Tag Archives: parenthood

GUEST POST: The Lifeboat

We are very excited to share our first guest post! Kayla Borja Frost is a licensed mental health counselor, mother, wife, dog-owner, and blogger living in the Boston area. You can check out her blog at https://whatwemeanwhenwesaymotherhood.wordpress.com/ .

Life boatWhen my son was 4 months old, I hit a low point triggered by one absolutely terrible night. My husband and I attended my son’s 4-month well baby appointment, and his pediatrician was quite adamant that we should give up swaddling.  She felt our son was too large and able to roll, and at this point the swaddle was more risk than reward. She suggested stopping cold turkey. So that night, we took her advice.

To say it did not go well would be an understatement. The baby was up every 1-2 hours (which was not unusual for him because he was quite a voracious eater). What was unusual was that it would then take hours for him to fall asleep after a feeding.  He would cry and flail and flail and cry. He clearly HATED not being swaddled. But we pressed on, determined to stick to the doctor’s advice. Around 4 AM, we finally gave in.  The little guy was practically passed out cold before I finished the last tuck of the swaddle blanket.

The next morning I was an exhausted, emotional wreck. In this state, I posted a completely embarrassing, word-vomit, cry for help on Facebook asking, (begging,really), for advice and support.  I did receive messages of encouragement from a few friends with children.  But I also got something else that was much, much more valuable.  A good friend from college reached out to me with an invitation to a private mom’s Facebook group. I eagerly scrambled aboard what I had yet to realize would be my lifeboat. I was adrift in a choppy sea of motherhood, and these women pulled me to safety.

I know this sounds corny. But it’s also very, very true. Having a private, judgement-free place to ask questions about pregnancy, birth, and life after baby (including topics as sensitive as physical and emotional difficulties after childbirth) has been invaluable.  These women have been the tiny pinpoint of light in the darkness, (sometimes quite literally, if I’m posting at 3am).  Perhaps more importantly, as I’ve grown in my confidence as a parent, it has been so important for me to be able to give advice and encouragement to other moms, becoming a crew member on that lifeboat.

This all goes back to my lack of confidence in myself as a mother.  Instead of trusting myself and my understanding of my child’s needs (for example, the swaddle), I deferred to a pediatrician, who I trust implicitly with my child’s medical needs, but who sees him for 10-15 minutes every few months.  I didn’t recognize that, as his mother, I probably knew better.

This recurring theme plagued me in the early days of parenting. I studied “tips and tricks” books and websites, trying my best to recreate the steps they said would get my baby to eat or sleep or calm down. And when these formulas didn’t work for me and my son, I blamed myself. “I must be doing this whole parenting thing wrong,” I thought. And off I would go to furiously Google more tips and tricks. But once I was in the lifeboat, I was able to let go of all that. Here’s why:

A successful mom’s support group, in my experience, is one where the members are encouraged to share their most private experiences and get supportive feedback. You will never feel judged. You will never feel you are doing it “wrong.”  And slowly but surely, you will start to internalize these beliefs. Moms will share some tips and tricks, but it will all be in the spirit of “Here’s what worked for me and my baby.”  You will be exposed to many ideas and beliefs about parenting with an invitation to take what you like and leave the rest.

As my baby grows into a toddler, I am less active in the Facebook group than I once was.  Sometimes, I think maybe I don’t need the lifeboat anymore.  And just as that thought enters my mind, my son breaks out in a weird rash, or has a massive tantrum, or challenges me in some new and uncharted way.  And I thank my lucky stars that I can consult these brilliant, beautiful women who keep me feeling strong, and hopeful, and help me believe in myself as a mother.

If you are treading water and lacking a lifeboat, I urge you to find or build one of your own.  This is both simple and difficult to accomplish:

Step one: Set up a private group filled with other parents that you trust (and who you trust to invite their own trusted friends to join).  Step two: Create group rules and norms around a culture of acceptance and love, with the goal of helping one another be the best mothers you can be (no matter what that may mean to each individual member).  Step three: Hold on for dear life.

I know I will.

Want to share your ideas with the village in a guest post? Write to us at raiseamother@gmail.com for more information. We’d love to hear from you!

What happens when I DIY

IMG_20160618_172816A few weeks ago, Linds and I were thrilled to be interviewed on our favourite podcast, One Bad Mother. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to the episode, you can check it out here.

Talking to friends and family afterwards, one of the main take-aways from the interview was our overall emphasis on accepting things as #GoodEnough. (Many thanks to everyone who participated in the #GoodEnough challenge — feel free to keep ’em coming!) In particular, people related to Lindsay’s experience of comparing her preparation for her son’s birthday party to my DIY prep for my son’s party a month earlier.

Since this experience has struck such a chord, we wanted to explore it further. Because here is something that is true for me, that is not necessarily true in the same way for my sister — or for many others scanning Pinterest with a mixture of anticipation, inspiration and guilt: my DIY-ing gives me a creative outlet that I’m otherwise missing in my daily life. It’s actually about me.

I am, and have always been, a creative person. Throughout elementary and high school, I steadily took almost every English, art, theatre and music course available (though not dance — I am not a graceful or coordinated person, just ask…anyone). Lindsay and I both participated in extra-curricular theatre groups as well as school shows. My first jobs as a teen were performing as a children’s entertainer (read, clown — don’t judge), and helping to run a kids’ theatre camp. Even on vacation, I would sit on the beach and sketch set and costume designs for hypothetical productions.

And then I went to university and became an adult and I no longer had the time or resources to spend on creative pursuits that were really just for me. Sometimes, I have grand plans for a creative project that’s just for my own enjoyment, but I never seem to prioritize actually making it happen. Case in point: since we moved into our house, I have planned to paint something for a giant wall in our living room. I can see the picture in my mind. In reality, it’s four years later and I haven’t even bought the canvas, let alone picked up a brush. The wall is still sitting blank because I keep insisting that I’m going to paint one of these days.

Here’s the thing, though — when I’m planning a DIY project that is ostensibly “for someone else”, it gets prioritized and I get to do something creative.

I’ve been like this since well before my son was born. I took up knitting six years ago, and in that time I have knit gifts for each of my five sisters, for each of my six nieces and nephews, for my parents, for my husband, for my son. I have knit a total of two things for myself — one of which was a Christmas stocking to match the stockings I had already made for Randy and Lucas.

The thing with my son’s birthday parties is the same. Look, mamas, we all know full well that 1) they don’t give out prizes for children’s birthday parties, and 2) my child will be happy and feel loved on his birthday regardless of whether or not there are themed decorations. We also all know that there are plenty of things out there that just make us feel bad about ourselves, that are in no way real measures of how we’re doing as parents.

Geeking out on thinking up theme-y puns for the punch label and Pinning inspiration for a sea turtle cake doesn’t make me a good Mom. It’s not actually about my kid. In my case, doing these things makes me me.

What happens when I DIY is that I give myself permission to spend time doing something creative that makes me feel good. It’s sneaky self-care. It keeps me in touch with a part of myself that was there long before motherhood, and will be there long after my kids are grown and have kids of their own. For me, DIY-ing is not about trying to be something or someone that I’m not. It’s about getting in touch with who I am.

I think what makes any of us a good Mom is being ourselves, and showing that person to our kids.  So, you do you, mamas! The best Moms are the ones who do.

Lucas' Birthday 2016 2

LISTEN: Check out our interview with the ladies at “One Bad Mother”!

onebadmotherlogoHey Mamas!

We are so excited to share this week’s episode of our fav podcast “One Bad Mother”, which includes an interview with….you guessed it – the two of us!

Listen to the podcast here

We had a great time chatting with the lovely OBM ladies, and both came away with our heads buzzing with more ideas for Raise a Mother. Stay tuned!

We’d love to know what you thought of the conversation – add a comment or send us an email to share your ideas!


Question Into the Abyss #1: What do you do when things actually do fall behind?

I’ve been trying to write this post for about a month now. Each time, I edit furiously, and move things around, and change the framing to get a clearer angle. And each time, I find myself in the same place: without an ending.

Because I don’t actually  have an answer for the question I’m asking myself. I just don’t know. And not having an answer, a conclusion to my post, has left me paralyzed. So I haven’t posted anything at all.

And then I thought to myself that I shouldn’t let the perfect stand in the way of the good. There are so many things in parenting (and in life) that challenge us, where an answer to a question might not be clear. So, why not Continue reading

When Non-Parents Talk About Parenting

When Non-Parents Talk About

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted about how, as a non-parent, her opinions on anything related to parenting or children are discounted by friends who are parents… when she disagrees with them. She got a fair number of comments on this post, and expanded her original thoughts, noting:

“I’m rapidly becoming the only person I know without kids and being told my opinion doesn’t count at all is weird to me, so it occurred to me that unless my opinion is still pointless when I’m agreeing with parents, they’re actually only saying “as long as your opinion is different than mine, you don’t get to have one” which seems a lot more child like than parent like to me.”

I see where she’s coming from. Countless parents did this to me before I had kids, and it’s been one of my goals since becoming a mom to not do this to other people. (If I’ve done this to any of my non-parent friends who are reading this, please accept my apology!)

But I also see why parents do it. So often, non-parents speak their opinions in a way that comes across as though they would do things so much better if they were in your shoes, with such confidence in their conclusions. (I know this because I was guilty of it for sure: my kids would never behave poorly in public. You just teach them not to, right?) And any parent knows when they sense this attitude that the person talking to them is being completely ridiculous.



But even if non-parents express conflicting opinions to yours in the most diplomatic way, it can be hard not to want to dismiss them. Continue reading

Mom Things I Learn During Yoga #3: Trust Yourself

Whenever I’ve done yoga, no matter the style or instructor, one thing has always been consistent. When it comes to whether a pose is being done ‘right,’ my teachers have always referred to each student’s best judgment and understanding of their own body:

Only go as far as feels right for you.

If it hurts, let yourself ease up a little.

Don’t worry about how anyone else is doing the pose.

yoga relaxation poseThese sentiments are important: if I worry about how other people do a pose, and focus on making my practice look like someone else’s from the outside, I run the risk of, at best, separation from the inner focus and peace I could enjoy from the practice, and at worst, really injuring myself.


My prenatal yoga instructor once described parenting as a lot like doing yoga. She said you have to put the “blinders on” and not pay attention to what anyone else is doing, but rather feel what’s right for you and your family. While it’s great advice, it’s not always easy to do this Continue reading

Flow & Resistance

I’ve learned many valuable things about parenting from my own mother. She’s given me tips and tricks for dealing with things like whining/arguments (ie. the ones she used on Shannon and I as children), as well as bigger-picture principles and approaches to motherhood in general. One of the simplest and yet most influential things I’ve learned is the mantra that she says informed all of her parenting:

“Say yes when I can, and no when I have to.”

When she gave me a no, I rarely made a stink about it, because I knew she would have said yes if she felt she could. I fully intend on using this approach with my own kids.

This little mantra has got me thinking about something else, though – not my interactions with my kids, but with my partner, as well as my general approach to life inside our house. While I don’t find myself saying no a lot, I do find myself resisting things, or intervening when it’s not really necessary. This resistance or intervention seems to be my default setting, and it doesn’t feel good. Continue reading

Sure, the ‘MEternity’ Leave Idea Seems Idiotic… But I Can’t Really Blame its Author

Meghann Foye has been getting a lot of attention for her NY Post piece about wanting her own ‘maternity’ leave without having any kids… called a “MEternity leave.” Granted, this is probably just a publicity grab for her new book, which I have no opinion on as I haven’t read it, but this piece alone is getting quite the reaction from parents, who are largely outraged at her insinuations that parental leave is an opportunity to obtain lifestyle flexibility, time for self-reflection, and a renewed sense of self-confidence if you’re burnt out at your workplace.

“Ha. HA. HAH!,” yelled, in unison, all parents who read this ignorant, unicorn pipe dream.

There have been some hilarious and cathartic responses written to Foye’s piece, like this one at Scary Mommy and this one over at Yackler Magazine. Both of these take Foye’s proposed ideas down with wit and acuity. Read them!

I can’t, though, in all honesty, attack Foye myself. Because deep down, I know I was not devoid of similar thoughts about maternity leave… BEFORE I had kids. And I know I’m not the only one who had wildly inaccurate, ridiculous, idiotic notions about what maternity leave would afford me as a new parent: Continue reading

A Little Re-Frame Changes the Whole Picture

Sometimes we get stuck in ruts that suck. There is a certain situation or environment that is constant or recurring in our lives, and it sucks… worse, sometimes, we know we suck in it. Those circumstances that bring out the worst version of ourselves, but we can’t avoid them because they are necessary to our lives. They could be at work, at home, with relatives, with friends, or with our kids. My own awful circumstance that I’ve been re-thrust into this week is the Dreaded Newborn Night Wakings. My son was born one week ago (hurray! I’m finally done being pregnant!), and nighttime feedings are once again part of my routine (ahhh! I’m a terrible person when I’m tired!!).

Night wakings with a baby are the circumstance that brings out the worst in me. So re-entering this space (my older kid has been sleeping through the night consistently for several months now and it’s been blissful) suddenly sparked an all-too-familiar, trigger-happy, irritable anxiety that only manifests between midnight and 5am. In this space, an uncooperative support pillow lights a match of rage in my throat, and a refusal by my days-old child to immediately go back to sleep after a feed ignites the urge to throw a toddler-esque tantrum and whisper, “Fine! We’ll just sit up all fucking night then!” Like I said, I’m a terrible person when I’m tired. I long ago accepted this about myself, and always try to get enough sleep to avoid the monster coming out. This tried-and-true strategy of consistent bedtimes and eight hours of sleep is just not an option for the near future, unfortunately.

I’m sure (or at least I hope, even just so I can feel less terrible about it) that most of us have these situations – certain circumstances that get under our skin and change our reactions and behaviour for the worse. Yesterday, however, I decided to try to do something about it, and I was amazed at how calm and peaceful last night was as a result! So I’m feeling pretty great about it today and thought I’d share.

The first thing I did was re-frame the purpose of the situation. Instead of thinking about The Impending Horrible (night wakings) as drudgery, as simply a necessary, sacrificial duty of my life, I decided to think of them as a opportunity for long-term gain. As I imagine all parents of newborns are, I’m very invested in helping my son learn to sleep well, calmly, and most importantly, through the night. And as a second-time parent, I’ve already noticed myself being much more calm and collected during the day in moments that distress him as a newborn, than I was with my first. So if my son experiences me as calm and reassuring during the day, but as anxious and on edge during the night, he might learn that night is a time for being on high alert, for worrying about things – that nighttime, in short, is bad… which probably won’t help him feel at ease about sleeping through it. Keeping this big-picture purpose in mind helped me last night to stay calm throughout our feeding and awake time, even though I was just as tired as the nights before, and could have easily reacted in my old patterns.

The second thing I did was re-frame my expectations. I realized I had been going into each night waking hoping for the best (ie. that he would eat quickly and go right back to sleep) but focusing on and anticipating the worst (my exhaustion and the possibility that he would stay awake all night). I took a look at my baby tracker app, and noticed that his average time awake per instance at night, is around an hour to an hour and ten minutes. So my expectation that we would feed for thirty and then both be back to sleep was simply unreasonable. I was setting myself up for failure and irritation every time. Looking at the clock when he woke up last night, and expecting that I would be awake for up to an hour and fifteen minutes more, helped me to not feel anxious the whole time about when the feed would end, if he was eating fast enough, etc. And when he did go back down faster than that, it was a pleasant surprise instead. By being realistic about the crappy situation that I normally approach with wildly idealistic expectations but a sour, pessimistic attitude, the whole thing got a lot better.

I’m going to try to remember these two approaches to other situations that I find grating, irritating, or generally rut-like in my life. Because being calm and moving with what felt like a little more grace through this rut last night was not just easier on those around me (my son, but also my husband, who gets up with me at this stage to pass the baby to me, change his diapers when needed, help soothe him back to sleep, etc.). More importantly, it made me feel more in control of myself, instead of like the sleep-deprived monster I never seemed able to keep at bay before.

What about you, lovely readers? What are your ruts or your recurring, inner-monster-inducing spaces? How do you help yourself move through them as best you can?

Book Review: My 2 Favourite Parenting Books

If you read my previous post, you’ll know I have a problem with parenting books, at least the ones that present like self-help ‘manuals,’ implying that our kids are one-size-fits-all, that there is some ‘magic’ that will get your child to [insert your particular parenting struggle here], and ultimately, just making you feel bad about yourself when the ‘magic’ doesn’t work.  But as promised, I said I would write my next post about two books I have actually found very insightful and helpful in my transition to parenthood so far, instead of just ranting. Here goes.

The Books

bringing-up-bebe coverI’ve mentioned book #1 a few times on this blog already: Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman. An American journalist raising young children in Paris, Druckerman notices that “French children sleep through the night at two or three months old. They eat braised leeks. Their parents sip coffee while the kids play by themselves.” Naturally, she wonders what the French are doing differently from American parents, for whom these things are definitely not the norm, and sets herself the quest of figuring it out. I found her book engaging, funny, and fascinating from the first time I read it as a newly pregnant lady, and I find something new every time I re-read it.


9781118124949_cover.inddBook #2 is Drop the Worry Ball by Alex Russell, which delves into the muck of the contemporary North American family situation that so starkly contrasts to the French reality I read about in Bebe: sleeping troubles with much older kids, rampant picky eating, parents who can’t seem to enjoy any adult time if their kids are awake… He addresses the reality that trials like these are not only culturally accepted as inescapable facts of being parents, but worse, topped with a self-sacrificial badge of honour for accepting and slogging through them. I saw Russell speak at a conference this year, and was struck by his candour, his clarity, and the refreshing good sense he brought to the topic. I knew immediately I wanted to get his book out from the library, and am I ever glad I did!


Now, as I wrote in my last post, what I like about these books is their broader, less instructional approach to parenting. In Bebe, Druckerman doesn’t find as many easily-replicable ‘tips’ among the French experts as she hopes. When she tries to simplistically implement a phrase or action that she sees French parents use with easy success, it often doesn’t work. As she tackles each aspect of parenting, she discovers that the French don’t just do things differently, they have a whole different philosophy around parents, children, and families. In Worry Ball, even though it has a ‘how to’ subtitle, and even though Russell is a practicing psychologist who describes many case studies with tangible examples, there aren’t many instructions. He insists the “professionalization of parenting” via “parenting guides” has led to the “steady erosion of parental confidence,” and so deliberately keeps the tips to a minimum, instead hoping to help readers rethink the parenting role in a more holistic sense for themselves.

books to broader views of parenting

So Why Talk About These Books Together?

While I didn’t expect this when I started reading Worry Ball, I actually find these to be great companion books, for a couple of reasons. After all, they address the same core issues that seem to plague North American parenting these days:

  • family lives revolving entirely around children’s desires and “happiness”
  • parental couples who have little time to focus on themselves, or each other
  • troubling levels of entitlement, disrespect, and non-resilience among children
  • parents who feel they have zero control over behaviour or tantrums
  • immense cultural pressure to do parenting “right”
  • heavy feelings of guilt/responsibility for your child’s behaviour

The list could go on, but you get the idea.

What I love about reading these books together is that they tackle the same issues from different angles, giving me a more complete picture, and often, more reassurance.

Angle #1: Relatability

Druckerman brings the vantage point of a mother, an everywoman who struggles not only with her ordinary parenting interactions, but also with not understanding how we/she got here in the first place. (Why is there so much pressure, such guilt? Why is it so difficult to convince her kids that she is in charge? And why is it so hard to break out of these patterns?) She explores the work of parenting experts, but is often frustrated, as I was at first, too, with the fact that French experts, and even everyday French parents, seem to wax poetic about how to think about sleep or understand a child, when all we’re looking for is an answer to, “So what do I DO when my kid is acting up/refusing to eat/waking at night?!?!”

This is where Russell’s book comes in handy. Coming at the same issues as a long-practicing psychologist, he’s been helping parents grapple with these troubles for a long time. As such, he’s seen enough examples to sift out some answers to those “how did we get here?” and “why is it so hard to break out?” questions. He includes not only cultural/historical explanations parent-child relationships, but also many stories that highlight these theories in a more concrete way. He is also a parent, but as he mainly seems to hold an expert role in this book, it can feel easy to dismiss his ideas: “Sure, it sounds easy coming from him, but he’s an expert – that would never work with my kid.”

So Russell’s book helps to flesh out some of the “but how does that apply in my real life?” questions that Druckerman’s book might leave a little bit fuzzy, while Druckerman’s eventual successes give hope that even non-expert, regular parents can figure this stuff out.

Angle #2: Geography

Druckerman, though American, is living in France. This physical removal allows her to get outside the feeling of being ‘fated’ to follow the cultural norms and pressures so problematic to North American parenting. It’s because she’s outside this frame that I can suspend my disbelief that such transformation is possible and the reality she describes actually exists: a place where parents don’t do night wakings as a matter of course with three-year-olds, a place where kids can bake whole cakes for themselves on Saturday mornings but not freak out when they can’t eat them until 4pm. Unfortunately, this also means her successes can be easier to write off as plausible/possible only in the magical otherworld of Paris.

Russell, on the other hand, isn’t writing from the outside: he hasn’t escaped! He’s (as are his case study families) parenting deep ‘in the trenches’ of the problems at hand, yet they are able to make some positive change for themselves. He doesn’t shy away, though, from being honest with you that getting out of the traps that seem so common, or even inevitable, will be very difficult. He says doing so requires going against the flow, knowingly subjecting yourself to judgments from parents and others who don’t share your views. He validates the (perfectly reasonable) fears you might have about going against the grain as he encourages you to do it anyway.

So Russell gives us a ‘what is’ view of the trials we face as parents and admits that it’s going to be painful to get out of, while Druckerman gives us more of a ‘what could be’ big-picture view, based on what she’s seeing firsthand in France. From reading them together, I get both the realistic validation of the struggle ahead, but also the optimistic hope that a better way exists, not just for one or two people, but that it’s even possible on a more communal level.

Angle #3: Who Is This Really About?

The last helpful way that I see these books as great complements is in their focus within the family unit. Because when we start to talk about these issues, particularly under the shadow of the self-sacrificial-parenting-badge-of-honour, it can get hard to sort out why you really want to make a change. Creeping doubt questions can start to trickle into your brain: do you really think your child will benefit from sleeping later, or are you just a selfish adult who wants to sleep in? 

Druckerman seems to focus more on the benefits to parents of moving away from the North American model (or, at least, from my biased North American mind, it seems that way). While she does say it’s good for children’s development to learn that they are not “the center of the universe” and that they “can’t always have their way,” there seems to be an old-school, old-world harshness to these sentiments. We’re living in the age of “attachment” parenting, coming off the heels of the “I’m special” generation, so some values that the French seem to take for granted – that adult time is sacred, that interruptions from children are unacceptable, etc. – seem unpalatable here, and certainly not something you could claim this side of the sea without great scrutiny/judgment. Deep down, they feel so refreshing and reasonable… but you just can’t help the feeling that it’s somehow selfish to actually admit it.

Russell’s ideas focus more on the benefits to children when championing these same lessons. He goes further and insists these lessons are not only beneficial, but necessary for kids’ development. He shows convincingly how we’re actually doing our kids a huge disservice by not making a shift away from our current cultural parenting expectations and by allowing ourselves to be sucked into contemporary parenting traps.

So Druckerman appeals to and validates any underlying (seemingly selfish) reasons I might have for not wanting to succumb to obligation/entitlement/attachment parenting, while Russell rationalizes these feelings and provides confident justification for my resistance efforts.

What About You, Dear Reader?

These are just my top picks for broadening my parenting perspective… what are yours? Leave them in the comments, because we here at Raise A Mother would love to check them out!

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