Moms, Let’s Help Ourselves

We often forget that moms are individuals with a past and identity before having children. That moment when she finds out she’s pregnant, the focus immediately shifts from “me” to “we”, and that feeling only intensifies the older the child becomes. Therefore, in order to truly give something back to the moms in our lives, one must simply let her figure out how best she can renew herself. Everyone is different, the needs of one mom vary from one to another. One mom might need a night out with girlfriends, another a long hot bath and a good novel. The cure for what ails is bio-individual, but the need is undeniably there.

When I first became a mother, I was overwhelmed by the realization of that responsibility. Breastfeeding, tummy time, around the clock feedings and diaper changes all contributed to a culture shock I had mentally prepared for but not emotionally connected to yet. I felt extremely tired and the weight of responsibility was leveling. I had always been strong, but this new life as a mom required a higher, more intense level of resiliency I hadn’t acquired yet. I had to adapt, and I wasn’t sure how to do it. I was a fighting a losing battle against the tide, and I felt myself being pulled under.

It wasn’t until I had healed enough from giving birth and could workout, that I saw my first respite from the pull of the metaphorical undertow. The road became a lifeline to my former self to pull out of the constant drudgery of mundane daily tasks that motherhood requires. In the 30-60 minutes I was out on the pavement I felt lighter and lighter. Each step was a reclamation of my former self, and I breathed in the freedom I felt had escaped me. When I returned home, tired and exhilarated at the same time, I was at peace with my life again, and happy to dive into diaper changes, cuddling and even teething meltdowns.

Running and eventually yoga, weight lifting, and meditation, were the outlets I needed to be whole again–another mother may have a completely different set of requirements. I use myself as an example because it’s what I know for sure. What I also know without doubt is that as women, we are intrinsically selfless creatures. Sometimes we give so much of ourselves that the cup becomes empty, and that is where it becomes a matter of health.

Health is more than what is on our plates. It’s found in our relationships, our career, our connection with a higher power, and of course nutrition and exercise. It takes going inward to find out how we as mothers are doing in each of these categories, and then making the appropriate changes to make ourselves healthy and happy.

It may sound extreme at first for her to take 30-60 minutes for herself every single day, but if you think of the mother as the center of the home, it makes perfect sense to nurture her. The health and happiness of a home is almost always directly related to the sense of wellbeing of the mother. But no one can help a mother, she has to do the work and find what she needs to help herself. So mothers, do the internal work, and families support her. The result is a scenario where everyone wins, and the potential of every family member can be fully realized

A Letter to My Husband on Father’s Day

Dear Husband,

We met eight years ago in the most unlikely of places–Las Vegas. I observed this tall, dark, and handsome man talking to my friend, and something happened internally to me. Your face seemed familiar, your Southern accent drew me in, and the way you looked at me slowed down the constant chatter in my mind. You shook my soul in mere minutes, and I hadn’t even spoken a word to you yet. After I found the courage to approach you, we talked and didn’t stop talking until…

Read the rest where it’s been published on Red Tricycle.

 

Moms, Stop the Self-Shaming and Be Selfish.

How does a parent (especially a mother) justify taking time away from their family to do something completely indulgent and self-aggrandizing like working out, reading a book in one sitting, or just being alone? Why is taking space for oneself considered abhorrent and selfish in this society? It may be due to unattainable expectations put on parents-both moms and dads, and the shame that goes along with failing to live up to what we erroneously think is the standard. Author Brene Brown described this situation perfectly when she said, “Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”

This is how I lived for a long time when I first became a mother. I remember feeling this overwhelming weight of responsibility and it terrified me. How would I ever be enough for this little person? How could I show him the way when I barely knew what I was doing? These feelings of shame came to a head one night as I was giving my son a bath, and I just started to cry. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough, or being enough for him. I couldn’t understand why he had cried for four hours that day, or refused to eat everything I offered him. I was failing. It was a false story playing over and over in my head, brought on by fear and shame.

Fortunately, the best way to break the perpetual cycle of outlandish expectations and subsequent self-shaming is to bring it into the light. I started talking to my husband, fellow moms, and co-workers about how I was feeling. I hated being vulnerable and showing weakness, but I couldn’t carry the burden of my critical thoughts alone anymore. It was a sink or swim moment, and I had to survive. I was amazed at the response I received. More often than not, the moms mirrored exactly how I was feeling. They told me about situations where they had felt “less than” or had messed up, and it enabled us to laugh and revel in the mutual suffering of early motherhood. In hearing their stories and sharing my experience, I realized I wasn’t alone. Everyone had these feelings, especially the new mothers. Through those simple, albeit vulnerable, conversations, I had been thrown a lifeline and I realized I had been thinking about my role and responsibility as a mother all wrong.

Once I realized that my experience wasn’t unique, I could relax. I started to make self-care a priority in my life. I realized how damaging my casual relationship with exercise and healthy food had been since having my son, and I made a conscious decision to make health and self-respect the priority. Now I tell all my friends who are expecting, and even those who aren’t, that when you have children it is even more important to take care of yourself. The emphasis you place on your own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being directly impacts your children. As parents we are the first example of how a healthy, happy, human being should exist in the world, and owe it to them and ourselves, to be an example of self-love so that they can embody that mindset too.

Five years after that first tearful session with my son looking up at me from the bath, healthy habits have developed into a mindset and way of being. I realized how important my health and sanity was for my family, and I was never going back to that role of martyr and self-doubter. I was going to be selfish and carve out time for myself to workout, read, meditate, and just be without feeling guilty or shameful about it. Then I would return to the fold, rejuvenated, reenergized, and truly present. I brought the breath of fresh air I had just received into every action and conversation with the boys, and my happiness was contagious. They benefited directly from the space I had taken for myself, and learned that it was normal for mom to not always be immediately available for every need they had. My relationship with my husband has grown even stronger too, as I rely on him to help provide me the ability to take care of myself, while not having to worry about the boys. And I do the same for him when he needs space. His choices for self-care include ice hockey, cooking unobstructed, or sometimes just listening to music.

It may seem like a tall order at first to make the switch, but I have found that if you are consistent in your healthy habits, you really will become what you practice. My husband loves to say that personal growth is the hardest things anyone can do–and I agree. To truly change and elevate yourself to a higher level, it takes a breach from hardwired, second-nature tendencies and such a deviation takes serious dedication. But if you see, as I did, that your selfishness is for the good of the entire family, and you are consistent in your efforts of self-care–positive life changes can and will happen, and your family will thank you.

 

A Review of the Tesla Model X

Background

The decision to purchase the Tesla Model X was not one we came to lightly. Aside from the initially staggering price tag, it requires a complete overhaul of the way you think about traditional modes of transportation. We were already familiar with electric vehicles, having owned a Nissan Leaf for a few years, but understandably that was like transitioning from a bike with training wheels  to a special edition Ducati.

We conducted copious amounts of research on the Model X before setting foot in the dealership to determine if the price was truly justified. We soon discovered that not only was it worth it, but that owning one would connect us to a community of forward thinkers who are changing the world for the better. This video produced by Tesla sealed the deal.

The Buying Process

Consistent with a complete deviation from the traditional vehicle, the buying process was just as unique and refreshing.  We started by visiting the Tesla store at Lenox Mall. Unlike every other dealership model, this felt like a non-predatory, educational experience. We were greeted by Apple Store-esque employees, who effused a genuine sense of enthusiasm and curiosity about the Tesla and our shared interest in it. We spoke at length with one such individual, Nick, who coordinated an appointment for an at-home test drive. A few days later, Nick came by (after-hours no less) and spent almost two hours explaining the Tesla’s features and letting us drive through the neighborhood–impressing all the dog-walking neighbors.

That night after debating the pros and cons, we decided to take the leap and order our custom Tesla. Again, here is an instance where this company has innovated the buying process, making it easy and bereft of any feeling of subjugation to a targeted sales agenda. We customized our Tesla, choosing six seats, the larger 22″ wheels, the premium upgrade package,  autopilot, and designated the interior and exterior to be all black. Cumulatively, there weren’t that many decisions to make, but ultimately there were enough to create a sense of ownership and artistic design. If you are purchasing a new Model X or S, use this link to receive $1,000 off.

The Waiting

It truly is the hardest part. From the moment we clicked “Order” and paid the $2,500 production deposit, it was approximately two months before we saw our vehicle in the driveway. Upon ordering, we were immediately assigned a designated point of contact, (“POC”) to guide us through the financing, production, and delivery process. We also received electronic updates on the vehicle’s stage of production, i.e. “Ordering”, “Confirmation”, “In-Production”, “Production Completed”, and “Delivery”. The production stage was by far the longest, and during this time we sated our thirst by daily visits the Tesla Motors Club Forum.

It was there that we commiserated with others in the same stages of production experiencing similar longings, and were simultaneously invigorated with stories and experiences from others who had already received their Teslas, and were more impressed than they had expected. Like any group of individuals, there were those with a more negative view of the  waiting requirement, whereas others understood the reasoning and value behind extended waiting due to the full auto-pilot upgrade and a more vigorous quality control approach.

The Delivery

The waiting period only made the day of delivery that much more exciting. We were contacted by our designated POC to schedule an appointment to pick-up our Tesla, sign paperwork, and take the 2-hour training. The forum had prepared us for what training would entail,  covering everything from opening and closing the frunk (front trunk as there is no need for an engine) to the major duties of the 14″ control panel that quite literally controls all aspects of the vehicle. It was somewhat daunting at first, but we were comforted by the fact that the manual is also located on the control panel, and anything we forget is easily searchable.

Key Features

There are too many to list in detail here, but my favorites include the Falcon wing doors, the navigation (which indicates the location of all Tesla and non-affiliated chargers), the adjustable suspension, full autopilot capabilities, Slacker streaming radio, and the ability to schedule charging (electricity is cheaper between 11pm and 12am). Additionally, your phone’s calendar can link to the Tesla and it will remind you of an event and ask if you’d like it to navigate you there.  Lastly, when Tesla releases software updates improving the vehicle’s energy consumption or simply a new phone icon on the control panel, installing is as easy and intuitive as an iPhone update.

Conclusion

We recently tested our new vehicle on a 5-hour road trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Beaufort, South Carolina, and the results surprised us. I thought having to stop in Macon and Savannah to recharge would be irritating and time-consuming, but the reality is that it gave us time to stretch our legs, witness a little history, eat at an amazing local spot frequented by Harrison Ford, The Rookery, and bond with other Tesla enthusiasts. The result was a return the classical experience of a true road trip. Our family enjoyed every minute, and consequently it was one of the best trips we have ever had together.

The Case for Working Out While Sick

Ever since I became a parent, I have been more frequently sick than I ever was before. And with the addition of children, any real downtime to recover, even with a helpful partner, is significantly diminished.

Far from anguishing in this new reality of my life, it actually has shown me that I am stronger than I realized and can push past momentary feelings of weakness and accomplish everything I need to do–to include exercising. Obviously if you are seriously ill this does not apply, but if you have a head cold, as I did this past week/weekend, read on.

Using the above-the-neck rule (i.e. stuffy nose, headache, sore throat) you can absolutely incorporate some moderate exercise while sick. If you are coughing heavily, or have ebola, you should probably rest and/or seek immediate medical attention. Deathly illnesses aside, moderate workouts while sick will immediately benefit you in three ways:

  1. Boost your mood: You feel terrible but you just worked out! You’re a bad ass, and now you have a rush of endorphins to carry you through the rest of the day.
  2. Detoxify: Sweating and drinking water while working out aids in more quickly expelling whatever is taking unwelcome residence in your system.
  3. Increase immunity: Moderate exercise while sick has been shown to stimulate the immune system and speed recovery. Plus, chronic resistance training has been shown to strengthen the innate immune system (nonspecific defense mechanisms that come into play immediately or within hours of an antigen’s appearance in the body. These mechanisms include physical barriers such as skin, chemicals in the blood, and immune system cells that attack foreign cells in the body.)

I personally feel better when I can move my body in some way when I’m sick, even at a reduced level. Furthermore, the training I did over the past weekend ensures that I don’t lose any momentum for the week ahead. Ultimately, you need to listen to your body, but take into consideration how beneficial a little activity can be the next time you’re feeling under the weather.

 

The Power of Pull-Ups

The pull-up is an important addition to any exercise regime, so why aren’t more women (and men) doing it? The pull-up has long been propagated as a male dominated exercise and that women simply don’t have the strength to accomplish even a single one. In fact, the Marine Corps still does not require female recruits to do pull-ups, opting instead for a timed flex arm hang. As you can probably infer already, I do not agree with this thinking.

The benefits of doing pull-ups far outweigh any preconceived notions of female physical prowess and stamina. Pull-ups efficiently strengthen multiple muscle groups comprising the back, shoulders, chest and arms. They also increase grip strength which is helpful for a variety of uses-in my case holding onto a wild two year old and approximately twenty-five grocery laden bags.

Understandably, as a system of levers, people with higher fat percentages and longer limbs have a harder time than smaller, more compact individuals, but that should not negate the engagement of the practice entirely. This is a case wherein the benefits outweigh the costs.

I first started doing pull-ups about two months ago, and I could do one-it wasn’t pretty. Undeterred, however, I came back to the bar everyday, and slowly my strength increased. I start by doing overhand pull-ups first and then switch immediately to underhand. I use a bench to position myself, then come to a complete dead hang. Next I bring my attention to my back muscles, not my arms, and pull myself up. I treat pull-ups like any other exercise, typically doing three sets of overhand and underhand, separated by short active recovery breaks. As seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsO9ApY63-E&feature=share

I am always amazed at how fast I progress when it comes to weight training. In this case I started with only being able to do one pull-up, and now within a session I can easily do thirty. So do not be afraid to start doing pull-ups everyday, you will feel stronger in a surprisingly short amount of time, and all other areas of your strength training will benefit as well.