Parenting by the book. Don’t do it.

Believe me, I know the first few years (decades?) of motherhood are hard. Wanting to feed, love and help this adorable little person grow the ‘right’ way fills any new parent with all consuming questions, the answers to which seemingly allude you alone. And the questions other people ask — ohhhh the questions.

“Is he sleeping through the night?”

What the hell does that matter? Worst. Question. EVER.

Ask me something that DOES matter. Ask me how I’m feeling. Ask me about my birth story, about me how it feels to be a mom. Ask me about my child’s nature — what sounds does she make? Does she like to be held up, looking out? To be swaddled? Does she burp better when I hold her like this on my knee or over my shoulder? Have I met any other new-mommy friends? Do I feel supported? What can you do to support me?

Seriously — ask me ANYTHING but “Is he sleeping through the night?!?”

The sleep questions we ask one another… at some level I know it’s normal ’cause we’re ALL thinking about it. We all want to know how we can be getting more sleep. But there are sooooo many other things we could be talking about… and trust me when I tell you that none of us (parents of little people) are getting enough sleep.

If your baby or your child doesn’t sleep so well (like, ever!!!), I know it is hard. I know it is unbelievably stressful. On you. On your marriage. Maybe even your relationships with the in-laws and other family members that want to “help”. But the thing is, when it comes to sleep, you really don’t WANT their help… you want their support.

You might be putting up a good front, but secretly, deep down inside, you worry you are doing it wrong and you blame yourself. ‘WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?!?!?!? WHY WON’T THIS KID SLEEP?!?!?!?’

Or secretly, you blame your child. ‘Damn kid. Just f-ing go to sleep!!!! I will PAY YOU TO GO TO SLEEP!!!’

If your child is still a baby, you blame nursing or bottle feeding for the (sometimes hourly but don’t tell anybody) middle of the night wakeups. You blame yourself for holding your baby when they cry (?!?!? please never blame yourself for this. EVER.) Maybe your doctor has even ‘warned’ you about this by saying “It’s never too early to set them her up to be a good sleeper…” But whatever you are hearing, know this, if the advice you are getting (even from your doctor, even from your mom) doesn’t sit well with you and your gut, you can choose to LET IT GO and trust yourself and what feels right to you instead.

Of course you are feeding and holding your baby — your baby is CRYING! Your baby is HUNGRY. Your baby literally thrives on touch. Or maybe she has reflux (or some other mysterious thing going on inside of her that she alone knows about) and amazingly enough, knows she feels better when she has a little milk in her tummy. Or maybe she’s hitting a growth spurt and is brilliantly helping you ready your milk supply for this spurt and so, yep, it’s time to eat AGAIN.

My point is, take a second to balance the disempowering messages the world keeps sending you in this, the age of outside information, and remind yourself DAILY of this simple truth:

You know best.

Always, always go the way that feels the lightest. The brightest. The RIGHTEST.

Collect the data. Ask for input. See a specialist. Let all the information and the many different ways you could in motherhood on any given day filter down through you as you allow yourself to decide which way to go based on your gut. Your INTUITION.

But never give your power away. You can trust your instincts.


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It Is Not Your Job

Our children want to be seen, to be known and to be loved. They do not need us as parents to feel responsible for “making” them. Our children already ARE. Our job is to support and guide them.

As I watch my four kids growing into the tots, tween and teen that they are today, more full expressions of the unique individuals I’ve known them to be since first breaths, first words and first steps, it is just that much easier for me to believe this very important concept:

It is not my job to make my children (fill-in-the-blank).

This frankly FANTASTIC revelation comes to me after years of parenting from a very different place. For years I parented believing it was my responsibility, nay, my duty and my moral obligation, to make my children a sometimes short and sometimes rather long list of VERY IMPORTANT THINGS depending on the moment.

Creative. Driven. Sensitive. Smart. Polite. Focused. Funny. Humble. Responsible. Outgoing. Patient. Kind. Generous. Empathetic.

My very important things list and yours might differ based on our upbringing, experiences, faith, age, cultural biases, education, gender, etc, but rest assured, if you know what it is to feel pressure from both inside and outside of yourself to make your child (fill-in-the-blank), then you know what I’m talking about.

Our very-important-things-place or VITP, is a not so fun, pressure-cooker like sort of place we parents go when we feel put upon by ourselves and/or society to MAKE our children something, especially when it is something our children are so very clearly NOT by their very nature. It’s a confusing and often self-contradicting place we drag our children when we fool ourselves into believing that as parents we have the power to MAKE THEM (fill-in-the-blank) by withdrawing our love, removing our favor, and resorting to tactics like shame, blame, bribery and manipulation.

Hadley bedtime poem

Some confusing messages that derive from this place might look like this:

“Be sensitive… but also be outgoing and fearless.”

“Dream big and think outside of the box… but also fit in with your peers, be compliant and do-as-you-are-told (i.e.: hug your grandma, put on your coat and go to the bathroom when I tell you to even when you say you don’t have to go or don’t “want” to… even when it goes against your intuition.)

“Be strong and lead… but also be passive, stop bossing your friends around and for God’s sakes don’t ask so many question or challenge the things we, your parents, tell you to be or do (or other authority figures for that matter – how could you embarrass us like that?!?)”

After 14 years of striving to catch my VITP in action, I’ve gotten better at recognizing it for what it is. When I feel the familiar tentacles of fear and not-enoughness taking hold, instead of surrendering to my VITP’s power, feeling off center, defensive, and blaming my kids for it, instead, I’m gently reminding myself to drop the chalupa. To step away from the wormhole sucking the whole-hearted love I have for my children out of me, a wormhole that would like to leave me with conditional love based on my approval/disapproval of my kids actions and beliefs.

we belong to each other

When I can catch my VITP at work these days, I say to myself:

“I can support these very-important-things I’m wanting to see within my children, but I cannot make them these things. My children’s true-est, most-powerful gifts already ARE. It is my job to love and guide my children such that they recognize and strengthen the already beautiful and intact attributes they already hold within themselves.”

Parenting in this way involves setting clear, firm, consistent limits when I see my kids moving off track (messy bedrooms, rude statements, mismanagement of time, etc, etc) but not from the angry, judgmental place my VITP wants to take me. If I truly want to lead and guide my children, I get to discipline them from my center. And yes, this entails saying “no” even as I craft my words to say YES— explaining what I want to see from them over what I do not. This entails being selfish if by definition “selfish” means my needs and wants are held right along side the needs and wants of every member of my family. This also entails letting go of the idea that I can love my family in a “perfect” way such that they will be happy and instead, embracing the truth that happiness is not the goal of parenting — my love and more full presence is. My willingness to grow right along side my child is. This road involves some NOT “happy” moments and that’s okay.

We ask our kids from as early an age as 2 or 3, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Instead of “A doctor/nurse”, “A baseball player” or “A ballerina!”, I imagine a world where our children reply instead, “What about who I am NOW? What about the things I love to do and be NOW? What about the things I think I’m good at doing and being TODAY?!?”

If we asked our children these three things daily in the way we parent, we just might get a closer look at each one’s very nature and stop deluding ourselves into thinking that we are MAKING our children (fill-in-the-blank).

In this new year, I hope you will join me in letting go of the notion that we MAKE our children (fill-in-the-blank) and instead, declaring the following:

“My job as mom/dad is to SEE my children – to know them and to love them – as they come to better know and love themselves.”

love imperfections


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Little Ears

colin w mmm logo 5.2013We were driving to dinner and my three year old son asked, “Mom, can I have an E-F-H?”

Dad and I look at each other. “A what???!” “An E—-F—-H…” he repeats in a do-you-pinky-swear-you-won’t-tell-anyone?!?! sorta whisper. And with that, I get it and interpret for my husband. Our child is attempting to spell out a cool-secret-thing he wants, just like he’s heard his big sisters do.

“Mom, can we have some I-C-E -C-R-E-A-M?” or “Mom, can we go to the P-A-R-K when Hadley and Colin nap?”

Things not meant for three year old ears lest they want it too, get spelt out in our home and our little guy had cracked the code. He just didn’t know how to spell. But why let that stop him, right?

They may not always do what we want, when we want… but do not be fooled.



When we follow our bliss, anything is possible. I hope you walk with me and other moms here, sharing the stories of our lives, because motherhood is better when we are holding hands. 

Zen Mommy Minute: Skinned Knees Rock

It is important to allow our children to fail. To fall down. To be disappointed. Sound harsh? Believe it or not, it actually helps our kids build self-esteem and self confidence when we refrain from “saving” them from life.

It also helps our children grow when they see us modeling acceptance in the midst of our own “not-perfect” moments. Example: You arrive 10 minutes late to school pick up and as they climb in the car you say, “I’m sorry I’m late for pickup today guys! How was your day?” with a smile instead of modeling GUILT with something like “I am soooooooo soooooorry I’m late. I feel so bad. I thought I could get another errand done in time. That was so stupid of me. Man. I hate when I do that…” or something to that effect.

When we swoop in and fix things for our kids before they get to experience the consequences of their own less than perfect moments (forgotten lunches, unsigned permission slips, messy rooms with laundry that needs to be thrown down or risk missing laundry day, etc) we are actually doing our kids a disservice, keeping them from a potential lesson in self love and what it takes to “be with” imperfection and disappointments.

What do you do when your child leaves his or her lunch/homework/gym shorts at home??!?!!

Do you remember being a kid and learning from life when it gave you a skinned knee or two?

I’d love to hear about how this topic of skinned knees (and their many blessings) lives for you.



PS: If you liked this post, join our community of mindful mamas and receive a free gift, a Hug Each Moment Kit via email today along with weekly positive parenting tips and inspirations direct to your inbox.

Inspiration and support for the journey of motherhood.  The manual is ours to write but we don’t have to write it alone! Let’s connect on twitterfacebook and pinterest too. xoxo


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