Enjoying chocolate paczki – a national Polish treat – after preschool one day
A little over a year ago, I posted an article on WMN that announced all of my hopes and dreams for when my kids go to school. I talked about the things I wanted to do, the things I had been planning to do and put on hold for awhile, the freedom and the feeling of being on my own and pursuing anything I wanted in my newfound free time – whether that be a enrolling in a photography course, writing a children’s book, joining a cooking class, taking a tour of this beautiful city I live in.
With my youngest turning three last March, I decided it was time for her to try out preschool for a couple of days per week for a few hours per day. She would join the same class as her older sister and is familiar with the teachers, the kids in the class, and everything surrounding the school. She has been with me for every pick up and drop off of her sister over the last two years.
Ivy on her first day of preschool: not a tear in sight
Since she is my third and my last, she is both extremely close to me, but also very “grown up” in order to keep up with her older siblings. So, I was ready for anything. I was ready for her to cry. I was ready for her to rebel and run right out of that classroom. I was ready for her to be proud and march right in. Lucky for me, she was thrilled for her first day. With a wave and a smile, she said, “Goodbye Mommy” and headed straight on into the classroom. I waited in the coat area for a few minutes to see if she changed her mind or if she would start to cry when she noticed I was no longer in sight. Nope. I went to a cafe less than half a mile away to have a cup of coffee and catch up on email. I found myself incessantly checking my cell phone to see if I had a missed call or text from the teacher, saying that perhaps I should come to pick her up. The phone was silent.
After seven years of being with one, two, or three children all day everyday (besides a few babysitting hours here and there), I was on my own.
If I had to describe the mix of emotions I felt after dropping the last of my three children off at her first day of school, it would be nervousness, excitement, freedom, joy, uncertainty, and a little bit of fear.
I think all of those feelings are to be expected.
But here is what I didn’t expect: loneliness.
For my whole life, I have been around others. Whether that be at work, at university, with my children, with my parents, or with my husband. Nearly seven years ago, I delivered my son just two days after my last day of work at the U.S. State Department. And for the following seven years, I have been with my children. So the thing I felt the most acutely after dropping her off for a few hours? I was lonely.
Who would I talk to? What would I do?
I did not expect to be lonely.
As I had expected, coming to grips with finally having all of the children at school, especially when you have been a stay-at-home parent, is hard.
Most of us use our new unstructured free time to run errands, clean the house, read a book, go to the gym, catch up on email, or have an actual, uninterrupted phone call with a friend. But as my youngest went to school for the second, third, and fourth time, I realized that I needed to structure my time. I needed to have a plan. I needed to reach out to friends and other moms – meet them for lunch or an exercise class. I needed to schedule a lunch date with my husband. I needed to volunteer to read to my son’s first grade class. I needed to be around people.
It is funny, and even a little bit ironic, how it all comes full circle – or at least, how it did for me. I have waited all of this time for a little bit of silence and time to myself. And what do I find myself missing the most? Human interaction. The noise. The chaos. The laughter. The bonding. I’m not kidding when I tell you that I found myself talking to the dog in the car after preschool drop-off one day recently.
In the daily hustle and bustle of parenthood, we often don’t realize how the energy and joy our children exude nurtures us.
Parenting requires us to be in the moment 24/7. We are concerned with what we are providing for our children and how we are shaping their thoughts and actions, but have we ever thought about how they are shaping us? What they are providing us?
Love, joy, humor, and sure, a little bit (or boat load, depending on your day) of impatience at times. In the absence of the noise and chaos, I realized how disturbingly quiet life can be without the kids at home. So while you still have them at home, try to remember that and cherish it. And when they do go to school, have a plan, and nourish the part of you that needs the support, love, and interaction of others – because loneliness is something you might not have expected.
This is an original post written by Loren Braunohler for World moms Network.
What was your experience when you sent your kids off to school?
One of my twin daughters has always been a worrier, she is one of those children who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders and she wants to know and understand everything. This can be particularly difficult for her as she is dyslexic and this means she struggles to accurately read information and has to practice or learn things dozens of times before they sink in.
It would be so easy to label her a ‘natural born worrier’ but actually how would that help? All that does is give her story a strap line, something to trip over when she is older. I can imagine the conversations of the future now ‘well I can’t help it, I’ve always been this way. I’m just a worrier and I’ll never change’ but that’s not right. Of course she can change, we all can.
But we have to want to change and purposefully make positive choices to allow it to happen. As a nine year old she probably isn’t sure what she can do to change it, she probably isn’t even sure how to name her issue. She just knows she has this uneasy feeling and needs to check things time and time again and that at the end of the day she often feels overwhelmed and teary.
So as her Mum, I feel it is up to me to help her navigate this battlefield. I’ve had some run-ins with worry before although I’d never have labeled myself as anxious but I think that is just because it feels a newer ‘label’ to me or maybe it just wasn’t one my parents used and therefore I didn’t become accustomed to it.
I do think anxiety is what my daughter is suffering with though and as such I’ve been doing some reading to find out more and see how I can help her. I’ve discovered that research (1) shows that many children are born with a shy or temperate personality and these are the children who will probably worry more. I was very glad to read though that it doesn’t have to affect adulthood as many vocations require the very characteristics that cause the worry and that management strategies are available.
One such strategy that is working for my daughter and I is that I sit with her at the end of the day just for ten minutes and she tells me what is worrying her. We tend to find that the moment her head hits the pillow all the worries of the day rush in and overwhelm her and she is building courage and boldness to tell me about these anxieties and I can take them away with me. It is such an eye opener to realise some of the issues, guilt and situations she has been carrying with her for days, weeks or sometimes even years. Things I had long forgotten arise their ugly head and take over her thoughts but she seems to be able to trust me and allow me to reassure her or sometimes solve the issue. It’s amazing, things that can seem massive to a nine year old can actually be the easiest things for me to deal with.
There are some things I can’t deal with though and if she gets herself really wound up, we just sit there and cuddle and deep breath, allowing her body to calm and the hormones to subside and then we talk through how likely (or very often unlikely) it is that something will happen. For example, last week she bought 4 animal shaped erasers and whilst in the shop she decided to swap the pink one for a white one (same price) but instead of her asking the cashier she just did it. Nothing really wrong there as she had paid (and had the receipt) but courtesy and self-preservation would say you’d normally ask first to avoid looking suspicious.
I wasn’t with her when this happened, she was out with my husband but it was troubling her enough by bedtime that she broke down and told me the police would be coming to find her. I found out the story and reassured she had done nothing illegal and we talked about how busy the police are and we talked over a theft situation she knew of where the police had not really investigated as it was too small in comparison to other crimes. It took about fifteen minutes but the combination of listening without judgment, cuddling to soothe and then logic to beat the anxiety worked for her and she was able to go off to sleep easily.
The other thing we have been doing is turning to her bible and looking for reassurances from God. She has already made a commitment to follow Christ and as such has a deep belief and it has been fabulous helping her unearth bible verses that speak directly to her insecurities. Versus like the following have been a great success and I have been enjoying putting notes in her lunch-box, under her pillow and stuck on her mirror to catch her at different times of the day.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? (Matthew 6:25)
Another method I’ve come across that sounds really good is the three C’s (2). This means helping your child to Capture their worrying thought, Collecting evidence to either support or bust it and then Challenging their own thinking. Sometimes my daughter seems so scared by a thought that comes in her head that she just wants to push it down and not spend a moment thinking about it but this method demands that we give the worry some space and investigate whether it’s really something to be concerned about.
There are many other small strategies we are putting in place as well, like focusing on the positives and all the family share their successes at the dinner table each day, so we can remember to build each other up and acknowledge the good we have done. Then after we also share a mistake we have made and this is important for us all; to be mindful that results only come when we are willing to make an effort and sometimes fail at whatever it was we were doing but resilience and the guts to try again and again are super important.
I pray that through being open and real with our children, showing these imperfections my husband and I are able to model acceptance and love and this creates an environment where anxiety cannot grow.
As the months and years pass I’m sure I’ll learn new strategies and my daughter my not even need them any longer but for now if you have any tips on helping a child with anxiety, I’d love to hear them and please do leave me a comment.
Many thanks for joining me on this brilliant but rocky journey we call parenting. Mich x
Do you have an anxious child? What are some ways in which you help them cope?
This is an original post for the World Moms Network by Michelle Pannell, who can normally be found blogging over at Mummy from the Heart and Progress Not Perfection.
My Name is Nancy and I am experiencing, after more than six years of motherhood, a terrible case of separation anxiety. We are used to our toddlers give us hell with this – it is, after all, expected during the terrible twos. But you may call mine a case of the “terrible thirties.”
I have never had to leave my baby, (she doesn’t agree with the baby part) for longer than a week. That week, might I add, was the toughest week ever. I am so fortunate that my job requires minimal travel. Each year, I travel for just a few days to get things done, and hurry back, super lightning speed, to be reunited with my family.
Those brief work trips are hard. I suffer everything from insomnia, to hearing my daughter’s voice in my head, to general feelings of self loathing and sadness. I could really kick myself because it’s ridiculous. She is 6! Surely that’s old enough for me, and for her. Why can’t I get over my separation anxiety? Does traveling have to give me such dread? Why is it never the same without them?
I recently got a fantastic opportunity to be a part of an academic fellowship across the pond, I mean waaayyy across, that will require me to be away for most of the summer holidays. While it a great opportunity for myself, the first thing I felt was pure dread. Dread that I have to leave my husband and my baby behind for what seems to be an eternity.
Ladies, please tell me I am not going crazy and some of you also feel this way at times? Is it impossible to put ourselves first?
This is an original post written for World Moms Blog by Nancy Sumari in Tanzania. Image courtesy of the author.
As I find my way between my career and parenting, I try to make the fewest mistakes possible. It’s not that mistakes aren’t good sometimes – I just try not to go beyond the useful ones.
Fortunately, I am good at observing, analyzing and indulging myself in learning. The moment I became a mother, I realized that motherhood is not something you take for granted. Indeed, parenting is hard work. I am not even talking about the early hardships: the feeding, cleaning, and staying awake at nights. As tough these aspects of parenting can be, what comes later is much more challenging, and requires a great deal of awareness.
It is more important – and so much more difficult – to work on values, principles, education and maintaining a good connection with your children. It also requires more work to prepare your kids for the outside world. Sometimes it seems that we as parents will be working on that forever.
The hands-on experience I had gained as a parent, along with reading continuously helped me all the time. Having empathy for other parents who might eventually go through the same parenting struggles I had experienced, I decided to dive into the world of raising awareness. Here’s why:
- Like all parents, I experienced various difficulties and challenges at each stage of my children’s development. Thus, as part of my social responsibility, I decided I should share what I am learning to raise the collective awareness of parents around me. My goal is to help other parents out there, and also to help each child I can to live his childhood in a better way whenever possible. As Robert Ingersoll once said, “We rise by lifting others.”
- I love sharing knowledge and raising awareness. Giving lectures and running courses has always been my thing, so why not? I could still remember the fun I had reading a novel, and going to work the next day to narrate it to my colleagues in my own style. They looked forward to hearing it and I enjoyed sharing it.
- We became parents between two different generations. Before us came a generation that mostly believed in a strict, authoritarian parenting style. After us came a generation that is overwhelmed by the modern, hectic life, and trying to find a balance. I have been there, and if I can help one parent increase their awareness and manage that period with less stress then I had, I would willingly do it.
- I love children and I want to give them better life opportunities. This has always been a reason that does not need any justification.
Specializing on issues related to parenting and childhood are not enough to make you go further into the awareness spectrum. You need the passion in order to take this road.
What do you think?
A few weeks ago, I found myself rubbing a strained back, while contemplating a few dozen cardboard boxes, spilling with myriad possessions. My family and I had just shifted residence and while the bigger home was welcome, the sense of being uprooted, was downright disturbing. Over the days and weeks, while I got back to arranging cupboards, emptying out the boxes, and deciding what went where, there was an almost palpable sense of shaping and creating a living space imbued with warmth. A feeling that this apartment was slowly but surely turning into “home”.
That got me thinking. What is it that binds the woman so closely to the sense of “being home”? Why are bachelor pads the butt of jokes, almost as if they can’t be anything more than functional places of stay? And what is it with mothers, that transforms a space with walls and ceiling, from house to home?
Keepers of memories:
“You can’t possibly throw my old soft toys” was the plaintive wail over the phone, from my now grown-up teenager, studying engineering, hundreds of miles away. The tall, bearded young man can dismiss tech troubles and maths equations with ease, but will turn into a 7-year old when confronted with the threat of parting with his precious old buddies of childhood. While I laughed and assured him his dear Spiderman figurine and other assorted ‘friends’ would continue to live with us, part of my mind wondered about how easily mothers slip into the role of “memory-keepers”. In my family, I get to be the person who decides about the keeping of old birthday cards, letters (yes, we still have those!), hand-written notes and little reminders of days gone by. And so there are three burgeoning bags labeled “Sentimental keepsakes”, holding varied treasures such as a favorite insect-print shirt of the sonny-boy when he was a toddler, a teddy-bear with a missing eye, painstakingly created art projects and more. I guess being the protector of the little tangible reminders of precious reminders comes with the territory of being a mom.
Strands of love:
Bidding goodbye to the previous apartment was very difficult due to the myriad of experiences and special moments that had enriched our lives for 16 long years. Would this new home hold a special place in our hearts too? I sighed and realized that when a family lives in various places in succession, no two homes can ever hold the same position in the heart. Each place is linked to a distinct palette of memories. Children are born and they grow up, moving through the years with frightening speed. Our parents leave us, moving from the earthly plane to a higher and better place. We shed our hair and gain some pounds and our faces reflect the battles lost and won in the arena of the world. And our children leave their homes, to find their own wings. Amidst these milestones, big and little, the home remains our sanctuary, the shelter where we return to find ourselves. And so, woven in our homes are strands of love and laughter. Of care and sacrifice. Of sleepless nights and faith-filled days. And again, mothers seem to gravitate towards this process of “weaving love” almost effortlessly.
Mothers are often, thus, the binding factor, transforming houses into homes. It does not matter whether the mother is the caretaker of a child with special health-needs or the mother of a potential Olympian athlete, or the mother of a daughter in a country where females are routinely treated as second-class citizens, or the mother of a little child, living in a refugee camp, trying valiantly to use lullabies and a rag doll to create the illusion of a home for her little one. Home isn’t a space alone – it is a physical space that is imbued with the most sublime of human feelings and emotions. It is the sparkling magical reaction between a safe dwelling place and a mother’s love.
I worry about you.
I worry about not being the best mother for you.
About not giving you what you need.
I don’t have a manual.
All I have are my instincts, my feelings and my love for you.
No one tells me that I am doing a good job.
But there are plenty of hints and questionable looks suggesting that I am not.
So I worry.
My mind floods with fear that you might need more.
Something, someone to help you flourish.
And I worry that my love for you is not enough.
I carry this load and observe you daily, in silence.
I sigh of relief when I see you smiling and enjoying yourself.
My heart cringes when I see you struggling.
I’m afraid to share my thoughts, my worries.
To speak out about my growing sense of trouble.
About the signs that I see.
Am I seeing signs?
Or am I overthinking?
I struggle with acceptance.
Not because I can’t accept you for who you are.
Their silent question marks,
weigh on me like judgement.
And I have a hard time shaking that off.
I battle with misconceptions and harsh opinions of strangers.
But when I look at you,
I can tell every little aspect of you that makes you so precious.
I see your infinite worth.
You are like that one flower in the flower bed.
The flower that keeps drawing my eye
Uniquely shaped yet oddly colored.
The flower that I admire the most.
This piece is a combination of my own struggles and the struggles of the mothers that I face around me.
Mothers who have a child that is struggling or going through a rough time;
Mothers who have a child that is developing differently;
Mothers who have a child that has special needs.
I would like to ask you to withhold your judgment or quick advice.
Just see her, and respect her process.
After all she is just like you.
She loves and wants the best for her child.
Do you ever worry about your child’s development?
How do you cope? What are strategies that help you?
This is an original post written by Mirjam for World Moms Network