Self-care. It’s a term that’s become part of the mommy zeitgeist to the point where we can’t open our Instagram feeds without being bombarded by memes touting, “Caring for yourself is mandatory” or “Put your oxygen mask on first.” Between us mamas, it’s getting kind of annoying.
The first issue is, the current conversation about what self-care means is shallow.
It goes something like this: “Go get a manicure or a quick massage and you’ll come back refreshed and ready to handle motherhood again.” That’s what we’re told. Here’s what we hear: Self-care is as easy as painting my nails and will make me a better mom.
Wait, so, a new coat of nail polish is a mommy miracle that will make us happier about our child having a tantrum in Target? Not buying it.
Issue #2: Making superficial self-care the de-facto norm assumes all moms have access to both the childcare and the cash to spend on it.
My dream is that with motherhood comes only empathy and connection, not judgment and shame. My dream is that all moms feel empowered to ask for help, receive it and realize that doing so doesn’t make them failures. My dream is that all moms realize that taking care of themselves and their needs isn’t selfish, but necessary. My dream is that all moms feel safe enough to be honest about their lives, even the scary parts. My dream is that all moms have access to affordable care for mental health issues such as postpartum depression and anxiety. My dream is that no mom ever feels alone as she struggles. My dream is that all moms recognize motherhood is not one-size-fits-all and no two journeys are the same. My dream is that all moms support each other’s choices and embrace each other’s differenes. My dream is that all moms lift one another up because they understand that we are all in this together.
August 6, 2017 2:47pm EST Florham Park, NJ
I am sitting on a reclining chair in my backyard, my black toy poodle Zoe at my feet. The temperature is a perfect 78 degrees. The sun peaks out from behind the clouds every so often so that I can feel the warmth amidst a light breeze on my skin. Cars drive by with a wooosh and I hear the siren of an ambulance from the next town over. Not too loud that it bothers me, but just loud enough to make me wonder if the person they were headed to is okay. It rained last night and I can smell moist grass mixed with a bit of mildew from the outdoor furniture. I sit and sip my chai tea feeling the warmth from the spices move down my throat creating a nice sensation in my body. Breathing in sync with the swaying trees as the winds moves through the plush green leaves. Feeling grateful for a few more weeks of summer to enjoy.
2:50pm – Enter my 5 year old daughter Savanna wearing a tutu and tap shoes. “Mom! Watch my show!”
Was I annoyed? Maybe I wasn’t thrilled, but I wasn’t angry. I was just moving into a new moment; a moment with my daughter. This happens 1000’s of times each day. We have good moments, bad moments and everything in between. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can give us peace in our minds and hearts because it teaches us not to only strive for good experiences (sipping my tea alone), but to be open to ALL experience (getting interrupted during my quiet time), without labeling them. It’s this labeling that ultimately causes us to suffer. Without the label, an experience just is. It’s an opportunity to know what being alive is all about.
I’m probably going to get some slack for writing this article, but I want to discuss a parenting phenomenon I’ve observed too often lately. Why is it so much easier for dads to hire help and make their lives easier when watching their children? Why don’t they appear to feel guilty about this? And why do we, as moms judge and criticize them for it?
I know lots of moms, that when they make plans with friends for an afternoon or evening, their husbands often call a nanny, babysitter, or family member to come over and help with the kids. And when mom hears this, she responds with anger and frustration, complaining that she doesn’t understand why her husband can’t handle taking care of all the children alone, something she does every single day of the week.
I want to first differentiate between the men who are literally never alone with their children and refuse to be, forcing their wives to never be able to take a trip, attend a special event, or a night off with the girls unless they arrange for their own child care. I’m not talking about these men. That topic deserves its own post. I’m referring to the average hands-on, involved dad who likes an extra set of hand with his kids when mom isn’t home. Why shouldn’t these dads ask for help if they believe it will make their afternoon or evening easier?
Love is my close mom friend putting me in bed, rubbing lotion on my feet, and staying until I fall asleep after the exhaustion of postpartum depression and anxiety have set in for the day.
Love is my mom who always answered the phone each morning so I could walk laps around my neighborhood, sobbing to her that I would never get better.
Love is my husband coming to therapy with me so he could better understand what was I was going through and how to support me.
Love is my husband sending me flowers just to tell me he is proud of the fight I am putting up.
Love is my sister crying on the phone to me because she is worried and just wants ME to be okay.
Love is my sister holding my hand in person and from afar because she knows what it’s like to feel how I feel.
Love is my best friends talking and emailing behind my back because they want me to get healthy and happy.
(UPDATED: On this day where we give thanks, I’m posting an oldie but a favorite to show the immense level of gratitude I have for everything Campowerment-the movement, the founders, the experts, the rangers, the women, the lessons learned, the playtime had-just everything I am so fortunate to be part of. This third camp was different for me (and all camps are different because I am different at every camp), as I took a lot of time to just look around, observe, and take it all in rather than do every single activity offered. And yes as I turned 35 on the first day of camp, I was celebrated in a big way, but what I found to be most rewarding was to watch other incredibly beautiful and strong women experience their own transformations on that hilltop in Malibu. I want to bottle that feeling and take it with me wherever I go, since I can’t live at camp 365 days a year! Oh and being named color war captain and winning didn’t hurt either! So again, F**ck Disney World…Campowerment is the Happiest Place on Earth!)
I’m moving to camp. You heard me…camp! A magical place where women of all ages and from all different walks of life come together to be each other’s cheerleaders. A place where women support women no matter what. A place where no one gives a shit about what you do for a living, what clothes you wear, how much you weigh, how much money you make, how many children you have, if you are married, single, divorced, etc. Trust me…makeup doesn’t matter at camp. Sometimes showers don’t even matter at camp.
A place where there is no bullshit, no noise (except the cheers of your fellow campers while you take on the Leap of Faith at the ropes course as in the above photos–yes that’s me being all brave and badass), and you can be who you are. You can do you and just be. Doesn’t camp sound amazing? That’s because it is. Where else can you go and find yourself and your tribe made up of all women? And we women need each other. I always say to my close female friends that I don’t understand mom-shaming or women-shaming for that matter. Life is hard enough. Women need to support women and whatever choices they make. Well, they do at camp!
Today I went back to therapy and it felt fucking amazing. The last time I sat on that comfy red couch in my therapist’s office was over three years ago, when we decided I could take a break because I finally found myself on the other side of postpartum depression hell. I had survived. I had gotten better. I had become better than I was before. I had become Mason’s mommy and I was finally happy about that.
I thought I would be okay going forward and I have been. But life is messy and complicated and hard and sometimes you just need someone to talk to about it. And I’ve recently come to realize that I need someone to talk to about it. Someone who isn’t your friend. Someone who isn’t your husband. Someone who isn’t your sister. Someone who isn’t your own mother. Someone who you can talk to without any filter. Someone you can talk to about all those people. Someone who you can say to all the things you aren’t supposed to say. Things about motherhood, marriage, and family. Because as you get older, life and relationships get even more messy, complicated, and hard.
I had been thinking about going back for a while. It’s extremely difficult to navigate through the chaos of being the mom of a toddler and the responsibilities of being a wife, daughter, sister, daughter-in-law, and sister-in-law while also trying to maintain my own independence, identity, and happiness. I’m not sure there are enough hours in the day for all of that. And lately, I’m struggling to balance it all and I feel a bit lost. It was actually my mother who noticed this and suggested I call my therapist and start seeing her again. Don’t you hate how your own mother is always right?
Meet Tammi Leader Fuller, Founder and CEO (Chief Empowerment Officer) of Campowerment, and the woman, who, I swear, changed my life in just 72 hours. She would argue that she just built the (Campowerment) door and I walked through it, but even when I walked out the door back to my everyday reality, she still had and continues to have my back. I just got back from my second Campowerment retreat and I am going back for more in November. What can I say…I’m addicted. Trust me when I say you will be too! Read on as Tammi talks Campowerment, starting over, and why every woman needs this magical weekend in their lives.
A guilt-ridden, stressed out single mom, wondering when and why I signed up for this insane web of a life I had spun for myself.
The Beginnings of Campowerment
I am who I am today because of summer camp, my happy place. In my twenties, after I outgrew childhood camp, I became a Club Med counselor (a G.O.) for grown ups, probably because I am obsessed with the concept of playtime and the joy it brings to life. I think I became a TV Producer because I was a spirited camp girl (truth: I majored in Journalism cuz there was no school on Fridays!), and meeting interesting people and telling their stories was a very cool way to make a living.
I wasn’t going to write about my weekend at Campowerment this time around. Not because I didn’t have another magical, transformative weekend with the most unbelievable women, but because I want you to hear about the Campowerment movement and why every woman needs some camp in her life, from the founder herself. On Friday I will be posting a Q&A with the rockstar behind camp, Tammi Leader Fuller. You do not want to miss it!
But I have to write about something that happened to me on the last day of camp, just minutes before I got in the van and headed to Newark airport to return home to my real life. We rarely ever know what kind of impact we make on another person and it’s not something we tend to think about. Of course we think about how others touched our lives, but what if you could take a moment to hear from others about the effect you had on them? At the end of camp, you are given this opportunity, but I won’t spoil the details of how, in case you decide to go experience it for yourself. And you should definitely go experience it for yourself.
During my moment, another camper, a woman who I swear is my soul sister and someone I have known my whole life (I’ve literally now known her for less than a week) told me that I make her want to be a mom, something she really hasn’t felt strongly about ever. Cue tears and all the feels. Let me repeat that. I make her want to be a mom. This woman right here—this mommy—your medicated mommy wants to make someone else be a mom. I consider myself to be a pretty confident woman (thank you Campowerment-the first time around), but me? Make someone else want to be a mom? Really? Why?
Six Reasons Why Saying No Makes Women Happier
When was the last time you said “yes” to doing something you knew you really didn’t want to do, but feel you should or must? If we’re being honest, it happens a lot more than we’d like to admit.
We don’t say no because we either want to “make sure” it’s all done correctly, or we don’t want to miss out on something or we’ll disappoint someone we care about.
But, it goes deeper than that. I believe women have such a difficult time saying no because they don’t know how to see their own value. We think there’s no other option and if we say no there will be repercussions such as shame, guilt, lack of validation and letting people down.
By not saying no, we have become a society of often depressed, angry, resentful and exhausted women who don’t understand why the Yeses haven’t yet shown up in our lives. Well, I can tell you that if you want a Yes life you must learn to say no.