So a bit ago I was contacted by MOPS to review a book on my blog and I was so excited. A free book? That they want me to review? Awesome right? Well, sort of. This book Momology A Mom's Guide to Shaping Great Kids is an amazingly insightful book. So why am I not sure I should call it amazing. You'll laugh.
Since I started knitting in February, that's what's really consumed my life. And I'm making amazing projects that I can't wait to finish to start the next one. We were going to be going on vacation this past week and I was busily working on the washclothes for a gift. And this book was so engaging, I had a hard time putting it down. And I haven't figured out how to read and knit at the same time. Momology makes you think. It makes you look inside yourself. And with all this self-reflection, I was finding it hard to follow a pattern.
So my advice to you...BEGIN this book, but hold off on the rest of your projects. It's worth your time.
Okay, so now onto the book. It's broken into four big chunks. They are amazing sections that really help you form a plan, a life goal perhaps, for making your life a healthier one to raise healthy kids. And I don't just mean eating well. No, this includes mental health, spiritual health, you name it, there is a piece of advice to improve it! The four parts are Core, Finesse, Circle, and Grandscape. I have to tell you that the first part Core, spoke the most to me. It's the part I have the hardest time addressing myself. So I'll address them all, and maybe more it later posts. But today I most want to focus on the core.
So part one. In the introduction, Shelly Radic wrote a little blurb about each section that I thought was perfect. So I'll include this blurb at the beginning of each section in purple. Knowing who we are: building a healthy, resilient mom CORE. Really doesn't that say it all? Knowing who we are is really the only way that we can help our kids become themselves. Confidence is a really important thing that I want my kids to learn. That's the best way to survive in this overly competetive life we live. And if my own confidence is lacking, how can I help build theirs? It seems the worse my confidence is, the faster I am to try to pull down everyone around me right down to the depths of despair with me. One of the definitions of core Shelly has given is (noun): a mom's unique, inner self, including her temperament, life experiences, emotions, passions, and potential. Wow! That seems a daunting task to improve upon right? It was hard enough trying to keep these things through high school. Am I sure I can really dig deep enough to find out how to improve them now...like temperament? Really, have you met me? Emotions, mine are always outta control. Passions? Do I even have Passions anymore? But after reading this section I found it wasn't as hard as I've always thought to "Find Myself Again". And let me tell you, it was great to meet myself again. It had been a long time since I'd really been in touch with my inner self. I push her away so willingly when things get tough. But I'm actually the one I should be talking with the most in those really tough situations!
Resilience has been identified as one of five factors known to reduce child abuse and neglect. (child welfare packet Promoting Healthy Families in Your Communities) According to the US Dept of Health and Human Services, resilient parents and children are likely to feel that
1. they are important and valuable to all that support and care about them
2. no matter how bad life gets, they can feel good
3. they understand there is more to life than just them and now.
I like to think of myself as a really resilient person. I don't mind change. I know I'll survive. But I find that it takes a lot of steps for me to convince myself that all will be well. And I tend not to do it all that quietly. So perhaps I need to do things a bit more gracefully. And wouldn't you know it, Ms Radic provided four exercises for building resilience.
1. Incorporate at least one stress management technique (exercise, listening to relaxing music, or journaling) into your daily life
2. Make a plan for crises BEFORE you need one. What life circumstances do you fear most? Create a list of resources to use if this happens.
3. Reduce stressors. Make a list of things that regularly cause stress in your life. Select one and find a way to reduce its impact.
4. Learn to ask for help, for answers, for advice. Write down what needs to be said and practice saying it in front of your mirror. Learn to ask yourself: what do I truly need?
Funny that many of these suggestions were made during Darrell and my marriage counselling. That no matter What issue you are trying to fix, the steps are all the same. Why aren't we all doing something from this list of 4 things every day? They aren't hard. And I haven't even done it successfully since reading this section. But just having a game plan seems to help me. Dear Abby once wrote "Don't let your past dictate who you are, but let it be a part of who you will become." Enough said.
Another part of this Core is mental health. And let me tell you that's a touchy subject for me. I have always dealt with depression, but it wasn't ever talked about it my family. Although I think many had the same battles that I have with it. So why aren't we trying to help each other. And recently, we found out my oldest is struggling with depression. At 9 yrs, it's a tough thing to deal with. He hasn't had enough time to really pull from self experiences to know he'll bounce back. He hasn't really built up enough confidence in himself to know that if he's really sucking it up in one aspect of his life, he can fall back on his strengths to boost up his self worth. So it falls on my shoulders as his mom. Let me tell you, it is no easy task. Depression is difficult at best. It's hard and raw and frustrating. The person struggling with it seems so unreasonably upset to those on the outside so it's really difficult to be empathetic. And when your own cup is only half full, sometimes it feels as though there isn't enough to give.
Did you know that 20 to 25% of women experience depression? Me either! That's 1 in every 4 or 5 women. That's crazy! Depression has been called the most significant mental health risk for women, especially women of childbearing and child rearing age. (well no duh! Hormones Suck!!! They are crazy and get worse I swear when you lack sleep.) Postpartum depression, PMS, perimenopause, winter depression, and biochemical imbalances are some of the most common forms of depression mothers experience.
Here's another scary fact: The longer depression is left untreated, the more likely it is that her child will experience some form of depression. So here is where I keep adding on to my list of faults. Did I cause Arlington's depression? Well, even if it was just biological, I know it was mostly me. So now there are two factors from me contributing to Arlington's depression. And I'm still battling with depression. But then I remind myself that I am aware of my issues. I ask for help when I can find a sympathetic ear or shoulder. I have an amazing support system of family, friends, community. Arlington is a brilliant kid and so many of the adults he interacts with see that in him and can "forgive his faults" to monopolize on all his strengths. Everything that I could do to help him out, I am doing. Even if it isn't always from ME, he's getting it from those he can trust. And isn't that what we are supposed to do as moms? Teach our kids that it isn't always MOM who will help them? That they need to learn from everyone around us?
Kelley, a mom of one was quoted in this book and it really got me thinking. "In many ways our culture encourages mom disconnect-we drive our own cars, cook in our own kitchens, do laundry in our own laundry rooms, and sit in our private homes raising our kids alone. We must find ways to connect and mother together-co-cook, carpool to the grocery store, take turns doing laundry at one house, and join a mom group." I laugh at some of the ideas, like I can't imagine inviting moms to my house to see my laundry piled up to the ceiling of my basement and covering half of the floor in that room. But maybe if I knew once a month people would come here and once a week I'd go somewhere else, I wouldn't struggle so much keeping up with my laundry. Joan, my neighbor and close friend, and I have always dreamed about starting a once a month cooking group where we bring ingredients for 20-30 meals that can be made ahead of time and would make dinner times so much smoother. We just haven't really invested the time to getting it going. But I think Kelley makes a good point. All those things we do by ourselves, they used to do together before all this technology. And I think that's what makes the past so romantic to moms. Seeing all those families playing together in the community while the moms sit together cooking, doing dishes, or folding laundry. I like that idea. And I hope my enthusiasm will rub off on some in my MOPS group and we can get a little bit of the past brought back into our community. Maybe I'll hold off on the laundry though for now.
Something we'd discussed often in our MOPS group are our strengths vs. our weaknesses. I think often times they can be the same things, but its just how we go about viewing them. My depression is a constant battle. But I think sometimes it makes me a bit more empathetic. It also doesn't let me feel sorry for slackers. Stop blaming the world and others, face your issues and move on. Now, as long as I keep that statement a bit more positive, it can really help others find their own inner strength and move on. Shelly Radic talks about this and names it "self-talk". Her examples are perfect so I'll list a few. "I'm so controlling, that's why bedtime around here is such a misery." but what she realized she should be saying is this "My need to have things under control helped us find a better bedtime routine." Interesting isn't it? It's the same thing. Just one has a negative vibe while the other she spun positively. Wouldn't it be nice if we had something in our brain that could self edit. So we might think the negative, but it instantly translated into the positive. Hmm...that would be nice. But since I don't see that happening anytime soon, we should probably rely on what Shelly mentioned she'd learned to improve our SELF-TALK
1. Working from my strengths is more effective and positive than working from my weaknesses.
2. Weaknesses are mostly the flip side of strengths.
While being aware of and managing our weaknesses is good, constantly focusing on them is harmful for our self-perception and ruins God's purposefully and wonderfully designed image we should have of ourselves. Benjamin Franklin said "Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What use is a sundial in the shade?"
Boundaries were also a part of our core being addressed in this book. I find boundaries really help me survive in life. I'm not so good when I have total freedom. I don't set good limits for myself. So I have come up with some ways to survive with this weakness. My family has had it drilled into their heads and now often times tell others "We are a family of rule followers." It isn't hard to do, just follow the rules that are already set for us. You won't get in trouble often, and if you do, you can't blame anyone but yourself. You know exactly what is expected of you, so you don't have to think so hard about what to do. And oftentimes, people reward good behavior, so you will be praised often enough to fill your cup of self worth. I like it! Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, authors of Boundaries, say two reasons boundaries are important are
1. to distinguish what is my responsibility and what isn't
2. to keep the good in and the bad out.
Another thing listed in this core section is Personal Care. This is a tough one for me sometimes. I love getting totally invested in something, but often times that means letting other things fall to the wayside. And usually the first things to go are bedtime (sleep) and bath time. William Shakespeare once wrote "Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin as self-neglecting". Isn't that true? We are much more forgiving of a high maintenance person that someone who seems to have no regard for personal hygiene. Is it because at least we know they care enough about themselves to bath? I don't know. But I do know that in my mean judgemental state, I will judge more the sloth and less the vain.
Okay, so now that this post is so lengthy, I'm going to end with Radic's descriptions of the next 3 sections and I will post more about these in the next few days.
Finesse Knowing what we're capable of: developing FINESSE in the ways we daily interact with our kids.
Circle Knowing who we can count on: interacting within a CIRCLE of relationships that support us and our kids.
Grandscape Knowing who God is: engaging with him in his GRANDSCAPE