family and friends for help or a set of spare keys, but this may not work out. Next steps are to contact a Strong Hold Locksmiths. A locksmith can perform numerous jobs like changing of the locks and taking care of the dead bolts, but not many people are aware that they also know about automobile repairs and installing the safes in your house for storing the valuable possessions like cash and jewelry. A skilled locksmith will eliminate your sufferings in a short span of time, whether it includes problem giving keys or locks. You should be assured if you have a professional locksmith by your side. There are many kinds of locksmiths like car locksmith and safe locksmith; you can choose them as per your needs and according to the demand of the situation.

Benjamin is very attached to his father.

My husband and son

I was on the receiving end of this affection when I was breastfeeding. Mama was what consoled him. And all I wanted was a little time for myself. Just a minute to go to the bathroom alone. Now, I could go to the next town over and use the restroom at the mall and perhaps my son would not notice I was gone, as long as Daddy was there.

Now he reaches for Daddy, sits on Daddy’s lap, plays with Daddy, wants to be with Daddy all the time. He is a daddy’s boy. (Now Ben and Daddy are playing spaceships. Daddy with Buzz Light Year and the Rocketship and Ben with the Star Wars X-Wing and Luke Skywalker. They are engaged in their own vocabulary of play, zooming around the galaxy. In fact, I was referred to as the Mommy Nebula, as my husband hid Buzz’s spaceship behind me. Ben came giggling along with Luke Skywalker in hand.

Most of the time, I sit back and grin from this bond they share. This language they only understand, played so easily and organically. I try to play like Daddy does and my play missions seem forced and well, dumb. Daddy’s play language is filled with intricate expressions only a grown up boy could articulate. Mostly, I am grateful, full, and happy about it. It is just those tiny (sometimes big) moments when I get completely rejected. “I don’t like you. Go away. I want Daddy.” Ouch, punch to the mom gut.

I thought this might be because I recently went back to work. I started a part-time job at the end of March. My brother-in-law (Uncle Tim) and in-laws (Grammy and Pa) watch Ben while I am at work. Three weeks before I started working, I tapered the lengths of my excursions out of the house. Ben would cry hysterically for me when I left him in the house with my brother-in-law. I felt so bad leaving him and so elated once I was gone. Freedom. Freedom. Freedom. My first few trips were to the library where I basked in the silence and worked on research for a book.

Left to right: My husband (Daddy), my son (Benjamin) and brother-in-law (Uncle Tim)

Then I would miss him after an hour. I started with one hour, then two, and then three, increasing the time every day until I reached the hours I would be gone when I returned to work part-time. My brother-in-law said Ben would cry for a little bit and then he would be fine. Eventually he didn’t cry anymore.

When we first started this process, I only wished that the crying would stop. Then it did, and I kind of (OK — completely) wished he would miss me that much again.

Eventually, after many monologues of self-doubt and insecurity about my choices of returning to work, I realized that this was just part of the process. Just part of parenting. It. just. was. It was normal for him to feel comfortable with my brother-in-law and my in-laws. He was in good hands and loving arms. But still, I wanted them to be my arms.

This parenthood thing throws me for loops at every turn, just when I think I have it figured out — the reset button is hit. Learn all over again.


Ben says, “Pick me up Daddy. Pick me up.” He settles in up on his daddy’s hip with a view from top of the world.

I marvel at this sometimes. The way Ben looks when he is up on his daddy’s hip, long three-year-old legs dangling. Ben beams; he is proud. The two of them are symbiotic. Their hearts wrapped around each other, visible from the outside.

Attached at the hip, father and son

As a mother, my heart is a vine and it reaches with invisible twines that wrap around my son’s. I feel this tug at each turn. Ben though, is sitting on top of his daddy’s shoulders, snipping the vine, letting go in some ways. I coil the string, and wrap it safely up for the next time he will need me. He does. He will. I will wait.

In the meantime, I have a little more free time. I should be writing instead of watching, with my green eyes. In fact, I had time after work this past Friday to stop and gaze at the flowers. There is a field of pink, red, and white poppies near my exit for work. I stopped at took some photos. This is something I would not have been able to do had I been in the car with my son, as it was near the highway.


Poppy field near exit ramp off highway (I pass this everyday on my way to work)
It’s all about the angle you look at things…









Stopping to gaze at the flowers









Mostly, my eyes are aglow with love and adoration for both my boys. I may envy their magic, but I appreciate the warmth of the fire from the sidelines.

Watching the magic, enjoying the muse

What else can I do? This is a normal stage for children and I appreciate my son has such a loving daddy. And I appreciate that I have such a loving husband. I’m lucky.

Sanity in a Bottle

The following is a guest post by our own Camille North, API Links Editor. API Links is a monthly e-newsletter to help keep parents, professionals, and others abreast of the latest news and research in Attachment Parenting and updates of API programs.

Anyone can receive API Links! Click here to subscribe.


Sanity in a Bottle

by Camille North

Coffee for two
Photo: flickr/raider of gin

Have you ever had one of those days when the world seems to be falling down around your ears? When the five-year-old is cutting the three-year-old’s hair down to the scalp in huge chunks, the one-year-old has gone through ten diapers in an hour, the cat has vomited all over the clean laundry, adn the dog has dragged tonight’s thawing chicken out to the backyard? I have.

I remember one day walking up to my husband and shaking him by the shoulders, crying in desperation, “Now I know what insanity truly feels like.” On days like those my husband would walk through the door in the evening, and I would thrust into his arms however many children I was holding, saying, “Here.” Then I would disappear for an hour.

API was in its infancy then, only a  year old when my oldest was born, so it took me some time to find them. By the time I did, my children weren’t babies anymore. But I still found the online discussion group as valuable then as I would have when my kids were little.

Even though my children were older, I found that not only was I able to get help, I was also able to offer help, and that was as rewarding as getting help was relieving.

The wisdom, compassion, and acceptance of those moms was like sanity in a bottle.

Some of the moms I met during that chaotic time I still consider to be among my best friends. At the time I knew them only virtually through our local AP online support group, and even now some of them I’ve met in real life only about a dozen times. But they were there when I needed them, and our children have matured together. (And they’re all really cool kids!)

If you’re like me, what you might need is just knowing that there are people out there who understand what you’re going through. Getting together with those moms at an API meeting is something you can look forward to once a month that will be more restful than stressful, more cup-filling than draining.

There you’ll find parents who have  the same parenting philosophy, who are going through the same trials as you are, and whose kids are the same ages as yours.

And who knows? Some of them may feel even more scattered than you do. You might even be the person who offers that one frazzled new mom the tiny bit of advice that changes her outlook and will give her respite on those most trying days.

If nothing else, you’ll meet other families, with kids the same ages as yours, and you’ll be able to have intelligent conversations with adults that (gasp!) might not even involve poopy diapers, sore breasts, or colic.

If you feel like you need a little sanity in a bottle, check out API’s support groups. There you’ll find meetings where you can connect with other moms who may need it as much as you do.

Fittingly, the topic for October’s AP Month, “Relax, Relate, Rejuvenate,” is support.

Courtney talks about support so eloquently in her blog post, “Enough with the Mom Enough Stuff. Can We Just Talk?,” in API Speaks. Read it here.

This month we welcome a new Leader: Cristie Henry of San Francisco API. Welcome!


Steal Like a Thief: Making Time for Your Muse

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ All Rights Reserved

A good thief leaves no trace and leaves with a bounty.

I say, steal time away like a thief.

I just read a great article by my writing and personal inspiration, Anne Lamott. She wrote this article in Sunset magazine.  I was lucky enough to meet her recently.  She came to Raleigh, which is 45 minutes away.  I got the call from my writer friend, Debi Elramey (you can read her wonderful blog here, “Pure and Simple”) at 4:30 in the afternoon. She told me Anne was coming.  I asked her if she was going and she could not get away.  But she said, with her curious giggle and enchanting smile I could hear through the phone, “You should go and represent our town.”

Our tiny town in Eastern North Carolina.

I said, “I’ll represent proudly.”

Debi is a recluse and takes pride in this.  As she should.  She teaches piano during the day; she writes through the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes, there simply is no time to chatter.

Photo by Megan Oteri ~ Copyright 2011

I write this post as I look at the clock.  Aware that my son will wake soon.  Oh, that is him right now.  I ignore the sounds of morning milk wants and continue writing, thinking to myself, perhaps I could give him a gulp of breast milk and be on my way back to the keyboard, back to the muse. Back to my post, that I ride like a proud cowgirl, on top of my gallant horse.  But mom duty calls and I will honor it.  But I plan to improve my thief skills.  I will steal away more moments.  I will make a plan.  I will practice.  Because as Anne says in her article, life is too precious to multitask.  I want to wander, daydream, create, be filled with muse.  And I will have to steal away moments to do this.  Not always, as many moments are there for the taking if we are truly present.

But it helps to know how to pocket an hour in your sleeve without a soul knowing.  These early morning hours are delicious to me.  They taste like caviar.  Like picnics.

I was lucky enough to meet Anne at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.  It was a delightful evening.  I got the call from Debi at 4:30 PM.  By 4:45 I was off the phone and had called my husband at work and made plans for him to watch our son.  I was in the car by 5:30 and off to Raleigh singing songs of wonder and excitement.  Alone, but in company of thousands, on the highway, in the city, at the bookstore, I was present.  I was able to get the last copy of her new book, which she was promoting, Imperfect Birds.  Now, that was a sign.

I had my camera in hand.  I saw her.  There she was, greeting her fans like Jesus.  Holding hands, hugging.  The crowd was kind, and aware of something.  They had made the time to come see her.  Many stealing away from their husbands, children, jobs, energy, housework.  But they were there.  I was lucky enough to get a photo with her.

I snuck into a cove of crowded people.  I am a fire sign, so when I have my eye on something, you better watch out.  I’m an Aries to boot. And I lack a filter of sorts, thanks to my New Yorker mom and South Side of Chicago dad.  And time living in Wyoming. And the years in-between.

I inched my way closer, squeezing through  a narrow path.  You know, suck in your gut, squeeze in your buttocks, and scoot your way through a wormhole tiny.  Yep, that is what I did.

“Excuse me.”

“I’m so sorry,” dressed in a hopeful smile.  Inside thinking, “Yikes, I’m lucky someone doesn’t purposefully trip me, I am so annoying.”

The target was seen.  I was so close.  I stopped to gather more strength.  I was this close, I was going in.

Anne was greeting her fans still. Smiles were contagious.  Everyone was high off Anne. High off her energy.  High off the fact she is an icon for recovering addicts and alcoholics, one herself.

Her dreads dangled in her purply pink hair bandana, tied in a triangle around her fluffy head, soft with the brittle looking combs of dreads.  She is simply beautiful.

Her wrinkles were within eye looking distance.  I took a deep breath and spoke shortly with a pretentious looking woman.  Well, it was more of how she reacted to me that thinks that.

I forgot what I asked her.  But she responded with, “I’ve been following Anne for a long time.”  In a deep husky patronizing snobbery way. thick with black wire rim glasses and some sort of grey black yogenia outfit.  She had grey hair too.

It’s not what she said, but how she said it.  But I don’t blame her for being rude to me.  I was a bull in a China shop and she was a porcelain jar I had just tipped over.

Oops.  Sorry.

Moving on, I jimmied my way through another batch of women.  This time a circle of more stout and plump women.  I had my work cut out for me.  I was between the rotating cards on their display racks and a table of discounted books.  I picked one up to be inconspicuous.  My camera was around my neck.  A woman smiled at me from across the room.  She was me, only five steps closer, already one step away from Anne’s embrace.  I put the discounted book on travels in Ireland down.  The stout, plump women smiled at me.  They moved their dangling legs off the discount book table top to make room for my eager ram horns wiggling by the discount book table and the greeting cards.

Photo by Megan Oteri All Right Reserved

“Thank you so much.  I appreciate you letting me by, since it is pretty tight quarters?”  They laughed, poised in their make shift seats on the discount book table.

I stood about four people deep from Anne.  I said to the woman in front of me, “I’m stalking Anne,” as I clutched my copies of Bird by BirdOperating Instructions (which was a saving grace to me as a new mom) and Imperfect Birds. Anne was scribbling away her name in black thick Sharpie ink, talking and chatting as she wrote.  Her smile thick was like a blanket for many.

So, there I was.  So close.  The woman I said that to said, “We’re all stalking Anne.”  I looked around the room and sure enough, we were.

A cute little spit fire of a five foot nothing gal, looked into my eager eyes, and saw my camera dangling.  She said, do you want me to take your picture with Anne?”

“Ah, yeah.  Word.  Thank you so much. Do you have a camera?  I will take yours with her.”

“Nope, I’m all set.  But thanks.”

See, there you have it – the Anne fans.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words and it is time for this thief to make her getaway, since I have a nice size essay in my pocket.

I will leave you with this photo.

Photo by awesome Anne fan who took photo

But before we take care of that.  Do me a favor.  Read the article in Sunset that Anne wrote about making time for your muse.  Whatever it is you do, do it.  Don’t let yourself talk yourself out of it.  Steal away the time like a thief in the night.  There is no time stealing police.  Only responsibilities and multitasking that need to get the hand.  Talk to the hand.  Go ahead and put that hand up like you are some bitchy high school girl.  (hand motion – wrist circle and up it goes — “Talk to the hand.”)

Find the time.  Because what fills you up fullest is often empty from external and material view.



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