I could write about the creative and challenging workouts, the hike up the mountain for lunch or the sunrise yoga.
I could tell you about the nutrition seminar or the cooking demonstration or the morning trip through the perimeter of the grocery store.
I could share details of the lobster and ribs on the island or the delicious mountaintop nachos or the farm to table feast on the actual farm.
But that’s not the story of Strong is Beautiful, the weekend health and wellness retreat for women I attended this past weekend. It’s so much more than that.
Life is only as good as the people you get to share it with.
My weekend was full of love, laughter and lifting.
It was full of sweat, tears and sheer joy.
It was full of beautiful women of all ages, sizes, backgrounds and personalities.
It was full of hugs and kisses and encouragement.
It was about strength and having the courage to put yourself first. Because as women we forget to make ourselves a priority, even though we are better mothers, partners and friends when we are happy and whole.
Find your tribe. Love them hard.
My weekend was spent at my gym, my happy place. The place where I feel most connected to myself and to nature. Where I am in most in tune to my body and what it needs to flourish physically and mentally. It is my therapy when my crazy world of single motherhood and writing and nonprofit management just get to be too overwhelming.
What made my weekend so unique and indescribable was the company I was fortunate enough to keep. Forty-five other women who made memories in three days together that will last a lifetime.
What was my weekend really all about?
It was about relaxing pontoon boat rides, swimming and floating on the river.
It was about sharing an outdoor shower with a group of women while listening to silly water-themed music.
It was about suppressing fits of giggles over a loud cricket in the middle of the night.
It was about late nights around the bonfire talking and dancing to loud music and early mornings to gather and learn.
It was about sunset walks and adventure at every turn.
It was about women baring their soul so that others could show them they are not alone in their fight.
It was about holding hands when fear arose.
It was about dirty feet and pine needles in my bra and feeling completely content with the world.
Where there is love there is light.
We all need a place to go when we need to recharge and reconnect with ourselves. A place where we can find and be our true authentic self. Mine happens to be in a wooded setting overlooking a river in central Maine.
Have you found yours yet? What is it like?
Photo Credit: WolfPack Fitness
A life coach (LC) once told me it is important to be selfish sometimes. She had to explain what she meant because for as long as I could remember, the word ‘selfish’ was synonymous with not caring about anyone other than yourself. Well, LC was one of the sweetest people I have met, yet she did not strike me as one who would accept being pushed around, or would accept becoming a doormat. Usually, really sweet people are considered people on whom you can ‘get over’, right?
When I had this conversation with her I was already mother to by firstborn. However, I did not come to really contemplate the meaning of being selfish while being a mother, until after having my second child.
What LC was conveying to me is that although I am a mother, I am a person. Separate from all the titles I gather in life I have myself and I have to take care of self. You’ve probably heard it or read it somewhere…’If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else’. I have heard people reference it to when an aircraft loses oxygen and you are to put an oxygen mask on yourself before helping someone else, even your own child, put on her mask. Still, the word ‘selfish’ isn’t used here, even though it may be more concise and cost less to print. I do understand why: it just doesn’t sound good.
Nonetheless, being selfish (to an extent) is necessary for sanity, self-esteem, creativity, and a dynamic life.
I don’t know about other mothers, but I tend to analyze a lot. It used to be that before I left the house (children and husband in it), I would think of all I could do to make sure everything for the kids was where it was supposed to be so my husband could easily find it. It was as if the time I was going to be away had to be excused in my own mind, and that I was negatively selfish for not being there to care for them myself. I know this is absurd because we are both their parents and my husband hasn’t indicated, in any way, that he thinks or feels any of the things I am explaining here.
I realized I was hindering my own self from taking a break. From clocking out from my Stay At Home career. From taking care of me. From figuring out how to take care of me beyond taking a shower and maybe putting on some make up.
So about a month and a half ago my husband and I had a conversation. We acknowledged that we both feel the difference in our lives from how it was pre two small children and a teenager, to post two small children and a teenager. We agreed that we both need time to be ourselves individually and together. At the end of that conversation it was decided that I was going to begin taking scheduled ‘Me Time’.
The first time I had no clue what to do with myself. I was happy to leave the house and go do something. I didn’t want to waste my time. I didn’t want to do something as mundane as go window-shopping or take a nap in my car…like I have done a few times in the past. Then I realized I could do anything I wanted and I would be doing it by myself!
When I returned home I felt energized and didn’t feel like I needed to clock out again for a while. The second time I felt kind of guilty, leaving everyone again, so as it was already hard to schedule something with holiday travel, I just let that one go. Today was my third scheduled Me Time and I knew exactly what I was going to do. I was going to take my selfish self to the forest and hike! Yes, I was going to take a hike!
My hike was phenomenal. It was something I needed more than I thought. I wished for my husband and my children to be with me. I kept envisioning them there, but I knew I needed to be by myself. I needed to not worry about what they might need… if they are hungry, thirsty, or need a diaper change. Or if the 15-month old had eaten a crayon or is putting his finger in his mouth and maybe is now interested in sticking it in an electrical socket.
That’s the thing, you know? Being a Stay at Home Parent means that as long as your children are awake, you have to be aware while you’re cooking or cleaning, or doing whatever else you may need to do, Additionally, you have to be present for the myriad learning moments young humans have. I personally think that is tiring. I feel like I am wrong for feeling this way. That, as a parent, but more so as a mother, I should want to be with my children all the time and I should only get a tiny bit tired just as any human would from being awake and doing regular things.
To continue, my hike was what I needed. I focused on thinking of nothing. I took deep breaths as I walked briskly onward in the chilly air. Every time I thought to meditate I would first repeat a prayer I know, and then somehow ended up seeing Purnima Ramakrishnan’s face as if she was leading a meditation session. It was so strange and SO funny! Then I kept thinking about how I should have asked if there are wild animals to be concerned about on the trails. Black bears and cougars would have to just let me have my Me Time, you know?
After the hike I watched a R-rated movie (The Big Short) and ate a cookie.
I got home to two little babes wanting to be tickled and wanting to use me as an obstacle they had to demolish. It was a lot of fun and I knew I was better for them since I went and had some time with my own self.
Do you take time to do things on your own? Do you ever feel like you could be better for your children? When you do take time away, are there specific things you do that bring you back to center? What do you think about the word ‘selfish’?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo credits to the author.
Recently, I’ve felt like I was running on empty and had entered a new state of exhaustion. It started gradually about a year ago, and as I am inching up to year 40, I assumed this is just what it was like to be growing older.
During the summer, I was constantly falling asleep in my clothes from the night before, sometimes in one of my daughters’ beds, while putting the kids to sleep. Other times, it would be on the couch after cleaning up from dinner. I couldn’t operate like I used to. I thought, “This is it. I can’t keep up my usual pace. I’m burning out.”
I don’t drink coffee, with the exception of the occasional tiramisu dessert. I just don’t like the taste, unless it involves lady fingers and sugar! I drink a cup of green or white tea in the morning, but I thought, “Is this how moms are getting through? Do I need something stronger? Should I start drinking coffee?”
I decided to try a few things first before I made the plunge to cocoa beans. First, I tried exercise. I was running around with the kids, always on my feet, but I wasn’t raising my heart rate enough. I always got a boost from starting to exercise, but this time, nothing.
Then I decided it must be stress. Running the website was taking its toll, I thought. I have to do less, so this summer, we pulled back a bit, while many of our kids were home from school. I knew we would pick up again once we get to September.
And during the summer the kids and I seemed unstoppable. We were swimming, hiking, traveling. You name it. We were doing it! Having them off of school for 10 weeks, I felt like we had to carpe diem! But, by the evening my carpe was nowhere to be found. And my ability to keep up during the day was challenged. I panted more on hikes and walking uphill was so much more difficult than it had ever been.
Also, instead of a best friend, my husband was living with an exhausted mess, me. We weren’t staying up late playing marathon games of Mancala, watching movies or anything else exciting for that matter, because my day was over by the time the kids were to bed, and I was being woken every morning by the kids while he was off to work. It was a tough cycle.
And, did I mention that I was gaining weight, too? I was awake less hours over time, and I was lacking my normal energy levels. Overtime, the problem was affecting my ability to button my pants (that’s trousers for the international crowd). I just bought the size up, ignoring the expansion and getting on with my life.
I even thought that maybe it was lack of vitamin B12 because I don’t eat meat, so I started to take B12 pills. They weren’t giving me more energy, but I still continued to take them. I was desperate.
I finally came to the conclusion that I couldn’t live like this. It was affecting my kids, my marriage, my work, my life. If it’s not just me getting older, not a lack of exercise (at least not directly, but I still could use more), not stress, and the B12 isn’t helping, I needed to go to the doctor.
It was hard to make the appointment because every morning I would have energy again, so I’d blow it off, thinking it was a waste of time because I was feeling better today and that I was finally over this. Then every evening, the exhaustion hit me like a brick wall.
So, I booked an appointment and explained to my doctor what was going on. She said I was due for blood work, so she ordered a full work up. I was too busy with the kids to have time to worry about what it could be. I had a follow up appointment with my doctor the next week to go over my results.
It turned out that I was anemic. Very anemic. And, it was, oh, so fixable.
But then I got hard on myself. Why did I feel like I had to figure it out myself at first? Why didn’t I just head to the doctor when I was feeling like this in the first place??!!
After one week of prescribed iron pills, I was feeling a major boost. I could stay awake after the kids went to bed! I had energy to exercise! My husband has his best friend back! Even our World Moms Blog newsletter has finally gone out!
Being a parent and, thus, caregiver, if it was my kid who was feeling this way, I’d be at the doctor’s office in a heart beat. Why, when it was myself, the appointment with my doctor was put on the backburner? We can’t forget to put our own oxygen masks on.
So, World Moms, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to immediately right now, or if that’s impossible, schedule yourself an hour in your calendar for this week, immediately, to check in with your health.
Are you up to date with your mammograms? When was your last gynecological appointment? Are you seeing a doctor on a reactionary basis – when was the last time you booked yourself in for a physical?
Everyone is different, and my story of trying to self diagnose is a bit embarrassing. Especially because I could have solved this in one doctors visit months ago! I was popping B12 pills that I didn’t need, and if it was something more serious, I could have nipped it in the bud.
Did this post ring a bell with you? Are you feeling tired? What are you planning to do about it?
This is an original post by World Mom and founder, Jennifer Burden of New Jersey, USA.
Photo credit to the author.
I like my name. It is short, easy to pronounce, Slavic but international at the same time. I was not always fond of it but now I am. 5 years ago I changed my last name to match my husband’s and not long after that, I acquired yet a new first name: Mama.
I like that as well, but it is not the only name I have. There are others. Sometimes, I’m Mrs. Mecking, my husband’s wife. The woman who fills in forms and goes to the doctor, the one who studied and has a MA degree, who once held a job. Sometimes, I am known as the European Mama, blogger, writer, translator and contributor to many great sites, like World Moms Blog. For friends and family, I am simply Olga or endearments thereof.
I’ve never liked being just one thing, so it is no wonder that when motherhood threatened to take over everything, I fought back and fought hard. I didn’t want to be “just a mother”. I wanted motherhood to complement the many colours of my personality, not to repaint it.
So when I had my first child, I worked hard to finish my MA thesis. When my second child was born, I started a blog. When my son came along, I consciously decided to keep writing as soon as it was possible because already I could feel my brain being fogged over by sleep deprivation and I wanted to keep it sharp and alert. I knew if I was to remain sane, I’d have to fight against the “mommyfication”.
And fight I did. The more I wrote, the more I felt I was returning to my own self. And it felt good. Some told me “You may regret not being with them every minute of their lives, time goes so quickly”. I don’t think so. I know why I did what I did and why it was necessary.
Apparently there is a discussion whether it is OK for children to call the parents by their first names. For a long time, my children called me “mama” but my husband went by his first name. I asked them why this was the case. My eldest answered that she always thought my name was Mama. Don’t get me wrong, she knows that my name is Olga, but to her, I’m Mama.
As she begins to make more sense of the world, she figures out that there is more to her mother than just being Mama. Recently, she asked me: “Are you Olga or are you Mama?”.
I explained that my name is Olga but that I’m her mom, and that she has a name as well and that she is a daughter and a sister, and a friend and a student at school. And that she is also herself.
They say that a woman is usually remembered by her relations to someone else. Obituaries say “good wife, devoted mother, great friend”. That is not how I want to be remembered. I want to be remembered as a smart, clever, intelligent person, in short, I want to be remembered for my own sake.
And I want my children to understand that yes, I am their mother, but I am also many other things at the same time. I wear many hats. Sometimes, I am not entirely sure what I am. Sometimes I am one things and mere seconds later, I am something else.
I am always changing, always adapting, always in motion. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because while standing still to catch your breath is great, I know that in this case, to stand still is to stagnate. It’s not that I dislike being a mother, but the only way I can enjoy it it’s when I can be something else for a change. I want to be Mama, but I also want to be Olga, Mrs. Mecking or The European Mama. I want to be able to change my names like I change my clothes and wear something new every day.
What about you? Do you mind being “Mama” or do you prefer to have many names?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by The European Mama, Olga Mecking of The Netherlands. Photo credit: Mike Licht. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
I made a mistake this week, and bought a Women’s Magazine.
I know, I know. I have only myself to blame. Turkeys voting for Christmas, and all that. I haven’t bought one for so long. I’ve been doing really well. But then. Oh then…
In my defence, it looked so – fun. So cheerful and chatty and colourful.There were healthy recipes inside, it said. And – I admit – my eye snagged on a headline about summer dresses.
So I picked it up. I was at the cash till. It only took a moment to grab it, bleep it, bag it. And before I knew it, I was driving home with it.
At home I unpacked everything else first, aware of the magazine in its untouched bag as much as if it was emitting a radioactive glow. I made myself work slowly – stacking the tins of beans straight, organising the refrigerator drawer. Then I called my children and gave them snacks, and sent them out into the garden to play.
After that, I made myself a cup of tea, as though I had nothing particular planned. And then – and only then – I took the magazine out of its wrapper, and sat down to read it.
The first couple of pages were harmless. Or at least, they were nothing I couldn’t handle. Adverts, mainly – twenty-somethings draped in overpriced clothes that could only look good on them. Nothing to see here. Then a couple of placements for age-defying face creams. I read a few lines, caught myself, and moved along again.
The next page provided an unexpected giggle: beneath the legend “Coolest hot-weather buys”, an exhortation to try the latest offering from a diamond company – some sort of twisty ring from just £1,950 ($3,320) each. I made a mental note to ask my husband what he thought when he got in from work, just for laughs.
The next few pages provided tidbits on shoes, celebrity tattoos, and the new King of Spain. I flipped faster, half-aware that my kids’ voices below the window had taken on the whine that suggested some immense unfairness was about to be brought inside and laid at my feet. Sort it out between you girls, I urged them mentally.
Then I turned the page and found an article on being skinny.
I tried to turn the page but I couldn’t. My eyes were fastened on the headline: The Disturbing Rise of the Triple Zero.
I read on.
Somewhere at the back of my mind, a protest went up: Damn it! Suckered again!
Still, I read on.
So disturbing was this new trend for extreme, extreme thinness that the magazine had devoted four pages and fifteen photographs to it, along with such insights as: “It’s no secret that stars can make headlines out of being scarily skinny” (Um, Q.E.D., I think.)
I read the whole article, wanting to stop the whole time. I felt like I was standing in front of my kitchen cupboard in the middle of the night with a jar of chocolate spread and a spoon. Stop it, I told myself. It’s not good for you and you know it. Also, it’s making you feel sick.
I could hear my girls coming inside now. I pictured them arming sweat off their foreheads and tugging off dirty sneakers; saw their strong young shoulders and sinewy legs. In front of me, female skeletons struck ghoulishly sexy poses while the text explained how new ‘skinny apps’ can slim photos for Instagram by five to 15 lbs.
I realised as I read that I was thinking back to my lunch, to my breakfast, to dinner the night before, computing how much I had eaten and how many calories it might have amounted to.
Then a hand landed on my shoulder and I jumped, guiltily.
“Mu-uuum,” Betty began, flushed and aggrieved. In the other room, Grace called out a preparatory defence: “I didn’t!”
I turned to my five-year old daughter while simultaneously turning the page of my magazine. She wasn’t fooled.
‘What’s that? What’s that? What are they doing?”
“Nothing.” (The line that never works.)
Betty grabbed the magazine and pulled, and my heart thudded with horror until I saw that on turning the page I had moved us along to a feature on – ha! – learning to be brave.
“What does it say?”
“It says how you can be brave.”
“Like fighting things that frighten you?”
“Something like that.”
“Come on, let’s wash up for tea.”
Later, when the girls had gone to bed, I threw the magazine in the bin. I felt immediately braver. And healthier. And saner.
If only there was an app for that.
Thus is an original post by World Moms Blog contributor, Sophie Walker, of the United Kingdom.
Photo credit to Ian Mackenzie. This photo has a Creative Commons attribution license.