The Art of Motherhood

Ideas, tips and commentary on being a mother in today’s world.

Bam! Life Happens!

Hi Mama! Tell me if you can relate to this:

I was plugging along really great! I was focused on my “School Year’s Resolutions” and making great progress. My to-do list at home was under control. Regular routines were in place. My house was (relatively) clean. We were making it to all our scheduled activities and even making it on time. Lunches were made, breakfasts eaten, laundry done. Then bam! Something happened that threw it all out of whack.
In my case, it was a car accident – rear ended in a three-car hit-and-run accident. Fortunately we (my son and I) are fine. Beyond whiplash we have no major injuries. I am very grateful. But now there are doctor’s visits, endless phone calls with insurance agents, a rental car to arrange, a new car to shop for, negotiations to make, a nagging headache and shoulder pain… And suddenly the house is a mess, there are papers piling up on the counter, I forget about a meeting at my son’s school, my dog eats one of our passports and my checkbook, my step-son informs me that he and all his room mates have scabies (don’t get me started on how grossed out I am – I’m not sure if he is allowed to come home for Christmas!), a Halloween costume must get made, and the weekend is obliterated with soccer games and a Cub Scout camp-out. How can it all get out of balance so quickly? And the more behind I get the more I just want to curl up in my sweats and watch mindless TV.
Please tell me you can relate to this. Surely I’m not the only one who gets dismally sidetracked.
So how do you get back on track? By doing one thing. Dispose of one piece of junk mail. Empty one overflowing garbage can. Wash one dish. Make your bed. Pay one bill. It doesn’t matter what you start with. Just do one thing.
There are those who will tell you that you need to take stock of what needs doing. Make a list and prioritize it. Then start with the most pressing task. It’s true. Prioritizing a list is helpful. Clearly, paying your water bill before the city shuts it off is more important than sorting through the junk mail piling up in the front entrance. But sometimes it’s overwhelming to look at the big picture. Sometimes you just need to start – anywhere – and build some momentum before you can see what is most important. This is a strategy I used when writing papers in grad school. Start in the middle. I could stare at a blank paper (or screen) forever trying to figure out how to start. So instead I would skip the beginning and start somewhere in the middle. I would pick something I knew I wanted to include in the essay and write it down. Then later, when I had a better idea of how it was shaping up, I could go back to the beginning.
So, I did a load of laundry and swept the floor. I could see it needed doing. The rest will come. I know it will. I’ll just keep plugging away one thing at a time.
I know this article isn’t the one I promised you about modeling values for your children – but it’s better than staring at a blank screen. You gotta start where you’re at!
PS. If you are looking for more strategies to get things done, accomplish a goal or develop a habit, consider joining the next G.o. B.i.g. class. Connect with others who can cheer you on and hold you accountable. Click here for more information.

15 Nov 2013

School Year’s Resolutions Part 2: Charity and Business

school booksIn my therapy practice here in California I work with a lot of mothers. That’s not all the work I do, but it is a lot of the work I do. I love working with mothers. I am passionate about it. I truly believe that helping mothers find balance, satisfaction and (dare I say it?) happiness not only improves their personal well-being, but it positively impacts their families. It greatly improves the likelihood that their children will lead happy, productive, successful lives. These are the future doctors, scientists, politicians, innovators and leaders of the world. I want them to be happy, well-adjusted people. Therefore, in the bigger picture, to help mothers achieve their potential is to make an impact on the future of the world (I know, it sounds a little dramatic).

I am only one person with limited reach, but I want to reach as far as I can. That is why I am branching out into the on-line world (School Year’s Resolution Number 1). I can not practice therapy outside of California, but I can offer my help, support, experience and passion in other ways. If you’d like more information about my on-line group click here. But even the virtual world is limited in its reach.

I am further extending my support of mothers by using my work to support a charity that also works with mothers (School Year’s Resolution Number 2). I am very fortunate in my life to have a strong support network. I have family and friends who I can count on; who will catch me if I fall; who have an unlimited supply of love and positivity to buoy me up; who would literally feed me and clothe me and provide shelter for me. I am lucky. I am grateful. And I acknowledge that others do not have it so good. I want to help those mothers too. And I want to help their children.

So I have chosen to donate $10 of every registration fee of my G.o. B.i.g. Group to a charity called “Bridge of Hope.” I do not have any personal experience with this organization nor do I know anyone who has experience with this organization. I found it when searching on-line for charities that support mothers. Based on what I know about the process of making lasting change and how this organization operates I’ve chosen it as having a likelihood of success. These were the three primary reasons that this organization stood out to me:

  1. It helps single mothers facing homelessness. As I stated before, I think mothers are a powerful resource in the world who are shaping our future through the raising of their children. I want to help mothers be the best people they can be.
  2. Building personal relationships is fundamental to how this organization operates. One woman and her family is matched with a group of 8 – 10 mentors who will form supportive relationships and friendships with her and her children. This is so important! Making lasting change in your life requires support. Love (and kindness) really does matter.
  3. This organization commits to helping a woman over an extended period of time. They help her gain financial stability through employment and budgeting and the teaching of other fundamental skills. They will provide rental assistance on a decreasing basis for 9 – 15 months. The mentoring group commits to 12 – 24 months of ongoing emotional support. It takes time to get on your feet and this organization seems to understand that.

So, I’m thrilled that September is not even finished and I’ve already moved into action on two of my goals for the year! Thanks for nudging me with your requests and questions. It has moved me in the right direction. So what are you trying to accomplish? Can I help? I truly want you to be happy and to raise happy children. The future of the world depends on it!

First Published 2013


15 Nov 2013

Kindness Matters

Historically, we have been much more interested in learning why people do bad things than why they do good. There are countless studies on what makes us feel bad or behave badly, what causes various psychological disorders, even what causes evil….but there has been very little interest in studying the science of happiness.

Fortunately, the pendulum is swinging. Scientists are now turning their attention to the brighter side of life. Goodness, happiness, compassion, gratitude, forgiveness, altruism, mindfulness, meditation, prayer…formerly the territory of churches, synagogues, and kitchen tables, are now becoming the subjects of scientific research. And there are no surprises in the findings. Intuitively we already know the answers. Of course altruism is good for us. It makes us feel good. It improves our emotional well-being and we are now learning that it improves our physical well-being as well.

Research indicates that happy people are more generous (generous of spirit, time and money). But also, generosity makes us happier. It is a positive feedback loop that can only lead to better things. It reminds me of a song we used to sing when I was a child:

Love is something if you give it away,

give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away

You end up having more.

It’s just like a magic penny.

Hold it tight and you won’t have any.

Lend it, spend it and you’ll have so many,

they’ll roll all over the floor.

For, love is something if you give it away,

give it away, give it away

Love is something if you give it away

You end up having more.

So don’t forget that this is something in your toolkit. I know you are busy. I know you are overwhelmed. I know you can’t possibly add anything else to your plate. But if you practice compassion (genuinely wanting to relieve the suffering of others) and altruism (an act that benefits another person) on a regular basis it will positively impact your well-being. It will help decrease your stress, improve your health and make you feel better. Include your children in the process and it will teach them kindness as well.

You don’t have to devote a lot of time and energy to make a difference to others. A little help can go a long way and you will be modeling positive behavior for your children. Engaging in regular acts of kindness will help your children respond to their own natural instinct to be kind. Here are a few ideas:

  • Let your child pick out a couple of canned goods at the grocery store and drop them in the bins out front for the food bank.
  • Help your child pick out gently used clothes, books or toys from their things and donate them. Talk about the fact that not all children are as lucky as they are.
  • Donate books to the public or school library.
  • Make a pot of soup for a sick friend or relative.
  • Deliver cookies to the fire station or to your school staff.
  • Be kind and friendly to clerks, check-out staff, wait-staff, customer service people.
  • Don’t shield your children from all suffering. When we don’t let them see any suffering in the world we don’t give them the opportunity to develop their empathy and compassion (keep it at a developmentally appropriate level).
  • Help someone load their groceries into their car.
  • Offer to run errands for an elderly neighbor or family member.
  • Offer to spend an afternoon doing house chores for an elderly neighbor or family member.
  • If your child receives allowance help them donate a portion of it to a charity or cause of their choice. See for a guide to help kids choose a charity.
  • Include a charitable donation as part of a Christmas or birthday gift. At you can buy gift cards that can be donated to any non-profit organization. Your recipient can choose the charity. I have included these cards in Christmas stockings.
  • Practice gratitude. Talk about what you are thankful for. Help your children identify what good things happened to them throughout the day. The acts of giving and gracious receiving are closely linked. Help your children participate in both sides of the equation.

So here’s to raising a generation of kind-hearted people!

First Published 2013

15 Nov 2013

School Year’s Resolutions

Labor Day is over; the unofficial end to summer. Another school year has begun. We have new school supplies, new back packs, new shoes and new attitudes. “This year I will get my kids to school on time every single day.” “This year I will always make my son a healthy lunch – no more school lunches.”

I have always thought that New Year’s Resolutions made more sense in the fall. I’ve spent the majority of my life tied to the school year so I guess I’m programmed to think of fall as a time of new beginnings. Do you have resolutions this fall? What are you trying to do differently? What projects are you trying to get done? And what has stopped you from accomplishing it thus far?

There are lots of things that stop us from achieving our goals. Here are few of them:

1. Unrealistic Expectations – You have a to-do list that is three pages long and includes things like “re-finish the kitchen cabinets, plant a garden, read to the children every night, establish a family game night, get more sleep, make my own baby food… If you are trying to (like Mary Poppins) be perfect in every way then you are setting yourself up for failure. Choose one thing to focus on at a time and then break it down into smaller steps.

2. You Don’t Believe You Can Do It - If you don’t believe it’s possible you will sabotage your success. It’s important to get your emotional mind on board. You have achieved many things in your lifetime that have required skills and talents. Inventory your strengths and put them to use.

3. There is Never Enough Time - It’s true. There is never enough time. There will never be enough time to do all the things you want to do. But there is enough time to do some of them. If you decide to make something a priority you will do it. The tough part is that many of us habitually put our own desires (and often our needs) at the bottom of the list.

4. You’re Overwhelmed at the Thought of Adding Something Else to Your Plate - This is a sign that self-care needs to move to the top of your list. That doesn’t mean you need to leave your family for a weekend at the spa (though go for it if you can manage it!). For busy mothers, self-care sometimes means spending 2 minutes by yourself in the bathroom. Savor that cup of coffee in the morning instead of gulping it down without even noticing it. Stop to enjoy the sun on your face for a moment. Go to bed 10 minutes earlier than you did last night.

I struggle with all these issues – sometimes all at once! But I know that change is possible and I know that goals can be achieved. One of my School Year’s Resolutions is to finally start an online support group for you folks. I’ve been thinking about it for 3 years – 3 years! Do you have any projects that have been on the back burner for that long? Or worse, has your own self-care been on the back burner for that long? Are you ready take action – even a teeny, tiny action that you’re sure no-one will notice? Join me and work together in accomplishing something – anything! Watch your email for more details coming soon!

First Published 2013

15 Nov 2013

Prepare for the Journey

suitcaseHave you ever had a dream that seems to hit you over the head with a message? Last night I had one of those dreams… I was going on a trip with my family and, try as I might, I could not get ready to go. There was always something else I needed to do first. We were late and everyone was waiting on me. But I needed to clean the dried-up macaroni out of my son’s bed (don’t ask me – it was a dream!), and fold the laundry, and create a detailed Christmas shopping list. Someone needed me to find clean socks and someone else wanted me to help with a project. My husband wanted to make sure I printed out directions and knew where we were going. Every time I went to pack my own bags and get ready to go, something else needed to be done.

I woke up anxious. But it was a good reminder for me. “Take care of yourself. Be prepared for the journey.”

I’ve been busy – but let’s face it. We’re always busy. There is always something that needs to get done and there is always someone who needs something from you. It is so easy to make ourselves last on the list of priorities. Make sure you take the time you need to care of yourself.

So today I want you to make yourself a cup of tea, or sit in a sunny window for ten minutes, or buy yourself some fresh flowers, take a bath, breathe deeply for 3 minutes, finish a small task that has been nagging you forever (not start a big project that will swallow you up!), color a picture out of your child’s coloring book, read a poem, write a poem, doodle for 5 minutes….Anything that will nourish your soul and remind you that to live your best life, you must make yourself a priority. Be prepared for the journey!

First Published 2011

15 Nov 2013

Pause to Ponder

things of the heart croppedA quote from Anne Morrow Lindbergh regarding the challenges of balance in a woman’s life.

“With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.”
- Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gift from the Sea
Taking the time to read this passage is one way to find some stillness at the hub of the wheel. Savor it!


14 Nov 2013

Birth of the Inner Critic

Gremlin SquashedLast week I wrote about that inner critic who sits in our head and screams about everything we do wrong. We all have one. Some critics are tamer than others. Some critics are downright abusive. But most of us can agree that it’s there. So what is it and how did it get there?

We come in to this world whole and unscathed. But at some point in our childhood there occurs a heartbreak. The first of many. This is unavoidable. It is part of the human condition. It can happen through a single event or through an accumulation of events. We can be hurt through physical or emotional abuse or through the teasing of siblings or peers. It could happen at home with our family or out in the community. But, it happens. At some point we get the message that who we are is not ok. Or that at least some part of us is unacceptable.

It is at that point that the critic is born.

There is a part of us that is determined to stop this heartbreak from happening again. It becomes a policeman or an over-protective parent. It monitors our behavior. It keeps us hidden in order to keep us safe. It tries to control us in order to protect us from ridicule, rejection or abuse.

So the critic, then, is actually trying to help us.

The problem is that sometimes this critic becomes too powerful. And too big. And too mean. Sometimes that internal voice does us more harm than good. It cripples our confidence and interferes with our growth and development. It uses harsh, abusive words. It needs some serious sensitivity training!

So what is one to do? The first step in managing the critic is to notice it. Without judgment. Without agenda. Just notice it. Study it. Notice when it is most active. What words does it use? What does it try to protect you from? Just watch it. Be curious about it – like an anthropologist studying human behavior. And remember. You do not have to believe what it says. I’ll repeat that (again and again…). You do not have to believe what it says.

In the coming weeks I will write more about the inner critic as well as some of the other voices you may notice inside your head. If you can have an inner critic, why not an inner cheerleader? Or an internal wise old woman. And of course there is the inner child (No. I’m not trying to give you all multiple personalities! This is all perfectly normal, I promise!). It’s fun to get to know yourself in this way. Take this journey with me!

First Published 2011


12 Nov 2013

Inner Gremlins – Which Voice Are You Listening To?

Tantrum GremlinOur minds are filled with chatter most of the time. There are thoughts running around in there all day long. Sometimes we are tuned in to the noise. Sometimes we’re not. But unless we are 100% focused on our current activity, chances are we are thinking about something. And those thoughts have a profound effect on our emotional well-being.

One of the first things I do with clients in my therapy practice is to “out the critic.” That is to say, I call attention to that negative voice inside your head that comments on everything you do. You know the one. It’s the one that says “I can’t believe you just said that. You are so stupid!” or “Don’t do that. You’ll make a fool of yourself.” Or “You will never get it right…” Usually there is no end to the miserable things it has to say.

But here’s the thing… Are you ready for this?… It’s profound…

You don’t have to believe it.

Did you hear that? You don’t have to believe it. It doesn’t speak the truth. In future posts I will write about where this voice comes from and what its function is. But for now, suffice it to say that you do not have to believe what it says about you.

The next time you hear that voice inside your head saying mean things about you, just notice it. Say to yourself “Hmm. There’s that mean voice inside my head again.” That’s it. Just notice it. Don’t judge it. Don’t try to make it go away. By all means, don’t beat yourself up about it (it would be totally unfair to give the critic one more thing to be critical about!). Just notice it and remind yourself that it doesn’t speak the truth. That alone can make a difference in how you feel.

First Published 2011

08 Nov 2013

Don’t Let Perfectionism Ruin the Holidays

MC900439764[1]How is your “to do” list looking? I’ve been crossing things off mine – not because they’re completed, but because I’ve decided some things just won’t get done this year. My excuse is that we will be leaving town in a week, so our holiday season at home is truncated. We have a Christmas tree, holiday music, and some greenery. But no exterior lights on our house this year. No holiday hand towels in the bathroom or tea towels in the kitchen. I have not sent Christmas cards yet, but I still hope to complete those. However if I don’t, it’s ok. I can let people know I appreciate them in other ways, all year long.

So, how are you doing? Do you need to cross some things off your list too? We all want Christmas to be special for our families. But sometimes we lose sight of what is important.

Perfectionism can ruin the holidays. Trying to have the perfect holiday dinner, the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect family picture, the perfect gift for everyone on your list….only leads to stress, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Stressed-out Mom does not make for happy holiday memories. So stop trying for perfect and settle instead for “good enough.”

A “good enough” Christmas is one where you do what you can and let go of the rest. A few decorations and some holiday music provide a wonderful backdrop for a family gathering. Make one batch of cookies with your kids, not twenty. Send a few Christmas cards, not a hundred. Your children will not remember how beautiful your perfectly roasted turkey was. They may not even remember the gifts they got this particular year. But they will remember the feeling of joy that comes from happy times with their family.

Here are just a few of the things I remember from my childhood holidays:
  • The smell of hot apple cider
  • The feel of buttered hands and hot caramel while making popcorn balls
  • Skating with my dad
  • Cold toes and nose after sledding
  • Being allowed to stay up way past my bedtime in order to go to the candle light Christmas Eve service
  • Putting red and green garnishes on my Moms Christmas wreath shortbread cookies
  • Singing Christmas carols around the piano
  • Making special gifts (the kind only a mother – or a best friend could love)

What are your best memories of the holidays? What memories are you creating with your kids this year? I hope your season is filled with good smells, happy sounds and plenty of love and light!


First Published 2009


07 Nov 2013

How Well Do You Tolerate Pain?

bandaidI have a high tolerance for pain. I’ve always been proud of my ability to plow through discomfort in order to get a job done. It makes me feel “tough” and “independent.” It’s also frequently required of a mother. We all know that the world doesn’t stop when we get sick or injured. We must still get our kids to school, prepare meals and do laundry.

However, my resolute “toughness” was recently called into question. My back gives me trouble now and then. At its worst I am unable to move without significant pain. Other times it is a nagging jab that restricts my movement but is tolerable. I was chatting with a friend a while ago and mentioned that my back had been bothering me for a few days. She suggested I see someone about it.
“Oh, no.” I replied. “It’s not that bad. I can still walk.”
There was silence on the other end of the phone. Then with a hint of sarcasm in her voice she said “Yes Carrie. You should definitely wait until you can’t walk before you do something about it.”
Hmmm. At what point does strength and self-reliance become just plain stubbornness? You see, pain exists for a reason. Pain is our body’s way of telling our brain to “make a change – and make it fast.” It lets us know that something is wrong. If we ignore it, bad things can happen.
Emotional pain works the same way. Chronic negative emotions, like anger, fear and sadness, are symptoms that something is amiss. We can think of them as a “check engine” light that lets us know it’s time for a “tune-up.” And, just like ignoring physical pain can lead to more serious physical problems, ignoring emotional pain can also lead to bigger concerns.
So, what about you? Do you need a tune-up to keep things running smoothly in your life? Don’t ignore the problems and “tough it out.” Make your well-being a priority now and avoid bigger issues down the road.


First Published 2010

07 Nov 2013