Proud Mama of a School Boy

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Later this morning, my son will have a ceremony to complete his Kindergarten and  officially become a 1st grader.  My emotions are running wild.  His  year was an adjustment for me and if I was to do it all again (which I will with my younger boy) I will definitely do my best to surrender more often.

Parenting can push our buttons in the most expansive of ways.  This year, it has pushed mine.  However, it also allowed me  to heal and appreciate not just the  work my son has done, but the work that I have done when I was his age as well as now  as his mom.  It helped me heal my inner child and do work to embrace my own past and see things from a different point of view.

Because all of us parents do what we think works, I insisted that my son complete his homework as soon as he came home from school, washed his hands and changed into comfortable clothing.  He had to read a book per day for school, and he read at least three.  His spelling tests were on Monday, he  mispelled a word  once the entire year and it was a silly mistake he often makes when he writes B instead of D.  We dealt with every issue that came our way with compassion and honest communication with him and his teachers.  We were, hands down, among the most involved parents.  The result of it is: his scores are all exceeding expectations, and he can easily do second grade reading and math, among other things.

All of this would be in vein if my son didn’t do his part.  “You can take a horse to the water, but you can’t make him drink.”  This year, I have had my butt kicked so many times to learn this lesson and understand that smart and independent kids will not just obey.  They need to understand why something is the way it is and what is expected of them, and they will remember, compare and challenge integrity of things and people because they are inheritely wired to be honest humans.

In some ways, I don’t know why I am crying except, possibly, to release the tension, the intention and attention that has been 100% tuned in to my son’s success without compromising everything else that happens in life. I can appreciate summer break in a whole new way because I think our bodies do need to stop, refresh and reset before they create a new project or see another mountain to climb.

All in all, I am sitting  here in the dark of the night and  quiet of a household with a husband and 2 boys sound asleep to just allow my emotions to settle, to pour my heart onto these pages and remind myself to appreciate every moment.  In our world  where things can happen with a push of a button, I think we often forget that things are not built over night, but rather take consistency of time and effort.  It feels beyond awesome that I know we gave our all but also see the wonderful result of a job well done.

Thank you to God/Universe for giving me this gift of being a mother, for partnership of my husband and everyone that supports us on this journey, my mom probably the most but also our family, friends, teachers, doctors and even random strangers.  Thank you for the beautiiful  and kind boys and the opportunity to raise them.  Thank you for the opportunity to  celebrate our hard work this year and acknowledgement for all the work nobody even sees that we do, but that we relentlessy do every day of the year.

 

 

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My Body, My Right

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I was blessed to have been pregnant twice in my life and to have had both of my pregnancies result in healthy boys I am now raising.  Some women were far luckier than me being able to carry full term, to enjoy their pregnancy and feel good throughout it.  My children were both born before their due date, my second even stayed in NICU for 2 weeks before coming home (it’s a story for another day).

Some women, on another hand,  are not so lucky. They miscarried many times, couldn’t get pregnant at all,  had to deal with IVFs or adopt to fulfill on their desire to be moms.  Others were clear they didn’t want the responsibility of raising humans,  or the timing or whatever it would take for them to remain pregnant.  They should have their desires fulfilled just the same.

As someone who was pregnant twice, here is whatI can tell you:  no matter how much we intend,  how healthy we eat and exercise, and how much we want to be on our best behavior,  we really don’t have control over how our pregnancy will go.  It’s a very humbling process and it helps to do our best, but it is, otherwise, completely out of our control.  Pregnancy and motherhood are the ultimate exercise in surrender.  To dictate what another woman does with her body, to tell her and punish her for what she should or shouldn’t do absolutely violates her human rights.

My first pregnancy was far harder than the second and in large, it was because how I related to the whole process, everything being new and me being unprepared.  I had to get naked and open my legs to be looked at so many times, it was a lot to handle.  In fact, the first time I had my ultrasound done, and heard the heart beat, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, my life was beginning to be more about this new life I was carrying and for which I now had to sacrifice.  I felt so much shame for having to be looked it so closely that. when the doctor left the room, I just leaned on my husband and cried.

My second pregnancy was far easier, I have done this transformational program for women which allowed me to appreciate women’s body so much more.   Over the course of weeks and months in #sisterhood, I was able to shake off my old relationship to myself and my body and build a new one, the one of adoration and respect.  It was million times easier to have exams as I no longer cared who could see me naked.  However, this way of seeing it took a lot of work on my part.

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I think the whole culture of mothering, as being a sacrifice, comes from taking women’s voice from them, judging us for the essence of who we are and wanting to control us.  A turned on woman is a whore; an independent woman is too much, and a shy one doesn’t get what she wants, to mention just a few labels.

While every pregnancy, whether it results in child birth, miscarriage or abortion, completely impacts our lives and the system at large, especially when unacknowledged, women are not factories and should not be treated as such.  No women should be forced to carry pregnancy she doesn’t want, whatever her reasons.  In meantime, for those inspired to save childrens’ lives, do something to end shootings in American schools and about men who harrass and rape women with little or no punishment.

UNSOLICITED ADVICE: Is It Really Bad or Are We Too Good for It?

What is the problem with unsolicited advice anyway?

Would you rather live in a vacuum of constant praise so that your ego never takes a hit, or would you rather be a person who is so in integrity with who she/he is that nothing someone else says or do can define you but rather only be an opportunity for growth and your own personal expansion?  Is unsolicited advice perhaps the Universe delivering free coaching from the mouth of a human disguised as your enemy? Don’t people we dislike with passion help us grow the most?

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I am a New York mom of 2 very active and smart boys (ages 5.5 and almost 3) and have been running my own life coaching business for the past 6 years.  I breastfed my kiddos for the total of 3 years (the first one for 2 years and the younger one for a year) and I didn’t send them into kindergarten until they were solid toddlers, able to walk and communicate the essence of how they were feeling.  I used to think I was raising my kids alone with my husband because hiring a nanny cost me just as much as it would cost me to go out and work more, but the truth is, I think early childhood years set the stage for the life that follows so I wanted to make sure I gave it my everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those moms who think they get it all right. I remember coming home from a hospital with my son in my arms and praying to God he latches on when it’s time to feed him.  We were living in my mom’s apartment temporarily while we were looking for our new home and my mom wasn’t there.  My aunt, who helped my mom raise me never breastfed so I really had nobody I felt I could look up to or ask for a solid advice.  Given I was coming from a different culture, inside of which I didn’t live more than 20 years, I was a little lost trying to figure it all out and make it all work.  As an overachiever, I always liked to muscle things and move through them fast. Having a child, birth by a C-section, I had no choice but to slow down.

I admit, I hated “unsolicited advice” – defined as recommendations about parenting by people who I didn’t ask for their view.  I expected people to respond to my needs and nothing more or less.  In fact, part of why I felt so lonely was because early on, I started sorting out people who I can talk to and people I didn’t want to be around depending on the amount of advice they gave me.  I googled everything and did research, from circumcision, vaccinations, breastfeeding, colic, hic ups, sleep training etc.  I often thought: how in the world people raised children before internet existed.  All in all, I had a fair share of opinions coming my way and I didn’t like any of them.

My dislike of opinions didn’t faze me until I got to be comfortable in my own skin, got some mileage as a mother and birthed my second son, this time with VBAC (vaginal birth after a C-section).  Advice giving didn’t stop, I just got more immune to it.  From time to time, if it was coming from my mother, I’d honestly hate it, but 9 out of 10 times it was not because of what she said was unsolicited or wrong but because she was spot on and I had to step it up to admit it.  My being bothered by advice became directly proportional with my ability to reframe the “unsolicited advice” as a thing on a menu that I may or may not choose to order and eat.  Thinking about it this way gave me enormous freedom and also made people in my life who were trying to help, my allies and not enemies.

As a life coach for more than dozens of years now, I am invested in understanding how human beings work. From my graduate studies in which I binged on psychology classes given my focus on film and writing stories, to my years behind the bar in New York City making friends with people who came to confess perhaps more than to grab a drink, to years of studying spirituality, meditation and mastering my own mind and leadership programs in which we looked what inspired people’s growth, I have grown to understand that we can’t STOP REACTING to things.  Maybe some enlightened gurus that meditate 10 hours a day Vipassana style or alike can learn to let things go the instant they appear, but most of us, mortals are not able to prevent the reaction.  I realized, then, the second best choice is to own our reaction and move passed it.

I don’t try to pretend I ever like anyone telling me how I should do something different or correcting me in any way, but even when it happens, I choose to minimize the gap between me hating it and being able to reframe it into: “they mean well, take what works and drop the rest.”  In my most enlightened moments, which I do have when I am really in a zone, I even see what other people say as my own subconscious on a loud speaker, so I don’t try to destroy what I hear, instead, I embrace the message it carries.

I know, and have felt it on my own skin, that social media platforms are becoming battlefields of opinions on everything from parenting to politics and even fashion tastes.  I sometimes comment to people’s posts to share an opposing view because I do take a stand that I have something powerful and useful to say.  Of course, most people won’t know I am actually qualified for that, but I honestly can say, I do think twice before I post a comment to something.  I noticed very quickly, that while I had some people agree with me and appreciate my courage of sharing a different view, that most others were quite hostile to what I had to say.

I’d reflect back, sometimes, I’d try to take it down a notch, see their point of view and release the charge that they are spewing at me, but most of the time, I would resort into deleting my comment in its entirety and feeling a bit beaten up about it.  I’d share it with my husband, he’d shrug off his shoulder while asking: “does this really matter,” and I would just go back into my little mental hole, trying to digest: “why can’t I just have a different view” and “am I really this mean that people are ready to attack me” (in some cases, go to my personal page and find things to discredit me with).

When I was finally settled to grow my own business and my own listeners out there as my kids were a bit older, I was doing most of it on my own, organically, feeling that there was a value in going slow and steady and learning this new social media marketing craft. I made no short cuts, I used my own pictures, wisdom, messages or posted inspirational quotes. I didn’t have a large amount of followers, but the number of people acknowledging my work was increasing.

Recently, however, I was engaging with a person on Instagram who intrigued me with her views on royal fashion.  It is something I am fascinated by, what famous people wear, from royals to red carpet and everything in between.  It was extra comforting to see that the woman who owns this account was a mom of 2 boys and a writer, journalist in fact.  I often had an opposing view, but for as long as that was about style alone, I was able to shortly let it go. I even deleted my DMs to her expressing appreciation for her doing the work and moving on with my life. Until recently.

One morning as I was checking if she updated the story of the most recent royal event, I noticed that she published an article in the New York Times about Andy Cohen being dad shamed.  She received so much praise for this and her account was filled with comments of congratulations.  One mom expressed a relief for the writer calling people on the unsolicited advice because she felt that because he is a public figure, the stakes were that much higher for him.  I got triggered.  In fact, I couldn’t help not commenting that public figure or not, parents should parent as if someone is always watching.  I mean this in all sincerity and not because I think or expect perfection of any mom or dad out there, but because I truly believe we ought to be accountable.  She responded, kindly, that she wouldn’t want people judging her for keeping her kids in PJs all weekend, forgetting their gloves the other day, or having her dishes in sink for 2 days.  I got her point of view and realized, none of those things were worthy of judgement anyway, what I had to say was beyond that.

After so much reflection back and forth and trying to craft the perfect comment, that won’t sound like shame to people who think that everything that is in disagreement is shaming, and trying to avoid being shamed for it myself, I realized, if I had something to say, perhaps I shouldn’t throw myself under the bus (or this person’s account comment section) but should tell my view and my story in a way that as many people as are willing to listen will hear it.

I believe, as was assured of this in one of the Marianne Williamson’s A Course in Miracles lectures, as in many literature pieces and conversations with other parents who understand, as Khalil Gibran put it:  “Our children are not our children, they are the children of God.”  What I mean is this:  today most of us parent alone, we are closed in our homes or in the distance between work and home and think being a parenting is somehow a lonely act, so we hold on tight and parent from fear of shit breaking loose and things getting out of control.  The older the children the worse it gets, we try to control them not parent them and we try our best to keep “unsolicited advice” at bay.

This is not how parenting happened centuries ago.  People lived in larger families and tribes and each person was accountable for something and children were not just one couple or person’s obsession and job.  They were everyone’s work, and in my opinion, this had the pressure of parenting be a lot less than it is today.  Today, parents have to juggle work and home and raising children and support is available but hefty at price so we try to do our best alone. People walk by a screaming child trying to tune out versus being interested or helpful.   We roll our eyes when another kid is screaming because it is inconvenient while we are jamming our wireless headphones into our ears.  We are connected via social media, but we are profoundly alone.

As a mom, I get the initial annoyance of being given the advice you don’t ask for, but still think that we can’t be so sensitive to another person’s input.  We don’t have to do as advised but it is helpful and appreciated to consider someone else’s view, especially if that someone is a teacher or another parent. Most of the time when I am compelled to say something to someone, it is because I have been there, not because I am judging.  It saddens me that we are trying to create a world in which different opinions or advice isn’t welcomed and has to be shushed instead of considered and refiled as useless if that is what it truly is.

I am writing this with so much humility because my family has recently been through a thorough Child Protective Service investigation and at no fault of our own.  My husband has reached out to a hot line service to see if he can get advice on dealing with his frustrations of parenting but he wrote in the chat something that was taken of the context and resulted in CPS at our door less than an hour later.  While we did talk about it in length, I was still unaware that we was chatting, let alone that he gave a stranger our address, so what transpired was shocking to say the least.

The social workers had 60 days to investigate us and everyone involved in our children’s lives, schools, daycare, my mom, a nanny that only occasionally spends time with them and all of our neighbors. This was a devastating event for me and I admit, I was initially so mad at my husband for putting us through this.  I thought:   “oh, how stupid and Canadian of him thinking he can open up with a complete stranger to talk about his thoughts and alike” (which are extremely transparent given all the transformational work on himself he has done and that people who haven’t done were not really used to).

Over time and those scary 60 days, I have learned that children don’t have a voice except the one we give them.  In other words, I empowered this investigation because deep inside, as inconvenient and expensive as this was for us, I wanted to move out of the way for the sake of my children.  I never, for a second, doubted that I was a good mom and my husband was a good dad, that we were perfect for them and enough, but I got out of the way so that the state of New York can see it too and send me a paper confirming it.

Given our kids were 5 and 2 at the time, we naturally didn’t share this event with them nor did we fill their heads with fear.  It took everything to hold this pain I was feeling and still be an excellent mom but I learned that everything happened for a reason and as shitty as this event was for us, on the receiving end (and especially knowing that there are kids whose rights really need to be protected in this way), I learned to be humble.  I learned that I don’t own my children and that my job is to have them in my care and if there is a view on the outside on how to do that better, I would be all ears to hear it.

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I am not saying: open yourself up to other people’s criticism and to let it pierce through the essence of who you are.  Don’t do that!  But know this, you are not defined by other people’s opinions, so instead of getting on a train of shaming one another to no end in sight, take what you get and consider it a powerful lesson for how you can expand in your life.  This will make you a better parent and a better human being overall.

As for Andy Cohen or any other celebrity parent out there, if you choose to parade with your kid on social media and want us all to see, allow for criticism and be humbled by it.  Andy has never done this before.  None of us did until we actually did it, so instead of defending the assumption that he is doing nothing wrong, let’s not defend that he isn’t , because we really don’t know what is happening behind the closed doors.  We are all being put through the test as parents, and he can learn a lot from other seasoned moms out there.  Consider it is an expression of love and not the “unsolicited advice” or perhaps, the devil’s advocate helping the voiceless child.

Being A Mom

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I only vaguely sensed that being a mom must be magical and expansive but I never knew how much it would impact my life, how deeply I would feel my love, how strongly I could stand, how much I could endure and how unwilling I would be to hide and pretend I am anything other than a human being trying to do her best.  I learned to surrender, to take it easy, to put myself first, as in put oxygen mask on my mouth before I offer it to others.  I slowed down and became more effective.  I added a level of compassion I didn’t have.  I started thinking for more people not just myself, consequently, I have expanded the way I see things and the ways in which I manage my life.

I often complain that people don’t share the truth about motherhood.  I don’t think we are fully honest about the effort that this role requires (and I don’t mean complain, but be real about it) as well as not fully bragging on the world that this role also makes possible, the love that is there, the joy we could feel and how small things in life often become the essence of our days.

It took me a while to approve of different ways of parenting but I definitely appreciate that people have their view and do their best.  The thing is, when you know what it takes, you don’t judge as easily or as harshly.  Again, I make comments and sometimes have a passing thought but I don’t hang on to it or relate to like: “this is the truth”. I also lightly roll my eyes at people who give me advice but really have no clue about the world I am in. I do appreciate the effort though, I’ve been there myself.

At the same time, I have been screwing up way more often, feeling cornered against things in life that are seemingly unresolvable, needed on too many sides, torn in too many places, longing for some time to myself to just hear myself think without trying to please everyone around me who has a loud expectation.

All this said, the journey of mothering my first born and then almost 3 years laters his brother has been the biggest role I played.  I used to cringe when people said that in the past because I always made it mean they had nothing else important to do (as if raising future generations of humans isn’t important at all).  I try to beat that value with other things  I do but the kiddos are still small and they still need me in a way that I don’t want to say NO to.  At the end, it is always a choice not to leave them for long periods of time, not to have them raised by babysitters and friends but putting them to bed at night on my own or having my husband do it instead.

My sons are an absolute joy most of the time.  They remind me how carefree childhood is for those of us who had our basic needs met and then some.  They wake up my creative side, they soften me to love, they let me be more accepting and kinder with myself and others while holding healthy boundaries. I am moved and beyond grateful I was given the opportunity to be a mother in this life time.  They will also never know all that it takes to be their mom and what these past 5 years were like and they don’t have to know until they live their life and learned their lessons.  My efforts are not theirs to carry because if I can do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Happy 5ht birthday to my beautiful Adrian and anniversary of birth to me!!!

 

 

Thinking of life…

I am feeling mixed emotions lately. Sure, you can blame it on the pregnancy but it’s not all hormones, I can guarantee you.  In fact, I’d like to address how some people are in regards to women when they are pregnant and their mood swings (and perhaps not only when they are pregnant).  I want to share that knowing that there is a human being within my body is the most miraculous experience I could imagine having.  Yesterday was exactly 20 weeks that I am expecting – the middle of the pregnancy and in the past days both my husband and I have experienced some most gratifying baby kicking.  I have accomplished much in my life and I can tell you, very little compares to the miracle of life we are able to give.

Something that I could not so clearly see before, as someone with ‘out of this world’ ambition to succeed and be the best in everything, is that the simple joys of life are, at the end of the day, what fulfills us the most.  And, you’d never hear me say to give up competition, playing big and achieving enormous heights.  I won’t say that as I don’t believe we should have to choose between that life and the life of a wife and a mother.  However, there is something about being a wife and a mother that is so deeply fulfilling that I can never again imagine the life without it.  So, you guessed it right: it’s about having it all.

But to address what I promised to address:  I noticed, and somewhat from my own experience, that most people are not really aware of what it’s like to be expecting a baby.  I don’t think anyone who isn’t a mother, truly gets the ups and downs and everything in between as well as the pure miracle of what is actually happening within our bodies, how much the hormones change and how much development there is within a day and even an hour sometimes.  It takes something to be the vehicle for all of that, to be able to be and create life and have something within you be so unbelievably powerful in taking all your energy, nutrients and alike.  So, I request, give women a break! And not because we can’t handle life, nor because we are weak or unable to handle ourselves.  Give us a break because you ought to stand mesmerized in the face of what we are creating and you should not let us have to create it alone.

I am a blessed soul to have a husband and partner in life who is understanding and committed to understanding.  He is way ahead of me reading about all that my body is going through such that he can support me in the process.  Without him, there would be no baby and without him, I can’t imagine what it would take to do this.  So I ask the men out there to support their ladies and to honor the miracle of life.  It is truly a miracle and while I used to think that some people just gave up on their life goals and decided to have many babies (and I do believe there is some of that), I take back my judgement that having a child is easy.

Lastly, my message to people is: be great!!!! At the end of the day, if you just allow people to be just the way they are, you may easily hear some of what I am pointing to.  It will help reduce our judgments and allow us to see that we are all one, extremely connected, and extremely vulnerable.