My Year Without Alcohol
Back in January, I joined the sober curious movement as I gave up alcohol for the year as a New Year's Resolution. It was an amazing year and I learned so much about myself. Today I'm sharing my month-by-month experience and Brooke Conley joins me for moral support. Show Notes/Links:SFP 128: Living Coffee ’til Cocktails [with Brooke Conley]SFP 141: Q&A – Can you tell us more about your 2019 resolution?Recommended book to give up drinking: Annie Grace's The Naked MindReach Brooke Conley on Instagram + Her websiteFull Episode TranscriptDenaye:Hi, and welcome to episode 184. As some of you know, I gave up alcohol for my New Year's resolution way back in January, and today I'm sharing a little bit about my year without alcohol. I hope you all are having a simple holiday season so far. I've had a few questions over the course of the year about how my year without alcohol is going and I've been pretty quiet on it. I felt like I wanted to let the year ride out and then give you a full recap, so this is it. Now, if you're new to this story, you can rewind. We started talking about this in episode 128, simplefamilies.com/episode128 and in that episode, Living Coffee 'til Cocktails, I talked with Brooke Conley. Brooke is a member of the sober curious movement, and she's a mom and she shared with me more about what her journey without alcohol has looked like. If you're new to the sober curious movement, it's basically a group of individuals who are choosing not to drink, not because of alcoholism, just because they have decided that alcohol doesn't serve them well and doesn't play a place in their life anymore. In episode 128, I talked with Brooke about how I was thinking about giving up alcohol, and I was in fact curious about what it was like, and then in episode 141, that's simplefamilies.com/episode141, I talked more about my decision to give it up completely for the year 2019. It's been an incredible year and I have learned so much about myself and I've invited Brooke back today. I'm going to share month by month what this journey looked like. I'd suggest going back and listening to episodes 128 and 141 if you do want to get this full story, but here's the quick and dirty. I decided that I wanted to give up alcohol because I was drinking less and less, really about 2 to 3 drinks a week last year around the holidays, and I still felt like it was too much. I felt like I wanted less. I didn't really feel like it was taking a physical toll on my body, but it was really weighing on me mentally. Ultimately, I figured out that alcohol had become a part of my mental load. When it came to the evenings and the weekends, I was thinking about it. I was weighing, "Should I have a drink? Should I not have a drink? Should I have one drink? Should I have two drinks? Are other people drinking?" There was a lot of mental clutter in my brain around alcohol, and frankly, I was just over dealing with that mental clutter, and I wanted it to go away. I didn't want to want it anymore, and I love this quote that Brooke shares with us today. She says, "I didn't want that glass of wine at the end of the day to be what I looked forward to the most." I certainly don't have a problem with people drinking, and I drank for a very long time and pretty much everyone I know still drinks, so keep in mind that this is not a conversation about alcoholism or recovery, and I don't mean to undermine or underestimate that journey at all. This is just my story of what this year has looked like for me, and I have invited Brooke to give some moral support and to share a little bit more about her experience and how it relates, so thanks for tuning in and I hope you enjoy this episode. Here's my chat with Brooke. Denaye:Hi, Brooke. Thanks for joining me again. Brooke: Hey, Denaye. Thanks for having me. Denaye: It's been, I think exactly a year since we talked. It was like mid-December when we had this conversation last year. Brooke: Yes. Denaye: Right, so the last time we talked, I was contemplating giving up alcohol and I wasn't sure what that was going to look like or I wasn't even really committed to doing it. I wanted to hear from you because I had heard you talking about your experience giving up alcohol. For anyone that had missed that episode, episode 128, you can go to simplefamilies.com/episode128, and that's where Brooke shares her whole story. Brooke, can you give us just a little recap of what your relationship looked like with alcohol and what led you to give it up? Brooke: Yeah, absolutely, and I definitely recommend going back to listen just to give the full story, but also because it's important that people know that the story is always changing. You're always kind of re-examining and looking back to where you were from where you are now, and so where I am now is about three and a half years I believe, with no alcohol. I use the word sober, and that throws people off. I get a lot of questions about that. A lot of people think I'm in recovery. I am not. I have history of alcoholism in my family. I know a lot of people in recovery and I'm very careful not to speak to that because it's not my experience. However, my experience is that I just found myself drinking a lot. I say this often that I was drinking like everyone else. Now I'm a little bit more hesitant to say that because I don't know what everybody else's perspective is. I don't know how everyone else drinks but even with that hesitancy, I think it's accurate. I see a lot of social drinking, especially among women and certainly in the circle where I was running. Drinking was the center of everything. It was the epicenter of every single thing I did and so when I was drinking I really enjoyed it. I really liked to romanticize it. It kind of was where I started all of my "fun." I liked it to indulge and have a good time, that's kind of how I am, but it just felt like something in my life was missing. I describe it as having a fog and I felt like I wanted to do so much more. I didn't want that glass of wine at the end of the day to be what I was looking forward to the most. So I started to really examine why I was drinking, what I was doing. It took me a good five years to actually quit and it was a lot of thinking about moderation. It was a lot of trying to do it different ways and ultimately I just had to give it up and my experience has been that that's been the best decision of my life. I've never looked back. I don't miss it too much. We'll kind of get into that, I think today as we talk, but it just opened the doors for me to live a fuller life, to do the things that I really wanted to do and to have experiences that weren't coded in booze essentially. Brooke: That's kind of what drove me and I have found that the actual act of giving up alcohol has proven that a fuller life is on the other side of it. Denaye: Yeah and your story resonated so much with me because I was definitely not a heavy drinker last December when I decided to give up alcohol. I was probably having maybe two or three drinks a week and it didn't sit well with me. Like from a physical standpoint, I think the one thing that I did learn throughout this experience of giving up alcohol for a year was that I don't think it was really taking quite a physical toll on me because I thought for sure I'm going to give up alcohol, I'm going to have all this energy and I'm going to wake up feeling great every morning and that was not the case. I really wasn't drinking that much. I was only having like a drink or two at a time and I'd wake up, I still wake up in the morning feeling tired. I mean it's just a matter of like getting older and having young kids and reality. That was one realization that I don't think that it was really taking a physical toll on me, but I couldn't quite put my finger on what the problem was and I'm like, so if I'm not drinking that much and it doesn't really have this huge physical impact on me, why is it that I can't stop thinking about wanting to quit and give it up all together? Why was this even on my radar? And after a lot of self-reflection, I realized that it wasn't the physical impact, but it was the mental impact that was weighing me down. It was really becoming this ongoing piece of my mental load. Like Friday night came and I was like, "Oh, I'm not going to drink tonight." And then like, "Oh, maybe I'll have one drink, maybe I'll have two drinks." And the constant thinking about it and weighing if I should do it or if I shouldn't do it or other people doing it, comparing and it just... it felt exhausting. The mental piece rather than the physical piece for me. Brooke: That's exactly how I felt about it. It felt like it was taking up too much of my brain space, and I think it's important that you bring that up because whether you're drinking three drinks a week or whether you're drinking six drinks in a sitting (and some of us I think having a different physical capacity than others). It's the brain fade and when I get contacted by people who want to quit or want to give it up, that is always really where the focal point is. This takes up a lot of my thought process. How much I'm drinking, when I'm going to drink, if I'm going to drink? And so to relieve that is really a breath of fresh air. Just to get it out of your head. Denaye: It has been, I have to say. I've listened to a lot of discussion and podcasts with people in the sober curious movement, which I feel like is a name for going sober or giving up alcohol when you're not quite an alcoholic and that's really become more popular and I've seen a lot more about it in the past year. I've listened to a lot of this discussion in the sober curious movement about the topic and a lot of it resonated with me and I kept thinking to myself that maybe I would in fact be better off. But one thing that never sat well with me when I was listening to these conversations was that people who had gone sober without being alcoholics often said that they loved not drinking, and that they were so happy not drinking and I was like, I just don't know that I'm ever going to feel like that. But I do! It's the weirdest thing. Like Friday night comes and I will literally in my brain be thinking, "Oh my gosh, I'm so glad that I don't drink anymore." Brooke: Yes. Denaye: Do you get that? It's bizarre but it happened. Brooke: It does and I don't think that way anymore now, but after three and a half years, it's just a non-issue. I don't think about drinking really at all unless I'm reflecting bigger. For example, just going through tough things sometimes I'll look back and say, "Holy moly, I would've really drank through that before." Now it's not on my radar much at all, but the first year was where I was really recognizing exactly what you were talking about. That it feels so good to have a different choice whether you're an alcoholic or not. I think people who are sober curious might even have an easier time of it. If you're addicted to something you're looking at a battle to try to shake something that's a personal journey. However, those of us who give it up without being addicted are looking at a battle in the social world because it is all consuming and all prevalent. It's everywhere, so you do have to consider the choices that you're making and how it's going to affect your day to day. Denaye: Yeah and I think about how new year's Eve last year was the last time that I like really drank. We had friends visiting and we did karaoke and had several drinks and had an amazing fun time, like the best time! Going out with that experience made me reflect. Like, am I still going to be able to have this much fun with my friends without alcohol? That's something that I still... I feel like, fun looks a little bit different now, but I want to go through a month by month what my year looked like and hear if any of this resonates with you and your thoughts on this. What I've done, I've given up alcohol for a month before. I've done the whole 30, I've done dry January. That sort of thing has always been easy for me. I've always very much looked forward to the end of the month so I could have a glass of wine, but a month never really was a big deal. January kind of came and went and being that it was after the holidays and I had had quite a bit of drinks over the holidays and that kind of thing, I was glad to give it up. January I feel like was like nothing. February came and we traveled and visited friends and went out to dinner with some of our good friends for the first time. That was my first sort of social event not drinking and I was the only one not drinking and I have to say that I felt a little bit left out and slightly uncomfortable. It wasn't that bad, but I did feel slightly uncomfortable. Brooke: Yes, so I experienced that probably for a good year. A good year and a half. I actually... a little bit different than you, I went into it having quit. I was not going to drink again and so I had to really weigh how I was going to experience that, what I was going to do and how I was going to tell people. I stayed home quite a lot and there were moments of bitterness where I was like, well, why can't I do this? This is a stupid thing that I've created. Why can't I do this? I am consistently and still the only person in my social circles that doesn't drink. Actually I'll amend that. I was for a long time, the only person in my social circles that doesn't drink and now have found that I've created space for a whole lot of people to come into my life who have far bigger interests than alcohol. I go out with friends all the time who are non-drinkers. I shouldn't say that, that aren't non-drinkers but drink, but they don't drink when they're with me. It went from meeting in social circles that first year where everybody was drinking to now I'm regularly with friends and they don't order a glass of wine at all, but I do remember those early days where it was just me and you feel like you're the elephant in the room, and we'll get in later, I think about how people perceive your drinking versus how you perceive your drinking. It's something you definitely have to examine. It's a whole different situation around the dinner table when you decide to quit. Denaye: Yeah and I didn't want other people to feel judged. Like I didn't want to be on this pedestal. I didn't want to be preachy and that was something that I felt like I really needed to kind of like just sit back and not even really tell my story. I just kind of wanted to pretend that nobody noticed that I wasn't drinking, which I'm sure they did. Brooke: Yeah. Well, most people will. I mean, most people that's the first thing they'll notice and especially as women, they'll assume, "Oh, are you pregnant or what is it?" Why, there has to be a reason that you're not drinking. When I had quit drinking for three months and we had moved to a new town and I was invited to a dinner out and it was probably 30 people and everyone was mingling before and a woman looked across the room at me and said, "Why aren't you drinking?"I did not know her very well, but she asked me very loudly and everybody just stopped and looked at me like, "Oh yeah, why aren't you." And I was put on the spot and I kind of fumbled because I didn't want to tell my story. I didn't owe anybody anything and I didn't want to draw attention to myself and it wasn't about them. I didn't care if they were drinking and I kind of found myself fumbling and saying things just kind of drawing out making this long story. I vowed to myself, I'm not ever going to do that again. I am never going to explain this to people again unless they're people that care and I also said I'm never going to put myself in this position again where I'm with a bunch of people that I don't know and they care about my drinking enough that they're going to ask me in front of everybody why I dare not have a drink. That was probably the only bad experience I ever had and then I kind of set myself up not to ever have one of those again and I think I would handle it differently now. Denaye: And that makes a lot of sense. I didn't have any experiences with anyone saying anything negative much. I mean, I'll get into that when we get closer to September, but, okay. March I went on vacation. My family and I met another family in Florida for a week and the other family is some good friends of ours and their kids. The wife who is my friend barely drinks. Like barely drinks at all. That was a little bit easier because I felt like our husbands are having a few beers together and we weren't drinking, but it was not such a thing. The one thing that surprised me was that we were in Florida and we had come from New York where it was cold to Florida where it was warm and we were walking around in the heat and we were walking through, I don't know what the... like the Downtown Disney areas outside Disney World. It's like a waterfront area, I can't remember what it's called. We were walking through there and there were signs for Frose and it was like an 85 degree day and I'm like, I want a drink. That was this very distinct first time that I was like, wow, like the weather, the warm weather triggers me to want to sit down and have like a cold drink and relax in that way and I had never associated that before that I had this strong association with the weather change and being outside and drinking alcohol. Brooke: Yes and did you notice that that continued to happen throughout the year or was it just for that particular trip? Denaye: I think I noticed it most profoundly at that trip because I had come from somewhere cold to somewhere warm for the first time and I was just... I think that was my first really marked experience where I said that this is bigger than just a month. Like if you give up drinking for a month, you really haven't had a full experience to know what life is like without alcohol like this and that's when I really invested. I was like, I need to stay in this for longer to see what my real deeper associations are because I had no idea that I was going to feel triggered by the warm weather. Brooke: Yeah, and so that's absolutely my experience as well. Feeling those triggers of environment. It could be weather, it could be where you are. That's what I call romanticizing alcohol. That was my favorite thing to do. The weather would do that to me but also, if I was on a boat, I'd want a beer. If I was with friends, I'd want champagne. I started really examining what it was that I wanted and I noticed it was environmental. It's those habitual thought patterns and you're on vacation too, so you had a double whammy because vacations are highly associated with alcohol and letting loose, right? Denaye: Yeah. Brooke: You're in the warm weather, you're on a vacation, you're in Florida and that absolutely will trigger and the smart thing to say, hold on here, let me examine this a little bit more because what we usually do when we're triggered is go right into those habitual patterns. Well, it won't hurt. Let me just go ahead and do this because that's what I've always done in the past and I started noticing a lot of my drinking was like that. It was just so programmed. I was doing it because I had done it that way before because that's what I drank in the warm weather before. I don't know if you recognize that that kind of is how it might have worked for you. Denaye: Yeah, I definitely think that there were patterns that I had no idea about and if I had not promised to give up alcohol for a year, then I definitely would have had a drink sitting outside there. I would've had a Frose for sure, because that sounded good and why wouldn't I do something that sounds good and I'm on vacation and got no reason to say no, right? Brooke: That's right and that's where all of that mental chatter comes up. Well, why not? Why can't I have a drink right now? I'm on the beach. The kids are safe, everybody's safe. This is exactly where people should have a drink and I ended up even... in the three and a half years that I've quit, my vacations have changed. I'm going to Mexico the day after Christmas with my husband and that is our first beach vacation. Like not first beach vacation, but our first where we will just go and chill without the kids. We've started taking more adventurous vacations, hiking vacations, going to the mountains, going rafting because for so long our vacations were let's just go sit here and drink and then I- Denaye: Yeah, wine tasting. Brooke: Go to the wine testing, go do all of these things and when I took that off the table I was like, "Oh, there's all these different ways to vacation." Denaye: Right. Brooke: It's fascinating, because I was vacationing with alcohol every single time, every time. Denaye: And that absolutely resonates with me. We did a bike trip once and it was amazing. We spent five days biking and we were in France, so there was some wine but very, very little. Like we were still biking like 50 or so miles a day but that was our only active vacation that we'd ever really done and it's something I absolutely want to pursue too because I think that you kind of need an activity in many ways on a vacation and drinking can be an activity, sitting around and drinking. Brooke: It's often the activity and so... because I look forward to this trip to Mexico, I don't think I'm going to want to drink. That doesn't come up, but what I think is, "Oh, I might be bored." Because we're just going to sit around a pool and look at the beach all day long and that used to be my favorite thing and now I know that without the drink's being brought to me, that can be a long week. Like I want to go do something. That's what makes me so happy about not drinking is I wanted more, I wanted more and I always knew it was out there. I just didn't know how to access it and you start to discover those things, but first you have to recognize them. First you have to go to Disney World and want that Frose, and think about why you want it and then you start to explore from there. At least that was experience. Denaye: Because sitting in the chair by the beach thinking about how you want to do something, that's an amazing thing. Thinking I want to get up out of this chair, not just like fill my body with booze. Like, I want to get up out of this chair and go on a hike or go scuba diving or do something. That's life, that's living and that's what I want to. Brooke: And that's what I found that alcohol does, is it really can get in the way of living a full life. It just can, and we're marketed that way. That's a whole different conversation but this is a billion dollar industry and we are taught that we need to relax. "Oh, you deserve it." And I've talked to this before, I think even on the last podcast. Like I deserve to go to the beach and sit there and drink and I had to really start questioning that. Is that what I deserve or do I deserve to go scuba diving and hike and have a really good night's sleep and feel fulfilled and refreshed after a vacation rather than like, I need another one. Denaye: Right. Yeah, so vacation... yeah, we took a vacation in September as well, and I had a slightly different experience. Again, I'll get to that. I feel like I'm like jumping all over. Even, I'm like, we're going to go through January through December but I feel like this is not a linear adventure in many ways, right. Brooke: There's nothing linear about it. It does jump around and so that's... sometimes that's how it's best explained for sure. Denaye: April was kind of a non-event. We came back early April from Florida. In May I got pregnant, so May and June and the beginning of July were sort of non events, because alcohol is just not a thing when you're pregnant and then in July I went to the doctor and there was no baby so that was my first experience with a big life event, like a big disappointment. What did I do? I was like, you know what? I quit, I'm having a drink and I did. I had a drink. That was July and... sorry, I haven't talked about this before, so probably shouldn't have done it for the first time on the podcast, right. Brooke: That's okay, so many people will relate to this. Denaye: Right. I was like I quit, that was exactly my thoughts but not the abbreviated version and I did. I had a drink and interestingly I didn't want another one and I was like, wow, like I didn't even like that. Maybe I can be one of those people who just like have one drink like once a month or twice a year and just like be a moderator. Maybe I don't even need alcohol anymore. I had one drink, didn't care for it and didn't want another one and I was like, okay, maybe that's what my life is going to look like and at that point I started to look to the next stage. Now we had been halfway through the year, right? I was six months in and I had started thinking like, well, what is the next step? Like what about after December, in January, am I going to drink again? Am I not going to drink again? And that's when sort of the mental chatter came back when I started thinking about the next step. At this point in July, I'm thinking I had a drink I didn't want anymore. Maybe I'm going to be a moderator. Like I'm the person who just has one drink a couple times a year. September came and I had a friend with good intentions plant the seed that said, "Well, you've made it nine months, don't you feel like you've accomplished what you set out to do?" Like it's almost a year. It's nine months, right, and of course this was in a social setting where everybody else was drinking, but I wasn't. That left me wondering, what is my next step and the mental chatter came back hardcore at that point. Did you feel like you had friends that planted seeds like that kind of doubting you or making you doubt the relevancy of this? Brooke: No, I did not have that experience other than the one that I just mentioned with an acquaintance. I did not know that person and she didn't know that I didn't drink, the one that asked me kind of across the room. When I told all of my friends, it was kind of a finality. I never said I was moderating. That's where our story differs, where I was just done. However, I have found, and I think we talked about this, the last time on the last podcast. The thing with people asking about drinking is very interesting. I have had a lot of people inquire. I've also had a lot of people, what I've noticed is I don't hang out with certain people and I can look back now three years in and be like, "Oh, they stopped calling me." Like, "Oh, that's what happened." I don't get invited anymore. Maybe they didn't overtly say something to me, but my overall experience with my friends is the people that were asking, the people that wanted to know the details, now maybe they weren't saying, are you going to drink again? But what they would say is, "Well, I don't drink that much." They would start to tell me about their drinking and what I realized to be true, and I had studied this a lot. It's like I had listened to podcasts, I'd followed a lot of women in the space who had said, people that care whether or not you drink care about their drinking and most people can care less if you drink or not. The people that don't have an issue with drinking will never ever, ever ask you if you have an issue with drinking or about your drinking unless it's just out of support and I have found that to be absolutely true. I hesitate to bring that up because we all have friends that want us to be their drinking buddy. I had to really think about that too because I think I would have been that friend. I would have been the one saying, "How long are you going to not drink for?" And I would have done that because I wanted a drinking buddy. I like drinking. I wanted somebody to drink with me. Denaye: I would have totally been that friend too. Totally. Yeah. Brooke: And it would have made me feel self-conscious to have someone had made that big of a commitment and feeling like I wasn't able to do that and if there wasn't something in me that wanted to quit or worried about my drinking, I would have not cared at all if somebody else was drinking enough, and I think that's really what's going on usually with other people. It just depends on how they approach you but anybody that kind of is like, when is this going to be done? I don't feel like they are really concerned or interested at all in your path, your journey. They're kind of just ready to get you back and like be done with this phase so that you can go to the bar again or whatever you do. Does that make sense? Denaye: Yeah, and I think one of the things that you talked about when we chatted last year that really stuck with me was that alcohol had been a part of your celebrations and all the happiest times in your life. Like your college graduation, maybe your high school graduation, your wedding, champagne toast, like all the good times usually involved alcohol and that was very much the case for me and in June when my book came out, like that would have been the time when I would have earned my glass of champagne but I actually, I didn't even want it at that point but I had an interesting experience. I had a book launch party and had a lot of friends who came and I bought a whole case of wine and a good amount of beer thinking that it was a party and people wanted to celebrate, and I also bought two giant kombucha was mostly for me but nobody drank. Like literally there was one bottle of wine that was like half consumed, maybe like three beers but nobody drank and I was like, well what the heck? Like I just bought all this beer and wine and nobody's drinking and my husband was like, well, it's because you weren't drinking and I'm like, really? Like is that... and I was a little bit surprised by that, but did you have that experience that if you were hosting people that they didn't feel comfortable drinking around you? Brooke: Well, I wouldn't say comfortable. I think I would urge you to look at it from a different perspective. This is kind of what I've seen. I will also host and have alcohol. I like my friends to have a good time. I could care less if my friends drink. Now, someone being drunk and obnoxious is something different but what I've found through all of this is the people I want to be around, I want to be around and if they're having drinks that doesn't bother me. It also separated and made me realize there were a lot of people that I only really liked when I was drinking with them, so they kind of naturally faded away, if that makes sense. The people that I love and adore, I don't even notice if they're drinking or not. For my most recent birthday party, I wanted to go out and dance, and so we had a big group of people. All my friends took me out and I kind of was encouraging them like, don't you all drink? Like have a good time and I can now three and a half years, then go drink stone cold... I mean, go dance stone cold sober, right, so I didn't mind, they took shots. It didn't bother me. That was kind of an exception though, because what I have noticed is that when I'm with my friends, the ones that I really care about, the ones that love me, they just drink less and it's not because they don't feel comfortable, it's because I'm giving them that space. That's not what... we're doing something else now and so I wouldn't look at it as your friends were there to support you. They weren't there to drink. They were there because they love and adore you and that's what I recognize. I recognize myself in that so much too. Like, I might've been the person at your book party the only one drinking and so to see in my personal experience, my friends say, "No, I don't need that right now. I just want to hang out with you." That's been the biggest gift. I don't know if I would have given that gift to someone else, because I did always kind of center in on the alcohol and to see people wanting to come and hang out and alcohol not be the forefront. That's what life is supposed to be. That's when you're doing something right. That's when the real connections are happening. It takes a while to realize that because sometimes it's our discomfort, not theirs. You say they were uncomfortable but you might have been the one that was uncomfortable because you didn't want them to do anything differently, but really what they were doing was just coming to spend time with you and celebrate you with or without alcohol. Denaye: Yeah and I think that's a really good point. I think that it may have been more me being uncomfortable than them. Brooke: Yeah, because you want people to be happy. You want people to enjoy and you don't want people to say, "Oh, this is my thing." And then they're not drinking and then they're not having fun and they're going to say this is so boring and dah, dah, dah, dah but they aren't looking at it that way. The people that love you do not look at it that way. They just don't and the people that do look at it that way, well one, you might not ever know and two, they won't come maybe to your next book support and you're better for it. You're going to be so much better for it. Giving up alcohol really, really draw the line with who is there for you no matter what and who just wanted to hang out and have a good time with you. Denaye: Yeah, and I think that's all becoming more clear the further that I go into this and it really is a journey. Like it's definitely... it's not even a one year. I think that this is just like you said, ongoing over the course of multiple years learning more and more about yourself and how you react and what your underlying beliefs are and I think that I do still have this strong underlying belief that you have to have alcohol to have fun. Brooke: Yeah and so it is a journey. You have to sort through all of that. A lot of what I'm saying is hindsight and it's hard for me to talk about my first year experience because it's been rewritten because it's changed so much. I have to really tap back into that and say, yeah, there were moments like that. Yeah, it was uncomfortable. Yeah, that was awkward, but my perspective on it all, it's become so natural now that I have to really go back and find that. If that makes sense, and I did associate alcohol with fun for so long. There were so many times where I thought I will never have fun again. I will never have... and then I would alter that and say, "Well, okay, maybe I'll have fun again, but I won't ever have as much fun as I did when I was drinking." And it takes a long time to realize that not only will you, but you'll have more fun, but it's an ongoing process. It's totally natural to think that way, that fun and alcohol are related. You have to have the experience. You've lived most of your life having the experience of fun and alcohol together so you have to have more than a year to realize that you can have fun without it too. Denaye: Yeah. Brooke: Kind of rewrite that story. Denaye: Right. Brooke: And that's all experiential and you have to have the experience of that. Denaye: Absolutely and that's been I think the blessing, the fact that I did commit to a full year and not just two months or that sort of thing, even though as my story will read, like I didn't actually not drink for the whole year because I had a drink in July. Decided that maybe I could be a moderator, had a drink in August. Also, interestingly, the drink, I had an August was at home and my husband was drinking some wine and I was like, "Oh, pour me a glass." And he was like, "Are you sure you want to do this?" I was like, "Yeah, just pour me a glass. Like, well I just want to see how I feel about it." Denaye: I had like two sips and then I walked out of the room and I forgot about it and I woke up the next day and I found it and I'm like, wow, like old me never put her drink down. Like old me never forgot about a drink. Like that actually showed huge growth in the sense that I like had a couple sips and walked right in and it wasn't even on my mind. Brooke: And I think in that case I never picked up a drink again but for you having one or two drinks over the course of the year, that's not a bad thing because you gain perspective from it. You were able to say, "Oh wow, look how different this was than it would have been in the past. I didn't even remember that I had it." That's super cool. That's growth and that to me says that it's not forefront on your mind anymore and so it's okay that you poured yourself a glass of wine. You learn something from it. Even had you drank the whole thing and then poured another, you would have learned something from it. I think we make all of these rules about what we have to do and what we can't do and maybe I never drink alcohol again, but I've done all sorts of other things. That's what we do as humans and so the most important thing we can do throughout any type of journeys, throughout any major life decision is have grace for ourselves. Have grace, have grace, have grace, have grace. You pour a glass of wine and you see what happens, and then you can always begin again if you want to begin again in whichever direction you want to go. Denaye: Yeah. I went into September thinking maybe I'll be a moderator, maybe that's what 2020 is going to look like for me. I'm going to be a light drinker, moderator. It's not going to be a thing in my mind anymore. End of September, beginning of October we went to Europe and I was like, you know what? I'm going to have a couple glasses of wine. I'm going to Europe. Like, that's pretty much what you have to do in Europe. For some reason, I've got that association. Like that's what you do, right? Not only are you on vacation, but you're somewhere in a wine growing region. I'm like, yeah, I'm going to have a couple of classes. I had probably a glass of wine each day with lunch for 10 days and then the last two days I had a couple of glasses of wine, and the very last day of vacation I felt exactly like I felt last December and I was like right back at square one and I was like, I hate this, I don't want to do this anymore and I was like, that was the point where I was like, I am done, done. Like that's what 2020 looks like. I'm not doing this anymore. After that vacation, which was the first week of October, I got back and I have literally not had a single desire for a drink since then and I also don't feel sad about it. Like I don't feel like I'm missing it. I feel like my experience has kind of come full circle even though I didn't go a full year without alcohol technically, I'm really at peace with where I'm at with it right now. Brooke: That's wonderful and I think you happen to have set this goal. I'm going to go one year without alcohol but a lot of what you're describing is stuff that I did before I decided to quit. Denaye: Because you- Brooke: I did- Denaye: ...tried to moderate for a long time, right? Brooke: Yeah. I tried to moderate, I'd say, "Oh well, I'm not going to drink for the next few months or whatever." And then I would go on a vacation or I would do... have a couple of offers here and there and I would go right back to square one and be like, I hate this. I'd say, well maybe I can be a moderator. Oh yeah, this feels fun. This is great and then eventually I hate this. That went on and on for me for five years. I totally resonate with that and that's what led me to me saying no more at all, and so that's usually the path that you have to take. It's not like you just all of a sudden wake up one day and you never drink again. You have to experiment with this stuff and most people want to experiment with moderation. They do and they will and then you see how that works. I actually know a few people who are moderate drinkers. They are beautiful at it. They're moderate at everything. I'm not a moderate at anything. I'm kind of a go big or go home. For me, that's what ultimately led to my decision of quitting completely, but everybody's experience is going to be different. Denaye: Right, and I don't think that anyone should feel judged or shamed by having glass of wine at night after listening- Brooke: Never. Denaye: ...to this episode. Brooke: Never. Denaye: I don't in any way shape or form want anyone to feel like that, but I do want people to think about, if you don't feel good about the relationship that you have with alcohol, if for some reason it's just not sitting well with you, like you... I mean, you can explore other options. Drinking is not the only option, right? Brooke: And I think that's the people that are going to really listen to this and want to hear this stuff. The people who moderate and who have no issues and don't have it in their thoughts, they're not going to really have a lot of interest in this conversation. It's a non-issue but the people listening and wanting to hear what this is like probably are curious and they probably have that voice going in their head, and so these are the questions they're going to want to know, so yeah, it's not about judgment. Everybody's different, but so many people reach out to me and they have these questions. What was it like? What will it be like? Will I want to drink on vacation? Will my relationship with my husband change? It's scary to make a big shift like this and the only reason it's scary is if you're not comfortable with it. If you are comfortable with it and your drinking is moderate and fine and no big deal, you're not going to have this question and again, it's not about quantity. It's not about how much you drink. I want to reiterate that it's about what your relationship is with alcohol and that can be one drink a week or it can be binge drinking. Denaye: Right. Absolutely and I have to ask, because there was no way last December that I was going into this as I'm quitting forever. Like I just... that felt way too big of a commitment for me. Now I feel comfortable saying that I don't even like to use the word forever because I don't know where I'm going to be at in my life 20, 30 years from now but for the foreseeable I'm not ever doing it again. I'm not going back to moderation even and for you, how did that feel just saying, I'm done forever. Like did it feel like you were worried you weren't going to be able to uphold it or how did it feel? Brooke: No, I mean, again, a lot of this is personal. A lot of it was just within myself. It wasn't like I made some grand announcement. I ended up posting about it on my two year anniversary and so people that knew me well were even like, what? Really, that's awesome. I have a belief that if we're going to make commitments that are really longterm you have to get right with those yourself first, right? I'm all about sharing my journey as it happens on all sorts of things but this was kind of a biggie. It was a real biggie and so I knew that if I let outside opinion in then maybe I wouldn't follow my heart so I can kind of just kept that close to the vest. Unless it was people that were actually sitting around having dinner with me that it would be a topic of conversation, and so it was wobbly. It was testing the waters. I believed that I would quit forever, but who knew and what if I didn't and then what if I had told a whole bunch of people and so that was part of the experience for me too, is just saying I'm going to do the next best thing and I'm going to do what's best for me and I'm just going to give myself grace and I think by the time I'd gotten to the point where I decided to quit, I was so done. I was so done. You kind of just mentioned that like right now I can tell that I'm not going to drink for the foreseeable future. You kind of know that about yourself when you're done with something and I didn't know how it would turn out and I'm lucky that it became a non-issue for me. I don't think that that's everybody's experience but the first year was a grind. It was a real grind and I have to remember that when I look back, it's easy for me to forget that. Denaye: It's interesting that you said that. You kind of kept quiet about it in the first year because I felt like that too. I did a podcast episode at the beginning of January last year, just saying this is my new year's resolution and why, and then I just dropped it the whole year and I had a couple people randomly message me being like, oh, hey, are you still doing that not drinking thing, but I didn't talk about it on the podcast or on Instagram or anything anywhere really and indeed it felt very personal. It felt like I need to work through this and see what this is like and what this means to me before I can really start talking about this and I'm glad that I did because this was definitely a roller coaster journey for me and now I just... it feels so good and it's funny, I just listened to a podcast episode like two weeks ago with two women who are in the sober curious movement which is not something I listen to regularly. It's something I happened upon and they were like raving with one another about how great it is not to drink and I was like, I get it. Like I totally get it now and I just have to... like I never imagined that I would feel like this. I never imagined that I would be happy not to drink. Brooke: I would have not been raving about it my first year and now that's what I'm saying right now on a podcast. It's like the best thing in the whole world, but I had to find that out for myself and you don't know that it's going to be the best thing in the world until you go for it and even then you've got to trek up a mountain to get the view. You really do. Denaye: I've heard of this idea of a runners high where like if you run enough and fast enough, like you'll get this high and really enjoy it and I have run before, I'm a terrible runner, but I have run before. I did a half marathon. I never experienced the runner's high and like the enjoyment and the endorphins that come from running a lot and like making it part of your lifestyle so I never got the runner's high and I kind of imagined the appreciation for not drinking to be kind of like that, like this like oh, I've heard it exists, but I don't really think like it's definitely never happening for me but yeah. It felt kind of out of reach for me but I have to say that it's a real thing. Brooke: That's so cool. I love it that you've had this experience and that you can reflect and find yourself where you are now. I think it's a little bit... there are highs and lows. I've never gotten, even with the lows of me thinking, oh, I want to drink right now. What I have thought is, oh, I would have drank right now. What I have thought is I wish I can kind of numb this out. I've had a lot of hard experiences about alcohol and there is something to be said for drowning your sorrows a little bit or just checking out of life. That's probably been the hardest part for me. It has come with a high and I can wake up on Saturday mornings and say, yes, this is amazing, but there are times where I'm like, you know what? I'd really like to check out right now. I would really like to feel like it felt when I had a glass or two of wine and that might always be the case. I don't know but it never leads me to actually want to drink and that's what life is. Life is a ton of highs and lows. It's a ton of highs and lows, that's all there is to it and I wanted to experience all of it, every bit of it and that in and of itself is exhilarating to be able to do that without a filter. Denaye: Yeah. This is kind of like making me think of all different things, but for some reason this reminds me of natural childbirth. Like I really wanted to experience it. Like I felt like as a woman I wanted to actually feel it. I didn't want drugs. I wanted that physical experience and I'm so glad that I did because for me that was like a huge life experience but it's not something that everybody wants, right. Brooke: Right. Well, look. It's a billion dollar industry for a reason. People don't want to feel a lot of the stuff and even the highs, we just talked about that. We associate it with fun, we associate it with a party, we associate it with celebration but we're really numbing that out too. That's what alcohol will do even though it's a depressant. It can make you feel like you're having more fun than you are and so I had to see was I really having fun, you know? And if I was, maybe I would have just had fun anyway, but there were so many times where it would have been something that I would never do now. Never, and I thought it was an awesome night because of the drinks I had. It was fake. It was fake and so to have the experience, that's what I want. What's real and what's not. What's really high, what's really low but you're right. Most people will say, give me the drugs, give me the epidural. I don't want to find out what it's like and I don't... if this isn't fun, then I don't want to find out and certainly don't take away my ability to check out if I need it. Denaye: What do you do now when you feel like you want to check out? Brooke: It depends. I can absolutely get in the space of wanting to crawl out of my own skin. I am trained and experienced in meditation and yoga. That's what I do for a living. I teach meditation. I teach yoga. I'm a Reiki. I give Reiki, I do a lot of energy work, a lot of the calming practices. That's what I make my living off of but that is not how I am as a person. My personality is really fast. I love adrenaline. I can get in a place where I go so much that I don't want to stop because if I stop then what am I really feeling and so I found the slower practices to get better in touch with myself and while I love them, while they've changed my life, while I believe in them more than anything, they can still be uncomfortable for me, and so I will get into weird habits. I'll go drive, like we live in Dallas and I'll just drive around the highway and my husband's like, "Can't you do something safer?" Drive, and I'm like, I just got to get... I've got to get the hell out of here. I can still see where I'm running from myself, but I can see it now. I can see it now. A lot of my practices, a lot of what I use is healthier but we can also bypass with the spiritual stuff, with the healthy stuff, with the meditation, with the yoga. It doesn't really matter what I use, whether it's jumping out of an airplane or a meditation, I have to be incredibly cognizant about what I'm doing and why and I'm able to do that without drinking and that's all I can do is just... if I feel like jumping out of my skin, if I feel like I want to numb out sometimes some things work. I can go to yoga, I can go for a run or whatever, but sometimes nothing does and I have to be okay with that too. Denaye: And that's where that fog... that fog that's lifted, right, because if you are drinking and numbing out that way, like you think you're dealing with it, but you're not, you're just like…Brooke: You're not. Denaye: And if you don't have the fog, then you really have to look at it and you have to deal with it and whether or not it's a healthy way or not that you're dealing with it, at least you can see it and you can learn from it. Brooke: That's the whole thing. Being able to see it and then making decisions. What will I tolerate? What won't I tolerate? Where can I do better? Where can I forgive myself? Where can I forget the others? It's tough. It has been tough to look at all of my stuff and to not be able to numb it out but it's been the greatest blessing in the world. It's a truer life. It's a much truer life but it can get icky and I will never lie about that. I will never lie about that. Denaye: Well, thank you so much, Brooke. This has been amazing and I'm going to put the links in my show notes to find you on Instagram and your website and anyone that wants to reach out and get more information from you because I think you're such a great resource. Thank you and I appreciate you for your inspiration and just sticking with me in this journey. Brooke: Yes. I'm so... I don't want to say proud because again we don't have to think about alcohol if we don't want to, but I am proud of anyone who explores themselves and so I am proud of you and not because you gave up alcohol, but because you wanted to do something and you did it and that's the beautiful thing about this journey, is staying true to yourself and constantly reflecting and looking and that's what you've been doing and it's a beautiful thing and so I'm really happy for you and I support you in every single bit of it. Denaye: Oh, thank you so much. Brooke: You're welcome. Thanks for having me. I always love talking to you. Denaye: Oh, thanks for coming on the show again. Brooke: Okay, we'll talk soon. Denaye: Thanks for tuning in today and listening to my story. If you want to get in touch with Brooke or I, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram. I put the links to get in touch with Brooke in the show notes. You can scroll up to the top of the page to see them. I also put a link for a book that I recommend to get started as well. I'll be out next week for a Christmas break, but I do want to wish you a happy holiday season. If you love Simple Families and you've enjoyed the content this year, I would love a simple little gift of leaving a rating or review in iTunes that helps the show to reach more people. I appreciate your support and I look forward to chatting with you in the new year.The post My Year Without Alcohol appeared first on Simple Families.
18 Dec 2019
Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge
I'm joined by Courtney Carver, author of the brand new book Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More. In today's episode, she shares her minimalist wardrobe challenge that has spread throughout the world. I also have my sister-in-law, Kim, joining us for a mini-coaching call with Courtney. Kim is brand new to a capsule wardrobe and Project 333, and Courtney is talking her through the process. Get a copy of the book!Project 333: The Minimalist Fashion Challenge That Proves Less Really is So Much More Kim's Final Project 333 Wardrobe List: Black SunglassesBig PurseWristletScarfEarringsNecklaceBigger NecklaceWatchSandalsSandalsTom's LeggingsDark Boot Cut JeansLight Boot Cut JeansDark Boot Cut JeansBlack Maxi DressJean JacketT-ShirtT-ShirtT-ShirtT-ShirtCardiganCardiganOversized sweaterBlazerDress Shirt Hello, it's episode 201. And today we're talking about developing a minimalist wardrobe. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of Simple Families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us. Hi there. And thanks for tuning in today. Talking about minimizing the closet. Now, minimizing the closet was the first thing I did on my path towards a lighter life. And I will say that it changed everything forever. In this episode, I am joined by Courtney Carver, who is the founder of project three 33, and also the founder of bemorewithless.com. Courtney is the author of now two books, soulful simplicity, and the brand new book project three 33, which just came out yesterday. Courtney's work has been inspiring me for years. I first discovered her back in 2015, which was at the very beginning of my journey towards minimalism when I first started writing about it. But she's been on this path and inspiring people all over the world for far longer than that. If you're not familiar with project three 33, it's a challenge that Courtney created to get people to live with and only wear 33 items for three months. I'm so happy to have Courtney joining me today, but I also have another exciting guest, which is my sister-in-law Kim. I visited Kim and her family in Phoenix in January, and we started talking a little bit about simplifying her wardrobe. And I was telling her about project three 33, and I thought that might be a great place for her to start. So in this episode today, Courtney is going to do a mini coaching session and walk Kim through getting started because getting started is truly the hardest part. Before we get further into today's episode. Here's a quick 62nd word from our sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is Native. And if you know Native, if you've tried native, then you probably love it. Just like I do. Native is a natural deodorant company and natural deodorant was a hard sell for me. I tried a lot of different varieties that didn't work, and I went back and forth between trying natural and going back to the traditional conventional options. It wasn't until my husband introduced me to Native probably almost two years ago. Now that I think I found my forever fix that's right, it's unisex. So my husband and I both use it, but we have different sun preferences. They have something for everyone options for men, women, and even teens. And they also have an unscented option. I'd love for you to try it out for 20% off your first purchase. Visit nativedeodorant.com and use the promo code "simple" during checkout again for 20% off your first purchase, visit nativedeodorant.com and use promo code "simple" during checkout. All right, back to our episode today, I am so happy to welcome both Courtney and Kim. We're going to start this episode by Courtney telling us a little bit more about project three 33 in her work in minimalist fashion. And then after that, I'm going to let Courtney and Kim take it away. And Courtney will walk Kim through the very basics of getting started. I hope you enjoy this episode. Denaye Barahona: Hi Courtney. Thanks so much for joining me. Courtney: Hey Denaye, thanks for inviting me. Denaye Barahona: Well this is, it's been a long time. You were in, you were on episode 89 with me and you were talking about your first book, soulful simplicity. When was that? Courtney: That would have been probably 2018, early 2018. Yeah. Denaye Barahona: Okay. Wow. So now you have a brand new book project three 33. Courtney: Yes. It's out in the world. I'm very excited. It feels like a completely different animal than book. Number one. It is and so when I got this book, I was like, wow, this is very straightforward, very practical, which I think many people need when they're starting with the wardrobe. What do you think about that? Courtney: Definitely people want to know exactly, you know, how to approach it, different ways to approach it, how to break the rules, what might work best for them. So it's not an exact science by any means, but I think the book gives some people room to create something that'll work well for them. Denaye Barahona: Yeah. So this isn't new to you though. You've been talking about this for how long now? Courtney: Almost 10 years. Denaye Barahona: Oh my goodness. Wow. So tell me, where did it start? The history of it and a little bit about how you got started with be more with less? Courtney: Yeah, it's funny to think about how long it's actually been, because it doesn't feel like it's been this long, but bemorewithless.com started in May of 2010. And then I started to think about project three 33 in the summer of that year and announced it in October. So I did my first round in the fall of 2010 and invited, you know, a very small community to join me if they were interested. And it kind of took on a life of its own, right from the get-go and has been going strong ever since. I mean, people from all over the world are doing the challenge and it's something that I keep getting new questions about and different feedback. And so I feel like it's just one of those things that is just going to continue it's timeless. Denaye Barahona: Right. So tell us exactly what it is. Courtney: Sure. So project three 33 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invite you to, I guess, sample simplicity or sample minimalism without making a permanent commitment. And so for three months you dress with 33 items or less including clothing, jewelry, accessories, and shoes, and you hide everything else. So you don't get rid of it, you don't have to make any decisions about it. You just get it out of sight and kind of free up some space for yourself, not only in your closet, but in the rest of your life, because you're not shopping during that time or really giving much thought to what you're wearing because you're working with a small collection of hopefully some of your favorite items. Denaye Barahona: So, I first discovered this and the idea of a capsule wardrobe back in 2015. And it was, I would say my first foray into minimalism and not something I didn't, wasn't looking for it per se. I kind of stumbled upon it. My thought when we were preparing for this interview was I was going to ask you, why this book now? Is this something that you've been thinking of since 2010, or do you feel like it just needed to be put into book form because you've been kind of talking about it in blog form for so long? Courtney: No, I wasn't really thinking about it. Definitely not from the beginning. I mean, in 2010 it was a personal challenge and I thought it would be fun for three months and then we'd all move on. And after soulful simplicity, my first book came out, there was a chapter called simple as the new black, and it was about project three 33, and people were really kind of had renewed interest in it, in that specific chapter. And a few months later, my publishers asked me if I would write a book specific to project three 33, because again, it just seems to take over the conversation, whether it's one chapter in a book or one sentence and a presentation that I give about willpower or something completely unrelated or seemingly unrelated, it always comes to the, to the front of the conversation. So I think it's really in response to what people want. Right. Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And in many ways, it's, it's not easy to do, but it can be a more tangible way to get started with simplifying your life. Courtney: Usually what I hear and I know what I experienced is that it's not easy to think about, but it is actually pretty easy to do. In fact, it makes a lot of other things in your life, much easier, but thinking about it and considering it is really hard because we don't know what to expect. And we think of all the things that could possibly go wrong, which I think is how we at least I approach a lot of things. And so this has helped me approach other things in a more open way, just because I've realized that the hardest part for me on this challenge was overthinking it. Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I know when I first started, I was pretty rigid about sticking with the numbers and that felt a little bit stressful getting started, but I do, I do feel like starting with a challenge, like this is a way to sort of give some structure to the process. And I know that that helped me a lot. Sure. And there's no magic Courtney: To the number. I mean, I think it's a great place to start for most people, but some people have done it with 36 items or 40 items or even fewer items. So wherever the number lies for you, I think as long as it's a kind of a boundary or like a rule for you for three months, it just helps you learn more about yourself and then gives you more information to decide how you want to move forward. Denaye Barahona: Yeah, and I feel like as I've moved on, it's been five years now for me that I feel like I've really grown into making decisions about my own wardrobe. Like at first I just wanted someone to tell me exactly what to buy. I'm like if you gave me a list of the specific things and items to buy, I would just click on them and buy them and be done with it. I felt like I wanted that much support in the process. Do you get that a lot? Courtney: I do. I get a lot of those questions and requests for a straightforward list or who to buy from or what to wear. And I think it's such a trap because that's, what's really gotten us in trouble in the first place is not really trusting what we like and enjoy in our lives, and not understanding what we want and need in our closets and our kitchens and our wherever like everywhere. So I think going through the process really, depending on yourself, to make those decisions and understanding that after three months of dressing with a handful of items, you have a better understanding of what you really want or need is pretty powerful. Versus just buying what everyone recommends or what looks like the easy solution, because as we all know what works best for one person is a complete failure for another person. Denaye Barahona: Right. And I definitely found that I wanted a lot of guidance at first. And then once I moved forward in the process, I think I had more confidence and more self-awareness over the things that really made me happy. It's interesting that you say that you recommend holding on to everything. And that would have been my natural inclination when I first started, but I had this feeling once I went through my whole closet and got rid of 90% of everything, I put it all into big black leaf bags, like landscaping bags. And I had either two or three of them, but I needed them out of my house. Like I couldn't stand to look at them anymore. Like I just had this overwhelming feeling where I just, they had to go. And once they were physically out of my house, I donated them. I felt so much better just like that actual, it felt like a ripping the bandaid off. And that was really, I ripped the bandaid off on the clothes. And then it was a slippery slope from there. I moved through every other area of my house. Courtney: That's great. And I think that for some people that really works, I know I definitely donated some items in the beginning, but I want to give that option for people to not worry about it right away. I think it's easier to make those decisions once we've had some distance from our stuff. And so there might be some obvious suspects that you're like, I haven't worn this in 10 years, or this is in terrible condition or I'm never going to wear this and I want to let go of it immediately. But most of the stuff has some kind of hold on us. It feels like, and so just to remove that from our line of vision is so important because then we break that hold and when it's time to revisit, we can let go with more ease. Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I do agree with that. And I know I just having talked to a lot of other women, especially that it can be really hard to let go of that stuff right away. So, I think the way that I felt maybe unique from a lot of other people, a lot of other people will go through and feel more of a tendency to hold onto the stuff for longer. So, I do love that you get that option and even suggestion that it doesn't have to be a lifetime commitment. You can just, you know, put it under the bed or put it in another closet, but get it out of sight. Courtney: Yeah. I refuse to believe that there is one right way to do anything except maybe baking. Maybe you have to really follow the directions on baking. But otherwise there is a little bit of wiggle room in everything that we do. Right. Denaye Barahona: And I do think that starting with something that is structured, like this can really give us the confidence to go out and kind of wing it on our own. Courtney: Sure, and the interesting thing about kind of setting these boundaries, whether it be in our closet or around our work or wherever it is for me anyway, it really allows for a lot more flexibility in areas of my life where I need it. Denaye Barahona: Yeah, absolutely. I love opening my closet in the mornings because it takes less than 10 seconds for me to make a choice and everything, all my choices are so much better than they ever were before. Yeah, just downsizing my wardrobe, I would say was probably the most impactful item of the physical stuff in my house that I have decluttered. Courtney: That's great. Denaye Barahona: Yeah. So I I've loved the process so much. So in January I was visiting my brother and his wife, Kim. They have two boys who are 11 and 13. They live in Phoenix and Kim has been following some bull families all along and has sort of watched me move through my capsule wardrobe and getting rid of my stuff, and she's always been curious. Denaye Barahona: So, she started asking me some questions and I immediately was like, well, let's go to your closet right now. My kids were with me and I'd put them to bed. And I said, well, let's just go do it and she's like, well, I'm not quite ready for that. And so I was like, well, you know what, maybe you should come on and join me in my chat with Courtney. And she can start to walk you through this process because I feel like you've probably talked to a lot of newbies getting started who have some pretty basic questions I have. Courtney: Interestingly enough, I haven't done a one-on-one on an, on a call like this. So I'm really looking forward to seeing how things unfold. Denaye Barahona: Cool. Well, I'm excited to give you the chance to chat with her and I'm excited also to visit her again maybe next year and to see some big changes in her closet. Cause I do think she's going to love it when I was there. She said she felt motivated to get rid of a couple of sweatshirts from 1999. So I felt like we were on, we were on a good start. But overall she has a lot of cute stuff, but I think she was just spending a little overwhelmed with some of the stuff that she had that she wasn't wearing so much. All right. So I am going to go ahead and turn you over to Kim. Courtney: Hi Kim. Kim: Hi Courtney. Thanks for having me. Courtney: I'm really excited to chat with you. So tell me a little bit about where, where you are right now in terms of the wardrobe that you have and the wardrobe that you're looking to create. Kim: So, it's been a process and I see myself slowly moving towards a minimalistic kind of a wardrobe, but there are a lot of things that I struggle to take out of the closet and let go of right now. And Denaye called me out on a couple more fun pieces, like the sweatshirts from 99, but even some pieces like with weight fluctuations and, and kind of what direction to head as far as style, because I don't know that I have one of those from myself. Kim: So, I was kind of looking for recommendations on how to really find the pieces that you love and then how to emotionally let go. Of some of those older pieces that you know, are for whatever reason were tied to. Courtney: Sure, well I can completely understand almost everything that you're saying, actually, everything that you're saying, especially about finding a style because I didn't have one. I had all of them and just wore whatever was on sale or what was, I don't know, trendy or whatever. And I just had a closet full of all these different choices. So I could never really determine what I enjoyed because there was just too much to choose from. So one thing I want to ask you is are you open to doing project three 33 right now? Like going all in? Kim: Yeah, absolutely. Courtney: Okay. Wow. Yay. All right. Well, this is not going to be that complicated because as Denaye and I were kind of talking about none of this really has to be permanent, but I think it will be good for us to talk about some of the things that you brought up so that when it's time to revisit these items, if you don't want to do it now, you'll have the right questions to ask or things to think about. So for starters, in terms of thinking about your personal style, I would think more about what fits your body and your lifestyle today. So kind of disregard the weight fluctuation and just think about right now. Courtney: So, if you have, for instance, multiple sizes in your closet, which I know many of us have done that including myself, but are there pieces that fit you now, not thinking about if you might lose or gain weight in the future. Kim: So there's a few. Yeah. That I pieces now that I love how they fit and feel for sure. Courtney: Great. Are you wearing something like that now? Like, do you have a few pieces on that you are comfortable in, that you might include in your capsule wardrobe? Kim: Yeah. So one of the things that I'm wearing right now is a really great pair of leggings that Denaye actually suggested that I buy and I definitely am in love with them. Courtney: Great. Kim: They're the best thing. And then the other thing that I do tend to wear is like an oversized comfy t-shirt. So like, and then I could throw a cardigan over it or a Jean jacket or, you know, depending on what I'm about to do, I can dress it up or dress it down. Courtney: Okay. And that makes you, you feel good in those clothes? Kim: Not for the fanciest of occasions, you know, but definitely for what I would, I would need to do day to day. Courtney: Okay. And then for the fancy occasions, are there a lot of them? Kim: No, not a lot of them, but I do find myself in a meeting or two throughout the week or leading a group of ladies that I would probably want to look a little bit better for it. Courtney: Okay. And how might you what, what would you do for that? For instance, would you be leaning towards a dress or a skirt or pants and a top and a blazer or something like that? Kim: Probably the pants, the top, and a blazer. Courtney: Okay. And then can you think of other places that you could wear that pants top blazer? Like would that be appropriate for a night out with your husband for instance, or an event at your kid's school? Something like that? Kim: Yeah, absolutely. Courtney: Okay. All right. So here is what I recommend to get started. I want you to kind of let go of that concern of the weight fluctuation temporarily only because we're talking about a span of three months, I'm elation that you're going to experience the clothes that you have will probably accommodate that. And if for some reason they don't then make changes, like either pick something from what you have currently, or find someth ing new. Courtney: Like, even though you're going to commit to these three months of this capsule wardrobe, this is not a project in suffering. I don't want you to be uncomfortable or wearing clothes that don't fit you. But I also think that sometimes we get really concerned about weight ups and downs and that stress perpetuates some of the problem, not in every case. And certainly I don't have any science-based evidence to support that, but I know for myself, when I finally just said, I'm only keeping one size in my closet, it was never a problem. Kim: Yeah. That makes sense. Because you're constantly looking at those things that you either want to wear or, you know, goodness forbid you don't want to wear again. Courtney: Right and then you feel bad about yourself because either they don't fit or you spent too much money on them and you're not wearing them. And it, it makes us feel bad and stressed and who knows what happens after that? Kim: Okay. So I really Liked that. So only one size in the closet at one time. Courtney: Whatever fits you today is what you're going to include in the wardrobe. Kim: Okay. Courtney: But you're going to give yourself permission to swap items out if you have like a drastic weight change. Kim: Okay. Courtney: Okay. And then in terms of the style, like your personal style, we're also going to throw that out the window for now, because what you think you might want or need today is going to feel very different in three months after moving through these three months with more space, time, energy, and maybe even money, if you've been spending money on clothes. So the way that I want you to pick out your capsule wardrobe, and then we're going to deal with all the excess stuff. So stuff you're not going to count towards your 33 items, underwear, sleepwear, lounge wear like stuff you might wear around the house or do yard work in, but you're not going out in the world in, so you're not going to count those items. Courtney: And you're also not going to count any workout clothes, as long as you're using those clothes to work out, Kim: Not visit the world with like. Courtney: If you stop at the grocery store on your way to yoga, that's fine. But if you're wearing your yoga pants all the time, then count those in your 33 items is kind of how I like to think about it. And that rule came from my daughter telling me to stop wearing my yoga pants everywhere 10 years ago, times have changed. Now I think more and more people, including myself are wearing I guess, atleisure wear, is that the right term? But it just counted in your 33 items. Courtney: KImSo, first I want you to think about like the, not let's think about the non clothing stuff, so accessories that you use every single day. So like for instance, on my list, and then I'm going to have you give me a few items and I'm going to try to count out your items as we go. And then this is kind of like making a budget. It doesn't always work the first time. So you might have to go in and refine it. But on my accessories list right now, sunglasses, a handbag, a tote bag, two scarves, it's a five items. What are some accessories that you use on a pretty much a daily or weekly basis? Kim: Definitely sunglasses and I buy cheap ones. So I tend to have quite a few pairs laying around. Okay. Do you have a favorite pair? I do have a favorite pair. And so I guess this is a good question. I have a black pair and I have a Brown tortoise shell pair. Courtney: Okay. Kim: Is that I feel like both are necessary. Courtney: And how are they necessary? Kim: Well, when I don't I wear with black clothes and the other one? I would wear with Brown or off-color clothes like Navy. Courtney: Okay. Let's just assume that both pair of sunglasses go with everything and it doesn't matter if they match or not. So I'm going to encourage you to pick for now one pair. And then if we have room at the end, you can add the other one back in. Kim: Okay. And I would know my favorite are definitely the black pair. Courtney: Okay. There you go. So you've got your black pair of sunglasses. What else do you carry a purse or? Kim: I do, I have a bigger purse that I tend to like take with me to meetings that would have like my notebooks and different things in there. But I also have like like a little wristlet wallet that is literally just a wallet then where my phone fits, but I pull that out of my purse if I was going to run into the store. Courtney: Great. Would you ever just carry it separately or do you think it's more like a wallet? Kim: No. No. I carry it separately for sure. Courtney: Okay. So let's count that. And then what about like a scarf? I know you're in Phoenix, so it's warmer, but I know I wear a scarf everywhere. Kim: So, I do wear one, not when it's super hot, but I do have one that I tend to kind of throw on to dress up some of my dresses or my planer t-shirts that kind of thing. Courtney: Okay. Do you think you might want to include that in the next three months? Kim: Let me, yeah, I do. I think I would need to. Courtney: And again, we can change this up and I'm going to actually send you this list that I'm making right now, so you can see for yourself. Kim: Oh, nice. Courtney: How it's unfolding. Can you think of other accessories right now that you use frequently? Kim: No, I don't think so. Now what about jewelry? Is that something that count? Courtney: Let's talk about that next. Okay. So tell me about how you wear jewelry right now? Kim: I'm actually very simple on jewelry. I usually have a pair of earrings or like I pretty much rotate between three gold, silver and these little studs that I wear. Okay and then I almost always have a necklace weather and there's only two that I really go back and forth between. Courtney: Let's think about just for the next three months, picking one pair of earrings and maybe they just stay in your ears even it's okay. They, I don't know if they feel comfortable like that. So you don't even have to think about them. I cut out urines completely for my first season, but let's think about just to start one pair of earrings. And could you pick one necklace? Kim: I'm thinking about that. Yeah. I think I probably could, cause I have one I would lean into more so, you know, and I do love. And when I was listening to you and Denaye before this, about the not having to give it up forever just for three months. And when I think of it like that, it doesn't seem so painful, right? Courtney: Right. It's not, it's not, I mean, three months ago we were in the midst of the holiday season. So it goes fast and again, at the end of the three months, you may feel differently about those items. I probably had when I first started 20 necklaces that weren't like expensive jewelry, but just kind of accessorizing costume jewelry. And I only kept one in my collection. And when I went back to the other ones, I was just like, what was I thinking? Like, this doesn't even feel like me anymore. So, but if you would ask me at the beginning, I would have thought, Oh no, of course I'm going to bring those back in. So let's just see what happens with that, and then tell me about shoes. Kim: Oh boy, I'm going to get in trouble here. So I won't count any of my workout shoes cause I have one or two pairs, like I'll throw one for outdoor workouts and then I have another one for strictly gym workouts. Right. Great, perfect. So we won't count those because those, I do wear pretty much strictly for that. But I have sandals because it's Phoenix. I have them galore. Okay. And then I have like a pair of like Tom type loafers that I would slip on. Okay. And then of course I have a few pairs of dress shoes that collect dust and I pulled them out for weddings and whatnot, so. Courtney: Okay. So when let's go back to, when you told me about the, sometimes you do a meeting or two during the week, would you wear sandals or dress shoes to that? Kim: I actually would probably wear either the sandals or the top. Courtney: Perfect. That's great. So I say we include the Toms. We include, do you want to include a pair of dress shoes? Like one pair of dress shoes? Kim: That one's tough. I'm going to say, Oh boy, I'm going to say no. And the reason why I would say no is because if I were to think about this as, as a capsule wardrobe, in that mindset, they might not be the most comfortable shoes. They're just shoes that I've bought and I've kept. So I don't know that I have like huge amounts of love for them. Courtney: Do they hurt your feet? Kim: Yeah. Courtney: I want you to really think about that when it's time to hold on or let go of them. Because I mean, I don't think we deserve to be in pain when we're walking through our day. So really give that some thought, like what's so important that you have to be in pain. Kim: Yeah, and then maybe if I did feel like I really wanted to dress shoes, it would be time to begin to shop for something. Courtney: Correct. Kim: Very comfortable yet. Cute and stylish. Courtney: That's right. Kim: Okay. So those can go. Courtney: yes. Those can go. Or if you're not ready to let them go, you could put them out. Kim: Yes. Which, which is probably more realistic for me. Courtney: That's fine. Okay. So we've got the Toms. Tell me how many pairs of sandals you might want to include for three months? Kim: Well, since you've already heard of my funny little admission about my sunglasses, I do the same thing with sandals. I have basically one style, I guess, that I could narrow it down to you, but I, I keep a black pair and I keep like a cognac style Brown. Courtney: Okay. Well, I think you could include both of those. I think we've got room for who's your parents. And so we've got the Toms two pair of sandals. Is there another pair of shoes that you might want to rotate in there? Or do you think that three would be enough for you? I, I would probably be okay. Now during this though, like say my Toms are a little bit old. If I wanted to shop for like a little bit like something to replace the Toms, would I do that in that three months or what I say? No. Courtney: I think that you'll have to gauge that for yourself. Myself. I would probably say no unless they're falling apart. Okay. Just because I don't want to shop for anything at all and see what that feels like. But if you know that these guys are on the way out and you need to replace them then yeah. Kim: Okay. So then I will keep these ones. I'll go. The I'll go the lengths with them. Okay. Courtney: Okay. Great. All right. So now, so we, we're up to nine items, which is great. Right? So let's move on to close. So you've got 24 items left, which seems like a lot to me. Does that, or does that not to you or does that? Kim: When I think of limiting myself, it seems like very little, but when I think of what I would fill in there, then it seems like a lot. I don't know if that makes sense. Courtney: Totally does. Let's let's break it down by items. So let's first start with, do we want to include any kind of dressy dressy item, like for a wedding or I don't know. Really formal. Kim: I would say no, just because I, I don't really even have one that I would pull from right now. And yeah. I, and I think that anything, like, I know I don't have a wedding coming up, so I know that's not even something that I would look towards. So I would say I have a couple, like one dress that I could wear for a fairly nice occasion that wouldn't be too comfortable if that makes sense. Courtney: How uncomfortable? Well, I mean, if it was, it wouldn't be uncomfortable to wear to a formal event, you mean? Kim: Yeah. I think I could get away with, you know, any event that would pop up in the next three months where I would need to be dressy. Courtney: Great. What, what, how would you refer to that dress? Kim: It's a long black it's like a cute maxi dress. That's a little bit, you know, it's made with a better material. So it holds up nicely throughout the day. Courtney: And sounds amazing. So a black maxi dress. Okay. And then any skirts, are you a skirt person? Kim: Nope. Not a skirt person. Courtney: Okay. So then we can move on to what I think is the next easiest category and that's,pants or shorts. Okay. So what for pants? You've got those leggings that you really like? Kim: Yes. Courtney: Okay. Kim: And then, so right now I have two or three pairs of jeans and they're pretty much, well, there's two different styles. I have like wider legged pants that are, you know, boot cut, I would say. And I have two colors of that. And then I have like a fitted, like straight or leggings, not leggings. So I'm trying to think of the word, Courtney: Skinny jeans? Kim: Skinny jeans. There we go. And I have two different colors of those, like a light and a dark of each. Courtney: What do you mean? A light and a dark, like a light denim in a dark denim. Kim: Exactly. Yeah. Courtney: Okay. So which do you like better the light or the dark? Or do you love them? Both. Kim: So with the boot cut ones, I could pick one that I definitely always pull from more than the others, but with the skinny jeans, probably the dark, just because it's more flattering, but I don't know that I have a favorite. One of those. Courtney: Okay. Let's talk about the boot cut. Which one is your favorite? Kim: The darker one. Courtney: Okay. So dark boot cut. And then let's say we'll include both skinny jeans and then are there any other pants? Kim: Not really. No. Courtney: Great. That's perfect. Kim: I mean, there are definitely in my closet, but none that I pull out to wear regularly. Right. Those are the ones that are like give or take five, 10 pound pants that are in the closet that I would have to put in the bag. Courtney: Okay. Good. We'll putting them in the bag for sure. Okay. all right. So let's talk about your oversized t-shirt and cardigan combo. It sounds like that's kind of your day-to-day uniform. Kim: Yeah. Courtney: So how many t-shirts would you like to include? Kim: Oh, man. Courtney: Tell me that. So the different colors? Kim: Yes. Courtney: Do you wear all the different colors or do you have a couple of favorites? Kim: I would say I rotate, so I have four. Courtney: Okay. Kim: And I do rotate those kind of regularly. Courtney: Okay, good. So for now I'm just going to put them all on here. So I'm just going to call them t-shirts okay. For four items. And then you can decide when you get this list, which ones those are. And then how about the cardigans? Kim: So, I have one, two, probably. I have plenty. I really do stick between, I would say I stick with three of them. Mostly if I like, I could already narrow it down to three mostly. I'm not sure how much they're going to come into play in the next three months in here in Phoenix cause we're starting our heat wave here soon. Okay. So I may be able to lower it down to like only one. Courtney: You want to put two in just to feel like you've got that option? Yeah, maybe yeah. Two. Okay. So now we've got a good rotation of t-shirts and cardigans. What about like, is there any outerwear, like a rain jacket? Is that silly? Does it ever ran in Phoenix? Kim: You know, it does very rarely. So, no, I don't, I don't really even have anything like that, that I would grab from on the rainy days. I would just throw on an oversized sweater or something to stay. Courtney: Is oversized sweater different than the cardigans? Kim: You got me on that one. Courtney: Okay. So you're going to include how many oversize sweaters? Kim: Just, I know I can narrow it down to one. Courtney: Okay. And then what about like we talked about maybe a blazer or a jacket that you might wear to one of these dressier meetings. Kim: So I do have one. Courtney: Okay. Kim: And I definitely like it. Courtney: That's great. Kim: Yeah. I would, I would include it, I would think. And then maybe look to get a better one, if that makes sense. Cause it's not the easiest to be in all day, so yeah. So I have one that I would use right now or I would upgrade it at some point. Courtney: And you'd wear the blazer with either the jeans or the leggings. Kim: Yeah, for sure. Courtney: Okay, good. And what would you wear under the blazer? Like what kind of shirt? Kim: Most of the time, It would, I mean, a lot of times it's like one of the t-shirts with like that's when I would throw on like an accessory to kind of just dress it up. But since we're sticking with just one necklace, I'm struggling to find what I have in my closet that I would put under this blazer. Courtney: Well, you've got plenty of room left if you wanted to add another necklace. Kim: Yeah. Maybe, maybe one larger necklace that hangs down because sure. The one I tend to wear is just like a nice one that falls soft, probably, you know, like 12 to 15 inches, but I usually will grab like a chunkier one for like, if I was trying to dress up the outfit. Courtney: Okay. Kim: And then I would like put in those nicer, you know, my t-shirts in there. Courtney: The t-shirts that we already have on the list. Right. Kim: Yeah. Courtney: Okay. All right. So we have nine items left. Kim: Oh my goodness. Courtney: Right. You already have a complete wardrobe, but you have nine more items you could add. Now someone that lives like where I live in salt Lake city, those nine items are half. At least half of them are taken up with coats, gloves, hats, and so on. So you've really got some nice choices here. You could add to the list, a few items you could add all nine or you could not add any what are you thinking? Like where are you feeling like, Oh, I wish I could include this, Kim: Okay. So I'm thinking right now and under my blazer, this would look good too. I have a really cute dress shirt and I don't pull it from it very often, but this would definitely be a perfect one. If I wanted to go out to dinner with my husband or to a meeting and I definitely would pull that one in and it makes me feel like now that we're talking about this and I don't know how silly this is going to sound like everything in my closet is not something I would choose to put in this wardrobe. So it's there, and I'm not even choosing to keep it. Does that make sense? Courtney: It sounds like most of us actually. Yeah. Kim: It's very interesting. I'm like going through the whole picture of my closet in my head and I'm like, there's nothing that I'm going to miss that's that I'm attached to now. Courtney: But here's, what's the difference is going to be, so you probably weren't wearing those items anyway. You've probably been dressing within like the project three 33 parameters, but every single day you're looking at all of that other stuff and how that affects you. You don't know yet. Courtney: So how it makes you feel every day, because it feels so normal. You might not know until it's gone, which is really exciting. Yeah. So would you like at this point to add anything else, like earrings, I'm just looking through your list to see where you might want to add something or you could just leave it open. And I mean, not that I want to encourage you to go and fill this space up, but if you really saw a gap, you know, in what you were wearing, perhaps you might add it. Kim: Yeah. I think I like the idea of leaving the gap open in, now that we're talking, like it's kind of coming to me that I have been hesitant to add pieces to my wardrobe because quote unquote, I have this huge wardrobe and you know, I don't need anything, but now that I'm looking at this, I don't need to feel guilty to add a couple of key pieces to my wardrobe that would make me feel better. Does that make sense or like that I would love to wear, Courtney: Yes. Look you never need to wear shoes that hurt your feet and you never need to feel guilty about your clothes. Kim: Yes. Oh, and I did just think of one thing I have a jean jacket. Did we add that? No? Courtney: No. Kim: I definitely have to add that Jean jacket. It's so cute and easy to pop on with almost anything that I wear. Courtney: Okay. Any bracelets? Kim: You know, I have my watch, which I wear a lot. Let me think. I mean, a bracelet would be okay. There's one bracelet that I'll pull out to kind of dress up a little bit, but it's so few and far between, I might not have thought of it, but if you didn't say something, Courtney: Then don't include it honestly. Like don't give yourself one more thing to think about, but I'd count your watch if you wear it. Kim: Okay. Then. Yeah, I wear every day it's, you know, tracks the steps and everything. So definitely it's a good component. Courtney: Okay, great. So look, you're at 26 items right now, which means there's six more that you can kind of either leave alone or consider what you might add during the three months. And maybe you want to wait until the end of the three months before you add anything. Courtney: But what I'd like you to do after our call is take a picture of your closet as it is now, and then take everything out. Except these items, these 26 items that I'm going to email you and take another picture. And with all those other items, I just want you to get them out of sight. Even though we know the shoes are probably going to go. And a lot of the other stuff you're just going to let go of just so you don't have that extra stress of where it's all going. Just get it out of sight. Courtney: It, do you have someplace you could put it like a garage or under the bed or in another room? Kim: Yeah, definitely. Courtney: Perfect. Okay. And then your class is going to feel empty. Kim: Yes. Courtney: But you're not going to fill up the empty space because it's going to teach you something. Kim: Okay. Courtney: Over the next three months. So I'm going to email you the list. You're going to take a picture. You're going to remove all this extra stuff that we don't have on the list. And then you're going to take another picture and then you're going to go live your life for three months and see what happens. Kim: Okay. That is exciting and scary. Courtney: Yeah. I really want you to follow up with me at the end of the three months and tell me what happened if you don't mind. Kim: No, no problem at all. Okay. That sounds so fun. Courtney: All right. Well, Denaye, I think we've got a yes. Denaye Barahona: I can't wait to see it. Yes. Lots and lots of pictures. Kim shameless pictures do not worry at all about how crazy it is. If you haven't seen my before pictures, I'll put those in the show notes too. So anyone can see those. I love seeing the before and after pictures on this kind of thing, and I think you're going to love the empty space. You're going to want to hang out in there. Kim: Yeah. Courtney: I think so too. And remember no guilt and you're not wearing anything that is uncomfortable. Kim: Okay. Yeah, definitely. Okay. And that's super exciting. Like, I mean, it's weird that when you talk me through this, how those ideas of why keep those, if they're not comfortable, why keep those, if you know, they hurt or why keep them in the closet if given like this, when you're telling me to pull from them, I don't even want to pull from them. It's kind of, it makes me feel kind of funny that I've kept them this long. Courtney: Yeah well, just it's part of the process and I'm really excited for you. I think this is a great list and it's going to make things better for you. Kim: Yeah. Thank you very much, Courtney and Anthony really appreciate it. Denaye Barahona: Awesome. Well, thank you for being willing to give it a try, Kim and Courtney. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. And I'm so excited for this new book. I'm going to put the link project three 33, the minimalist fashion challenge that proves less really is so much more. I'm going to put that link in the show notes so everyone can pick one up. Courtney: Thanks Denaye. Thanks Kim. Thank you. Denaye Barahona: Thanks so much for tuning in today. I hope you'll check out Courtney at bemorewithless.com and her book project three 33. The minimalist fashion challenge that proves less really is so much more. If you go to simple families.com/episode201, you'll find the links to learn more about Courtney and get a copy of her new book as always. Thanks so much for tuning in. If you enjoy the simple families podcast, hit subscribe to make sure you get all the latest episodes and make sure you're on the email list. That's where you're going to get updates with what's going on on the podcast, on the blog and in the community. Have a good one. The post Minimalist Wardrobe Challenge appeared first on Simple Families.
4 Mar 2020
In today's episode, I'm bringing you a Journey to Simplicity. I'm chatting with Dr. Gillian Goddard, a physician living outside of New York City with her husband and four kids. Although Gillian's life may feel anything but simple, she and her family have made strides towards finding the balance and rhythm that works for their family. Show Notes/Links:2019: Holiday Guide (NEW)2019: These Are a Few of MY Favorite Things (NEW)Simple Families Toy Gift List 2018Simple Families Toy Gift List 2017Photo by Alison SheehyFull Episode TranscriptionDenaye: Hello and welcome to episode 181. Today I am sharing a journey to simplicity. This is Gillian's story. If you're new to the podcast, you might be new to this series as well. I love to share stories from the Simple Families community of people who are striving to make big life changes to slow down and simplify things within their own families. Moving into 2020, I really want to spend next year focused on you. Simple Families is plural. It's not just one simple family, it's not just my family, I want to feature more of you. So whether it be your quotes and your photos on Instagram, your stories on the podcast, I'd like to make your voices heard loud and clear. Since I started Simple Families at the end of 2016, I have seen the community grow so much and I have absolutely enjoyed watching you all learn from and teach one another. So I'm going to be making more space for it. If you have a story to tell or a little anecdote or a big win, feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). And I'm also going to be featuring this Journey to Simplicity series once a month. So if you want your story and your family featured, send me that in an email as well. A couple of months ago, an Instagram friend reached out and told me that I have not yet featured any full-time working moms who work out of the home. I featured stay-at-home moms, I featured work-at-home moms, but not yet any work-out-of-the-home moms. So I put out a call to get some candidates and I got an overwhelming response, so many that it was hard to pick from. So as a result, I decided to do two. Today I'm sharing my chat with Gillian from New York, and next month I'm going to be sharing my chat with Marie from South Carolina. So let me tell you a little bit about Gillian. Gillian is a full-time working physician. Her husband is a full-time corporate lawyer. They have four kids, three of which were born while Gillian was in medical school and doing her residency. So after I heard that, I was like, "I want to hear what your life looks like, Gillian, because that's a lot. That is a really full plate, managing two busy careers along with four growing children." Not to mention that Gillian and her husband work in New York city and live just outside. I think that there's something substantial about living in a busy city or working in a busy city that your baseline cortisol levels are just high. Whenever I'm in a busy city, I feel like I'm on high alert and I'm sure that probably fades off the longer that you live there and the more time that you spend there. But nonetheless, I think that there is a certain amount of stress that comes with living and working in an environment like this. In her story, Gillian shares that she and her husband started off on the right foot with their first child and were parenting and buying very intentionally. However, as time went on, they felt like this was slowly slipping away. But despite that, they have been able to turn it around and to slow down and refocus on the things that are most important for themselves and for their four kids. And because she and her husband are not super humans, and they only have 24 hours in a day, many of which of those hours are working, they rely heavily on help. And as you listen to this discussion, you're going to find that the theme of asking for help and taking the help that you need is something that is prevalent and reoccurring. And it's something that I, here at Simple Families, am a huge proponent of, finding the help that you need, whether it's a paid childcare provider, a grandparent, an aunt, or an uncle, a friend that lives up the road. How can we move from the mindset that we are supposed to be the ones doing it all and being it all for our kids, and grow into a mindset that looks toward community and building up community to help support us? Because it's 100% okay and 100% necessary to ask for help. I hope you enjoy my chat with Gillian. Gillian: Hi Denaye, it's so great to talk with you. I'm really looking forward to it. Denaye: I'm excited to have you because I realize, actually I think someone brought it to my attention that I haven't had any full-time working moms do a Journey to Simplicity. So I put a call out for full-time working moms to chat with me more about their journey, and you reached out and I thought your story was so great and I wanted to hear more about it. Gillian: Oh, well I'm excited to share it. Denaye: So tell me a little... You live in Westchester County, North of New York, just like I do. It's a big county, so probably like 45 minutes from me. I'm like the northern point and you're in the southern point. So tell me a little bit about where you're from and who your family is. Gillian: Sure. So I'm actually from Arizona. I grew up in the Phoenix area and I moved to New York about 20 years ago right after I graduated from college for a job. And so I lived and worked in New York for a few years and then I met my husband. And right around the time that I met my husband, I decided to go from what I was doing, which was working in public relations for a firm, doing work for pharmaceutical companies, to go back to medical school. So I went to medical school- Denaye: So how old were you at that time? Gillian: I was 27 when I started medical school. And my husband's actually quite a bit older than I am. He was 39 when I started medical school. Denaye: And what type of work does he do? Gillian: He is a corporate lawyer and he's at a law firm in New York city. Denaye: Okay. So you went back to medical school at 27. Were you married yet? Gillian: We got married in April and I started medical school in August of that year. Denaye: Wow. That's a huge transition. Had you always wanted to go to medical school? Gillian: I had not. I was a journalism major in college, and I had actually never really thought about going to medical school until I started working in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry. And I started going to medical meetings and got more interested in medical science and in clinical medicine. And actually I do 100% clinical practice at this point, I don't do research. But at that point I really decided that that was what I wanted to do. So I had not actually done any of the prerequisite courses for medical school as an undergraduate. Organic chemistry is definitely not a requirement for most journalism majors. And so I did a program at Columbia called Post-Bac Pre-medical Certificate program. And they sort of lead you through doing the pre-medical prerequisites to take the MCAT and apply to med school, and then they help with the application process. Denaye: Oh, okay. So this is funny. Because growing up I always wanted to be a pediatrician. It was like my job when you were in kindergarten and they ask you what you want to do, I always wanted to be a pediatrician. And got scared away from all the sciency stuff in high school and then ended up getting my PhD in Child Development, which I guess is kind of as similar to a pediatrician as you can get, but non-medical. But as soon as I finished my PhD I told my husband, "I think I'm ready to go to medical school now." And it's kind of been this ongoing joke that I was like, "That's going to be my next step." But that's only kind of half kidding because the idea of going back later in life was one of those things that is daunting. And even at 27 you probably felt you were later in life than most of the other students. Gillian: I definitely did. So I had been out of undergrad for about six years at that point. I was married, I owned an apartment, my husband had been out of law school for 10 years, and a lot of our friends were well into their careers. And when I started, the students who went straight from undergrad into medical school could have been like my husband's children. Denaye: So they were in a very different life stage? Gillian: Yes. So there was a big social divide. I went to Mount Sinai on the upper East side in New York City, and what I found was they really looked for students who had taken a nontraditional route to medical school. And so there was definitely a cohort of us. I was one of the older ones, but there was a cohort of us that were a little bit older who were married or in serious relationships. And so we tended to gravitate toward one another, and many of those people I'm still friends with now. So there was a group of us that kind of hung together. Denaye: How long did it take to get through that? Gillian: Medical school is four years, and then I did an adult internal medicine residency, and that is three years. So I am a practicing adult endocrinologist, and the fellowship for endocrinology is two or three years. The fellowship I did was two years. So I started medical school in 2005 and I graduated from medical school in 2009. I finished all of my training in 2014. Denaye: So what year did you have your first child? Gillian: I had my children throughout my training. I had my oldest son at the beginning of my third year of medical school. I had my daughter during my second year of residency. I had my third child, also a boy, at the very end, like the last week of the first year of my fellowship. And then my youngest child who's almost four, I had after I had joined my practice. Denaye: I think we could suffice it to say that this was a really busy season for you when you were having your kids and getting through this period of your life. Gillian: Absolutely. I actually always joke. My husband's a corporate lawyer and my son was born in the fall of 2007. And we were both so busy going into that, that we actually ran into each other in our entryway of our apartment at 4:30 in the morning. He was coming home from work and I was leaving for work, and we had an argument because we were supposed to have dinner with friends that night. And he kept saying it was tomorrow night. And I kept saying, "No it's tonight." But we were actually talking about the same day, he just hadn't gone to bed yet and I was up and leaving for work. And so I think if you had talked to us then and asked us how we were going to get through this, we would have shrugged at you and had no clue. Gillian: And then there was a huge recession, and no one was doing deals and my husband was underemployed. And I really think that helped get us through at least medical school and residency with kids. Denaye: From the time that your first child was born, did you have help with childcare? Or how did you manage two busy jobs and a baby? Gillian: Yes. So we had a full time nanny, and we actually got her from a friend whose youngest child was going to kindergarten and didn't need full-time help anymore. And because she was waiting unemployed for our job, we started having her come and help take care of my son when he was two weeks old. So we have had full-time childcare since my oldest child was two weeks old. And we have always had full-time childcare. We actually probably have more hours of childcare now than we've ever had, and we have gone through... That first nanny stayed with us for six years, and then we had another nanny for a little while. And now we have a sort of hybrid situation where we have a part-time nanny/housekeeper in the mornings, and then we have an au pair. Denaye: Okay. So tell me about these early weeks in motherhood. Were you on some kind of leave or were you still- Gillian: I did actually. My medical school leave was one of my two longest maternity leaves. I was off for 13 weeks. Basically, the way medical school works is the first three years are pretty intense and then there's a break built into the fourth year to allow people to travel to go to interviews for residency. However, we knew that we were pretty tied to New York and so I wasn't going to be traveling for interviews. So I pushed off some of my third year work and completed those rotations during fourth year, and instead took a 13-week break during my third year of medical school. Denaye: So what was that like for you, the early motherhood? How was your experience? Gillian: I think back to that first maternity leave and I don't think I realized how good I had it. My, my son was a little bit fussy and of course we were new parents, so everything seemed kind of big. And I think the first time you're a parent, every stage feels unending. So you don't have the perspective of knowing that pretty much all six-week old babies are fussy, and if by the time baby is three months old, they probably will not be so fussy. And so everything felt kind of big. By the same token, I had full-time help, and my husband actually got four weeks of maternity leave. And so for the very first month it was like we would take our baby out in the stroller and go have lunch sitting outside somewhere in New York. It was actually kind of lovely. Gillian: And then I went back to work, and my husband went back to work and I would say thank goodness for our first nanny, because she really made everything smooth. She never missed a day of work in the six years that she worked for us. She was always willing to stay late. So if we both got stuck and couldn't come home, she didn't mind. She was very social and so she met lots of other nannies and lots of other kids. Those were my son's very first friends. And so really she made the transition back to work a relatively smooth one. My husband wasn't working quite the types of hours he had been used to working and not the types of hours he's working now, and so he really took on a primary parenting role. Gillian: And I think that we had a lot of these ideas that first-time parents have. We were going to be very careful about the schedule, about what food my son was going to eat. I spent the second half of my maternity leave pureeing every vegetable and fruit you can imagine. I had a freezer full of baby food before I went back to work and he was only 13 weeks old. We had spoken to our parents about wanting to be very careful about the things that we brought into the house for the baby. We were living in a New York city apartment and so we wanted to be very thoughtful about the things that we brought into our home. And I would say we were sort of typical first-time parents really trying to do all the right things. Denaye: Yeah. And a lot of that really resonates with me too in the early days. So something that I'm really curious about is something I hear a lot from moms in general, but especially from working moms is mom guilt. Did you feel mom guilt early on, or have you ever, or when do you feel that kind of came into your life? Gillian: Early on I felt like my son was so well cared for and he so clearly was attached to us and he was very, very close with my husband. I didn't know then what I know now because he's 12, that he and my husband are very similar in their personality and they have always just gotten along really, really well. And so I felt like he was so well cared for I wasn't so concerned about it. When I started to get more nervous about it, was around the time he was two or two and a half. I started my intern year, which is typically the most intense year of medical training, when my son was almost two years old. He was 23 months old when I started my residency. And all of a sudden I went from being busy but being busy in a different way to really being in the hospital, working 80 hours a week on overnight calls, frequently working over the weekends, rarely getting home for dinner time. Gillian: And I saw him become very picky in his eating. So his tastes really changed. So he went from being a child who would eat anything. He would eat anything we put in front of him, he'd eat the things that we ate. And we really patted ourselves on the back about what a great job we had done, making our child a real gourmet. We were always into food and then all of the sudden, he became very picky in his eating and I really blamed myself for that. It turns out it was probably just developmentally him becoming more picky, but it coincided- Denaye: So what you have is that peak period. Gillian: Exactly. Denaye: But you don't know that as a first-time mom, right? Gillian: You don't, and it really coincided with my work ramping up. And so instead of him having these lovely meals all packed and ready for him and really watching what the babysitter was giving him, we became reliant on some typical kid foods because they're easy and he would eat them. And so all of the sudden he had a very white diet, and I really blamed myself for that. And so I think that's really how mom guilt manifested in me. Denaye: And was that around the time that your second child arrived? Gillian: My second child was born a year later when my oldest son was three, and I had just started my second year of residency, which I'm not going to say it was an easy year, but an easier year than the internship year. Denaye: Is there a breaking point that you felt like, "This life is more than I bargained for, I'm more overwhelmed, this isn't how I want the rest of our years together to be"? Or do you feel like this is a gradual realization that you came to? Gillian: It was a gradual realization. A couple of things happen that changed how we thought about parenting our kids. When I started my residency, I did my residency at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, and it was at that point that we moved from the city up to Westchester County. We moved from a thousand square foot apartment, which by New York standards is actually pretty big, but into a hundred-year-old house that had four bedrooms, a basement that was finished. So we suddenly had much more space, and I really didn't have the time to focus in the same way on the types of intentional parenting decisions that I wanted to make. Gillian: And then all of a sudden we had my daughter, and I only had six weeks of maternity leave after my daughter was born. And then I went straight back into working more than full time. And we were really in kind of a put-your-head-down-and-get-through-it point in our lives, which sounds really awful and it wasn't all like drudgery and terrible working and awfulness, but it was very much about, "This is a stage, we go through the stage, we get to the next step." And that is sort of how medical training is set up. Every step is like you get to the next step, you get to the next step. Denaye: You check a box and you move on to the next box. Gillian: You do, exactly. And even to the point where you don't have a lot of autonomy in even what job you take. So you go through a mutual selection process for residency and fellowship where you interview with programs, you rank them, they rank the candidates that they interviewed, and then an algorithm tells you where you're going for the next step. So it really is like, "This is the next step, I check that box, on I go." And in the process of doing that, we also had three kids and moved to the suburbs. And by the end of my fellowship, the economy was really recovering and my husband was getting very busy at work. And so it wasn't until we really came out of that, that I started to have the time and the mental space to sit down and look at where we had gotten, and think about whether that was where we wanted to be or not. Denaye: Did you ever think about quitting? Gillian: I never once thought about quitting, I don't think I even could, because I think if I had even allowed myself to entertain that thought, it just would have been so hard to keep going on. I just couldn't even contemplate it. Denaye: And some of this might be personality too, that like once you're on a path, you're going, going, going, and you're doing what you need to do until you reach that end goal, that last final box, right? Gillian: Yes. I would say that is definitely somewhat personality related for sure. Denaye: Looking back at this busy season, would you say this was your busiest season or have there been busier seasons since this? Gillian: No, no, no, no. This is like the busiest we ever were. When I had my third child, I was finishing the end of my first year of fellowship and then all of a sudden all the crazy, busy years sort of ended all at once when I went into the delivery room with him. Denaye: So would you say that you would do anything differently if you had to do it over again? Gillian: I would have asked for more help. I think when we first moved up here and I started my residency, we were very attached to our babysitter and we couldn't imagine making the transition without her. And I was so focused on trying to maintain some stability for my son, and quite frankly to deal with the fact that we were going in the hole to pay for the babysitter as far as my income was concerned. So I was making less than our babysitter when I was in my residency. And so it was costing us money. And so the idea of asking for more help just seemed like too much to ask for. And now looking back, that seems so silly. Because that time is really an investment in your future career, and having more help could have made that time less stressful. I also feel like I was working so much that when I was home, I felt like I needed to do everything for my kids. I needed to be the person who did everything for them because I had so little time to spend with them. And I didn't want to waste any of that time doing anything for myself. Essentially I felt like, "Well, I go to work, and that's what I do for myself. And that I should really spend my free time focused on my kids." So the idea that I would get a babysitter to make life a little easier when I was home with my kids just seemed completely foreign. And I think that's a pretty common feeling among working moms. Denaye: Can you speak a little bit to the trials and tribulations of having an outside caregiver? Because I think a lot of people who are listening who are stay-at-home moms or maybe work-at-home moms who don't have outside caregivers, I mean it's not as simple as you just like pass off your kids and then everything's done, right? There's a huge piece of mental load that comes with handing off childcare. Gillian: Yes. I definitely think that that is true. I think the first place where you see that is in finding someone. It seems so easy, everybody has a nanny, all these working mothers have nannies, and they just poof, magically have these amazing reliable people who support their working life by taking care of their kids when they're gone. But I would say the very first and hardest thing is finding the right person. And I think one of the biggest things that I didn't realize when we started employing a nanny, was that the person who was right for us in 2007 when my son was born is not the same person that's going to be right for you later. And why would they be? Because taking care of a baby is very different than taking care of school-aged children. Our needs changed. My hours changed, my husband's hours changed. We moved from New York city, where my son's stroller was his major mode of transportation, to Westchester County, where despite the fact that my children walk to school, you really almost have to have someone who can drive a car, taking care of your children. And so I think there's finding the right person and then there's this constant reassessment as to whether the right person is the person that you're currently employing who was the right person for you two years ago or five years ago. So I would say that my biggest mistake in our childcare journey was not reassessing on a regular basis whether the person taking care of our kids was still the person who best fit our needs. Our first nanny who was amazing and lovely, worked for us for six years, and four of those years were while we were living in Westchester and that babysitter couldn't drive a car. So I took on a huge amount of mental load arranging rides to activities, birthday parties, making sure the activities that my kids were doing were within walking distance. It was choosing schools, choosing a nursery school because it was within walking distance. And so I think that is one of the big things that people don't think about when it comes to childcare. The other thing is you're employing a human being and their life changes during the time that they work for you too. So we have had nannies whose children have graduated and gone off to college. We've had nannies get engaged and get married. We have had nannies who've had family members pass away. The one thing we have not had, which is good for both us and for the nannies, is we've never had a nanny have a significant health problem. But I have friends who have, and it can be a real challenge for everyone. Denaye: Yeah. And I think one of the things that sort of took me off guard in paying a child caregiver for the first time was my need to make the child caregiver happy. Because I feel like their happiness plays a big role in the way that they take care of your kids. Do you feel that pressure at all to make sure that your childcare providers are happy? Gillian: Oh, absolutely. I often felt like I couldn't ever say no to something. So if someone was asking for a raise or for extra vacation, I felt obligated to say yes. And while I certainly support paying people who work in your home and take care of your children receiving a living wage and being supportive of them, and doing things on the up and up, I think that it does put you in a little bit of a position of feeling a little bit beholden. I think that's something I didn't expect. Denaye: That is, I would have said, the number one thing that I didn't expect. I just didn't expect taking on the mental load piece of having another human in our family really. And that that human is happy and well cared for so that here she can in turn take good care of my kids. I don't know why but it came as a surprise to me for sure. Gillian: So now we have both a part-time babysitter/housekeeper kind of, and then we have an au pair. And so we've had au pairs for about three years now. And I feel like that piece is even more predominant when you have an au pair because these are young people who are coming here to have a cultural experience and to be part of your family. And so I feel even more responsible for their wellbeing. And you have a young person living under your roof, and in the case of my au pair, taking the train into the city. Which I'm thrilled to have her do, but I've had au pairs miss the last train, and then get stuck sitting around Grand Central for several hours before the next train leaves, and I worry about them. Denaye: Yes, that all resonates with me as well. So as you moved out of the city and into a larger space, did you find that it filled up really fast? Gillian: Yes, it did. It fills up really fast. I remember when we bought our house thinking, "How are we going to fill up all these bedrooms?" Because our living space didn't get a lot bigger. We did gain a finished basement, but our living room, kitchen were similar in size. But all of a sudden instead of having two itty bitty little bedrooms that you could barely walk around the bed, we had four bedrooms. And two of our bedrooms are enormous. And feeling like, "How are we ever going to fill this space?" And feeling like we had this space that was a dedicated play room. I feel like we really took the brakes off the toy buying, and all of a sudden we had like every toy. Instead of having really great toys that my kids used, we just had every toy. Denaye: And with four kids, did you buy multiples of some? Gillian: There are very few things we bought multiples of luckily. Things broke, and so there are definitely some things that we replaced. Ironically, those are admittedly the things that were probably the good toys to begin with. The ones that our kids really played with. And we have not bought duplicates of things like the play kitchen. So we have had the same play kitchen in our house since my son got it for Christmas when he was two, so 10 years. And I would say that was one of my best purchases. But that one comes to mind because it was good and they played with it. So many toys have come and gone from this house that no one really ever enjoyed. Denaye: So when you were in the city, the toy buying and the stuff buying was really limited by your space, would you say? So when you went to buy something, you thought to yourself, "Well, where am I going to put this?" And then that helped you make your decision? Gillian: Well, there was a little bit of that, and then there was a little bit of... We started out wanting to be very intentional about our toy buying, not wanting to have a lot of plastic little bits and pieces, and really wanting quality toys that we felt like our kids were really going to enjoy over time. The space component was really useful when we were talking to our families about buying toys for our kids. So it was helpful to say to grandparents and aunts and uncles, "We would much rather you all go in together and buy one big thing." And we were thinking of an art easel versus everybody feeling like they could buy every little toy that came to mind. That they were like, "Oh, we really want him to have this particular toy, and you have room for it, right?" Denaye: Yes. Gillian: And so that's where it was both in our thinking, but a little bit of that changed. But I would say the biggest thing is we stopped reiterating that message to our family. And I think because we had used the space as an excuse going into parenting when they saw us acquire more space and we didn't continue to reiterate the message of we don't want a lot of toys. They want to be generous with our kids and I think that's amazing, it just got directed into a lot of toys. Gillian: The other thing that happened is our kids started having and going to birthday parties. And I'm sure you've seen this with your kids too. When you have a two year old, they don't go to a lot of birthday parties and they don't necessarily come home with a lot of birthday party favors, but they start nursery school and they get friends and all of a sudden they're having birthday parties and their friends are all bringing them a toy from... Where we live we have a store called The Value Drug, and it's like a drug store. It has everything. It has a huge toy section, and every toy in our town that's given for a birthday gift comes from The Value Drug. So all of a sudden you've got 10 new toys coming into your house from The Value Drug because you had a birthday party. Denaye: Is it a pharmacy? Gillian: It is most like an old fashioned general store. So it is a pharmacy and they do have an actual pharmacy where you can fill prescriptions, but they also have toiletries and that kind of thing. They also have a huge toy section, they have clothes, they have holiday decorations. If you cannot buy it at The Value Drug, you do not need it. It doesn't exist. Denaye: I'm kind of grateful that I don't have The Value Drug in my life. Gillian: You really probably should be. It's a real double-edged sword. Denaye: CVS is my worst nightmare. When I have to take the kids into CVS because they have positioned the toys at the end of every single aisle, you can't walk like four feet without stopping to look at the toys on the edge of every aisle. It's funny the way that toys can pervade and come into our lives even when we're not taking them to the toy section of Target, it's easy to be surrounded by them. Gillian: My kids think that going to The Value Drug to just look at the toys is like an activity that you do. Denaye: Yes. It's like window shopping, right? Gillian: Yeah, absolutely. Denaye: So the toys started adding up. And at what point did you feel pulled towards minimalism or starting to move back toward this intentional life of living with less? Gillian: I started becoming really interested in minimalism almost four years ago. I was on maternity leave with my youngest child and I decided that I was going to clean up our house a little bit. It seemed like things had just gotten a little out of sorts almost. And I started going through and I realized how much stuff we had. And so on that maternity leave, I picked a project every day and I started cleaning some things out. But when I started exploring minimalism, the roadblock that I came up against over and over and over again was I felt like it took me a while to find a community that was talking about being a parent and being minimalist. Because there's lots of people out there who just talk about, "Get rid of your stuff." But a lot of the stuff that needed to go from our house didn't belong to me technically, it belonged to the four other people who live here and my husband, so I guess the five other people who live in my house. And I didn't even know how to approach it. And the toys were so overwhelming that I didn't even know how to approach dealing with the toys. And so a couple of times a year I would go down there into our basement where most of our toys are kept, and I would say at this point, 90% of our toys are kept in the basement, and it would make me so furious. I would be angry with my kids because they couldn't take care of their toys. I would be angry with whomever our child caregiver was at the time, because I felt like they weren't taking responsibility for the toys. And I felt like it was my job to go down there and sort everything back out into the bins where they belonged and put everything back together. It would take hours and then it would all be undone a week later, maybe, sometimes the next day it felt like. It took me a long time to go from minimizing my own things to tackling the toys. I kept reading things like I needed to get buy-in from my kids and they should help me give things away. And I just knew that that was just going to create all kinds of strife and I couldn't face it. And so what really helped me to tackle the toys was your toy detox. Denaye: Oh, okay. So when did you do that? Gillian: I did that a little over a year ago. Denaye: For anyone listening, I don't offer that anymore, only because I think it's a great program, but I did it back in early 2017 and I haven't updated it. So I kind of pulled it off in hopes of maybe updating it and relaunching it again. But currently I'm not offering that. I'd love to hear your experience with it and how that helped. Gillian: It just gave me a different framework for thinking about how to do this without causing a great deal of strife in our house. I liked that it was so specific. In it, you talk about open toys and closed toys, and I had never really thought about that idea. We had a gazillion puzzles that I would just spend all my time like sorting the pieces back into the boxes that they belonged in. And so we had probably long unclosed toys, and very short... Not short, but maybe closer to being in the right place on open toys. I liked that it gave me hard numbers for thinking about like what is the right number of toys? Gillian: At the time, my 12 year old was just starting to transition out of really playing with toys to doing other things like reading, riding his bike outside, doing more homework. And so it was good for me to think about like, :"I need to pair this back to this number." So if I'm going to pair this back to this number of toys, which ones should it be? And it was easy. When I thought about like, which are the toys that get played with all the time? It was really easy. I kept the kitchen, I kept our building blocks, they're not unit blocks, but they're similar blocks. I kept Magna-Tiles, I kept Legos, I kept a marble run. And then my youngest son loves PAW Patrol, and so I kept his little PAW Patrol-like figurines and a few cars. And that was it. And well, I guess my daughter had some baby dolls. And when I got it back to those core things, they played with those, everything else was packed up in our store room and no one noticed that it was gone. Denaye: It's funny that you say that because overwhelmingly that's what I hear the most from people when they do the masterclass, which in the masterclass we have a unit on decluttering the toys and all the people that went through the toy detox. That is overwhelmingly the response that I hear that the kids receive it positively. And I think that there's so much fear around that transition. Gillian: Oh, I was so afraid that I was going to have four people, I would say little people, but one of them is almost my size at this point, chasing after me, because I got rid of a puzzle or a particular... I don't even know. It's so crazy because now I can barely even think of the things that I got rid of. Denaye: I feel like when you're making a big, big change, like when you're just getting started like this, just going for it and facing the consequences is the best way to do it. Because you could spend your whole life trying to convince your kids the value of this, but the reality is that the value is far beyond what most six, seven, eight year olds are ever going to be able to comprehend. If you ask them, "Do you love this? Does this spark joy? Do you want to keep this?" "Yes, yes, yes, yes." I think that your intent behind this and the goals and the amazing potential that can come from making a transition like this is just not something developmentally and cognitively that young children or even a lot of older children are really able to handle. And it's kind of like a rip the band-aid off in many cases. And I know some people have successfully involved their kids in the process, and I think that if you can do that painlessly and efficiently, then yes, do that first and foremost. But if it's never going to happen, or if it's slowing you down by involving the kids, I do think then you should rip the band-aid off, get rid of a bunch of stuff and then just deal with the repercussions of that. I feel like this is a sentiment that I'm hearing increasingly as this generation of parents is coming into the way that parenting is right now, is that we're really afraid of traumatizing our kids. And there's a lot of that fear around traumatizing kids in so many different ways, shapes and forms. But I've heard a lot of people say, "I'm afraid of traumatizing my kids by getting rid of their stuff without involving them." That sort of thing. And personally, I'm a pretty good mom, I'm there for my kids, I support them, they're well attached to me. They can rely on me for the things that they need. We have a strong emotional bond. They overall, have a really, really great life and if this change needs to happen, it's not going to ruin any of that. And any small trauma that comes from this change is going to be far outweighed by the benefits that result from it. And I definitely know that in my own life. Gillian: I also really thought about what are the things that they're attached to, what are their things that they really love? And I didn't get rid of those things of course. Denaye: Yeah. So you were being thoughtful in the process. Gillian: Absolutely. Denaye: It's not like you were just giving away everything. Gillian: "It all has to go." Denaye: Right. I'm hoping that doing it from a positive point of view. This is a great change for our family… Gillian: Absolutely. Denaye: It's not like, "You don't take care about this C-R-A-P. Get rid of all of it. It's all going in a box." Gillian: And it's funny because I felt like when I was trying to keep all this stuff, that's when I would get angry with them. That's when my frustration would come out in a way that was probably not productive. And that's not what I want my kids to think of when they're an adult. I don't want them to be like, "Mom was always yelling at us and bugging us to clean up our stuff." Denaye: Right. So by eliminating a lot of the stuff, you also eliminated a lot of that negativity that surrounded the dealing with the stuff, and it puts you, I would assume, in a better place emotionally. Gillian: Oh, absolutely. It is so much easier to interact with them in a positive way and do fun things with them. And I will do more with them than I used to in a different way. I'll sit down on the floor and build blocks with them in a way that I maybe wouldn't have done before because I was constantly thinking about cleaning everything up. Denaye: Yeah. And when that space that the toys are in is an enjoyable space to be in, not only do your kids want to spend more time there, but you want to spend more time there too. Gillian: Absolutely. And in fact our playroom is also where our one main TV is. And we don't use it a lot, but it's where we do like family movie night and those types of things. And so I feel much more willing to do things like all sit down together and watch a movie on a Friday or Saturday night, because it's a space that I want to be in and it doesn't take half an hour of nagging at them to clean up before we can go down there and do that. Denaye: Right. And your home doesn't feel like a place that you want to escape from. It feels like a place you want to spend time in. Gillian: Absolutely. Denaye: So what about your calendar? Have you made any big changes in your calendar in the way that your family spends their time? Gillian: Yes, absolutely. And I have changed both my work calendar and I have changed our family calendar. So up until about a year ago, I worked five days a week. And so that meant I commuted into the city to see patients five days a week. I would say on average, and this was somewhat variable, but on average my commute was taking about an hour and a half each day. For a number of reasons, my practice decided to go to a model where each of the four of us work four days a week and have one day a week where we just do our administrative work. So reviewing lab results, calling patients with lab results, certainly we respond to people every day if there's something urgent. But the sort of non-urgent paperwork and that type of thing, we decided we all wanted to consolidate on a single day. And so now I see patients in the office four days a week. I see patients for the same number of hours, but I do it in four days instead of in five. And then one day a week, Wednesdays, I stay home and I do all my administrative work from my desk in my bedroom. So I not only have compartmentalized the administrative work that makes life a little easier, I have also gotten rid of a commute, one commute per week. And so that's been really helpful in opening up some time. The other thing that we did, well certainly we opened up time by not having to pick up toys anymore or less often, but we decided over the winter last year, winter tends to be a little bit of a quieter season for us. My oldest son plays soccer, and so that's in the fall and in the spring. But we decided in the winter last year that we were going to limit each of our kids to two activities. It made it much easier to make choices about what activities they were going to do. So each of my kids has two activities that they do outside of school with the exception of my almost four year old. He goes to a half day nursery school program and that is all he does. Denaye: How did they receive that change? Gillian: In some ways I think it was really positive because it almost made it easier for them to think about what was the thing that was most important to them. They didn't feel like they had to say yes to everything. because if you ask a kid, "Do you want to play soccer this year?" They'll say, "Sure." "Do you want to play lacrosse?" "Yeah." "Do you want to be on a baseball team this year?" "Yes." But if instead you say, "You can have two activities, do you want to play soccer or lacrosse?" I feel like that's almost an easier question. Denaye: Yeah, less decision fatigue. And the other thing you think about activities when we're thinking about scaling back for kids is this idea that we really need to listen to their behavior even more than their words. Because a lot of times, like you said, they want to do all the things, but if their behavior's showing they're tired or they're not getting enough sleep, they're irritable, they dread going to the activities, whatever it is, if all of those things are showing you that they're doing too much, even if their words are saying, "Yes more, yes more", we have to really pay attention to those behaviors. Because like I was saying before about their developmental stage that cognitively, they aren't able to balance all the pros and cons and weigh the consequences of doing too much and how that impacts their overall wellbeing. And as parents, that's part of our role, is to step in and to notice when we need to start saying no or empowering our kids to make better decisions. Gillian: Absolutely. And one of the things that I've really seen in the last year that I think has been really beneficial is it has opened up some white space for my kids. So they don't feel like they come home from school, they do their homework, they rush to this activity, they rush home. It has really allowed them much more downtime, and it's really changed how they think about their time after school in a really positive way. They're doing much more creative free play, and they are interacting with each other differently. I also think we reoriented our activities a little bit. Two of my sons asked to start taking martial arts, and that has actually been an activity that's been super beneficial for us because where we go, where our boys go to do martial arts, they also do a lot of focus, not just on the body but on the mind, on focus, on different values that you want to cultivate in your own self, obviously at an age appropriate level. And that has been really great to see too. There's the added benefit that they can go at the same time. So one activity for each of two kids becomes one activity, which is really nice for us. Denaye: I've actually been seeing an increasing trend of martial arts studios offering family classes too, which I think is so cool. Gillian: Ours does do that. We have not taken advantage of that. We have two kids who don't do martial arts at this point. Although my four year old or almost four year old asks on a regular basis when he gets to do martial arts. Denaye: Yes. Gillian: He spends enough time in the martial arts studio that he probably feels like he should have a uniform already. Denaye: Yes. That's how my daughter is too. Because my son does martial arts and she's always standing off to the side, learning all of the sequences right along with everybody in the class. Gillian: Exactly. It's the curse of being the younger child. Denaye: Right. And I feel the same way. She is in swimming lessons right now, which she just recently started, but she does nursery school three hours, three days a week, and that's her activity. That's her social time, that's when she gets out of the house, that's for her. And I think I've had some temptations to put her into dance or whatever it is, but at this point that nursery school bit is more than enough for her at the age that she's at. And she's happy. Would she love to be in a little ballet class? Probably. But she also loves to dance at home, and she can dance at home for free, and I don't have to drive her anywhere. So for now she's going to dance at home, and that is going to be just fine. Gillian: That's definitely true. I think a schedule with four kids, even if each child is limited in the number of activities that they do, it can still fill up really, really quickly. So, we do try to be really mindful of that. We have also tried to encourage some diversity in the types of activities that they do. So we have tried to encourage them to do one physical activity, and then something that is music related or art related. For my daughter, that's not a problem, she only wants to do those types of activities. She doesn't want to do any sports or physical activity, so it's a different challenge. But I think my six year old chose as his second activity to learn to play the piano, and that has been a really nice balance too. So he does martial arts and piano, and he doesn't play soccer. And I have a six year old in the United States who doesn't play soccer and the world hasn't come to an end. Denaye: Something that we've been doing starting the summer, we don't have a regular Saturday commitment or actually any weekend commitments at all that we have to be at every week. But we've started kind of dabbling, I'm calling it, where we put the kids in a four-week clay class and then we took a few weeks off and right now they're in a six-week... It's called Meet the Instruments, it's at a Suzuki school where they're just going and like trying out instruments and learning a little bit about music. But I love the idea of it being short term. I don't have to feel like we're quitting. It doesn't feel like this ongoing commitment, but finding little things that when they're young, like dabbling is really important just to learn what's out there, learn what you're interested in, what you have natural talents towards. So finding things that aren't this ongoing, year-to-year commitment I think can be really great. Gillian: Yeah, absolutely. One of my children took a Meet the Instruments course or class. Two of my children are at a Suzuki school. My daughter plays the violin and then my son plays the piano, and I have really found some of those shorter classes that they offer to be really helpful, and just a nice way to experience something that they might not otherwise get to experience. Denaye: Yes, exactly. So tell me a little bit about partnership. It sounds like your hours are better at work or a little bit more manageable now. What about your husband's hours? Gillian: My husband's hours have really ramped up over the last couple of years. And so we have kind of switched roles a little bit, where I would say at this point I am a little bit more of the primary parent and he's maybe a little bit more of the secondary parent. But what I would say is, because he spent so much time alone with our kids when our kids were younger, I think we have settled into a little bit more of an equitable split than maybe a lot of couples find that they do when they both have jobs and a lot of young children. So my husband's actually in charge of the mornings. I'm not home in the mornings when my kids are getting ready to go to school except for the day that I work from home. And so I don't know how lunches get made in our house, I don't know what order you're supposed to pack your backpack, brush your teeth. That is not my purview. And I have found when I try to get involved, I get in trouble, because I typically do it wrong. And then I am the one who is typically home more in the early part of the evening. So I do a lot more homework supervision. But we have also really made the choice to kind of keep things like homework in the purview of the child. As I tell my kids on a regular basis, "Your teacher knows that I passed the fourth grade, and so they don't want to see what I can do in fourth grade math. They want to see what you can do." So when I say supervising, I mean really like, "Did you do your homework today?" And that's sort of the extent of it. We do make a real effort to have dinner together a few times a week. That does mean that we tend to eat dinner very late for what people typically think of for kids. My husband will get home around 6:45 and we'll sit down with everyone to eat dinner between 6:45 and 7:00. And then after dinner if he's very busy, he will often do more work, participate in conference calls. The one thing that he hasn't had to do a lot of recently, and the one thing I rarely have to do, is travel for work. And so that makes our schedules a little bit more predictable. Denaye: Right. So it sounds like you have found a good balance and partnership, which I think doesn't always happen when you have two working parents. But do you think starting out that you both have been fully employed outside of the home since the very beginning, do you think that has helped to keep things divided? Gillian: Absolutely. I think that neither of us feels like we are the one who knows how to do the various things that need to get done the right way. So neither of us are like the keeper of all of the processes for the house. We each have things that we're responsible for and the other one really does not get involved. So when I say I don't know how to make lunches, I mean it, I don't know how to make lunches. So I don't make lunches, I don't think about lunches, I don't worry about if there's food in the house for lunches. None of that falls into my purview. And so it's much easier to just take whole chunks of work completely out of the picture. Denaye: And the funny thing is that let's say your husband had to travel for a week and you did have to do the lunches, kids have a way of stepping up and doing their bit when they know it needs to be done. Your kids would probably be like, "Oh, this is how you make the lunches, mom." And then just show you how it's done, without any problems. Could you see that happening? Gillian: Oh for sure. My nine-year-old daughter is probably the person who is really the keeper of all the household information. If it has to do with how things get done for kids and you're not sure how to do it, you just ask her and she'll be more than happy to tell you how it's done in no uncertain terms. Denaye: Right. And I think that that's really great in many ways because it allows kids to take ownership and to feel like they are really an important contributing member of the family. Gillian: I think one benefit of having two parents in busy jobs has been that it has really forced our kids to be independent. And I don't mean that in a bad way. I mean they take agency because if they don't, it might be that no one else does. And I think it's really been good for them. They walk to school by themselves, with the exception of the three and a half year old. Everyone else walks to school by themselves. The older two are actually dismissed from school and come straight home by themselves. They are really responsible for doing the things that they need to do to go through their day pretty much on their own. One of the things that I did after encountering a lot of your work was I rearranged our kitchen so that they could get their own snacks, and so that they could reach the glasses. And I rearranged the refrigerator so that they could reach the water bottle. And so that's really made it... even in the kitchen has made them so much more independent. And really that's the goal, right? The goal is to make your kids functional adults and they're not going to suddenly, at 18, wake up and be like, "Well, I know how to do this." Denaye: Right. Yes. To slowly help them grow their wings. Gillian: Exactly. Exactly. And so we really have sort of accidentally, and now more intentionally tried to foster their independence. Denaye: Great. And I love that. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today, Gillian. This has been really fun to hear your story and to hear how things have changed for you over the years, and it still feels like quite a journey I'm sure. Gillian: It does. We definitely don't have it all figured out yet, but I feel like we're in a better place than we were a few years ago. Denaye: Great. Well thank you. I appreciate your time. Gillian: Oh, it's been so much fun to talk to you Denaye. Denaye: Thanks so much for being a part of Simple Families. If you want to stay in touch, the best way is to join the email list. Go to simplefamilies.com and you can leave your email address at the top. You'll get all the updates, what's going on in the blog, on the podcast and in the community. Thanks again.The post Gillian's Story appeared first on Simple Families.
4 Dec 2019
SFP 142: Organization for Everyone [with Rachel Rosenthal]
In today's episode I am chatting with professional organizer Rachel Rosenthal. If you are anything like me, you might struggle with complex organizational systems. Rachel is bringing her best tips to keep it simple and approachable--and maybe make 2019 your most organized year yet. Show Notes/Links:Rachel's Online Program (use the code NEW YEAR for 10% off)Rachel's WebsiteRachel on FB + IGThe post SFP 142: Organization for Everyone [with Rachel Rosenthal] appeared first on Simple Families.
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SFP 169: Too Many Toys?
Do your kids have too many toys? When it comes to toys, there is no perfect number. But in today's episode we are talking about why children don't need a lot of toys. Having an abundance of toys is not only unnecessary but could be harmful. We are talking about all that and more. Complete Transcription:Today, we're talking about too many toys. How did we gethere? How did our kids end up with so many toys? Our intentions were good. Thegrandparents, the aunts and uncles, whoever else is buying, their intentionsare good as well. But too many toys aren't just unnecessary, but sometimes theycan actually be harmful. I know harmful is a strong word to use here, but I'mgoing to explain more about this. I'm going to explain why scaling back on thetoys is actually not only in your best interest, less cleanup time, less chaos,but it's also in the best interest of your kids.Before we get into today's episode, I want to bring you a60-second ad from today's sponsor. Today's episode is sponsored by CulturalCare. Now, Cultural Care is an au pair agency, and what is an au pair agencyyou might ask? It's an agency that links you with au pairs. Many of you knowthat we're in our second year participating in the U.S. au pair program and weabsolutely love it. Cultural Care is the name of the au pair agency that weuse, and the way that they define an au pair is a caring and committed,adventurous, educated young person between 18 and 26 years old. They come frommany different countries worldwide. All au pairs have childcare experience andundergo a multi-step screening and training process before joining your familyas a live in child care provider.I was surprised to learn that an au pair actually costsabout half what a nanny costs in our area, and that was one of the firstreasons that led me to explore the process. Au pairs can provide up to 45 hoursa week of flexible childcare. That means you can use three hours in the morningand three hours at night, or 10 hours on a Saturday. So it can really work forpeople who have both regular schedules and irregular schedules.As a host family, we pay a weekly stipend to the au pair.We also provide a bedroom, food, and up to $500 a year towards college credits,which are required as a part of their stay. If it sounds like something thatinterests you, definitely go to culturalcare.com and check it out. That'sculturalcare.com.It is officially September and we are back in weekly mode for the podcast. That means you'll get a new episode every week, and I'm getting ready to launch a new round of the Masterclass. Now, if you're not familiar with a Masterclass, the Masterclass is my flagship program that focuses on simplifying the family. This will be the last time this year that I'm going to be offering the program and I would love to have you join me. It's an eight-week program. We spend four weeks focused on simplifying the home and four weeks focused on simplifying your parenting. If you want to learn more, go to simplefamilies.com/masterclass, and there's lots and lots of information there, as well as information about how to sign up. Each time I run this program, it's such an amazing group of families and the feedback that the program gets is incredible., and there's lots and lots of information there, as well as information about how to sign up. Each time I run this program, it's such an amazing group of families and the feedback that the program gets is incredible.I'm going to read you a few words from Madison, who took the most recent Masterclass, and she said, "I guess I hadn't told my husband that I was taking the Masterclass and today he saw it up on my computer and said, 'I saw the class you're taking. Is that why you've been so chill?' Your class has changed my relationship with my children and my husband. I'm happier, calmer, more understanding, and apparently also more chill. I don't have much to simplify in the way of stuff, since I've always been the type to purge and organize and only keep what I need. However, I've simplified my routines, systems, and mostly my attitude and approach towards parenting and marriage.I've slowed down and no longer rush out the door. I thinkabout what I truly need to pack for our outings with the kids and I keep itsimple. I'm spending more time at home playing and reading with the kids. I'veimproved my communication with my husband and I feel like we're more of a team.I have simplified my outlook on household chores and I've been able to keep upwith it, which means I'm less stressed about keeping the house clean. Denaye,your class has drastically improved our family life and I am forever grateful.Thank you."Madison, I so appreciate you sharing your words with me. I can't tell you all how much it means to me to hear this sort of thing and to know that the work that I'm doing is actually touching people, and furthermore, actually improving lives. From a personal perspective, one of the reasons that I really love this program, and the other ones that I run, is because sometimes being a podcaster and putting out content online, I feel like I'm just talking at you a lot and it's not as interactive as I would like it to be. So when I run these programs I actually get to know you, the people out there who are listening. It's very reassuring that I'm not just talking to a wall, which sometimes it kind of feels like that. So again, Madison, thank you for sharing your very, very kind words and I am so glad to hear that the Masterclass had such an impact on your family.The next round of the class is starting on September 16th,and the early-bird pricing is going to go until September 12th. So I would loveto have you join me before that. You can get all the details thatsimplefamilies.com/masterclass. I hope to see you there.In the spirit of the Masterclass, we're going to be talking today about too many toys. We have a lesson in the Masterclass that talks about reducing the toys, how to do it, why to do it. I first want to talk about my own experience with toys. I found minimalism back in 2014, and back in 2014, I was wrapping up my Ph.D. in child development. When I became a mom the year before in 2013, I was already heavily invested on buying high-quality toys for my kids. I wanted to fill their lives and their bedrooms with lots of educational, durable, beautiful things.I was thinking a lot about quality and never reallythought much about quantity, which means every single educational, beautifultoy that I saw, I could make some excuse to buy it. So we had a lot of stuff.It was good stuff, but we had a lot of stuff. As I moved through parenthood andI wrapped up my PhD, I started to be able to bring theory to practice. What Imean by that is the theory and the philosophies that I was learning in my PhDprogram, I was really starting to put those into practice as a mother, and Iwas really starting to look at the impact of my parenting and the way that wewere living our life and how that contributed to my children and their behaviorand their development. It didn't really take me long to realize that, yes,quality is important when it comes to toys, but so is giving consideration toquantity, because our kids do not need a whole lot of toys.Now, many of us are going to see that our kids don'tactually spend a lot of time playing with toys. Now, a lot of kids are playingin some way, shape, or form all day long, but the thing is they're not actuallyplaying with toys all that much. Now, you might have kids who don't even spendthat much time at home. Maybe they're in full-time daycare or they're in schoolfull time, and then on the weekends you're doing errands and you're out andabout doing things. So you find that they don't spend a whole lot of time athome, but yet your house is filled with tons of toys. Or you might find thatyou keep buying new toys, trying to look for things that are going to be theperfect fit and they're going to be engaging for your kid because your kiddoesn't seem to care much about toys or engage much with the toys that theyhave.Whatever the reason, most kids, at least here in the U.S.have too many toys. How did we get here? Why do we have this problem? Becauseit is absolutely 100% a first-world problem. There are two main reasons that Isee kids getting a lot of toys. The first is we do a lot of front-loading. Now,when I say front-loading, that means we front-load the joy on our toys, andsome of you may have heard me talk about this before. We love, love to see thejoy when our kids get something new, the look on their face, the excitement, theexpressions. Now, not just us, but the grandparents and the aunts and unclesand anyone else who's buying toys, they also love to see this too. There'sabsolutely nothing wrong with enjoying seeing your kid light up about a toy.The problem comes in when we consider the fact that thethings that get our kids really excited, the things that light our kids upimmediately, are often the things that also get set aside pretty quickly. Ourkids get really excited and enthusiastic about the toys that they see on TV,they see in commercials on YouTube. The things that relate to the hit moviethat's out right now. The things you can press a button and they light up andthey talk and you know exactly what to do with them. Those are the things thatare probably going to be on the Christmas list. Those are the things that aregoing to be on the birthday wishlist. Those tend to be the things that we buythat get set aside quickly.They also tend to be things of lower quality that breakand end up in the landfill, and toys are notoriously hard to recycle. Becauseof how hard it is to recycle toys, pretty much every single toy that's everbeen purchased, ever been manufactured, is sitting in a landfill somewhere.Now, of course there are exceptions to that. Let's say the vast, vast majorityof toys ever manufactured are in the landfill today, and take a second tovisualize what that might look like. 50-plus years of plastic toys from everychild from the past three generations. That's a lot of toys in the landfill.So when I say front-loading, that's what I mean. Wefront-load the joy. The kids get all the joy upfront, right? When they open it,they set it aside, and often the toy goes untouched or isn't played with forany significant amount of time or duration.We've gotten away from front-loading the joy when it comesto toys in our house. I do give my kids input on what sort of toys that theywant to get, what they want to put on their wishlist, that sort of thing, butI'm also really mindful of the fact that the way that I buy for my kids isteaching them. It's teaching them how to make decisions about bringingmaterials into their life, and I want them to be intentional about it. So wetalk about the decisions. How often are you going to play with this? How manydifferent ways can you use this? How durable is this? How long is it goinglast? What's gonna happen to it after we're done with it? Is this somethingabout we're going to be able to pass on to another family, where perhaps itjust won't be interesting to kids because it involves a character that islosing popularity and is going to be pretty much unknown after your child isdone playing with it.When you buy toys more intentionally, you can back loadthe joy on the toys, and that means you might be buying something like a goodset of wooden unit blocks that aren't necessarily going to light your kid upwith joy when they open it on the morning of their birthday, but the joy isgoing to come out slowly over weeks, over months, over years, as they learn newcreative ways to use these toys. I don't know about you, but that's what I wantto teach my kids about bringing new things into their life. I want them to buymore intentionally. I want them to buy things that are going to be useful anddurable, to last for years rather than something that's just going to get themexcited and happy for a few moments. I truly think it's never too early tostart teaching that.Now, that's just one of the reasons that we got where weare today here in the U.S. We have an abundance of options when it comes totoys, and we also tend to fear boredom in our kids. We fear when our kids havedowntime, because sometimes can be difficult during that window of time.Because we fear boredom, we sometimes buy toys to try to ease that anxiety, feelinglike if you just provide them with enough stuff or the right stuff that they'llstay busy, that they'll stay engaged, they'll play longer, when actually theopposite is true. The more your kids have and the more that you buy them, theless engaged they are, the less they take care of those toys, and the more theysuffer decision fatigue.Our intentions are in the best of places. If your kidshave a lot of toys, don't be embarrassed, don't be ashamed. Just know that thisisn't a life sentence. You can change the way that you're buying. You canchange the way that the toys and the stuff are managed in your house. If you domake a change, it doesn't mean that you're being mean. It means you're beingintentional and you're being thoughtful and you're doing something in the bestinterest of your whole family.If you're front-loading the toys and you are thrilled withthe joy that you see in your child's face, when they light up and they getsomething new, that's okay once in awhile. But be mindful of the fact thatsometimes, or maybe even often, the toys that we are front-loading our childrenare the ones that hold their attention for the shortest amount of time. If youfind yourself buying your kids toys because you fear boredom and you thinkthat's going to be the quick fix, it's not, because once the newness of thattoy wears off, the boredom is going to return. Instead of fearing the boredom,we have to embrace it and let our children have the chance to work through it.Having a lot of toys isn't just unnecessary, but I alsosaid that it can be harmful. Having a lot of toys is unnecessary because, likeI said before, a lot of kids just don't spend a lot of time at home. Whetherthey're in school or they're in daycare, they're out of the house a lot. But eventhe kids that are at home a lot and spending a lot of time within the home areactually spending a lot of time engaging in regular stuff. Our kids needimitation. They need to be able to spend a lot of time right next to us. Theyneed to be able to explore the things around the house. Maybe it's the vents onthe floor, looking out the windows, helping in the kitchen.If you stop and pay attention, you'll notice that a lot ofthe time that you spend at home with your kids, they're not even playing withtheir toys. They're playing with other stuff around the house. It might be thecardboard boxes or the bubble wrap. They might be reading books. The reality isthat most kids don't spend their entire days playing with toys. That'scompletely normal. If you're feeling like you have a house full of toys thatnobody plays with, you're probably right and you're definitely not alone.I had said that having too many toys can actually beharmful, and I'm hesitant to use that word because it is such a strong word,but I do truly believe, and the research is starting to show us, that there arenegative repercussions to having too many toys. There is research to show thatkids play more creatively when they have fewer things. It's not just yoursanity that is going to improve when you get rid of the stuff because you'regoing to have less clutter, and we do know, research also shows, that our ownfeelings of stress and anxiety go down when we have less clutter around. Ifyour stress levels are lower, you're going to be happier, you're going to bemore present, you're going to be calmer with your kids, but your kids are alsogoing to play more creatively. So you're going to be happier, your kids aregoing to be more creative, and I'd venture to say that they're actually goingto be happier too, and they're going to get the opportunity to learn how totake care of things.I know, when I look back at my childhood, I never putanything away. I had way, way too much stuff. My mom spent years yelling at meto clean up my room, and I would go up to my room and look at all this stuffand just really think to myself, "I don't even know where to begin. Idon't know how." It was overwhelming for me. So if you're looking at yourkid's toys and thinking, "Oh, this is overwhelming," if it'soverwhelming for you, it's absolutely overwhelming for them to manage and forthem to deal with. I'm pretty sure you don't want to spend their wholechildhood yelling at them to clean up their room, and I promise you don't haveto. There is another way.Also reflect on how you feel when you're in the toy space.Does it feel cluttered? Do you feel irritable? Is it a place that you want tospend time? If it's a place you don't want to spend time, there's a chance yourkids probably don't want to spend a lot of time there either, and that might beanother reason why they are following you around instead of playing with theirtoys. A space that is clean and orderly is going to be more attractive to yourkids and it's going to be more attractive to you too. You're going to want tosend more time in there with your kids if you feel good there, if you're notstepping on things every time you walk through.My kids do a really great job of cleaning up their toys.Now, they are not perfect by any means, but everything has a place and theyknow where things go. So once they're done with them, they can easily put itback, they can easily find what they're looking for, and it has a big impact onthe way that they play and the way that their space functions for them to play.When things are being put away, they're going to be taken care of. They're notgoing to get stepped on, they're not going to get lost, they're not going toget ruined.There's an implicit lesson in that. We're teaching ourkids that the things that we buy, the things that we spend our money on, arethings that we love and things that we want to last and be a part of our livesfor a long time. When it comes to kids, we have such a throw-away culture.Everything's disposable. We buy it cheap and don't keep it for very long. Ithink we can start moving away from that, but we've got to be purposeful aboutit, we've got to be thoughtful about it. That means changing the way we buy notonly their toys, but also their clothes and the other things that they have intheir lives.The last reason of having too many toys is I think that itreally implies this idea that kids are supposed to spend all their time insidebecause that's where all the toys are. I often think about the kids who live intiny homes or who travel full time with their families. Those kids don't haveroom for a lot of toys, but what they do have is access to the outdoors. Theyspend most their time outside and they also probably spend a lot of timeengaged and imitating with what their parents are doing too.So start watching, start paying attention to how your kidsnaturally spend their time. If they're not playing with their toys a lot, maybethey have too many. If you scale back, they're more likely going to take bettercare of the toys, they're going to be more engaged, more creative. I'd ventureto say you're going to see a pretty big behavior change. I know this becauseI've helped well over a thousand families do this, to reduce their toys andreduce the stuff in the home. I've seen firsthand, not only in my own familybut in the families that I've worked with, the impact on the mental health andwellbeing that it has, not only on the parents but also on the kids.I know it can be overwhelming to think about cutting back on the toys, but you're not being mean. You're not doing this as a punishment. You're doing it for the betterment of your family. I hope you've enjoyed this episode and that you found it helpful. We're talking more about this in the Masterclass. I would love, love to have you join me and be a part of it. It starts on September 16th and the early-bird pricing is in effect until September 12th. Go to simplefamilies.com/masterclass to get all the information there and to get on board.Thanks so much for tuning in, and I will talk with younext week. Have a good one.The post SFP 169: Too Many Toys? appeared first on Simple Families.
4 Sep 2019
SFP 165: Journey to Simplicity | Jane's Story
Today I'm chatting with Jane Monnier about her journey towards reducing mental and physical clutter. Jane is a longtime member of the Simple Families Community. She's also is a rocket-scientist-turned-military-wife-and-mother who has lived around the world with her family. I think you will enjoy Jane's wisdom in this episode! (Full episode transcription below).Show Notes/Links:The Mental UnloadJane's WebsiteJane on FacebookJane on InstagramJane MonnierFull Transcript: Denaye: For those of you have been listening to the podcast for a while, you'll know that occasionally I do these journey to simplicity stories where I follow members of the Simple Families audience, and they share with us more about what their journey towards a simpler life has looked like. Today I am chatting with Jane Monnier. Jane has been a part of Simple Families pretty much since I have since the very beginning. And it's been a pleasure getting to know her through the Facebook community and through the programs that she's done. She's a veteran of The Mental Unload. She's actually done it with me three times now and she joined me this last round as the community manager. Which was so great to see her be able to take the tools that she's used and support other women. So she's joining me today, and we're talking more about what her journey to simplicity looked like. Jane is a rocket scientist turned military mother and wife, and her family has moved all over the world. And they've definitely faced obstacles and their own share of stress and overwhelm, and the accumulation of stuff. So Jane is going to share a little bit about how she's been letting go of the physical and mental clutter. I hope you enjoy this episode. Conversation Begins: Denaye: Hi Jane, how are you? Jane: I'm wonderful Denaye. How areyou? Denaye: I'm good. Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. Jane: Of course. My pleasure. Denaye: So Jane, I'll first say how I've gotten to know you over the past couple of years. You have been a part of the Simple Families community for how long has it been, do you know? Jane: I can't remember exactly, but Ithink it was before you even had your actual blog website up. You were doing anemail list. Denaye: It was probably early 2017 maybe, I'm guessing. Jane: So I know I only had one child Ithink, and she was born in 2015. Denaye: Okay. Wow, it's been a long time. Jane: It's been a really long time. Denaye: I've loved having you as a part of Simple Families and you participated in The Mental Unload. You've done a few rounds with me. I this last round you help to co facilitate it with me and I really enjoyed getting to know you better through that too. Jane: Well thank you. I really enjoyedit and I loved being bigger part of the community during that last MentalUnload because there's some really awesome ladies that were involved. And Ialways learn something new every round I do about myself. And every round I doof The Mental Unload affects me in a different way because there's alwayssomething new going on in my life. So it's wonderful. Denaye: The Mental load doesn't go away, but you can learn to balance it better. Jane: Exactly. Denaye: Keep it a little quieter. Jane: Yes. And I have. Denaye: Good, good, good. So I am excited to hear your story. So tell us a little bit about you and where you started. Where'd you grow up? Where have you lived, because I know you've lived all over. Jane: Yeah. So I'm originally born andraised in Minnesota. And I was really excited to leave and do other things, andwent to college down in Florida to get an engineering degree at Embry-RiddleAeronautical University, which nobody really knows about unless you're in theaeronautical community. And then my husband and I actually reconnected. We wentto high school together but weren't high school sweethearts or anything likethat. And reconnected right after we graduated college in the same year when Iwas living in Florida. ANd he joined the air force, and we were dating longdistance. I moved to Texas and then we got married in 2009. And shortly afterwe got married, we moved to Japan, and were there for three years due to hisjob. And then about 28 or 30 weeks into my first pregnancy in Japan, we moved to Arkansas where we were there for about three years. We added another child. I finished my master's degree in Arkansas and started working again as an engineer there after taking a few years off in Japan. And then he got a surprise assignment that we were super excited for, which required us to move to Italy, where we are right now. But before that, he had to go to language school in Washington DC. So we lived there for six months while he learned Italian and then we moved to Italy. And we've been here just over two years now. That's my geographic story in a nutshell. We have two daughters. My oldest is almost six. Her birthday's at the end of May, so she's an almost six year old, and a three and a half year old, two daughters. Denaye: Wow, that makes my head spin. Jane: There was a lot going on. Denaye: So much movement and change, and wow. So tell me a little bit about your career background. What type of engineering were you doing? Jane: So I graduated in 2007 with abachelor's degree in aerospace engineering, and I worked for Boeing at theKennedy Space Center for the space shuttle program back when we were stillsending us astronauts to space off of US soil. So that was a pretty- Denaye: So does that make you a rocket scientist? Jane: It does. Denaye: I'm just checking. I thought. Jane: Yes. Technically it does. And Ireally liked saying I worked for the space shuttle program a lot, but my actualday to day job wasn't super fulfilling to my interests, I suppose. So Itransferred within the same company to Texas and made airplane parts instead,which is a lot guess more blue collar for lack of better words. I got dirty atmy job. I got to wear jeans and steel toe shoes and stuff, and work with somereally, really talented machinists that could build any part that you neededfor these really old cargo and tanker airplanes that the Air Force is stillusing today that need to get basically completely overhauled with new stuff allon the inside of them. And some of these parts, there's not a manufacturer forthem anymore. So we build them in our shop. And that was really fun, and Ireally love that job. Denaye: So was it just a coincidence that your husband was in the Air Force or was this all, was that one of the big pieces that you reconnected on? Jane: So I would say it was acoincidence because it wasn't why we met or anything like that. But having ashared interest in aviation definitely helped us have a bond, and somethingthat we could talk about and enjoy. He had always wanted to be a pilot hiswhole life. And so it was really easy to support his dream to do that because Iwas also then still a part of the aviation community. Even when I quit my jobto go with him to Japan, I was still in this community that I found a lot of satisfactionbeing a part of, even as a different role, which is military spouse. And I kind of naively also thought, "I work on military aircraft. I'll be able to find a job at any military base." But that's not really how it works. There's different bases that do a lot of the work with contractors or companies like Boeing. And there's other places that they don't do anything. Only active duty people work on the aircraft. ANd I'm not in the military, so I couldn't have that sort of job. So I naively thought I'd be able to continue my career wherever we went. Which has not been the case at all. Denaye: Now was this a career that you had dreamed of your whole life or is it something you stumbled onto? Jane: I was always really good at mathand science, and I loved the movie Apollo 13. I thought I want to be anengineer, but I negated the other types of engineering that I didn't want to dobecause the job sounded more boring or I wasn't interested in. Robotics orsomething like that. But I liked aviation and I liked space. So I kind of went into it not really knowing what I was going to do in the career field, but just wanting that challenge to say that I have an aerospace engineering degree, I suppose. So my whole joke has always been I don't know what I want to do when I grow up because I really like being a student, and I really like having a challenge, and I really like learning. Unlike my husband who's always wanted to be a pilot in the military, I haven't had that direct of a goal for my childhood or even my adult life. Denaye: And I think that's so true of many adults that some of us know exactly what we want to do and we start down that path, and we stay on that path forever. And then others of us, I feel like we are a lot more open to learning new things, and to learning about new novel areas, and diving deeper into many different things. Sort of like a jack of all trades. Jane: Right, right. Totally. I stilldo love engineering. When I had to take a break from it while we were in Japan,I decided to get my master's degree through an online program. So I also have amaster's degree now in mechanical engineering from the North Carolina StateUniversity's online program, which was a really cool experience to do. And Ijust always thought I was going to do that. Denaye: So now you're home with your kids. Was that ever in your plans? Jane: It was never in my plans. I grewup with a mom who always worked. She worked part-time. She was home at threeo'clock, so I always had her home after school, but she always had a job. And Ijust always assumed ... I've worked really, really hard for my degrees and formy job. And why would I not do that anymore, I guess. And I always think I wentto daycare, I'm fine. So my kids can go to daycare and they'll be fine too. Andit never really crossed my mind that that was something I was going to do. Denaye: I've talked to a lot of moms in the past year about this idea that when you're coming from a career where you have found success and moving into a new role as a mother, whether it be a stay at home mother or a working mother, that you come in with this idea that I've done this other job well, and I have succeeded and experienced success in this side of me. Motherhood is going to be easy. This is just going to be one more thing, one more box to check, one more thing that I can achieve and succeed at. Did you feel like that at all going into motherhood? Jane: Definitely. And I also have hada lot of experience with kids. My part-time job in college was as, I call myselfa nanny, but I didn't live with them. But I was regularly at their house forthree years, multiple days a week and saw these two boys grow up. I alwaysliked kids. I've been a camp counselor. I've done things even when I was inJapan, one of the things I was doing there was teaching English to little kidsand substitute teaching at the high school on the base and things. So I've always had kids as part of my life. So I always thought that becoming a mom would just be that natural next step. I've always wanted to be a mom and I've always liked kids, so I'd never really thought that I couldn't do everything. Denaye: So tell me a little bit about your experience becoming a mother and your first years. What did those look like? Jane: They were ... looking back at itnow, I can see that I was trying to do a lot. But at the time, it seemed I wasjust doing my life, you know? We thought we were going to be staying in Japananother year. So I expected to have my first daughter while living there. And weactually had a really wonderful community there. So that didn't scare me. I washappy to have my daughter there. And then the military always has a mind of its own. So they decided that my husband needed to move back to Little Rock a year sooner. And so I moved seven months into my pregnancy which I was not expecting, and we had to find a house to live in, and buy new cars. And all of that is a lot when you're not hormonally pregnant and dealing with that, find a new doctor, choose a hospital to deliver in, all those things. Suddenly I had two months to do it in and not nine. So that was a lot. My husband was in training for a new airframe, which is really demanding. So we always joke that our daughter was a good military baby because she was born on Friday of Memorial Day weekend, which means he got Saturday, Sunday, and Monday off of work. So he was back to training on Tuesday when I had a four day old child. And that was just normal. That's what everybody around us had to do, so that's what I had to do as well. I took a break from my master's program that semester that I was moving and having her. I did know I couldn't do all of that at once. So I took a break for that semester. And then I finished my master's degree while at home with [Leah 00:18:12] is her name, our oldest. And around when she was nine months old, I started getting applications out, and finding a job, and I started full time as a design engineer for a cylinder company. Not exciting compared to airplanes and space shuttles and things. But I'm in Arkansas, so this is where I can get a job. And I was so excited, and I was going to do it all. We found a great Montessori daycare school for her to enter in once she turned a year old and everything was great, except I hated doing the job. I did not like it at all and I really had some great coworkers, so that helped. But I missed my daughter. I missed her so much. And my husband was supposed to deploy. And I just was like, "I can't do this anymore." And I was visiting a friend of mine who I went through college with, and she doesn't have any children, but she's so supportive. She's one of those best friends who even if your lives are completely different, she's just always in your corner. And she told me, "Jane, when you talk about your daughter, your face just lights up. And when you talk about your job, you seem miserable." And it was her that gave me that permission to say I don't have to do this. It doesn't define me being an engineer. So I decided to stop, and I quit, and I didn't have anything else lined up. I just said I need to be home right now. And I eventually found a variety of other things that I liked to do. One of them was writing for a online math program that I wrote tests and quizzes, and I wrote little stories to teach people about calculus, and the unit circle, and different things like that. And I really liked that little job, which I did while my daughter stayed in school. We kept her in Montessori school and just put her part-time, which was I found out a perfect balance for me. I loved having her home most of the day, but also having a break to do other things. And it was a really good balance for me, and I never tried to find full time work again after that. I ended up finding a really awesome job as a museum educator for a children's science museum, which was so much fun. I got to bring in my passion for science education, but they were really nice about around my schedule with at this time now I had two kids. And it was really a great mix of both my family and the science world that I really liked. So when we were in Little Rock for about three years, and I added two kids to the family in that one three year period. And I switched jobs twice. So that's a busy three years to go through. But at the time, it didn't seem that way. I guess I was just doing what I had to do. Denaye: In retrospect, were you feeling overwhelmed at that point? Jane: Yes. Yes. I was. I wasstruggling to find some sort of meaning for myself other than just a mom. And Ikept feeling like I wasn't doing enough because I wanted my kids to go to apreschool or to a Mother's Day Out. They call them Mother's Day Out programs inArkansas. I'd never had heard that until I moved there. But- Denaye: They have those in Dallas. I always hated that name. Jane: I don't get it. I hated it too,that's what it was called. We said daycare. They thought I meant putting in ahome, which would have been fine too, but I didn't know anybody who did that.And so- Denaye: I just felt like it gave this perception that Mother's Day Out, go get your nails done. Jane: It was like Mother's Day Out togo to my job now at the museum. Denaye: I was writing my dissertation. My son was at Mother's Day Out two days a week. And I'm just like, "No, I am not going to get my nails. Not that there's anything wrong with getting your nails done. But I think just the name of it like triggers, at least for me, it triggered me to think this is all moms have to do is have a fun day out." When there's a lot of us who do other stuff. Jane: Yes. For me it really was a meansense of child care for me. That was where I expected my daughter to go so Icould go to have my job. It was my daycare, my childcare. But nope, it wasMother's Day Out apparently. But it was a great facility, and my daughter was very happy. My oldest was still at the Montessori. But that didn't start until a year old. So I couldn't have them both at the same place. But the other benefit of Little Rock was that childcare there compared to other areas of the country, was very affordable for us. So it meant that I could put them in a part-time program without a huge sense of financial guilt that my job wasn't bringing in a ton of income. It literally just paid for her to go to her childcare program. It did not pay anything extra. But it gave me a sense of happiness and I'm a good balance that I was craving. I was craving balance. I will definitely say that. Denaye: So do you feel like having this outside outlet really helped with the mental overwhelm that comes with moving and having a second kid, and just the big life changes that you were going through? Jane: Yeah, I definitely think that ifI would have either stayed at my full time job or stayed home completely, Iwould have really struggled that I was missing something. But by finding a bitof balance between working part-time and still being able to be home, allowedme to feel like I was still doing something for myself as well as still therefor my children. And I was really lucky to find a work from home job writingthat math curriculum that I could do in the night, I could do in the morning. Ijust had a deadline. It didn't matter when I wrote it. So that was reallyflexible with young children. And then also, the staff at the museum was so wonderful and so supportive. They really set a bar for what I expect my future employers to do as far as being a family friendly workplace. Because if I was sick or my children were sick, there was no guilt that I need to stay home with them, and my husband could travel for his job and be gone. And I didn't feel this doom of what am I going to do if I wake up tomorrow and my child has an ear infection. Which was really stressful when I was working full time because I don't live near family, so I don't have anybody that can just step in and help me. So having just the stress of not having to give all of myself to a job but not also having to be fulfilled entirely by staying home with my kids, was a good mix of the two. Denaye: So were you able to keep at least in your online job after you moved? Jane: I wasn't, actually. There's somereally strange rules about when you move to different countries for themilitary and how those countries are supported. An agreement and stuff. Soactually in Italy, I'm not allowed to work online because the rules haven'tcaught up with the modern day life of 2019. So I'm a rule follower, so I didn'tkeep that job even though I would have liked to. And I was a little bitworried- Denaye: Are you allowed to work at all, or just not online? Jane: I'm allowed to work in a USmilitary base. Denaye: Okay. Jane: But we are in a remote place. Sothere really isn't a lot of opportunity for me. I would be very underemployedif I decided to work at the nearest military base, which is a tiny base thatdoesn't have a lot of jobs at it to begin with. And definitely no engineeringor STEM education jobs for me. Denaye: Got it. Jane: Yeah. Denaye: So within all these moves, were you hauling all your stuff around with you or were you putting it into storage? How does that work when you're moving so often? Jane: We had it all Denaye. We had allour stuff. And that was a huge catalyst in me saying enough is enough. I've gotto simplify my belongings and my home. Because it wasn't so bad when we move toJapan, because we were a young couple. We were just a few years out of college.We just didn't have that much stuff. But then we gathered more things while welived in Japan. And then adding a baby, your things just explode. You get so muchstuff when you have kids. And we moved into a three bedroom home with a den,and a living room, and this big kitchen. And it's like we just had to fill itup. And I love that house. It was great. But when we found out we had six weeks to move from Arkansas to Washington, DC, and then from there onto Italy, it was a mad panic to try to get the house in order for a realtor to come in to try to sell it, and trying to decide what to pack and what not to pack, and are we getting rid of things? Are we just going to bring everything? But we have to downsize to this tiny apartment in Washington DC because we can't afford a big house there because it's a completely different cost of living. And it was not fun. And when we finally got to Italy and we moved into an Italian style home, which does not have closets, that's completely normal here. We were lucky to have a tiny little garage, which I don't know if our car would actually fit in it, but we use it for storage. My laundry is out there and stuff. I got into this house and I said never again. I will never again panic to move like I panicked this last time. I will never feel overwhelmed with my house and my stuff ever again. And it has been a really, really good change since. Denaye: So you brought everything with you to Italy. ANd did you get rid of a lot of it? Jane: So we started the big purge. Iguess probably, we tried to get rid of a bunch of stuff before we moved toWashington DC but we just didn't have enough time. So we got of a lot of littlethings. But a lot of the bigger stuff, we had two shipments. One shipment wasgoing to storage to then go to Italy, and the other shipment was going to ourapartment in Washington DC. So I was scrambling trying to figure out what tobring to DC and what just goes to Italy. So when we eventually made it toItaly, they were unloading boxes I hadn't seen for six and a half months that Ithought I needed to bring here. And I'm like, "Why did I haul this acrossthe world? What was I thinking?" And so yes, we've gotten rid of quite a lot of things since being here. We didn't have a lot of big furniture and stuff like that. It's just stuff. It's just the things in boxes, and bins, and closets. And when you don't have closets to store anything in you realize, well this was just going to sit in the back of the closet. So do I even need it? And my girls are sharing a bedroom, and so I don't need to have a lot of things. All their things together, you know? Just things that living in a smaller home with virtually no storage makes you really second guess everything that you own and why you own it, and why did that go across the world with you? Denaye: Yeah, I have to say when we moved from Texas to New York, I was like, "I got this. I'm a minimalist. I have barely any stuff. Our closets are pretty much empty. This move is going to be a piece of cake." I thought I had it all under control. And when that moving truck pulled up to our new house, I was like, "Holy bleep, what is in there?" Jane: It's crazy. When you see all your things into these big wooden shipping crates, how do I own this much stuff? And in the thing is you get a set amount of weight for a military move based on if it's a single airman or if it's an airman that has a family. And we've always been well below the limit. So I always thought, "We're fine." We know people that can't move certain things because they're above their weight limit if they do. And we've never had that problem. We joked that we can put my husband's Mazda in the shipment and we'd still be underweight. That was one of our jokes when we left Japan. But honestly, it's still too much stuff. And then I realized too I don't want the panic for myself, but then I don't want the daily panic, the daily clutter of finding a way, a place to put all this stuff. Because as you know moving into your house, it takes a while to learn how your new house works. How it functions best for your family, and just even things like how you're going to set up your kitchen. And when you're struggling to even find a place to put something in, you can't think in terms of how functional is this. You're just trying to shove a door over, or shove another Crock-Pot behind that cabinet door. I don't need three Crock-Pots. I don't. Denaye: Yeah. And I feel like it's easy on a daily basis to disconnect the emotional impact that your stuff has on you. But during a move, it becomes so evident. Jane: Yes. And I remember my landlordis the cutest Italian old woman that you could have. When I had this dream thatI'm going to move to Italy and I want this Nona, Nona means grandma in Italian.To teach me how to do things and take me under her wing. It was totally just adream. And when we found this house, I got that Nona. She is part of our familynow. I love her to death. Her name is [Silvana 00:33:28], and she volunteeredwhen my stuff arrived to help me unpack my house. And now this is a 70 year oldwoman who doesn't speak a word of English. Denaye: Did you speak any Italian? Jane: I spoke very beginner Italian. Ihad been studying for a few months, but now I'm fine. But when we moved here,it was a struggle. And she kept looking around and she kept just saying[Italian 00:33:56] which means, "All this stuff. All this stuff. There'sso much stuff." And I was so embarrassed. Because if you grew up in a home like this from the beginning with no storage, I've learned in Italy how wasteful we can be. Even with things like doing your trash and your recycling, which was a big part of my original Mental Unload in your very first Mental Unload group. I didn't realize how stressed out I was about putting my trash out every day. But it's because I was used to hauling this trash out on every Monday or whatever it was in the states in this giant rolly container, and then I just had to remember to do it the next Monday. And everything would go in this huge container. And here it's like Mondays is my food trash, and Tuesdays is recycling, and Wednesdays is paper, and Thursdays is trash. But you only get a little bag. You don't get unlimited trash. I don't know. Every day is a different type of waste, and you realize how much waste you create when you see it all every morning in its own category lined up, and you see your neighbors and how little they have compared to you. Denaye: Do you feel like some of this is because there just isn't quite as much stuff readily available for purchase there? They don't have Target, right? Jane: They don't have Target. OhTarget. I know, for better or for worse. I mean yes and no. We live outsidePisa, which is a good sized city. There is a, I call it Italian Walmart becauseit's blue I guess versus Italian target. Because Walmart is blue and Target isred. It has everything you would need in this one shop. But in general, inother smaller towns especially, they don't have anything like that. And then ifyou have a little car or no car at all, if you use public transportation,you're not buying more than you need. And their food is also less, I don't wantto say less process because they sell plenty of processed food. But in general,you go to the store multiple times a week to get your fresh food. And you don'thave one giant Costco trip and you bring it all into your house at once.Because I think there isn't the space to put it all. So they go shopping everycouple of days and things. It's opened my eyes to, there's other ways to do this than the way that I have been doing before. Which really wasn't working because I wouldn't have been as completely stressed out about my move, and my things, and my stuff if it was working. But now I know that when we get the next orders and we find out where we're moving beyond here, I'm going to be ready. I'm going to be welcoming those moving trucks to come in because I'm going to be ready. I will know that the things in my house are the things I want in my house. Denaye: Yes. Now where did you start when it came to this stuff? Did you start with your clothes, with the toys, or what did you do first? Jane: I started, I don't even know. Idid a lot of starting with the toys because when we moved from Washington DC, Ileft a lot of stuff there and donated a lot of stuff because my daughter was atthat point, almost 18 months old, my youngest. And she was out of those babytoys. We left her crib there. I was just like I can't bring and set this cribup another time. We've set this crib up three times. I can't do it again. I gotrid of a lot of toys when we moved here. And then once we got here is when Istarted doing a lot of my clothes because I didn't have a big closet. I have athree foot wide wardrobe, and that's where all my clothes need to hang up. So I got rid of a lot of clothes, and I have access to some pretty nice shopping here in Italy as far as clothes go. So I really went for quality over quantity. I really try now to be much more thoughtful about what goes into my wardrobe. It's really opened up a lot of just freedom in that because I wash laundry every day. And so I don't need to have a ton of clothes because the longest my clothes goes is maybe two days without being available to be clean. So I have most of my wardrobe available to me at all times, so it doesn't need to be that big. And the temperature here is fairly mild. Most of the year it gets really hot, but it never gets extremely cold. And so it's easier to have less. I don't have to worry as much about a giant span of temperatures, so that's nice. But yeah, I started with clothes and toys. Then it slowly has moved into other areas of the home. The kitchen, I did that more recently, which was a big help. And it's slowly trickled into some of my husband's things. I've not forced him to do his things, but I do have this master list of before we move again. And one of them is to go through his two bins of, they're just in the garage and they just say, Derrick's stuff on them. "We're not leaving this country without you opening those bins, and touching everything in them and saying if you really want it." He's like, "No, no, we'll do it. We'll do it." He's on board. But it's nice because I see now with the children, they're not overwhelmed by their things. And everything has a spot for their toys, and it makes cleaning up easier. It makes them finding the things they need without my help easier. It's ingrained in them I guess now that my daughter said, because her birthday is coming up and she said, "Mom, maybe before my birthday I should go through the toys and pick out the ones I don't play with much anymore to make room for some new toys I might get for my birthday." And I loved that because though we don't try to just shower her with a million gifts, she does know that on her birthday she gets some new toys. But she didn't just automatically think I get all these new toys. She goes, "I'll give away the ones I don't play with so much anymore." And she just says it on her own now because I've had that be a part of her life the last two years that she thinks that way now. Which is great. Denaye: Now are your kids mostly friends with other Italian kids or other American kids? Jane: Both. They go to an Italianschool, so every day they're with their Italian classmates. And we do have someAmerican friends that are nearby that we're friends with as well. so they get amix of both, which is pretty cool. Denaye: I kind of wonder, hearing about your life now and how it sounds so much lighter and simpler than when you were living in the US. Do you feel like the way that your house, the lightness of your house and of the lifestyle that you're living is almost similar to what most Italians are doing on most days? Or is it different? Jane: That's hard to answer because Ifeel like just like Americans, there's a lot of Italians that live differentlifestyles from one another. In general, sometimes I feel like our life isactually a little bit slower in some areas. My daughters attend the samepreschool. It's a very small country school up in the countryside here. There'sabout 20 kids in the whole school, ages three, four, and five. So they're togetherin the same little school. And it seems like many of their classmates are in a lot of activities, be it swimming lessons, or they go to a music class, or they have a sport that they do. And my kids aren't involved in any extracurriculars right now. But I also feel like a lot of the Italian families near me have a lot of family support. I see grandparents picking kids up from school, and they're the ones that are going to go take them to swim class, not mom and dad. They stick closer to home than we do. We travel a lot, and so we simplify our daily life at home so we can have that flexibility to travel without worrying about missing a dance recital or something like that. Though I have asked my children if they want to do things and they tell me no, they don't want to. So that helps that I don't feel like I'm taking anything away from them at these young ages by not having them in an extracurricular activity. But I don't know, in some ways I feel like I'm a little slower than their lives. But Italian parents have definitely taught me how to slow down and relax when it comes to being with my kids. So it's a back and forth. I can't say it's a blanket thing that all Italians have a slower lifestyle. But sometimes I definitely feel like I've learned a lot from the Italian culture and living here. Denaye: Okay. And that makes sense. I guess that's what I was thinking because when I think about Italy and some other parts of Europe as well, I think about just having this slower culture where you can sit down and enjoy your cup of cappuccino or whatever it is that you're drinking. And really be present. I'm sure that that's not, to some degree that's true, but not necessarily across the board. Jane: I think Italian moms can getcaught up in race to do everything, too. A lot of the women here have jobs, andare trying to do at all as well. And I think just like any other parents, theywant to give their children opportunities. And the things that the Americanmothers struggle with as well. But I do think that the way that they can sitdown at a meal with their family and friends at our restaurant for hours andjust let the kids play and be there and be a part of it, is something that Ihad to learn to do. That was really hard for me when we first moved here tojust relax and let that time spent with others just happen. I always thought wehave to be doing something or the kids need structure, and what are they goingto do at a restaurant for two hours? And I figured it out, and it's not thathard anymore. Yeah. So in that sense, you do have that slower pacing. So insome ways, you do get that slower life. Denaye: So now that you're in Italy and you can't work, how do you feel like that's impacted your emotional wellbeing? And have you found anything to give you that stimulation? Jane: So I was actually really worriedabout that because I felt that I had found a pretty good balance betweenworking and being a mom. Literally right before in the months leading up to ourlast move, because we weren't expecting to move. It was a surprise thing. So Iwas really worried about that. So I knew I needed to do something to keep myself feeling challenged. So I really dove into language study, and we invested money as well as time into saying this is worth it for me to learn Italian, because we want our children to go to Italian school, which means I need to be able to talk to their teachers and the other parents to form a community. My husband's going to be using Italian everyday at work, and I want to be able to be a part of his community, and meet his friends, and not be on the side and stuff. So that was a big priority was getting me Italian lessons and the time to study. So that has helped a lot. And then since we've moved here, we've been traveling a lot. Obviously with Italy at our fingertips for just three short years we have to see as much as we can. So I've really learned ... we've always loved to travel, but this was the first time we really were traveling with our little kids. And I've really learned to enjoy planning the trips and being on the trips of course. And then I've started a travel blog to share some of that. I had a lot of friends say, "Jane, you need to write some of this stuff down because people are going to want to know how to go to the places you've gone to with little kids. People think you can't take little kids on a wine tour," and things like this. So I started a travel blog, which I've never been a writer. I'm a math and numbers person, and so this was a big, scary, new adventure I suppose. But it's been really fun and given me another outlet that I've enjoyed doing. And this is honestly the first time since becoming a mom that I feel like I don't need anything more. I'm very content, and it feels good, and it feels good to not be identified by what I do or what I don't do. And that's a thing actually I love about the Italian culture. Is it might take you months to find out the job of the people that you talk to every day at your kid's school or the job of the spouse. I know what my husband's coworkers do for a job because they work together, but I don't even know what some of their wives do because you don't talk about work. You talk about everything else. work is just a thing you do. It's not who you are. So that has been so wonderful that people don't ask me. Every once in a while they say, "Did you work in the states?" And then I'll go into my background a little bit. But oftentimes they don't. They just ask if I'm loving it here in Italy. There's so much you can talk about that's not your job. And so that was really nice to say finally, I'm not defined by what I do or what I don't do. I'm defined by who I am, and that's enough. I'm in a really good spot with that. Denaye: Oh, I love that. So what is the name of your travel blog? I want to put that in the show notes. Jane: Sure. So my website islittletripstravel.com. And I also have an Instagram, which is@littletripstravelblog. So yeah, littletripstravel.com for the website, and addthe blog to the name for my Instagram account. And I'm also on Facebook at@littletrips. Denaye: Great. I'm definitely going to put those links in the show notes. Because I know that I'm always looking, whenever we're planning a trip, I always go looking for blog posts for people who've been there with kids, and the things that they've loved to do with kids. And I am definitely on board with you in the sense that you can take kids anywhere. But sometimes, having a little bit of guidance in some of the better things and better areas to lean towards with kids can be really helpful. And there's not enough out there. Jane: No, for sure. And I definitelytry to focus. We went to Greece on a vacation. I'm not an expert on Greece. Ican tell you what I did and what worked for us, but I'm not going to write onmy blog that I know how to go see Athens with children. But what I do know howto do with kids is see Pisa because I live here. I can really bring in, ifyou're wanting to come to Tuscany and to Italy, I can bring in the halftourist, half local approach because I'm a little bit of both when I'm here.And I just enjoy saying hey, this is what I did in Greece, or in Paris, orwherever I've gone. And it might not have worked great, but this is what I did.So you can learn from it or not do what I do as well. So it's just been fun. It's just a hobby blog, but for me it gives me that creative outlet and it gives me a sense of me sharing something I've learned with other people, because I usually like being the student. And so now I feel like if I'm putting in all this work to travel from my family, I can maybe help other families enjoy traveling with their kids more too. Denaye: Good. I love that. Well, thank you so much Jane. This has been a lot of fun talking to you. Jane: Thank you Denaye, I've enjoyedtalking with you as well. Denaye: Thanks so much for tuning in. I hope you've enjoyed this episode and my chat with Jane. Mark your calendars for The Mental Unload. Enrollment opens next week, July 17th. Go to simplefamilies.com/unload for more details. Thank you for tuning in and for being a part of Simple Families.The post SFP 165: Journey to Simplicity | Jane's Story appeared first on Simple Families.
10 Jul 2019
Scoot Over and Make Some Room
Stepping into new spaces can make anyone uncomfortable. For many of us, developing a relationship with an individual with special needs might be new territory. In today's episode, we have Mama/Author/Advocate Heather Avis sharing her ideas about raising kids with kindness and moving towards inclusion. "When we walk into the world with our children we know we are different. What we want is for people to embrace us, not turn away from us." Heather AvisLearn more about HeatherFind Heather on InstagramHeather's Book: Scoot Over and Make Some RoomFull Episode TranscriptionYou can listen to this episode of the Simple Families podcast in the player above or in your favorite podcast app. Or you can read the full transcript right here.An Update from DenayeWelcome to episode 183. This is Denaye. Today we're talking about scooting over to make some room. Hello, hello and happy December. I hope that this holiday season is one that is bringing you joy and maybe some semblance of calm amongst all the insanity that happens around this time of the year. If you're following me on Instagram, you'll know that I am currently doing a 25 day workout challenge starting December 1st going through the 25th. I will tell you that it is single handedly the best way to lengthen and prolong the holiday season because this month is just going on forever. Like when will it end? I'm so done. The reason I did it was because I had set a goal to reach 100 cycling rides. We have a Peloton that I like to ride and my goal was at the end of the year, I wanted to have 100 rides. Then in the middle of November I broke my toe so I was off for probably three weeks and I got way behind. So I'm like, "All right, I got to ramp it up, finish out strong for the end of 2019." The other reason that I did it is because as some of you know from my new year's resolution at the beginning of this year, I gave up alcohol. Part of that journey has been figuring out what the holiday seasons look like without wine and champagne and other things to celebrate. So I've put in a little bit more exercise to help fill in any of those gaps, which I'm not really even feeling that heavily anymore. Next week I'm talking with Brooke Conley, who was on the podcast last year before I decided to give up alcohol. We talked a little bit about this concept and the idea of giving up alcohol when you're not an alcoholic and how it can be a strange concept for many of us, including myself. So I'm just wrapping up that year now, very soon in the next week or two. I'm going to be sharing all the details of that next week when I chat with Brooke. I also want to be sure that you caught the short form episode yesterday. Starting in 2020 I'm going to be adding a second episode each week where I have a shorter episode and I cover a question from an audience member and I share something simple that I'm loving. Maybe a concept or a book or a product, whatever it might be. So if you didn't catch that yesterday, go back and listen to that, Episode 182, I'm answering the question, “How do we handle Santa?” I'm also sharing my “something simple” for the week. So starting off in January, that will be a weekly occurrence and I hope you enjoy that. Meet Heather Avis, a Special Needs Mom and Advocate for Kindness and InclusionCircling back to today's episode, I am chatting with Heather Avis. Heather is a working mom of three and she's the author of the book, Scoot Over and Make Some Room. All three of Heather's children came to her through adoption and two of them have special needs. They have down syndrome. Heather's book and her voice has really inspired me to want to scoot over and make some room for special needs families in my own life and encourage you to do the same. Heather and I are starting the conversation off today talking about idealization in parenthood because this isn't the family that Heather had dreamed up as a little girl. She never dreamed that she would be adopting. She never dreamed that she would be a special needs parent. So often our life takes a very, very different course than we ever thought it would and it can turn out so much better as a result. But the core of this conversation really comes with asking Heather, how can we make inclusion the norm within our society? How can we raise kids to appreciate the differences in one another? How can we help our kids see the amazing benefits in befriending people who look and act differently from us? If you're a parent, you know that sometimes it can be a little bit uncomfortable. You want to do all the things and you want to say all the right things and your intentions are in the best of places. So whether or not you have a child with special needs in your family, your immediate family or extended family, your neighborhood family, I think you're going to appreciate and love this episode. And I can only hope that it inspires you to scoot over and make some room for children and families who look different than your own. If you want to find links to what Heather and I are talking about or links to get in touch with her, you can find those in the show notes above. Thanks so much for tuning in. Interview with Heather AvisDenaye:Hi Heather. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. Heather: Hi Denaye. Thank you for having me. Denaye: You're welcome. So I just recently finished your book, Scoot Over and Make Some Room, and I really enjoyed it. Now this is your second book, right? Heather: This is my second book and let me say thank you for reading it. I know that I wrote a book now twice, put it in the world, but every time someone tells me they read it, it's just like, "Whoa. Awesome. Thank you." Denaye: Yes. I feel like I know a little bit or a lot about your story now, but could you tell my audience just a little bit about who you are and who your family is? Heather: Definitely. So the first book I wrote is called The Lucky Few and it's a memoir. My husband Josh and I have been married for 17 years now. We have three kids. All three of them came to us through adoption. I struggled with infertility for years and adoption was not our first plan or choice. It kind of happened to us in all the best ways. Our oldest daughter, her name is Macyn and she is 11 now, she came home at four months old and she has down syndrome. When she came home she had a congenital heart defect and a very serious lung condition that we were told was incurable. We were told she wasn't going to live very long. And again, it's a very long story but at one point before we said yes to adopting her, the cardiologist said she may live to be as old as five, maybe eight. That's how severe her health issues were, which were totally mostly unrelated to down syndrome. She just also had all these health issues. So as an 11 year old, she is totally healthy, no health issues. She's just an incredible little miracle. Denaye: That's amazing. Heather: Yeah, it is. She's amazing. And just such a testament to how babies are born with certain ideas and conditions and that the medical community … I’m not trying to talk down about the medical community, but there's this message sometimes that "Your child will only amount to... fill in the blank.” It's like, "Wait a second. This is a tiny human. Who can determine what this tiny human will amount to?" So our middle daughter Truly Star, she is now eight years old. She came home a week shy of six months old. She does not have any disabilities or special needs. She is Guatemalan and African American and my husband and I are Caucasian, our other two are also Caucasian. So she's the only girl in the family with brown skin and curly hair. Then our son August, he is five, he'll be six in December and he also has down syndrome. We found out about him while his birth mother was seven months pregnant and we got to be with her those last couple of months in certain ways and got to be at the hospital the day he was born. He also had a congenital heart defect that's been resolved and he's totally healthy. We live in Southern California. They were all born in Southern California and that's where we live now. My husband and I run a social awareness brand called The Lucky Few with an emphasis on creating a more inclusive world for all of us. That's us in a nutshell. There it is. Denaye: Great. So I mean I think that tells us so much and as I was reading your book, I really felt like Macyn, since she's your oldest has kind of been one of your big teachers in life. Heather: 100%. Denaye: Not that they all haven't been, but I just felt like I really wanted to meet her. Like I feel like she has the voice that you gave her and the personality that you sort of illustrated for her throughout the book, I think it made me really fall in love with her in specific. Heather: I love it. Even having two kids with down syndrome, she's 11 and August is five. And I have a podcast called The Lucky Few Podcast where we talk about down syndrome specifically. I always am referring to Macyn and I always have to be like, "I know I have another kid with down syndrome, but she's the oldest. She's the one that's paving the way for everybody. She's the one that we're learning with the most.” Denaye: Right. So tell me a little bit about what your vision for motherhood was before you became a mother. Like what did you think it was going to be like? Heather: Oh gosh, I had a really great, very clear vision. First of all, I always wanted to be a mom. That was the thing I wanted to do. So I was raised in a very healthy two parent home with a stay at home mom. And her being a stay at home mom is not why our family was healthy. You can have a very healthy family with two working parents. But that was my reality and my experience. So that felt like that's what I want to do. So I was just going to get married. I wanted three kids. That was always the number. I wanted them all before 30. And we got married really young. I was 20 years old when we got married. So I loved the idea of like being 37, having three kids, like being done with kids by then and they would all be healthy. They would all be "normal" and they would look like my husband and I. That was the plan. I'd stay home and we would do play dates and whatever. I mean, it was just like the easy normal plan. Not that motherhood is easy but it seemed easy, normal and nice. Denaye: Right. And you talk especially in the beginning of your book about how you sort of had these preconceived notions about working moms and the whole, the age-old working mom versus stay at home mom debate. I've talked about this a lot on the podcast too. It's something that I had because I was mostly a stay at home mom in my early years of motherhood. Now I would consider myself more so a working mom even though I do work from home. I feel I had all those same feelings and actually I'm going to read a quote from your book. You said, "The more I get to know these women…” And these women being the working moms. You said, "The more I get to know these women and watch them mother their kids, the more I realized they had so much to teach me about being a good mom." That's really impactful because I think you are able to see things from both sides of the coin now. I mean do you feel like you fit into either of those boxes, a working mom or a stay at home mom now? Heather: So my husband and I run our business together full-time and I always say we are full-time business owners and full-time parents. 100% parenting, 100% owning a business. So the lines are blurry but I 100% consider myself a working mom. I do remember in the early years of having kids, I mean I chose to be a stay at home mom because that's what I thought was best. I think especially the younger we are, we all do the thing that we think is the best and right thing for the most part. So I had a lot of judgment towards working moms. I remember my attitude towards it was like if we have to live in a one bedroom shack so that we have the money for me to stay home, that's what we will do. Like if we have to move in with my parents so that they can have a parent at home, that's what we'll do. Why have kids if you're not going to be home? I mean that was me, just being very transparent. That was a lot of my conviction. Then I surrounded myself by people with the same mindset, which is what we all tend to do as humans. That's what we tend to do. Then when my kids were under one, three and five, we moved to a new city and I became friends with a bunch of women who mostly didn't have kids, a handful who did. But as they were having kids, they were going to work. One of my very good friends, her mom worked. So she's like, "Oh yeah, my mom worked my whole childhood and my childhood was great. My mom was awesome. Of course I'm going to work." I thought, "Whoa, that feels radical to me." It was one of those, like I always say in my 20s, I knew everything and now I'm in my 30s and I know nothing. I really stand by that, like I just was a know it all, I knew everything. I think the younger we are, the more we think we know. And the more life experience we have, we realized that we know nothing. And there was so much to learn and that's what it's been like for me as a parent. Heather: It's like, wait, people who choose to go to work full-time and have someone else care for their child during the week are good moms. Right? Like stay at home mom doesn't equal best way to be a mom. I think that there's lots of layers there too. Like let's talk about single parents. Let's talk about parents raising children with disabilities. Like you can bring in so many pieces. Let's talk about women who are the main breadwinner in the family. There is not one right and best way to be a mom. Denaye: Do you think that there's a hardest way to be a mom? Because sometimes I feel like these different groups kind of wear this badge of sort of, I've got it the toughest. Sort of like, I'm a working mom, I'm the busiest, I've got it the hardest, I'm a stay at home mom. Does that resonate? Or I'm a special needs mom and like my load is heavier than yours. Do you feel that sentiment? Heather: Yeah, I hear totally what you're saying. I think the hardest type of mom to be is to be a mom who loves her child fiercely. Then that is the hardest kind of mom to be. You can be anything under that umbrella, you can be a lot of different things. Denaye: Yeah. To love your child fiercely and also to love yourself and be able to find and seek the things that fill up your cup so that you can do those things simultaneously, which is not easy. Heather: Yeah. To maintain health as a mom. To maintain your own personal health in some miraculous way. Then you can be a stay at home mom. You can be a mom to the kid with special needs. You can be a single parent, you can have 20 kids. Like hard is so relative, it's so relative. Because then you want to like, "Okay, let's talk about the hardest kind of mom. Let's go into some third world countries where women are losing every other baby at birth." If we want to go down that path, let's go down that path. So I don't think that there is a hardest way to be a mom. Denaye: Right. I wished more than anything that we didn't feel like we needed to compare the weight of our journey with one another. But I think that in some ways I see women in parenthood sort of finding some validation in how much weight they're carrying. Heather: Yeah. I think a lot of that is just because we live in a culture that is driven by performance. Denaye: Yes. Heather: So if we live in a performance based culture that's going to feed into how we parent and I think we need to be cautious of that. That's where comparison comes in and that's where we feel better than somebody or worse than somebody. As moms the only thing we should be doing is cheering each other on. That is it. And supporting each other. Denaye: Yes, I completely agree. So Heather, I had this experience this summer. I want to share the story with you and I want your reflections on it. This is what really inspired me to want to talk more with you. So this summer, it wasn't like a huge life changing experience, but it was just kind of something that got my real spinning. So my kids and I were at the pool and there was a little girl, she's probably about nine years old. She was swimming like a fish all over the pool. And my kids were noticing her because she was swimming so well. She jumped out of the pool and my son, who is the kind of kid that just likes to talk to everyone. He went up and started talking to her and she sort of looked away from him and didn't respond and went and sat down with her caregiver who I thought was her mom at that point, but I wasn't entirely sure. So she went and sat down on a chair close to us and picked up an iPad and started communicating with her caregiver via iPad. My kids noticed immediately mostly in envy because they're like, "Well, why can't I have an iPad at the pool?" But also in curiosity. And I was sort of torn because my gut tells me that my son tried to talk to her and I want him to be able to talk to her and I don't want to tell them to look away. So what I ended up doing was I took my son over and I approached her and started to talk to her and her caregiver. And just asked for them to explain a little bit about her iPad and just asking some normal questions about herself, like what her name was and how old she was. She started talking to us with her iPad and it was great. I think it was a really cool experience for my kids. To them I honestly think they just thought like she was just another kid, she just had a new way of talking, which they thought was pretty cool. But I find that I'm a little bit uncomfortable in those situations, mostly because I'm worried that I'm going to say the wrong thing. I mean, I feel like I'm not alone in this. Just in the world that we're living in today, I think that there's this push to be so politically correct all the time that it's almost scary to even talk. So I run a homeschool group and we were doing this activity where we collected feathers and we glued them on to brown paper. The activity in the book was called head dresses. So I said, "We're going to make nature head dresses." And one of the moms private messaged me and was like, "Hey, can we call them something else other than head dresses?" Then all of a sudden I panicked and I was like, "Oh my gosh, head dresses is offensive. I didn't even know it was offensive. Like, what else am I doing that's offensive that I don't know." So now I feel like I'm in this position where I'm always on guard of saying the wrong thing. I'm worried about using the wrong words. I'm worried about asking her about her disability instead of asking her about her strengths. I just want to say all the right things and I don't want to say anything that could in any way be hurtful. Does that resonate at all with you? Do you get that much? Heather: I've got so much to say. Denaye: Okay, great! Heather: And not that I have all the answers, but just from my experiences. So let's go back to the pool and then I want to talk about the head dresses thing too. But I think what you did is exactly what I would coach someone to do as someone who has a child with a disability. I think when we are very uncomfortable and the truth is we are uncomfortable with the things that we don't know and understand, that's being a human and that's okay. I think everyone needs permission to feel uncomfortable. It's okay to feel uncomfortable. Even when you're talking to your kids about being around people with disabilities or people who are significantly different than them. And as they're older, the older they get, the more uncomfortable they will be, which is why it's really imperative to just start the conversation from day one, just start the posture and the culture of difference in your home from the beginning. But if you haven't and your kids are older and they're uncomfortable, that conversation of it is okay to feel uncomfortable. I feel uncomfortable when I'm around someone who's different and I don't understand them or I don't know how they're going to respond because they're so different from me. I feel super uncomfortable. Then just a real quick aside, making sure that your kids know the difference about being uncomfortable because they're in danger. I'm real big about, let's talk to our kids about that it is okay to be uncomfortable. That we have to let our kids be uncomfortable, but make sure we make that distinction that if you're uncomfortable around somebody because the way that they're responding to you is like they're in danger like in terms of like a sexual predator or whatever. So that's just an aside. Just differentiate the two for your kids. Keep your kids safe. You know what I mean? Does that make sense? Denaye: Yeah. Because I think we could easily group that together. Heather: But what you did is... and I think there's two ways people can respond. People can respond by turning away or people can respond by leaning in. So when you're feeling uncomfortable in that kind of a situation, are you going to turn away and walk away? Are you going to lean in? Turning away and walking away is a safer thing to do. That is safe, you walk away, you don't have to worry about it. It's not your problem. But it's also when you choose to turn and walk away, you're also missing out on furthering yourself and your children as human beings, making ourselves better human beings. It's a missed opportunity for learning and growth. When you lean in, you have an opportunity to learn and grow and it's super risky. Because there was a very good chance that when you went over to talk to this child and their caregiver, that they were offended or that they felt irritated by you or it was like go away, quit talking to us or whatever it was. It sounds like the story ended, like most stories end with an opportunity to create a relationship with somebody who's different than you and they're open to it and you're open to it. Denaye:You hit right on my fear, that was that they were going to be uncomfortable with us approaching them. Heather: That's the risk that you take when you lean in. But in my opinion, all things worth doing in life require some kind of risk. So if we want to make this world more inclusive for our kids and which I think most people do. We want to create a kinder world for ourselves and for our children, then we're going to have to lean in and we're going to have to be risky. And approaching someone who has a significant difference is a risky thing. I think that you need then to be careful how you approach them. So like you said, we asked about the device and we asked normal questions like, "Hey, what's your name?" And that is like my big piece of advice to give to parents who have the question of like, "What do I do if I see your kids at the park or somebody who's in a wheelchair or somebody who's...fill in the blank.” You walk up and you say, "Hi, what's your name? My name is Heather." That simple phrase has so much power to connect us and maybe it ends there or maybe it opens up to, "Why are you in a wheelchair?" That's what's so great about kids is kids will just ask the question in a way that's real innocent and well-meaning. I think we need to lean into that too as parents instead of like shushing them and saying, "Don't do this." Denaye: Right. So let's stop right there and take that question because I feel like that is enough to just sort of like send a lot of parents off the deep end and feel like they've offended someone. I mean, do you just go on and like let your child ask that question? Do you think? What are your thoughts? Heather: I think so. Denaye: Or do you apologize for the question? Heather: No, I don’t think so. Then I think the apologies and the teachable moment comes later when you're away from the person. I don't think that you want to have a teachable moment with your kid where you are telling your kid the right way to ask a question or the right or wrong way to approach somebody around the person because that just gets awkward. You're are raising the bar of awkward discomfort. That's my opinion. People may not have that same opinion. But I mean this is a reality for us all the time. Kids will walk up in the park and my daughter Macyn who has down syndrome, she has low tone and often her tongue will be out. And it's like, "What's wrong with her tongue?" I'm like, "Oh yeah, she has down syndrome, which means she has low tone and our tongues are muscles and so her muscle tongue is not as strong so sometimes it sticks out." Usually kids are like, "Oh, okay, cool. Want to go swing?" If a parent comes up and is like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. That was so rude." Then that also communicates to my kid who's there listening and is very well aware of what's happening around her that something was bad in that. That there's something wrong or bad in asking questions. Denaye: Do you get that apologetic response often from parents? Heather: Yes we do. Parents will apologize for their kids often and I mean I get it. I do the same thing. I'm trying to think of examples, but I mean I do a similar thing. I think that again it... Like I said, this I'm repeating it a little bit, but when you create a foundation of difference in your home then when your kids step out of the home, the interactions with people who are different are going to go much more smoothly. So let me give you an example. If in your home you have a variety of toys who look different, the books that your kids are reading are diverse in ability and race and gender and the heroes of the book have a disability or the heroes of the book are a different race. You're watching shows where that's the case and you're not just creating a homogeneous field within your home, but you're creating a diverse, inclusive feel within your home, then kids are going to talk about differences. So we have a book where the main character has limb differences and is in a wheelchair and missing an arm. So then when I open that page and there's a picture of this girl who's the hero of the story, so it's not like we pity her. Then my kids are like what happened? So we've had that conversation. So when we leave our home and they see someone, it's like, "Oh yeah, that's like that character Emma from the book." So we have the power and the tools to set our kids up for success in these spaces. We just have to be very intentional about it. Then a quick story about that. So differences are evident in our home. It's just the fabric of who we are and that's all our kids know. But we talk about it a lot and we talk about our differences. And my middle daughter Truly will, from two years old, bring up the fact that she's the only one in the family with brown skin or she's the only one in the family with curly hair. We have these conversations and something, the foundation of our home is everybody's different babe and that's what makes the world so awesome. So when she was four, we were at church and we pass a man and he has a port-wine stain mark covering half his face. So the majority of the right side of his face had a purplish, bluish mark on it. And she's four. So he walks by, she's never seen this before. She just points and says, "Mom, what's wrong with that guy's face?" So I could just be like, "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. That was humiliating. Truly don't you ever do that again." But because of the foundation we've laid as a family, I was able to say, "Oh yeah babe, he has a mark on his face because that's just his difference, remember everybody's different." Then she can go, "Oh okay" and we just move on.” Denaye: I think that's a really good simplified way of communicating it. That it feels non-threatening, especially if the other person is overhearing the conversation. Heather: And the person overhearing, trust me it's not the first time. Like you are not the first person or your kid is not the first person to point something out that's different about them. Our kids, when we walk into the world with our children, we know that we are different. What we want is for people to embrace us, not to turn away from us. And part of that embrace is asking questions, is letting our kids ask questions, letting ourselves ask questions and learning alongside each other instead of trying to separate ourselves from people who make us uncomfortable. Denaye: Yes, and actually this makes me think of a couple of months ago we were at Starbucks and we had recently... we have a book called My Dadima Wears a Sari. Which is a story about an Indian grandmother that wears beautiful saris. And shortly after we read this book, we saw a dadima wearing a sari or a grandmother wearing a sari in Starbucks. And my daughter was just completely taken with it and it's like, "Look, it's the dadima." My reaction was kind of, I didn't shush her, but I said, "Wow, isn't it so beautiful?" I tried to appreciate it, but I also wasn't entirely sure if she should go up to her because she wanted to like go up to her and like look at it closer and touch it. It's so hard, I think as a mother to sort of weigh this. I want her to recognize beautiful things and it absolutely was something beautiful. But at the same time, I also don't want to alienate this woman or make her uncomfortable either. Heather: Yeah. I feel the same way all the time. I think that you have to trust your gut and discernment. If you're doing the hard work and you know that your kids, like you're working towards inclusion and you're working towards kindness and that kind of scenario. It's like, "We're just here to get coffee. Let's just get coffee." I think you just use your discernment. You know what I mean? It probably would have been great for your daughter to walk over and say, "I love your sari, it's so beautiful." But to not do that is fine too. You know what I mean? Denaye: Yeah. Like I said before in my ramble that I feel I'm so fearful of saying the wrong thing. Heather: Yeah. I think again, you can either lean into that and have opportunities for learning and growth or you can step away from it and stunt your growth as a human. So I'm all about like, let's lean into opportunities to learn and grow. And part of that is taking a risk and we're going to say the wrong thing. But I think it's important to check your heart and to make sure your kids know that we're not making spectacles of people who are different than us. And it is a fine, a blurry line to figure that out. Like when you see someone in public who's very different and you have questions. Maybe they want to be left alone and that's their right. They shouldn't have to constantly answer questions about their differences in a public space. But if you lean into it and then that's the reaction is they're offended, well then you took a risk. But you might lean in and there might be opportunity for an incredible conversation for you to learn and grow. That's just my thought. Denaye: Yeah. No, I love that. I think that's really helpful. Something else that really struck me in your book was you talking about the discomfort that you felt originally. It sounds like you've worked through this of your kids interacting with other people in public and feeling like they were bothering others, which I feel like this kind of goes on both sides of the coin there. Heather: Yeah. I tell a story in my book about Macyn asking people their names all the time in every space that we're in, in a way that it made me feel really uncomfortable. So like for example, being in a restaurant and from the hostess booth, let's say our table's at the very end of the restaurant, Macyn is going to approach most tables between the hostess booth and our booth. People are in the middle of meals, in the middle of conversation, she doesn't care, she just wants to interact with everybody. So she's asking everyone their name. I used to be embarrassed, want to pull her away, want to shush her. Then through a really great and healing conversation with a friend of mine, I was like, "Wait a second. People's reaction to my kid is not my responsibility.” Macyn walking up to a table of people eating and interrupting their dinner, while it's not the social norm, it's actually not rude or terrible for her to do that. It's just different. That's who she is and that's what she wants to do. She brings to the world something very different and I don't need to squelch that. I need to let her bring it. So that's what we do. I hold all of that very loosely and I really have learned to celebrate her responding to the world in a way that is not the norm. And it takes some people by surprise, but they're either better off for it or they're annoyed. Neither is my responsibility. Denaye: What do you find is the more common response? Or is it just all over the board? Heather: People love it. I've never had anybody be annoyed, like openly annoyed by it. It's like people totally engage it and want to talk to her. But she's not really interested in talking to you, she just wants to know your name and then she's kind of moving on. Or people just like saying their name and then that's it. Then we move on. Or the third reaction is like a side-eye trying to avoid her or pretending like they don't hear her and that's fine. It's just not necessary. So like the pulling people away or like a mom pulling her kid away and pretending like they don't hear her for the fourth time yelling at them, "What's your name?" Denaye: Yeah. It's interesting that for... it sounds like for some period of time that you may have been the most uncomfortable person in the room over this rather than the other people. And it was sort of, you can't see the... What is the quote? You can't see the forest through the trees or you can't see the forest for the trees? And you sort of had this aha moment that it actually was something that you can embrace which sounds just so life changing. Heather: Yeah. And it's a fine line. It's totally life changing. There are fine lines between behaviors that are unexpected and when we're in public, we're not going to have those behaviors. Like that's just raising kids. But when you have a kid who has significant differences just in the way that they process the world, that's a fine line to try and navigate. I make mistakes there all the time. I'll just tell this quick story. We're at a new church, we moved about a year and a half ago and it's very small. There's about 100 people max on a full Sunday. And during worship when people are singing songs, there's usually one person with a microphone and a guitar. She will sit in the front row and sing at the top of her lungs so, so loud and everyone in the room can hear her. And my knee jerk reaction for a second always is to be like “Macyn, quiet.” Like you've got to sing more quietly. So for me, I'm constantly learning. Like I remember, "No, this is who she is and everybody in here is better off." And yes, she's totally off key and she is the loudest person in the room, like louder than the person on the microphone. So I just kind of let it go. Then I'm getting text messages from people at church that are like, "Today Macyn wasn't here, but I want you to let her know that I sang as loud as I could today because I was just so inspired by her." Like people are coming up after church with tears because they've just been so incredibly blessed by her. Denaye: I love that. Heather: Yeah. I have to constantly learn to lean into who she is because it's different. Denaye: Right. You talk about her adventure into the dance community and how you met a dance teacher who was so supportive and just really a game changer for your family. It makes me think about this fear of doing the wrong thing or saying the wrong thing. I think that for anyone out there listening that's a dance teacher or a soccer coach or anyone that's leading groups of children that has the opportunity to invite a special needs child in, what words of advice do you have for them? I mean, how can they help to scoot over and make some room and to bring this inclusion into these group environments where special needs kids are so often alienated? Heather: Yeah, I think that like in terms of doing the right thing or the wrong thing, the wrong thing to do is to say, "No, this person can't be here." I also understand that you get to a certain point when kids are older, where people are trying out for teams, like there's a skill set that is needed for a certain sport to be a part of it. I understand that. I don't know how to fix that, how to make that space more inclusive. But when we're talking--and I know most of your audience has little kids—that should not be the case. In any little kids situation, like everyone's allowed. So the wrong thing to do is to want to create a separate special class for that person. Then the wrong thing to do is to see their difference as a disservice. So the other way to say that is the best thing you can do is approach that person, see their disability. Don't ignore it because it's a part of who they are. It's an important part of them and it will affect them in the program. Then see it as an asset. So when Macyn goes to dance class, the fact that she has down syndrome and she approaches dance so uninhibited, that is an asset, her down syndrome is an asset to this. So if someone comes to your sports team and they have autism or they are... whatever it is. There's a million things it could be, whatever that thing is, see it as an asset to your team. Then when you say that, when you say, "Okay, this person's disability is going to be an asset to our team," it's easier to get creative and flexible and make room for them. I think it's like a posture of the heart. I think that's the biggest most important piece. Denaye: Yes. I think and I'm hoping that we have the opportunity to involve my kids into an activity like this with children who look different and speak different. Because I do think that not only does it provide more opportunities for special needs children, but also for my kids because it allows them to embrace kids with big differences. Which I think leads them to be more open to embracing kids with little differences too. Kids who look and act the same way as them but maybe have a hard time reading or maybe have a speech impediment, something that is maybe smaller and not as noticeable. But I think there's so many kids with little learning differences or intellectual differences that get bullied and they get picked on. I feel like if we can show our kids ways to embrace all sorts of kids that maybe it can just become more of the norm. Heather: Yeah. And the younger you start, the more normal it is. That's why I think it is imperative to make sure that when you have young kids, you're fighting for inclusion for them to be in inclusive spaces because it will change them as a human being for the better. And if you start that in fifth grade, you have so many walls and barriers and layers to break down in your kid and their idea of difference than if you start when they're in preschool and when they're younger. And making sure, like I'm fighting for inclusion for my kids, I'm an advocate for inclusion, but I really encourage and believe that parents who only have neurotypical, able bodied kids should be fighting for inclusion for their kids because their kids are going to be so much better off as human beings for their lifetime. And the skill sets they're going to gain because they know how to do life around people with disabilities who are different than them and it's all they've known. It's just going to make them so much more qualified to do life however they're going to do it. Denaye: Yes. I love that. I think that is inspiring and I think thought provoking for so many of us out there because I do think that many of us who are not raising special needs kids can easily tune out the special needs community if we're not intentional about it. Heather: You have to be super intentional. I think that's kind of where the rubber hits the road. Like it's not just going to happen to you. I get asked all the time like, "Where can I find kids with disabilities for my kid to be friend with?" Like, oh gosh, do you hear that question? That's a really strange question. However, there are resources but you're going to have to be so intentional. Do you want your kid to be a great gymnast? Then what are you doing for your kid to be a great gymnast? You're being incredibly intentional in that specific space. So if you want your kid to be super kind and inclusive, then you're going to have to be very intentional to create space in your life for people who have disabilities. Denaye: Good. Okay. I'm hoping that a lot of people out there listening are sort of getting the wheels spinning in their minds and thinking about ways that they can start doing this. Even if you're already doing it, maybe doing it more often and in new ways. I'm hoping to hear from anyone listening that has had experiences like this or ideas that might be helpful to the rest of us too. Heather: Yeah, for sure. Denaye: Well thank you so much for this Heather. This has been really great and I've loved our conversation. I'm hoping that lots and lots of people will check out this book, Scoot Over and Make Some Room because I think like I said, that many of us who are not raising special needs kids can easily tune out the special needs community if we're not careful. I think your book is a really good bridge for all of us to join together and to start talking about this. Heather: Awesome. Thank you. Thanks for saying that and thanks for having me on the show. Denaye: Thank you. I hope you've enjoyed this episode. If you want to stay in touch with Simple Families, hit subscribe so you get all of the latest episodes. We are going to two episodes a week coming in January. You can also go to simplefamilies.com and leave your email address. The email list is the best place to stay in touch for exclusive updates, what's going on on the blog, the podcast and the community.The post Scoot Over and Make Some Room appeared first on Simple Families.
11 Dec 2019
Partnership + Parenthood
Partnership is transformed in parenthood. Today I am joined by Shane Birkel, a podcaster and couples therapist. Shane and I are discussing communication and relationship patterns for partners during the early years of parenthood. Show Links:Shane Birkel - WebsiteShane's Podcast - The Couple's Therapist CouchRelational Life Therapy (Shane's Method)Gottman MethodEmotions Focused Therapy Hi, and welcome to episode 203 today we're talking about partnership. Partnership can be and usually is completely transformed in Parenthood. Hi, this is Denaye. I'm the founder of simple families. Simple families is an online community for parents who are seeking a simpler more intentional life. In this show, we focus on minimalism with kids, positive parenting, family wellness, and decreasing the mental load. My perspectives are based in my firsthand experience, raising kids, but also rooted in my Ph.D. In child development. So you're going to hear conversations that are based in research, but more importantly, real life. Thanks for joining us.Hi there. And thanks for tuning in here the podcasts, we talk a lot about developing a healthy relationship with our children and a healthy relationship with ourselves, but we don't spend nearly enough time talking about developing a healthy relationship with our partners. So today we're going to be talking about partnership. I am going to be joined by a marriage and family therapist. Shane Burchell. Shane is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and he's also a podcaster. He has podcasts called the couples therapist couch in this episode, Shane and I are talking about the relationship between partners and we're also talking about couples therapy and why it might be something that everyone would benefit from, not just those who are in strained relationships, but before we get further into today's episode, here's a quick word from our sponsor. The sponsor for today's episode is cultural care.Cultural care is the AU pair agency that we use in our family. We've been a part of the U S AU pair program for two years. Now. Initially we signed on when I signed a contract to write a book and I knew I had a one-year project ahead of me. And with that project, I was going to need extra childcare. We quickly fell in love with the program. It's been such a gift to not only have extra support with the kids, but also to have gained new members of our family because our AU pairs truly have become part of our family. So what is an AU pair in opere is a young adult from overseas who comes to live with your family on a legal visa for up to two years. And they provide childcare in exchange for a weekly stipend room and board, and an opportunity to become a part of your family.If you're thinking ahead to summer childcare, and you're looking for more information about cultural care, go to simplefamilies.com/aupair , AU PAIR, and use the code PC simple to waive the $75 registration fee. You can get more information there again, that's simplefamilies.com/aupair. I hope you enjoy my conversation today with Shane. And if you have questions or comments, leave those in the show notes at simplefamilies.com/episode203.Denaye Barahona: Hi Shane, thanks for joining me today. I'm so excited to be here. Well, I'm glad to have you. I spend a lot of time on the podcast talking about our relationships with ourselves and the importance of valuing that and valuing the importance of the relationship with our children and keeping that strong. But I haven't focused much time on valuing the relationship with our partner and strengthening that. So I'm glad to have you here to talk about that today.Shane: Oh, me too. I'm so excited to hear that you, you talk about that because kids are like sponges, you know, and they just soak up what they seefrom their parents and their relationship dynamics and stuff like that. So it's really good for us to be aware of.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. So tell me Shane a little bit about you personally, your own family and professionally what you do?Shane: Absolutely. I have a nine-year-old and a seven-year-old and we recently had a 16 year old join our family about an hour from Boston, and I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist. And I have a private practice here where I live in New Hampshire. And I see a lot , I see mostly couples I'm focused on relationships and I've been seeing of people online as well. I'm a certified relational life therapist, which you can look up and find more about. But I also have a podcast that's all about the practice of couples therapy. So I really focus on relationships in my work.Denaye Barahona: Great. So I'm a licensed clinical social worker, which is one type of therapist that deals with families and couples and individuals. And there are many different types of therapists. What are your certifications and any words of wisdom for someone trying to parse apart who they should see if they're looking for some type of support?Shane: Yeah, absolutely. That's a good question. What was your license? That you said again, sorry.Denaye Barahona: Clinical social worker.Shane: Clinical Social Worker. Yeah, whether if I was looking for a couple of therapists, whether someone is a licensed mental health counselor, or a licensed clinical social worker, a licensed marriage and family therapist, it gets really confusing as a consumer when you're looking at all that. And to me, none of that is very important as far as those are all going to be really, really qualified people who could be good at what you're looking for. And so I would look as long as they have one of those licenses. I would look beyond that too, or a psychologist even.Shane: I will look beyond that to what kind of, do they have specialized couples therapy training? Like I mentioned, I'm a certified relational life therapist, which means I've done. I don't know, about two years of, of training. In addition to that, just focused on working with couples and there's something else called emotionally focused therapy, gottman therapy, there's these different training programs that are specifically for, to work with couples. And I think that would be really important. It's also really important that you find someone who you have a good connection with as a therapist, you can look through their website or if they have blogs or videos and find someone who seems like a good fit for you.Denaye Barahona: That's a great start. So I have recently become more interested in couples therapy because I've been thinking about it for quite some time because I, during my training process, when I was getting licensed, I had to go to therapy. So I've done individual therapy, but I've never done couples therapy. And I remember when I was in grad school and I was in a couples therapy class, that the very first thing that the teacher or the professor said to us was the reason that couples therapy feels the most often is because people wait until one person or two people have a foot out the door. So I always thought to myself that couples therapy is something that I want to invest in, not when there's a problem per se. I mean, definitely if there's a problem, but also just to improve communication patterns and to keep a healthy partnership healthy.Shane: Yeah, such a great idea. I think it's so important. And it's so true that people often don't seek out couples therapy until someone has a foot out the door. And oftentimes, you know, it's so much harder to do the work at that point then if you're sort of addressing it up front and the reality is that in our society, we don't grow up learning good relationship skills. And so there's no shame in not knowing, right. It's, it's not something that comes naturally to us and unless you had really perfect parents, which no one does, then it's helpful to learn some skills like you, like, you know, a lot of it's about the communication, but a lot of it's about what comes up and gets in the way, even when we're trying our best to communication.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I think about it kind of like taking a parenting class because it's very much the same thing with parenting. We feel like, Oh, well we were parented. We must know how to parent by default, but how much we can benefit from learning some new skills and strategies and you're right. The same thing comes into play in a relationship, in an intimate relationship.Shane: Yes, absolutely. So true.Denaye Barahona: So, I guess back to my story of where, where I went with that was, I wanted to do it for a long time. I never, we, I slashed my husband and I never got our acts together to actually make it happen because logistically it's hard for the two of us to get out. You know, I mean, you have to arrange for a babysitter, have to maybe get off work early, the actual logistics, logistics. Yeah, it can be really hard and it can be expensive, not just the cost for therapy, but then the cost for babysitters and that sort of thing. So what really sort of pushed me into actually doing it is because I signed on with better health, which is an online therapy organization to sponsor the podcast. And I always have to demo the products. So I was really thankful that this kind of gave me the extra push that I needed to get online and actually sign up for it and do it with my husband. And we've been loving it. And I didn't know what I was going to think about online therapy. What do you think about online therapy?Shane: Yeah, that's cool to hear about your experience because I've started working more with couples and online therapy. And I was a little hesitant at first. I think there's something really special about being in the room and feeling the energy of people and reading all of the nonverbal communication that's going on in the room. But as I've done more and more online therapy on finding that it can be incredibly effective and you know, just as helpful depending on the situation I like it.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I do agree with you that I think being in the room and feeling the energy is a wonderful thing, but I do also think like for me, I just don't know if we would have ever made it happen.Shane: That's the thing, right? It's like the convenience is so helpful when you have little kids and you're just trying to figure out you know, traveling to a therapist could be, even if you're only seeing them for an hour, it could be like a three hour process by the time you drive there and park and go in and then you have to go back to work. And so, you know, it's like, it's not that simple. So I think it's such a great option for parents, with little kids who are so busy and things like that.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I do think there is the stigma, you know, of even just going to a therapist and waiting in the waiting room and seeing other people walk out and it feels, I feel like there is something to be said about reservations that people have regarding the stigma of counseling.Shane: Yeah. That's such a good point too. How many more people are likely to try it out? If they can do it from the convenience of their own home, they don't have to feel so exposed by going out and being in a waiting room like that. I definitely think it opens it up to two people who might feel uncomfortablegoing to life therapy.Denaye Barahona: Yeah, so I think this whole online therapy world, which I know from a therapist point of view can feel a little bit scary because you are giving up some of that intimate, personal connection with your clients. But I do feel like it can bring support to so many more people. I think that potential is really there.Shane: Yeah, absolutely. I think it's great. I definitely think that I feel just as connected to the people I work with online that I, you know, as I do with the people who come in.Denaye Barahona: Do you usually do video?Shane: I do. Almost always. Yeah.Denaye Barahona: That helps. I would imagine.Shane: Yeah, definitely.Denaye Barahona: So who do you see the most often, would you say you see an overwhelming number of parents or newlyweds, or what is your, would you say there's any one group you see the most?Shane: Well, maybe it's because I think that people find us as therapists, oftentimes you find that people come to work with you who are in a similar place as you are in life, or maybe I'm a few years ahead of where they are in their life. So I do see a lot of people with young. I also think that that timeframe in particular isparticularly stressful and a really difficult time when you have little kids, there are other developmental times in life that are, that can be challenging, but that's one of them. That's one of the main ones for sure.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. I can definitely feel that. It's an interesting thing that happens when you go from being just partners to adding a child where your attention shifts and the way that you spend your time shifts so dramatically.Shane: Yes, absolutely.Denaye Barahona: Where do you see this? Do you feel like the toddler years are the most challenging for couples or when do you see the problems arising with parenting, parenting challenges and communication issues?Shane: And well, a lot to , about this. I might, if I start going off on a huge tangent, you can feel free to stop me at any time. Cause I get excited when I talk about this stuff, but what I find, it depends on the person, and it depends, in my opinion, in my training, it depends on the family that they grew up in. What happens for us when we're little kids growing up in our families is that there's really important. Neural pathways being formed in our brain. You know, when we're three, four, five years old, that oftentimes we don't have a lot of verbal language abilities, and we don't have people encouraging us to talk about our emotions a lot, especially in this society. And these neural pathways are being formed. And what happens is that I continue growing up in that family until I'm 18 or so.Shane: And I get into a relationship and my specific,he specific flavor of what my family did or didn't give me growing up,clashes with a specific flavor of what my partner's family did or didn't give them growing up. And I think it can create a lot of problems. And to answer your question,the developmental phases that were most of a struggle for me growing up, oftentimes what we see is that when I have kids those ages, it tends to be a struggle for me as the parent. I may not even be conscious of that, but that,uit's hard to predict, you know, that you might have, I often see people who have been in a relationship for 10 years or 20 years or something like that. And then all of a sudden their kids are teenagers and they're having huge amounts of anxiety or depression or something else. And there's oftentimes they don't make a connection, but there's usually a story behind that. Maybe something they went through when they were a teenager or something like that.Denaye Barahona: Great. I'm really going be in for a, my kids get to be teenagers. I'll consider that a warning.Shane: And it's still, it's hard to predict. Right? and even if you went through a difficult time as a teenager, maybe when your kids are teenagers, it's great because I don't know you learn something from that, or you know, there's no way to predict exactly how it plays out. But I think what is important, what often happens is that let's say my partner starts, you know, let's say we have, we do have little kids and things are stressful and overwhelming. What happens is we start to be really judgemental about that or blaming, or it starts to feel like if my partner could just do this for me, then I'd feel okay and that sort of leaks into something that I think is essential about relationships and the inability to communicate, which is that at a fundamental level, I think most people just want to feel accepted and seen and understood and connected with.Shane: And when my partner and I are having a hard time communicating through something, it means that one or both of us is having a hard time, fully understanding and connecting with the other person. And I think one of the reasons for that is that I'm stressed and overwhelmed and I'm trying to feel heard, and my partner's stressed and overwhelmed and she's trying to feel heard and no one's actually listening or being the accepting one or being receptive to the other person. And so if it ends up feeling very lonely and isolating and overwhelming and like stuck, a lot of people feel really, really stuck when they get to that point.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And you touched on an important piece here, which is connection. And I find that with my kids when I'm in tune with them and I'm really seeing them and understanding them and feeling connected to them, their behaviors a lot better, but when my brain is somewhere else, when I'm overwhelmed, when I'm stressed out and I'm disconnected from them and their wellbeing, they start acting out. And it's funny that I actually made this connection in my relationship with my partner too. Is that when I'm feeling disconnected from him, you know, when he's been traveling for work or we've just kind of been missing each other due to schedules, that sort of thing, I tend to get more frustrated. I tend to lose my cool more often. I tend to be more shameful more often. And a lot of times it comes back to just this lack of connection and lack of intimacy.Shane: Yeah. That's great and so much of what I teach couples, and how they to, what parents need to learn to be good parents for their kids. And so often the things we struggle with in our relationship are related to things that we didn't get in our families growing up or things that were a struggle in our families growing up. I think it'd be, I think it comes full circle.Denaye Barahona: Yeah or old patterns that we had in our family of origin that have started to reemerge in our relationships without us noticing them.Shane: Yes, absolutely. I'm trying to think of an example that might be helpful to illustrate the point.Denaye Barahona: Yeah, one example from my own life is that I feel like I go towards negativity a lot. Like I'll get really down on my partner and be really negative when I'm feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, and as I've become more aware of that, I catch myself doing it, but it's almost like those old habits die hard. Right? Like they always keep re-emerging when the stress and overwhelm comes up.Shane: What is the motivation behind the negativity? You know, if you think about it from oftentimes your negative stance, and I appreciate your vulnerability, and opening up about that because we all have these thingsthere's something that that's trying to accomplish. Right? and what happens is, it's more of a reaction, butwhat would be an example of what the motivation for the negativity would be, if that makes sense? Like what would the negativity be trying to accomplish?Denaye Barahona: Probably, to take some blame off something that I'm feeling. So, if I'm feeling stressed out and I I'm carrying some heavy piece of mental load feeling that, like for example, like trying to decide if I'm going to homeschool my children next year, or if I'm going to send them to school, right. This is something that I've been dealing with. And I take most of that on myself, in my mental load, I do the planning and the worrying, and then I also blame and get upset when my husband doesn't participate. But yet at the same time, I try to kind of run the show and make all the decisions in my mind and I don't bring him into the conversation. And then I get upset when he's not a part of the conversation.Shane: This is great. This is such a great starting point. So, let me take it away from your personal life, and make up another example, but to go, to keep going with this idea that you're talking about, cause this is so helpful. So let's say that, you know, my wife and I both work full time. We have a nine and a seven year old and I come home from work at the end of the day. And my wife says honey did you take the trash out this morning? You know? And I intentionally said that in a nice way, because let's assume that she said it in that kind of voice from her perspective. She's just asking me, she's just wondering if we still need to take the trash out or not. It's not blaming, it's not judgmental, but I've just had a hard day at work.Shane: And you know, I would say that it's possible, I might hear that in a negative way. And I have this shame inside of me about, you know, I'm not, I'm not doing enough at work. I'm not showing up enough as a dad. I have all this insecurity. Like you know, it's just so stressful. I'm just trying to show up for everyone. And I feel like I'm always falling short. I'm not showing up enough as a husband and I have this shame about it. And so she asked me that simple question about the trash and all, and that could, if that touches on that shame. I can tolerate that for about two seconds before I go up into a what I call grandiosity. I go up into the opposite of shame, which is, I don't like the way you're talking to me and don't, you know, how, what I've been doing today and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And so it's,the struggle in that, in the communication is that,I'm feeling very protective of something that my partner isn't even trying, you know, my partner isn't even trying to be blaming about. And I ended up not being able to stay in the conversation and turning it back on her because,it's so hard for me to face the shame that I'm feeling inside of me.Denaye Barahona: Right. Because we're never just listening to the words, we're listening through the lens that we have formed with all of our life experiences and everything on our plate that we have all, we have our own agenda that we're filtering everything coming into our years through and you're right. Everyone has their own agenda. So you could say, did you take the garbage cans out to me? And I'd be like, Oh no, I didn't take them out today. Cause that doesn't trigger me, but you could say, does somebody else? And that is a huge trigger. And I definitely can see that happening in relationships everywhere. It's funny that you use that example. Because I actually have an example so much of that, that I use in my mental unload course because I was visiting some friends earlierit was last year at the beginning of last year and we were driving into her driveway and she, the garbage cans were out by the road.Denaye Barahona: And she said to me, she's like, Oh yeah, John, I'll just call her husband on John's eyes. Don't see the garbage cans. And it was funny that she said that because I said, you know, my eyes don't see the garbage cans cause I don't take out the garbage. I never know it, and when we pulled our driveway, I didn't notice there were garbage cans at the end of the driveway, but her eyes always see the garbage cans and how we attend to different things as individuals, the garbage cans are not a thing for me, but they are for other people. And they are a real thing that people can get really upset over.Shane: Right. And for that friend of yours. I imagine I'm making what I'm making up in my head about that is that she grew up in a family where cleanliness was really important. And she was feeling a little bit of shame about the fact that, you know, you might see your garbage cans and think that she wasn't a clean person or something like that. And so we all do this. We all make up these stories in our head about what is going on in the situation and what other people think of it. And I think that's so important because we can't control anyone else and we have no idea what is going on in anyone else's head. And so the best thing that we can do is focus on ourself and focus on our own emotions and speak from the first person about our reality and our experience.Shane: So, let me keep going with this trash example, actually, let's say that it's an alternative universe and I walk in the front door and my wife is in a really bad mood. And she says, Hey, Shane, you're so lazy. You never take the trash out. What's wrong with you? Something like that. She would never say that. But you know, if, if she did that I have the opportunity in that moment to take a deep breath and not focus on the words that she's actually saying to focus on her emotional state to say, Oh my gosh, it sounds like things have been pretty stressful here. I'm going to go take the trash out right away and then I'll make sure I'll go take care of the kids. Why don't you go sit down for a little bit and relax or something?Denaye Barahona: Yeah, no, that's spoken like a true therapist.Shane: That's the goal I've never accomplish that.Denaye Barahona: Oh, okay. I just wanted to be sorry. Like you're being real with you because that, that does that takes, I feel like that is that's possible, but that takes, that takes a lot of work,Shane: But that's the solution to every relationship issue for the most part.Denaye Barahona: It is recognizing, recognizing what's underlying that frustration.Shane: Yes. I talk about boundaries a lot when I work with people and I talk about self-esteem a lot and the more that I build up my own self-esteem, if my wife is coming at me with those comments, the more that I have a strong sense of self and the feeling that I'm enough and I matter. I may not be perfect as a dad and a husband and a worker, but I'm doing my best and I'm a good person. And I know I have good intentions. The more I believe that about myself, the more whatever my wife says to me, the more I can breathe and make it about her reality. This is sort of related to what I was saying before. There can only be one speaker in one listener at a time, if she's coming at me like that, I can choose to be the listener.Shane: I can choose to focus on her reality. Instead of her words, her attack, I can sayoh my gosh, she must be feeling overwhelmed. And I can breathe, and there's, the other thing, you know people, people are always like, well, do you just, you know, you could protect yourself. You can. Why don't I have the ability to protect myself. And what I always say is healthy boundaries. Of course you do. Of course you do. But we often treat our partner as though it's our worst enemy or worse than we would treat our worst enemy and what we have to remind each other. Is there enough good stuff going on in this relationship that it's worthwhile for me to duck under this wave? And sure I can, you know, it might be more helpful if I bring it up later on, I can always come back and say, honey, you're, you're totally right. You know, I can be forgetful about the trash, but I'd really appreciate it. If you wouldn't call me lazy. Cause that's really hurtful to me. That's talking about my experience and my reality and setting a boundary, of course we have the ability to do that.Denaye Barahona: You gave that example of someone saying, well, don't I get to defend myself? And that brought up this image for me of a battlefield and war where there are two enemy sides and that's just not what partnership is, right? There are not two sides and it's not a battle one trying to defeat the other. It's two people trying to collaborate and work together and achieve the same goals. And when we do come at it with this approach, like we're on a battlefield where nobody's going to win.Shane: Yes, absolutely. There's something that's true for couples and that's true for parents and children. And it's that there's nothing good or helpful about harshness. There's nothing that harshness will accomplish that loving firmness won't do better.Denaye Barahona: Give us an example of how you would differentiate harshness versus loving firmness. Can you maybe just give us some really concrete examples of those?Shane: Absolutely. And I do talk to parents a lot, but it's the same thing for couples. When we are talking about what kids need, you know, on a very basic level, one thing that I've heard is that kids need nurture. They need limits and they need guidance. And I talk a lot about,how do we give kids the nurturing and the limits at the same time? And so let's say that my son hits his sister, we, most of us can agree. That's a behavior that I need to set a limit on. I need to make sure that it's clear to him that it's not okay to hurt other people. This is an important lesson for us to teach our children. You know, this is where kids need limits. We have to teach the kids are naturally grandiose and don't feel like there are any boundaries.Shane: And so part of being a parent is setting good limits and teaching children that they have an impact on those around them. And some people never get that and I see them in my couples therapy office because they have a hard time modulating themselves in relationships. But let's say my son hits us sister a harsh response. And I, admittedly, I've done. This would be me yelling at him and saying, stop it. You can't hit your sister or something. You know, something like that and that's a very harsh response that I would say is verbally and emotionally abusive for me to do to my son, as I said, I've done it. We all behave in this way sometimes, but I think it's important to use strong language around that and so this is a grown ups, big strong man.Shane: Who's getting in the face of a young child and intimidating them. That's harsh. That's mean, that's unnecessary. Loving firmness would be for me to see the behavior and say, Hey buddy, you can't hit your sister. You have a timeout, whatever the consequences are, you lost screen time for the rest of the day. And why don't you go take a, take a time out on the couch. And maybe I go talk to him while I was on the couch and say, Hey, what was going on with your sister? You know, and ask him questions about it. And so that would be a boundary that I'm setting a limit that I'm setting with him. This doesn't exactly answer your question. Cause maybe it would be helpful to think about couples as well. Let's say that my partner is yelling in my face just to keep, to sort of stick with the same kind of example.Shane: I'm in a situation, my partner is yelling in my face. What I would say is a defensive response, which is about self protection, which is harsh, is just, how can I yell back? How can I argue back? How can I escalate it and make my points back, and you know, go back and forth and we're off to the races. That's not helpful. It's not going to, no one's getting anything beneficial from that situation. So, if my partner is yelling in my face, loving firmness might be look, honey, it's not okay for you to talk to me this way. I'm going in the other room. Let me know when you're ready to talk.Denaye Barahona: I like that and then giving them the space to try again. And actually that I feel like is how I handle things with my kids sometimes too. You know, this idea that giving them the space, I understand that you're feeling some big feelings right now and this is not the time to process this. This is not the time to get into a power struggle and then handling it when we're ready to handle it in a way that is more constructive.Shane: Yes, absolutely and this is where I'm really big about setting up a time-out structure for couples. I think this can, this can be a game changer for certain types of couples depending on what their relational dynamic is. But once you start getting into something that feels like an argument, or like, it's mean, or hurtful or rude or passive aggressive. I would call all of those boundary violations, which are harsh, which are abusive, making someone feel small all of these things, whenever it starts seeping into something like that, usually the best thing to do is to remove yourself from the situation. And a timeout is different than, there are also a lot of people who feel abandoned and isolated when their partner leaves the situation. And so we talk about this when I work with couples in therapy a lot, this is very different from your partner turning their back and leaving the situation, which is sort of like, screw you.Shane: I'm done with this. I'm outta here. It's not that it's very different. It's more about, when we set up the time out plan ahead of time, while both people are calm, we're saying if I call a timeout, what I mean to say in that moment is I love you. I care about you so much that I don't want us to keep going down this path. And the best thing for us is to go our, to go cool off a little bit, before we come back to this conversation, and I'm making a commitment that after 20 minutes, whoever called the timeout, we'll check in with the other person that doesn't mean you have to re-engage, but you do have to let them know that you haven't abandoned them. You have to say, Hey, I'm just checking in. I'm still really flooded. I'm not ready to come back, but I'll talk to you again in two hours. And that would be the next timeframe, 20 minutes than two hours, and then go from there. But that it's a commitment it's like, I'm not leaving you, but I don't have the emotional capacity to come back to the situation yet. That's taking responsibility for yourself, which is, goes back to what I was saying before. That is the most helpful thing any of us can do in any relational situation. We take responsibility for ourselves.Denaye Barahona: Great. So, can we talk a little bit about resentment? Because I feel like that's such a huge thing with couples, especially when there are kids involved. I'm experiencing some resentment right now towards my husband. So, we can use this as an excuse, so you can walk me through what you think the best best approach would be here. So we got back, we just got back from vacation and we got back Friday night around, probably get home about midnight. We'd been gone for a week, had an awesome trip. It was amazing, but my husband had received free tickets to the NBA, all star game in Chicago to leave, but he had to leave on Saturday.Shane: It wasn't a trip that was no, no, this was, this is something that he was doing himself after. Right?Denaye Barahona: Okay. So this was, he would have to leave LA about 10 hours after we got back. So he got back late Friday night. He had to leave Saturday 10:00 AM, I think, to get there. So, I knew this going into the trip, right? I would, I told him, I was like, I don't really want you to go. Cause I know coming back after a week of traveling, there's going to be grocery shopping and laundry and like sleep changes and grumpy kids. And just coming back from a vacation can be a lot. It can be really overwhelming and I didn't want him to go. I mean, I wanted him to have fun, but I just knew the timing was going to be really, really difficult for me. And I was going to be really overwhelmed. So despite that he still went and part of me was like, I'm glad that he went because I wanted him to enjoy that time.Denaye Barahona: And it was an experience that I knew he was really going to enjoy. So sure enough, Saturday came after vacation and he went and I was super resentful of it, even though I knew he was going to go, it was the plan all along. I was really resentful and now it's been it's Friday and I'm still feeling it's wearing off a little bit, but I still feel irritated because I had to take on that whole weekend and all those tasks, the meal prep, the laundry, the post vacation laundry, the shopping, everything on my own. And I didn't want to have to do that.Shane: This is great. I love this conversation. And let me just say really quickly that we don't have time for it in this conversation, but I believe that the dynamic of patriarchy still exists very heavily in our society. And I won't get on my soap box about that, but the way that we're socialized is very different. I'm sure, I don't know if you talk about this with your people. I know that women still take on the mental load of so much of what needs to happen all the time. Men tend to be a little bit not as good at showing up and making sure that things are done and knowing what needs to be done and all of these things. So, that's a real thing that needs to be addressed, but let's assume that you and your partner are pretty good about all that.Shane: No relationship is perfect, especially when, you know, when there's a male, female dynamic. There are elements of that, that seep into every relationship, but let's say it's not really about that. It's really just about, he does show up and this is really just about this one thing that you're talking about, what I will say is that for me, what I have to do is grieve what I'm not getting in my relationship. So we do this all the time, or we avoid doing it, which leads to further problems. And this is a very specific example that you're talking about where your husband went on this trip and you're feeling some resentment. Now, when you hold on to that, and it's not this simple, I'm going to say it in a really simple way.Shane: I know it's not this simple. It might take some people a long time to work through this, but when you're holding onto that resentment, the only person that it's affecting is you, that resentment is about your emotional reality, that's your stuff. And soyou have two choices. One, you can accept the reality of what's happening, or you can in a loving and firm way, make a request of your partner. And sometimes it's both in this case, it might be both because you have to accept the reality of what's going on in grieve, what you're not getting grieve. The fact that I don't have my husband helping me out this weekend or whatever else it is. And at the same time, maybe when he gets back, he might make a request like, Hey, can I go have a girls night soon or what, you know, whatever it is you want to do for yourself.Shane: And so you're talking about a specific example. Let me talk this really quick, talk about when this is a pattern in a relationship. Let's say that for me, I really want three hugs a day, and that's what I would want in for me to feel good in my relationship. And let's say for my wife, she's kind of fine with like once a week that we hug each other. And that's not a big deal for her, there's no right or wrong here. This is another thing people get way too caught up in who's right or wrong. And it doesn't matter, it's about her reality and it's about my reality, and I have to, another good line is turn a complaint into a request because I can live like a resentful victim and a lot of people do, who feel like they're stuck in their own life.Shane: And I could say, well, I'm only getting one hug a week and this sucks and you know, every time my wife walks by say, Oh, I guess you don't want a hug. Do you know? And sort of be complaining about it and resentful about it. And it's just toxic, right? Or I can make a request as a mature adult and say, honey, I would really appreciate if we can make a plan about this. And let's say we sit down and we make a plan where we're going to try to give each other a hug once a day. And I have to grieve the fact that I'm not going to get three hugs a day. There's enough good stuff going on in this relationship. I love what we have with our kids. I'm really happy about the life we built together. My partner, you know, brings some many good things into my life. I'm getting enough that I'm willing to grieve the fact that I won't get three hugs a day and I'm not going to live like a helpless victim. Who's not in control of my own life.Denaye Barahona: Right. And I'm kind of a resentful victim right now. No, I am though. I definitely am. And it's funny because when he came back, he looked at me and he said, I hope you're not going to be mad at me about this forever. And when he said that, it really made me realize that this was something that was really important to him, important enough to risk me being upset with him for a couple of days. And that's not a risk that he takes very often, but he was, he really, really wanted to do this. He really enjoyed his time. There. It was some. He said, this is something that I'll always remember, like the experience with something that he'll always remember and always treasure. And that I think I found peace in that, knowing that it wasn't, that he was just like leaving on a whim. Right. This was something that was actually really meaningful him for him. And I think it was underestimating that going into this.Shane: Yeah, and I don't know you well enough, but let's pretend that well, for some people who are in your situation, they could easily go up into up, I would say up into anger about the situation, angry complaint and what we want to do. We want to really encourage people to go down into their feelings, into expressing what that was like for you and into requests. Like honey, that was really hard for me when you were gone. I was really sad. I was actually a little bit angry at times, and I'd really appreciate if we could have a date night this week to reconnect, or I'd really appreciate if you'd take care of the kids the rest of the week. And I'll just do whatever I want, whatever, whatever the request is is fine, but that you usually, you're going to get a lot more from your partner when any of us can move into expressing things in that way, instead of up into angry complaint.Shane: And what I will say really quick too, is thatwhat if your husband, these are situations people run into, what if your husband was going off watching basketball games every weekend and wasn't involved at all? And let's say it's beyond the line of what you want to grieve in your life. Let's say it's beyond the line of what you're willing to tolerate. And you're like, no, no, no, no, no, this isn't going to work for me. Then I would say that in this might be a whole other conversation, but just really quick. Cause those, these situations exist. I want to acknowledge that what I would say is that we have to figure outhow to communicate that in a very serious way, where there will be consequences if this doesn't change and that could be leaving the relationship, but it doesn't have to be, it could be other things as well.Shane: And as a therapist, what I try to do is help the person who has less of a voice help the person who has less of a voice speak up for themselves. I can't do it for them as the therapist. They have to do it for themselves and we have to connect it to something that the person who's going off every weekend wants. Right? So I have to and I am getting into something else, but there are times when that's important, I just want to acknowledge.Denaye Barahona: And I feel like that's a time when it's really good to have a third party, someone, a family, or a friend involved, because it is if one person has more of a voice than the other person, it's really hard for that other person to be heard and to really learn how to properly communicate their needs. Yes, absolutely. So they don't turn into a resentful victim, right.Shane: Yeah, right. Yeah, totally.Denaye Barahona: So does couples therapy last forever? Like what kind of timeline do you usually look at with couples?Shane: This is a great question. And my opinion is that if you find a good couples therapist, you should see significant progress within a few weeks. I am not the type of therapist who's going to sit with people for three years every week just listening to them and going over stuff and this is partly because of my training as a relational life therapist, we believe in transformational change. And I have very specific ways of creating that for people and so I'll often like to do longer sessions. I'll often work for people at a minimum of two hour sessions. Sometimes I do intensives for four hours or a full day or a full weekend.Shane: I really try to get to the core of the matter relatively quickly and I try to give people really specific things that they need to start doing right away. I often work with people once every two or three weeks in the longer sessions we can spread it out and I see people, you know, if people work with me consistently for three or four months, they're going to for a lot of people that are going to see the transformation that they're hoping for, if they're doing the work that,I would suggest in the therapy.Denaye Barahona: So you have a more direct approach.Shane: Yes. I'm definitely more about telling you what I see that's going wrong. I am not going to sit back and just listen. Well, I will at times, but I'm also going to be very directive at times.Denaye Barahona: So how do you, well first of all, help me differentiate between therapy and coaching and then help me differentiate between your more directive style therapy and coaching.Shane: That's a great question. You know I think that what we do as therapists is often really similar to what coaches do. I think what coaches do, can sometimes be related to what therapists do. I think a really short answer is that coaching is often focused on the outcome, on the goals on what do you want, what are you hoping for and how do we get there? How do we move toward that therapy is often focused on the problem. Like you have depression, let's spend the next five years view coming every week and focusing on that. So I do work more like a coach oftentimes when I'm definitely a therapist. And but I think that I've done a lot of training about how to do some really deep trauma work for people in the presence of their partner. And I'm a big believer in that. And so what I do, there's a lot of coaching aspects to what I do in therapy as well.Denaye Barahona: Okay. That's good to know. Cause I know there are a lot of people who go into therapy with, you know, the image you have on television, where you're laying on a sofa, just talking, and the therapist is sitting there silently, and that's not always the case. Every therapist has a different approach and a different philosophy that underlies their approach.Shane: Yeah, and I, I like to cook, I like to use this term micro coaching. This is what I do with couples a lot, especially once I, once I have a good connection with them and we have a good relationship and I asked their permission, I might say, Hey, you know, did you realize that this thing that you do, like when you roll your eyes, let's say did you realize that's really shutting down the conversation for both of you and making your relationship a lot worse? And they might say, well, I didn't realize I was rolling my eyes. And I might say, would you like me to point that out for you next time it happens so that you become more aware of it in your relational dynamic. And then I have permission, then I'm going forward, I'll do this micro coaching where I'll say, Whoa, Whoa, Whoa, hold on a second. Do you realize what just happened there? And I'll sort of like, let people know what I'm seeing as they're trying to communicate and struggling.Denaye Barahona: I have one of those. I have a really dramatic sigh, which actually my six-year-old pointed out to me. And it's funny. I never realized that I did it. It's a really dramatic loud sigh. And my six year old was like, what's wrong. One day when I was like, nothing's wrong. I was like, why would you ask that? And he's like, well, because you're breathing like that. And after he mentioned that to me, I caught myself doing it all the time. And I do, I think awareness is the first step and really making change. And I've been working on it.Shane: I appreciate how open you are about your personal stuff.Denaye Barahona:That's great. I'm a work in progress.Shane: I like saying that we all, we all mess up our kids, right? I think this is important for parents to hear. It doesn't mean that we shouldn't try really hard, but you know, your kids are going to be sighing in their own relationships someday and say, I have no idea why I do that. But these things play out. These are legacies that play out generation after generation. And I think going to couples therapy can often be changing the family legacy. I tell people that sometimes especially people who have come from abusive families that doing this work is changing your life and it's changing your kid's life and everybody who's yet to come. You're sparing them from the pain that you went through. So I think it can be really beautiful when people do the work in their relationships and think about it in that way and how many people they're really impacting by doing that.Denaye Barahona: I completely agree. Well, this has been so great. Thank you so much, Shane. I feel like we should probably do this again soon because I think there's a lot more on this subject that we need to continue talking about. And I think my audience would like to hear it.Shane: Yeah. Thanks Denaye. This has been a great conversation. Yeah, absolutely. I'd love to talk again at some point.Denaye Barahona: All right. Thank you so much, Shane. That was great.Shane: All right.Denaye Barahona: Thanks so much for tuning in. I hope you've enjoyed my conversation with Shane. If you have questions or comments, leave those in the show notes at simplefamilies.com/episode 203. If you want to support this show, leave us a review or rating in iTunes. Your help is greatly appreciated. Thanks for tuning in and have a good one. The post Partnership + Parenthood appeared first on Simple Families.
11 Mar 2020
SFP 167: The Love Languages + Children [with Diane Debrovner of Parents Magazine]
In today's episode, we are discussing the 5 Love Languages as they pertain to children. I am joined by Diane Debrover, the Deputy Editor of Parents Magazine where we talk through each of the Love Languages and explore how they show up in children. Spoiler alert: I've got my reservations about the Love Language of gifts. Show Notes/Links:Article on Parents.comThe 5 Love Languages of Children: The Secret to Loving Children EffectivelyParents IRLTranscription of Full EpisodeDenaye: Hi Diane. Thanks for joining me today.Diane: Hi Denaye. So nice to be with you.Denaye: It's good to chat. Tell me a littlebit about yourself personally, professionally.Diane: My name is Diane Debrovner. I amthe deputy editor of Parents Magazine and I've actually been here for many,many years. I started out as a senior editor and then I was the health andpsychology editor and I've been a deputy editor for many years. I oversee ourcoverage of articles related to children's health, and development, andbehavior, and relationships, and books, and a bunch of other things. I am themother of two daughters who are now 14 and 25 but I very clearly remember whenthey were very young and I was a young mother myself. So I am absolutely in themindset of your audience and our audience and it's been a real privilege to beat Parents all this time and see how things have changed and stayed the same atthe same time.Denaye: Right. So your kids pretty much grewup with the magazine. Your first daughter was born shortly before you startedworking there?Diane: She was, she was 18 months oldwhen I started working at Parents. And then my daughters are 11 years apart. Iwas divorced and I got remarried and when I had a second baby, it was reallygreat for my career. There aren't a lot of people who can say that. So I threwmyself back into the content in a very hands on way.Denaye: How long has Parents been around?Diane: Parents was founded in 1926,believe it or not.Denaye: Oh my goodness. I had no idea. Wow.Diane: Yes, we celebrated our 90thanniversary a few years ago and there used to be a lot of other parenthoodmagazines and there really are not now. Our challenge has been to continue tobe authoritative and really be on top of the latest medical advice and researchthat relates to raising children. But also look at what's happening in ourculture and make sure that the advice that we're giving and the way that we'rereflecting parenthood back to our audience is authentic and makes sense for2019.Denaye: Wow, it's a huge accomplishment tohave lasted 90 years. And you're right, a lot of the parenting magazines that Iknew of just even a few years ago really aren't around anymore. So Parents hasprevailed.Diane: Parents are getting informationfrom all different places. From each other online, from podcasts like yours,from books. And so I think that at the magazine we really see our job ashelping parents. One of our jobs is to help parents have a toolkit of resourcesthat are helpful to them in doing their job. And your job as a parent keepschanging as your child gets older, right? Just when you think that you've gotit down when your kid is a baby, then she becomes a toddler and you have tocome up with some new strategies. So every article that we run, and I'm sureevery podcast that you run isn't necessarily going to ring true to every singleparent, but those that do can be incredibly helpful. We just want to give momsand dads all the resources that we can.Denaye: Right. And I totally agree withthat. I've always been a fan, slash also a friend, I guess, of Parents and thecontent that you have. I think that it's a nice succinct way to present newtopics to parents. I imagine that you've probably seen the pendulum swing backand forth on different types of parenting styles and whatnot over the years.Diane: I think certainly on the topic ofover parenting, which is a topic that I know is near and dear to your heart. Ihave seen the pendulum come and go. That's certainly one area where parents feltthat they were doing the right thing by being really involved and protectingtheir kids from dangers. And I think there's been a profound realization thatdoing too much for our kids is doing a disservice to them. So we're helpingparents find the right balance.Denaye: Right. And I think that sometimes itcan seem like these trends come and go in parenting, but I actually think thatsome of the big shifts have been... I mean if you think about back, and I thinkit was maybe the 30s or 40s when doctors were saying you shouldn't hold yourbaby too much, you shouldn't touch them too much and that that was going tospoil them. There was a lot of that type of chatter going on back in the 30sand 40s. Then once research around child development really started to comeout, which wasn't really until closer to the 50s, 60s, 70s, and now obviouslywe constantly have new research coming out. It's not necessarily that thependulum has been swinging back and forth, back and forth. It's more of we'rejust getting more information all the time and we're learning how humans growand develop all the time.Diane: Yes, I think you're absolutelyright. I think you're right. And certainly we have so much information and Ithink that the tendency to over parent and be nervous about our kids being indanger is because we have access to so much of that medical research and 24/7news. The world is a scary place and it's an understandable instinct thatparents want to protect their kids. It's not a bad thing. It's coming from a placeof love.Denaye: Yes, better safe than sorry is anexpression that I hear a lot from parents and I agree with it on someoccasions. Then others, I feel like it's sometimes can hurt us more than helpus.Diane: Well, congratulations on yourbook, because your book [crosstalk 00:06:01] articulates a lot of this samephilosophy and I found it incredibly helpful, and enjoyable and it makes atremendous amount of sense. So congratulations on that.Denaye: Oh, thank you. It has been such afun journey and I've loved hearing the feedback from all the readers, so I doappreciate that. The article that I want to talk about today, Diane, is aboutthe love languages. I know you all had recently published an article on thelove languages, a feature article. And you talk about applying the lovelanguages to children, which isn't something that I necessarily think of.Because when I think about the love languages I think about it more in apartner or marriage sense. I'm not really familiar with thinking about the lovelanguages in terms of our children. I'd love to hear just a little bit aboutfor anyone that might not be familiar with the love languages, what they are,where they came from.Diane: The Five Love Languages is a bookthat was written by Dr. Gary Chapman actually more than 25 years ago. I hadalways heard about them and I think a lot of people have a vague sense of whatthey are. But I actually wasn't incredibly familiar with them. We decided torevisit the topic because one of our regular writers stumbled upon the bookwhen she was having a hard time making sense of her own child's behavior. Theoriginal book and the subsequent book, which is called The Five Love Languagesfor Children, talks about the fact that there are five different ways thateverybody expresses love. And that we all like all of them, but that everyperson has one way that is particularly meaningful to him or her. And that ifyou can identify which of those love languages is your child's preferred one,then you're in a better position to let your child really appreciate how youfeel.Diane: And it's also a way to anticipateany possible behavior problems that could be related to the fact that yourchild is not feeling as loved in the way that she would like to be. So it wasan aha moment for Gail Cornwall, who wrote this story for us. And once we duginto it, it was really quite interesting. And I think it doesn't necessarilyring true for every parent, but for many it can be quite telling.Denaye: When I think about the five love languages,I think that some parents might default to thinking like, "Of course mykid knows that I love them." Like, "Of course I love my kid."But I think one of the pieces of this that's really important to consider ishow your child can feel connection to you. Because in this busy, chaotic world,I think that's one of the things that's lacking so often, is that our kids getshuffled from one place to the next and they don't actually slow down andconnect with us.Diane: And certainly if you are making aneffort to express your love in the way that you have discovered is mostsignificant to your child, your child will be really, not just appreciative,but really feel like you get him. That you understand where he's coming fromand that's a really powerful feeling for kids.Denaye: Right. Because even though of coursewe love our kids, they might need to hear it and to feel it in ways that aren'tnecessarily as natural to us.Diane: I mean, your kid isn't obviouslygoing to say like, "Oh my mother understands my love language. Thank youso much for... [crosstalk 00:00:09:51]." But wordlessly, I think that theywill experience the benefit of it.Denaye: Yeah. They're going to be more calm.They're going to feel more connected. I feel like the rhythm and generalfeeling of your days may flow a little bit more smoothly.Diane: I hope so.Denaye: What do you think the benefits ofunderstanding your kids' love language is?Diane: One of the things to say from thebeginning, what distinguishes children's expression of the love language versusadults, is that kids tend to show their love for us in the same way that theywant to be loved. If physical touch is their primary love language, they aregoing to be very hands on with their parents. They not only will be huggingthem, but they might be pulling your hair and tugging on your pant leg andwanting to sit in your lap. Some of that might seem a little bit annoying tosome parents. But it's not that they're just snuggling under a blanket, butthey're just being very seemingly needy in a physical way.Diane: I think once you can appreciatethe fact that they're doing that because they just are a physically orientedchild, then we can perceive their behavior in a more positive way and receiveit more openly, and then turn around and find ways to be physicallyaffectionate with our child that are surprising, and fun, and touching for ourchild.Denaye: That brings us to the first lovelanguage, which is touch. And I think this is one that is going to resonate withso, so many people who have young children. Because I feel like young childrentend to touch a lot.Diane: They absolutely do. And I thinkwith very young children, it may seem like they all want to touch. I mean, ifwe go through the different love languages, some of them relate to kids whowant to hear the words, I love you. And they want you to do certain things forthem. And obviously when you have a very young child who can't talk yet, touchis really all babies' primary love language.Diane: But there are kids who just wantto be close to you all the time. And I think that holding their hand andrubbing their back and encouraging them to sit in your lap, that you can seethere are certain children in particular that I think that you'll see their levelof calm increase. And that they'll just melt into you in a way that's verytelling.Denaye: There are a lot of kids who needtouch and ask for it in less than gentle and less than pleasant ways. I'mthinking about recently my kids were at a yoga class, and they were indifferent parts of the room, and they were doing whatever the yoga move was,downward facing dog or whatever it was. And all of a sudden my daughter juststopped what she was doing, ran over and smacked my son on the head and thenjust ran back to her spot. It seemed like this really random non-aggressive yetalso not entirely appropriate behavior, but it was almost like, "Heybrother, I see you over there." Like, "I just wanted to say hi."Denaye: I laugh a little bit because it's myson and he survived and he was fine with it. But just because it was this signthat she sometimes uses her body in ways that, sure I don't love it. But alsoshe's three and she's still learning how to communicate and she's stilllearning how to express herself.Diane: And she probably wouldn't havedone it with another kid in the class. But I think that kids feel comfortablebeing themself and being uninhibited with their parents. And the nice thing isthat they feel that way with their siblings often too. And it has pros andcons. But I think she feels like he's going to understand her and what hermotivation was, which is nice.Denaye: And she might've have been in theback of the classroom feeling less connected and was just looking for thatlittle touch point. Quite literally, touch point, slap point, whatever you wantto call it. And she found it and then she went back to her space and she wasjust fine. I see that in my kids towards me too, that sometimes they're hangingon my leg or climbing on my shoulders and in my personal space in ways that is,like you said, it gets a little bit annoying and a little bit invasive. Butit's not that they're doing it to annoy us. They're doing it to elicitattention and touch from us.Diane: And when you're talking about theslapping, I think as kids get older, and I guess younger kids too, that certainkids play wrestling and jostling and what seems like not affectionate touchingmeets the same need for certain kids too.Denaye: Yeah, I agree with that. So the nextlove language is gifts. What do you think about the love language of gifts?Diane: Well, I know how you feel aboutgifts.Denaye: Right, that's why I asked you first.Diane: Well, what I thought wasinteresting about this love language is that it's not just that kids wantconstant presents and they're very needy, and they want more stuff all thetime. But that they really see any gift as being an embodiment, a reflection ofhow you feel about them. So that they really see it as something that you'redoing because you love them. And the benefit is that it doesn't have to be a200 piece Lego set. It could be a really beautiful stone that you picked up ona walk, or it could be a Origami swan that you made out of paper, or anythingthat you give to your child that is a way of saying, "You know what, I wasthinking about you today and I wanted you to have this because I love you, andI thought it would be special to you."Diane: These are kids who take greatpleasure in seeing how an actual gift might be wrapped. They might alwaysremember who gave what gift to them and they often have a hard time throwingthings away because everything that they received as a gift is special to them.Denaye: Yeah. I see a little bit of that inmy daughter. She loves to give gifts and because she's only three, she doesn'treally give gifts very often, but she does make up her own gifts. She oftenwill take Magna-Tile squares and make a cube and then put little toys inside ofit. And then have me wrap it up with one of her scarves and that's the wrappingpaper. But it's meaningful to her to be presenting something to someone and tobe showing someone else that she's thinking about you.Diane: And she probably watches yourreaction very closely and wants to make sure that you appreciate it just asmuch as she does, right?Denaye: Yes. Yes, for sure. I guess whenyou're thinking about the love language of gifts for kids, I think this can bea slippery slope. I mean, all kids like to get gifts. So who are the kids thathave gifts as their love language? What kids need gifts to feel loved? That's atricky question.Diane: I actually think that this isprobably the least common love language and it's surprising because all kidslike gifts. I actually think that most kids truly crave love in other ways morethan gifts, which is a good thing. I think that there may just be certain kidswho like concrete manifestations of things. They like objects and they likebeing able to look at something and an actual thing reminds them of a person. Idon't know. I don't really know what the psychological ramifications of thatare.Denaye: I don't know either. I wonder if itcan be a result of the way that kids were raised. If we're given a lot of giftsfrom the very beginning and they came to expect that, if that can be part ofit. I don't know. I'm kind of a skeptic in general about gifts as a lovelanguage and I know there's a lot of people out there who say like, "Oh,gifts are my love language. That's how I show my love." But I feel likesometimes, and now this isn't always, but sometimes gifts as a love languagecan be a cop out because... Maybe I shouldn't say cop out, but it can be a wayof expressing your love when you're not comfortable with the other ways. Whenyou're not comfortable saying it or physically showing it. It's a little bitmore of a distant, at arms length way of showing love. Do you follow [crosstalk00:19:22] thing at all?Diane: I absolutely do. I mean, I thinkthat there are certainly plenty of people, maybe there are grandparents whofeel more comfortable showering their grandchildren with lots of gifts ratherthan saying, "Let's spend the day together and do a really fun activitythat we'll both remember forever." The presence instead of the present asI know you like to talk about. It's certainly easier to hand somebody anecklace than to just tell them how you feel about them. It's harder for somepeople than others on the giving end. And certainly if kids have been showeredwith lots of gifts from a young age, they come to expect it. I think that thatis understandable, whether that's really their love language, I don't know. Butkids like routine and if their routine in their life is that the people whowere important to them always gave them lots of gifts, that's how they think theworld works. And if it changes, they think something's wrong.Denaye: Well first of all, I love theexamples that you all gave, like the stone or the wildflower on their pillow orlittle just natural tokens. More, I would say tokens of your love rather thantoys per se. Because I think that those things are not necessarily being givento light a kid up and to just cause this extreme elation and focus on the item.The focus is more on the act itself and on the person who gave it rather thanon the gift itself. It's not such a fabulous gift that the kid completelyforgets where it came from or the intent behind it.Diane: And the message is when I saw thislittle dandelion today, it was so bright and cheerful it made me think of you.And you're so bright and cheerful and I wanted you to have it. So I think thatthe message of I was thinking about you, and I thought this would make youhappy, and make you smile is more important than the actual object.Denaye: Yes, and I think that our kidsappreciate those type of gifts more than we realize.Diane: Yes. They want to think that we'rethinking about that when we're not together. That's one of the best things wecould tell them.Denaye: Right, because I think that when wegive gifts, we don't always give them with connection. And that example thatyou just gave with a dandelion that is giving a gift and giving connection atthe same time. Because you're showing your feelings through the gift ratherthan just handing over this wrapped gift and the kid runs away with it.Diane: My parents just celebrated a verybig anniversary and they really don't need any gift at all. They haveeverything that they need at this point in their life. And I was feeling like Ishould get them a gift. It was a big anniversary. And then I said, "Youknow what? I'm going to really write them a beautiful letter and tell them allthe reasons why I love them, and what a great influence they've been on me, andwhat their marriage has meant to me and my life." This overlaps with thelove language of words of affirmation and telling someone how you love them.But I had an instinct that that would mean the most to my parents and I wasabsolutely right. It really was received in the spirit that I gave it. And sothat was really a nice moment for us recently.Denaye: Yeah. Well, let's talk about thatlove language of saying how you feel. And I think that this can be one of thehardest love languages for adults.Diane: For adults to communicate withother adults or with their children?Denaye: With other adults, I think. Withkids it's a little bit easier for us to profess our love and to talk about theways that we adore them, but with other adults and even maybe as our kids getolder and get to be teenagers, I don't... Have you seen that as your kids havegotten older that it's a little bit harder or a little bit less automatic? Justtalk in loving ways towards them?Diane: Yes, I do. I mean, I think in myfamily, with my younger daughter in particular, it's very habitual for us tosay I love you when we say good night to each other at the end of the day, orwhen we part. When I leave her in the morning and she says, "I loveyou," and I say, "I love you." And I don't think that it isnecessarily just a reflex, but it's just, we have always made it part of ourmode of interaction. That transition time is a way to just communicate how wefeel about each other. And there have definitely been times recently when mydaughter was mad at me and she was really grumpy. And yet when she said goodnight to me at the end of the evening and she said, "Sleep well, I loveyou," I really didn't think it was a habit. I really think it was her wayof using that routine as a way to apologize for the fact that she'd beendifficult and circle back.Diane: I don't think that parents need tofeel that they have to feel pressure to come up with a new and better, morearticulate way to express their love in words every time. And I think that someof the same phrases, whether it's I love you or pet names that you have for eachother, or just familiar interactions, have the same power to kids that theyjust feel like, "Oh, you know, yeah. This is how I talk to my mom."Denaye: Yeah, and our family, we say ifwe're frustrated with each other, after the frustration calms down a littlebit. We'll say to each other, "Sometimes we get frustrated with eachother, but we still love each other." I think that for me is reallyimportant because I'm communicating to my kids that, yes, I got upset with you.Yes, I got angry with you, but I still love you. And it might seem obvious toadults, but our kids, especially when they're young, they think in very blackor white.Denaye: So if you ever have had a kid thatsays, "Oh, why do you hate me?" or things like that, it could bebecause they have this black or white thinking still. And when you're angrywith them, they automatically think you don't like them or you don't love them.It's hard for them to see you being angry and still see you as a loving person,to see that simultaneously. I think that that's my intent behind thatexpression, that sometimes we get angry with each other. Sometimes we getfrustrated with each other, but we still love each other. It's a way of notnecessarily apologizing for my feelings because I don't think that we alwayshave to apologize when we get angry, but at acknowledging, yes, I got angry andyes, I still love you. We're still good. That peace offering.Diane: You mentioned teenagers and Ithink that it certainly gets more difficult because you're not necessarilyhearing loving words as much from your teenager anymore. But they're verysensitive to what seems sappy. They'll roll their eyes if you say something tothem that you may have felt comfortable saying to your younger child sometimes.But even when it seems like they're not loving you in the moment or they'reannoyed with you, or you don't think they really want to be with you, theystill really do. You just have to remind yourself of that. Even if it's harderfor them to tell you as they get older, they still want you around. They stilllove you, they still care what you think.Denaye: And even if they're rolling theireyes, they actually probably do secretly like it. Let's talk about the fourthlove language, which is acts of service.Diane: Acts of service, there are certainkids who particularly enjoy a thoughtful gesture, something that you go out ofyour way to do that just seems just really nice and something that you'rechoosing to do because you know what makes them happy. And I think that a lotof parents struggle with this notion because we feel like our kids' servants alot of the time anyway, right? That we're constantly in positions where wecould be doing things for them. And I know that you feel strongly that we wantto be raising our kids to be independent, capable individuals and that it's atrap to continue to do things for them. So I think that with this love languageof acts of service, it's really more a question of small, thoughtful gestures.Diane: Like it's cold and I'm going totake your sweatshirt and I'm going to stick it in the dryer for 10 minutes sothat when you put it on, it's warm. I make heart-shaped pancakes for mydaughter for breakfast on most mornings. So little small things that show yourchild that yes, even though you know that they are an increasingly big kid whocan do things for themselves, but you want to make their life a little biteasier sometimes because you love them.Denaye: Yes. And there's a famous MariaMontessori quote that says, "Never do for a child what he or she can dofor themself." I think it's a great quote, but I also don't abide by it100% of the time or even close to 100% of the time. Because I think that thereare things that my kids can do that are still hard for them to do. My daughter hassome shoes that are tricky for her to put on. She can put them on, but it's astruggle and if she's extra tired, she might need a helping hand and I'm happyto say, "Okay, you put one on and I'll put one on," and try to meetin the middle. I don't think just because a child can do all these thingsthemselves means that we are off the hook. Like, "All right, that's nolonger part of my responsibility." I think we can still step in and dothings for our kids and I don't think we're doing a disservice to them.Diane: I would agree. I would agree. Andcertainly helping a child learn how to do a particular skill that's tougher forthem to master and being patient with your child as they are learning how to dosomething and not getting frustrated is another act of service. My 14 year olddaughter literally is just learning how to swallow a pill. She's had a reallyhard time with it over the years and just last night she swallowed a pretty bigIbuprofen by herself. I was so happy for her and it really... I can't tell youhow many times we've just talked through different strategies and differentways that she could do it and make it easy for her.Diane: We don't need to analyze mydaughter's swallowing technique, but the patience of helping her learn how todo it herself and that's something I can't do for her. The only thing I can dois say, "Okay, we'll buy you the chewable pills or you can still take theliquid." I can't swallow it for her, but sticking with her and not gettingfrustrated and making her feel that a kid your age should be able to do this byherself by now was an act of service to her.Denaye: That's tricky. It is because I meanshe obviously had anxiety around swallowing the pill, it made her anxious. Theidea of this big thing going down her throat, understandably. And if youwould've said like, "Just do it. You're old enough to do it." Or ifyou would have approached it like that, it would have just added to theanxiety. I think that sometimes that's our inclination as parents is to justhave these expectations and to just preach them at our kids and to not realizethat sometimes we're doing more harm than good.Diane: Right. No, I mean it doesn'tmatter really if most kids can do something at a particular age. If your kidcan't, then you just have to meet her where she is and not make her feelashamed that she's not on par with everybody else.Denaye: Yes, I completely agree with that.The fifth love language is the love language of wanting to spend time together.Diane: Right. Dr. Chapman calls itquality time and these kids are the ones who will constantly say, "Comehere, I got to show you something. Look at me do a cartwheel." They aretrying to get our attention and want to show us things. I think that is often asign that they really want to feel like they have our undivided attention. Andparticularly now when we have electronic devices that are pinging at us andcalling to us all the time, that kids are aware of the fact that our attentionis divided more than it should be. And they really want us to put our phonedown and not do anything else other than give them, even if it's two minutes orfive minutes of undivided attention. Yes, I want to see the feedback yourteacher gave you, or I want to see you do a somersault or whatever it is thatour kid wants to show us.Denaye: You've been a full time working momyour entire parenthood. So do you think that this is tricky for full timeworking parents to be able to fit in this quality time?Diane: Sure. It is tricky. I mean we haveless total number of hours to be together. But I think that my strategy,honestly in life in general, has just been to get up a little earlier. Therearen't that many problems I haven't been able to solve by getting up earlier.That if I give myself a little extra time in the morning to do everything thatI need to do for myself for example, by the time my kids are awake, I can focusmore on being there for them in the way that they need me. Obviously I'm notdoing everything for them, but I think as a working parent you can be strategicin terms of carving out the time that you need to do your own stuff so thatyou're not trying to do everything at once.Denaye: Right. And sometimes it's qualityover quantity when it comes to time. It's hard to put your phone away and tojust focus on being with your kids. But if you don't have hours and hourseveryday to do it, making those small windows of time can be really impactful.Diane: I've heard people talk about thefact if you have 10 great minutes with your kid once a day, that's powerful,right. They'll remember what you did in those 10 minutes rather than two hoursof running back and forth in the same home and not really paying attention towhat the other person is doing and parallel playing. If you can say, "Ihave 10 minutes, what do you want to do together? Just you and me rightnow." And that's meaningful.Denaye: Right, or just even stopping andlooking them in the eye at the end of the day and asking them how their day wasand just little bits of connection can go so far. I don't think we need to putpressure on ourselves to be there or be present with them all the time.Diane: My older daughter and I used to goout for Chinese food every Friday night, the two of us. I have a blended familyand I got remarried when she was 10 years old. So she had a new stepfather andwe had a routine that we had dinner together once a week, just the two of us.And it really meant a lot to her. She didn't have to share me with him anymoreon that one night and we did it for many years and it made a big difference forher I think.Denaye: Oh, I love that. And it's just thoselittle, little bits of time that we prioritize I think can be really powerful.Denaye: Looking at all these love languages,it makes me wonder if anyone's out there is listening, thinking I need tofigure out my kids' love languages. Put this on my list of a million thingsthat I have to do. Figure out their love language, make sure that I'm cateringto their love language. Do you think that this is something that needs to bedone really intentionally or we may be already doing some of it?Diane: I don't think it has to be on yourto do list. I think that having it in the back of your mind can just help youhave some aha moments in your everyday life that perhaps you might notordinarily have had. And if you just notice patterns in the way your child isacting, just like we're always looking for patterns in various things. Ifyou're trying to figure out, I don't know, why while your kid is itching hiseyes. I mean a lot of what parents do are trying to piece together clues thattell us certain things about our children. I think that this is just adifferent lens through which to see your child's behavior.Diane: For some people it will be veryobvious and they're like, "Oh my goodness, that's what he's trying to tellme." And for other parents it may not resonate as much and that's okay. Ican't really pinpoint my older daughter's love language as clearly as I can myyounger daughter's. And that's okay.Denaye: Yeah, and I think one of thepowerful things that can come from this is this idea that we can really parenteach child differently and actually we sometimes need to parent each childdifferently in order to meet their needs.Diane: Definitely, definitely. And Ithink that that's true in so many ways beyond love languages and that we don'tneed to treat our kids equally. We just need to treat them fairly. Not fairly,but that we need to give each child what he or she needs at that time.Denaye: Right. Because we can spend a lot oftime and energy trying to be fair and trying to be equitable and no matter howmuch we try to do that, the way that our children perceive that fairness andequality is never going to be fair and equal. So instead of trying to spend ourtime and energy being fair and equal, if we just spend our time and energytrying to meet the needs of our children individually, I think we'll probablyget a lot farther.Denaye: Well, this has been great chattingtoday, Diane. Thank you so much.Diane: Thank you so much for having me.This has been really fun, time flew by.Denaye: I know Parents Magazine you can geton the newsstands, you can get it online. You have a Facebook group too, right?Diane: We do. We have a Parents in RealLife Facebook page. We have a regular Facebook page on Parent's Facebook, butwe have a special group called Parents IRL and you have to request to join. Butwe would love to have you. We are happy to have anyone who just confirms for usthat they are actually a parent of young children. It's really a communitywhere there's a lot more interaction, not only with each other, but also theeditors of the magazine. We go on to the IRL page and talk about articles thatwe're working on and want feedback from other moms and dads about the issuesthat they're struggling with so that we can cover the issues that they careabout.Denaye: Great. All right, well I'll putthose links in the show notes and I'll put the link to this article in the shownotes too.Diane: Excellent.Denaye: Great. Great. Well, thank you somuch, Diane.Diane: Thank you. Have a great day.Denaye: You too. Bye.The post SFP 167: The Love Languages + Children [with Diane Debrovner of Parents Magazine] appeared first on Simple Families.
7 Aug 2019
SFP 130: Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations in Motherhood [with Natalie from Better Postpartum]
Starting in the early days of pregnancy we set expectations for ourselves. Perhaps your kids won't have screen time. You will breastfeed for one year or more. Your kids will only eat organic. In today's episode Natalie Telyatnikov [from Better Postpartum] and I are sharing some of the unrealistic expectations of which we have let go and how we are taking better care of ourselves as a result. SUBSCRIBE AND LISTEN ON ITUNES Show Notes/Links Visit Better Postpartum Follow Natalie on Instagram Learn more about the Better Postpartum Course The post SFP 130: Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations in Motherhood [with Natalie from Better Postpartum] appeared first on Simple Families.
24 Oct 2018
SFP 154: Simplifying Parenthood [with Nicole Smith]
Simplifying parenthood may sound like a lofty goal. But in today's episode, I am chatting with Nicole Smith, a mother who has made huge strides. Nicole is sharing her 'Journey to Simplicity' that has happened over the past few months. Nicole is a wife, mother of three children, and a former participant in the Simple Families: The Masterclass. She's sharing her story about letting go of fear and watching her family flourish in simplicity.Show Notes/Links: Simple Families: The MasterclassNicole SmithBefore and After of Nicole's Kitchen:Nicole's Kitchen Before the MasterclassNicole's Kitchen After (#1)Nicole Kitchen After (#2)The post SFP 154: Simplifying Parenthood [with Nicole Smith] appeared first on Simple Families.
17 Apr 2019
SFP 140: Slow Resolutions [with Erin Loechner]
In today's episode I am chatting with Erin Loechner. Erin is an author, blogger, designer, and mother of two. She shares her journey towards simple living along with her best tips for making slower New Year's Resolutions--including arm circles, waking up before the kids, and finding your own definition of self-care. Show Notes/Links:Find Erin on InstagramDesign for Mankind (Erin's website)Chasing Slow (Erin's book). Erin LoechnerThe post SFP 140: Slow Resolutions [with Erin Loechner] appeared first on Simple Families.
2 Jan 2019
SFP 160: Selfish vs. Selfless Parenthood [with Hunter of Mindful Mama Mentor]
There is a fine line between selfishness and selflessness in parenthood. In today's episode, I'm chatting with Hunter Clarke-Fields of Mindful Mama Mentor. We talking about martyrdom in motherhood and how trying to be-it-all and do-it-all is not actually the best thing for kids. This is an important message for every parent. SHOW NOTES/SHOW LINKS:Facebook: Hunter Clarke-Fields, Mindful Mama MentorInstagram: Mindful Mama MentorTwitter: HClarkeFieldsDenaye's Book: Simple Happy ParentingImage that Denaye referenced in the episode: Hi, it's episode 160. And today we're talking about selfishness versus selflessness in Parenthood as a parent, how do you find the middle ground between one or the other?You are listening to the Simple Families podcast, the Q and A style show that brings you solutions for living well with family. Here's your host Denaye BarahonaIt's episode 160. And I so appreciate you tuning in today. I'm chatting with Hunter Clark fields. Hunter joined us back in episode 112. We were talking about whether we really control our kids. And today Hunter is going to be joining me to talk about martyrdom and Parenthood. We'll explore the contrast between selfishness and selflessness and as parents, it can be really hard to feel like we're finding a balance between the two, but before that, here's a quick word from today's sponsor. The sponsor for today is Highlands. Earaches are one of the primary causes for doctor visits with over 30 million visits per year. And Hylands can help. If you've been diagnosed with an Earache by a physician, you can try a Hyland's homeopathic, earache drops or tablets. I actually know this firsthand. I had an ear infection a couple of years ago, and I forgot how bad they hurt.And I had some Hylands on hand for my kids and I used it on myself. And I have to say it took the pain down from like a nine, at least to a three or four. I was super impressed. Hylands has been trusted for generations to provide safe homeopathic medicines for all members of the family. Hyland's homeopathic, earache drops and tablets provide natural relief to help you get back to doing what you love. So visit hylands.com, H Y L A N D S to find a retailer near you. That's hylands.com/ear-pain. These claims are based on traditional homeopathic practice and not accepted by medical evidence, not FDA evaluated. And you must read and follow the label directions before use back to today's episode. I want to tell you that my new book, simple, happy parenting comes out in less than a week.It's available on Tuesday, June 4th. And if you pre-order it, you're going to get two free live group coaching sessions with me this summer go to simplefamilies.com/book, and you can get the link to purchase the book. And you can also find the spot to redeem the two free coaching sessions this summer. I'm so excited for it to launch. And I am so thankful for all the support from all of you over the past month or so, as I've been getting to ready to launch this book, I appreciate you tuning in every week and being a part of simple families. You bring me far more inspiration than you realize before we get into today's episode. I want to bring you a quick listener spotlight. And if you're new to the podcast each week, I feature a listener who has sentenced some kind an encouraging words this week.It's coming from Melissa Michelle and in the form of a podcast review. And she wrote, I'm so grateful to have found Denaye's podcast over a year ago. I never miss an episode. I appreciate all of her advice and practical ideas on simple living. She has amazing guests on her show. And my book wishlist has grown so much after listening to the wonderful authors who cover a wide range of topics, but at the core of all carrying the same message of how to live a more simple, intentional present life, I have never felt mommy, guilt or shame when listening to Denaye. And in this world of social media, it is easy to feel like you're not a good mother because you're not doing enough. I've enjoyed the podcast so much. Now that I follow her blog and social media, and I'm taking all the courses she has to offer, I truly respect and value her opinion.Thank you, Denaye, for all your hard work. I so appreciate those words and that feedback. And thank you to you, Melissa, Michelle, none of this would be possible without listeners and readers like you. Before I get into my chat with Hunter, here's a little bit about her Hunter. Clark fields is a mindfulness mentor. You'll find her at mindfulmamamentor.com. She's the creator of a mindful parenting course and the author of an upcoming book called raising good humans. Hunter also has a podcast that I've had the pleasure of joining her on, and she's the mother of two active daughters. And without further ado, here's my conversation with Hunter. You can go to simple families.com /episode160 to leave questions or comments. And if you hear or see something that particularly resonates with you, I would love you to take a screenshot and post it up on Instagram so I can see it. You can find me on instagram.com/simple_families. Thanks for tuning in.Denaye Barahona: Hi Hunter. Thanks so much for chatting with me today.Hunter: Thanks so much for having me back on. I'm happy to be here.Denaye Barahona: Yeah, it's so great. So the last time we talked, we talked about control and how we don't really have that much control over our kids. At least most of the time control is kind of a facade. So today I'm excited to be talking about martyrdom and motherhood. And I know that you, you did a training on this recently, and I got an email about your training. And I was just like, yes, I have to talk to Hunter about this. So tell me about that.Hunter: Well, yeah, so I do an on martyr yourself week because I, you know, it's funny because personally, it's not something that I ever struggled with. I mean, I did a little bit, but like I'm, I happened to be sort of a naturally I know, I know that if I don't take care of myself, I'm a hot mess for the world. So I learned at some point really young that that has to be an important, a really important thing for me. But I have clients all the time. Who've struggled with this who struggle with getting their needs met with it really comes down to valuing themselves. And the thing is that there's, there's, we live in a culture that, you know, has this sort of cult of motherhood, you know, and exalts motherhood, and this whole idea of mothers, the self-sacrificing mother meme. I really think it's just I've I see in my clients constantly all the time, how dangerous it is, how it, how it hurts moms, how it hurts families, how it hurts mom's relationships with kids and, and how it teaches it.Hunter: You know, it puts this pressure on moms to not value themselves as much as they should be valuing themselves. And you know, always, always putting their children first. And, and I tell moms and dads very straight out that your needs are actually just as important as your child's needs. And you're, you know, it's interesting because when we start out this parenting journey, our kids are infants and an infant's needs are really immediate there it's so essential and, and right. You know, they have to be met right away. Right. And our needs can be pushed back. Right. We don't have to meet them as immediately. And so we kind of start out this journey with, you know, pushing our needs back to meet the more immediate needs of our infants, but we forget to bring our needs back into the picture. Soon enough we forget too. We, we think that this is the way it should be in. I see that it, it hurts people and it hurts families and it, and it makes it harder and harder moving into, you know, as kids grow. So,Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I will admit that I definitely fell into this pattern in early motherhood, and I have definitely emerged from it as I've become more aware of those tendencies. But I'm curious on your thoughts. Why do you think women especially fall into this?Hunter: Well, it certainly has some, it has some historic roots, so I've actually looked into it and, and there's an anthropologist, Maxine Margolis, and she explains that actually, you know, raising kids, you know, we kind of think I would, this is just this biological thing. Right. But actually raising kids, wasn't actually even exclusively women's work until pretty recently. And so back in the day when we were all sort of farmers and merchants and artisans, right? Like the fathers worked near the home and they took an active parenting role, you know, for centuries while, you know, their wives helped with the business and made goods for, you know, families basic survival. Like the family was like a unit that worked together for centuries. And there were of course aunties and uncles around, right. Like it, because people didn't travel so far. And it actually wasn't until manufacturing left home for the factory in the 19th century that middle-class men found themselves like kind of freed up their time, freed up to spend more time on childcare.Hunter: And you know, and before long, it was kind of like they were told that such full-time chick care was essential. And this was this like beginning of this kind of cult of motherhood. And then, you know, in the Victorian era and the turn of the 20th century, it was like, really this, this principle, this idea was that women are born to me, mothers and that it's caring for children. Isn't just instinctive. It should be just completely fulfilling in every way, part of our lives and, and, you know, mothers shouldn't even need any other pursuits. And so it just kind of intensified until you kind of get to like, you know, the the 1950s and, and it's interesting, 'cause it's all very much like middle or upper-class women. Like if you look at working women like lower income women, it's always been, you know, working in the world and, and out in the world.Hunter: But this, the ideal that was presented in the media was always, you know, you can then think of like the 1950s mother, like rolling out pastry for Apple pies and that kind of thing. And, and then, you know, now we have so much information about how to raise kids that, that we, you know, we just feel like, you know, they're, it's so challenging as far as like, we want to raise them emotionally balanced and, and they want, they have to be successful in the world's changing rapidly. Right. So, so then we feel like now that we have more information in some ways about how important our early childhood is now, we, then we have even more or less sort of guilt and things, but the way it kind of really falls on women goes, it goes back to these historical precedents, which I think is really interesting. Cause it's like, Oh, it wasn't always just, it wasn't always just women doing all the child-rearing work, you know, right.Denaye Barahona: At least in the early months, it probably always has been in the early months or years as well. Women are still nursing and breastfeeding. And I feel like that's where it started for me, especially because I, in my early days of motherhood was pretty adamant that we weren't going to use a bottle for the first few weeks. And then we just didn't really end up using bottles very much more out of the fact that I was home all the time. And I just became the person who really the sole person who could provide for my first child. And I think in many ways that alienated my husband, but it also kind of pigeonholed me into always being there and always being the one that knew everything. And the one that did everything, the maternal gatekeeper per se. And I saw myself fall into that pattern.Denaye Barahona: And honestly, I was pretty happy with it for a long time. And I think it wasn't really until my second child was born because I feel like with my first, with one child, I could kind of handle it with I could, I had, I took it all on and I did it in stride and I was happy to be doing it. But then I think once number two arrived, I started to feel the weight of it and realize like, Oh, wait a minute. I can't do this all myself. Or I, if I do try to do it all myself, I am not going to be doing it well, no,Hunter: I, yeah. I mean, I hear you. It is canned. It's like, you're you, your life changes so completely, right? Your body, your relationship to your body changes to your partner, changes to everything. Everything is turned upside down and, and it can feel really fulfilling. I mean, I was of a similar sort of slant and was able to have, luckily I was able to breastfeed my child and, you know, when was it when it was just one child, like she slept with us in the beginning. And I remember feeling quite smug because everybody would say, Oh, are you so tired? How are you sleeping? And I'd think actually we're sleeping really well because I would just roll over on one side and nurse her and fall asleep and then sleep late into the morning because there wasn't any other kids there, any other things there that I had to do so I could handle it.Hunter: And it, and it did that part did feel, feel really good. I mean, yeah. And part of it, this is part of though where the problem shows up is like when we take on everything ourselves, right? Yes. We may have the feeding mechanism. We may be, you know, nursing and that might be really important. But then when we take on everything ourselves like, Oh, my partner is not changing the diaper in the right way or, or giving the bath and the right way or doing all these things. And so not when we don't give other people a chance to do things in perfectly then it can start a real pattern of just kind of slipping into these gender roles, traditional gender roles. And then eventually that can be, you know, really end up with so much work left on mom's shoulders.Hunter: Like it's amazing, you know, I wish I had the numbers for you today. I didn't couldn't find them, but they're like men ultimately have like something like 300 something, more hours of free time, leisure time a year than women do. Because as these, the choices that we make when our kids are little play out down the line, when they're less and less egalitarian we women end up just doing so much more work and men are, you know, quote unquote helping, helping out rather than being equal partners because we, you know, it can be hard to yeah. To let other people through that, of this precious child taking care of this precious child, but it ends up being so important.Denaye Barahona: Right. And I think there's this very, very, almost impossible to see fine line between selfless and selfish in motherhood. And I don't know that any of us really strike that balance. And I don't know that we can really see a middle ground a lot of times. Like, I think we are often very selfless, especially if we are acting as murders, we're being very selfless. And we look at everyone else around us who is not doing that as selfish. What do you do?Hunter: Yeah. There's like a lot of judgment that comes out. Yeah. I mean, especially before we have kids, we're very used to kind of judging parents and saying, well, when I have kids, I will do it this way. And this is, you know, so that, that judging mind is, is really going forth in full effect. Yeah. I mean, we tend to say, you know, there, there tends to be kind of like we're getting value from that. Like we're, we're, we're saying, because I am getting up all the time at night, I am a better person. You know, we tend to value ourselves more yet. We don't see in those early years, how on the other end than we, you know, what ultimately happens is that our kids, they don't do what we say as much as they do what we do and how we live our lives as much, you know, what we model teach as much more to our kids than anything else.Hunter: And if we model sacrificing ourselves and not valuing our own needs and not taking care of our own needs, then ultimately we're showing our kids to do that too. Like what do we want our kids to be sacrificing their own needs to the point of exhaustion? You know, would we want our kids to be doing, you know, taking care of everybody else before they take care of ourselves? No, we wouldn't. So we shouldn't be doing that ourselves. Like there was this study this blog macaroni kid did this survey of 8,500 moms and they found this they found this, that 90.4% reported taking better care of them's families than they do of themselves, which is shocking to me. And then 25% admitted, they hadn't done anything just for themselves in more than a year.Denaye Barahona: And if that it's not okay, and here, this is what I tell families. Your kids are not going to be happy. If you're not happy, you have to be happy. Happiness is contagious. It's not something we can teach. It's something that our kids learn from being in the vicinity and being around and having relationships with people who are happy. And if we're you can't and I, one of the phrases that I hear a lot is, well, it's Fine. As long as my kids are happy, that's all that matters, but it doesn't work like that. Right. Would you agree with me?Hunter: No. And, and actually biologically, it doesn't work like that. So if you're not taking care of yourself, right? Like if you are not getting enough sleep, if you're not getting enough exercise, having some quiet time to yourself, having time for friends, we have a lot of needs, you know, as human beings, we need time for ourselves time for friends, family exercise, sleep, sleep is so, so important if we're not doing those things then literally like in our biological system. So we have our fight flight or freeze system in our nervous system, right? This is that stress response in the nervous system. And the stress response is wonderful thing. It helps keeps us safe, but it's what helps makes us irritable stressed out, unhappy, reactive yelling parents, right?Hunter: Like it's what makes parents who can't hold, you know, keep themselves together. That's, that's the cause, right? And when we aren't taking care of ourselves, we're depleting our resources, depleting our resources, depleting our resources. And then literally we have nothing left to give. And literally you're much, much more likely to yell. You're you're much, you're not able to access the higher evolved part of your brain. Like the prefrontal cortex is where the your empathy resides, your logical thinking, your creative, thinking, your intuition, all of this, all of these higher order thinking things, you're then literally quite literally in the brain, the stress response, bypasses that part of the brain so that you can have a quick reaction. You're literally not able to access these things. So you may be thinking, Oh, this is better for my kids, but you're actually making yourself a far worse parent, you know, to be Frank.Hunter: And, you know, I think of it this way. Like I, I heard a beautiful image about loving kindness, and I love this image and I would love to give this image to the listener. And this is like that our care and loving kindness, right? Like it's like like a mountain spring, right? Water coming down a mountain. And the first pool it reaches is this pool of ourselves. Right? And so we have to fill up this, the new mountain spring of kindness and care and concern, loving kindness. It has to fill this pool from ourselves. And when this little, this mountains, spring of care for ourselves is over full it, then spills over and goes down to fill the next the next pool down the line, which may be care for our, our family and our friends. But like, literally, if it's not inside of us, we, we can't give it out. We, we cannot give what we do not have. And so if you have, if you're just so stressed out and overburdened, you're going to, you're going to be resentful, ultimately ends up to like moms exploding and being, becoming resentful of their kids, which is, that's not right.Denaye Barahona: I have an image that I made that I'm going to put into the show notes that it's actually a few different little sticks of dynamite with different length fuses to give you this visual of what it looks like to have a short fuse versus a long fuse. And we think about, we all have different length uses, right? Like a three-year-old has a pretty short fuse because as soon as their fuse burns a little bit, they explode pretty quickly. And an older child has a little bit of a longer fuse and an adult can have any variation of lengths of fuses depending on the day, depending on their overall wellbeing. So a parent with good self care has a long fuse. You know, they can handle a lot. They can really sustain themselves throughout the difficult days as parents, without exploding. But if you have poor self-care, that fuse is going to be a lot shorter. And you're going to find yourself exploding more often, you're going to find yourself being more volatile with your kids. And, and I don't say that in a shameful way, but more so in a way that I know that anyone who's ever lost their cool and got upset with their kids always feels that sense of guilt after the fact. And you wish that there was a better way and you wish you had tools to do better. And I really do think that this self-care piece is, is the most important piece.Hunter: It, it, it really is. And the thing about like, losing your cool, like that, that that's not your fault. Like we have this biological stress response, right? This isn't personal to you. It's not about you being this type of parent or that it's not personal. We just have, this is our nervous system, and this is how it works. And it doesn't work that well as far as accessing these other things, right. If, if we're, if we're not taking care of ourselves. And so yeah, that, that really means, you know, sleep. It really means exercise a good food time with friends. It, it really means looking at how you, how you speak to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. What, when you make a mistake, if you do yell at your child, or, you know, if there's something like that that happens, do you shame and blame yourself?Hunter: Are you harsh and mean, and cruel is that voice inside harsh and mean, and cruel to yourself. And many of us were, you know, have inside a voice that's really harsh and mean and cruel because of our society. That's, you know, we happen to have a very judgmental society and or maybe our upbringing, our parents, and things that not to blame them, they had probably worse. But if that voice inside is harsh and mean, and cruel, we have to think of, remember that when our resources are depleted, what's inside is what's going to come out. So just as if you squeeze an orange, you got orange juice coming out, rather than Kiwi juice what's inside you is going to come out when you're squeezed. And so, you know, we can't just expect to, will ourselves to always say the right thing, because that's not going to happen. It has to be actually a practice like a pro there has to be a practice of kindness to ourselves. And that kindness to ourselves includes taking care of all of our needs of our physical body, our mental well-being or emotional body, all of that.Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I've talked a lot on the podcast about how, for me work is very much self-care and that I found as my kids have gotten older, that I've needed more and more. And for me very much has been getting childcare so that I can pursue my career and my work interests. And that, I think that reflecting back now on a time before I had childcare and before I had support to pursue my own time and my own interests, I feel like I'm so much happier.Denaye Barahona: Now. I'm so much, I'm happier with who I am when I'm with my kids now. And I'm happy that I have something outside of my kids. And I think there's this big sort of conundrum that we come up with when we're thinking about motherhood, especially for stay at home mothers, this idea that motherhood is enough, right. If you're a mother and you're staying home and you're making motherhood, you're everything that it is enough. And especially if you've made this decision that you have to stick with it and there's no turning back and you got to give it your all and do your best. And I Think that that is that's difficultDenaye Barahona: Because you have to give yourself the permission to change your mind and to be flexible and to quite possibly make a different decision later on. And maybe it means going back to work, or maybe it means doing some volunteer work or whatever it is that fills up, fills up your cup, that you didn't anticipate you were going to need when you started motherhood. If you, even, if you started as a martyr or you started with the idea that you were going to do it all and be at all.Hunter: Oh yeah, absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more and it's okay that your kids aren't, you know, and in fact, I actually think it's sometimes I, I tell my clients, I say, actually, you know, in a lot of ways, like it is so much in a lot of ways, it's really good for your kids, for them not to be your everything, like that's too much pressure on a kid. Like that's too much pressure on a person for their whole life to be everything fulfilling for you. Like, that's, that's a lot of pressure on them. And actually when we, I, I you know, I tell my clients to like sort of care, less love more. And I actually, I heard Dr. Shefali Safari say that one time. And I really appreciate that. And the idea that when we, when we care a little less, when we stop making every little moment so important and, and us being there every single moment being so important, we can relax a little bit more.Hunter: We can be ourselves a little bit more, and us being our authentic selves and accepting our own selves that gives our, you know, then we're able to accept our kids for who they are. They don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be, you know, they don't have to meet our expectations in every moment. They don't have to make us happy in every moment because the truth is, kids are annoying and kids are frustrating and they're wonderful and they like make your heart sing. But they're also all those other things too. And if, if we can back off and take some time for ourselves, even stay at home moms, if you take some time, get a mother's helper, come a couple days a week, go for a long walk, whatever it is, take some time away. It's beautiful to come back and have a reunion.Hunter: And it's beautifully for your kids to have an experience with, with other people it's really helpful for them. And it, and it, it really feeds you both, you know, and, and missing each other is a wonderful feeling. I once went away for two weeks a retreat, an artists or cheat. And I came back and I heard my daughter's voice. And it was like, Oh, it was amazing. Cause I could hear her voice for the first time that everyone used to tell me what's so cute. And I could hear it like, as somebody else heard it. And she gave me like a thousand kisses all at once and it was amazing. And so it's really, it can be really lovely to, to have time away. And that gives you perspective and enjoy upon reunion. You know, even if it's just a couple of hours,Denaye Barahona: Right. And I feel like in recent generations, as families are getting smaller and the average family has like 1.9 kids or something like that. Now we, I think that fact alone lends itself to more intensive mothering and more intensive Parenthood. I think back when I was a new mom and I had an infant that I literally had the time and energy to watch and perseverate over his, every move. And I often found myself thinking at that point, I was like, well, maybe I should have like five or six kids so I can distribute my energy evenly. I don't. And I don't overwhelm any one of, because I felt like when that was my all, and it really was, I was working on my PhD while he was an infant. But that, although, that did help me and it gave me some mental space to be doing something else. I found plenty of mental space to fuss over his, every single move. And it, it was almost overwhelming to me to give my everything to another single individual. So I've kind of always thought about that as with the smaller your family. It, do we have the tendency to really dive deeper and maybe get a little too over-involved in the lives of our kids.Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, they need us, right. They need to have this attachment figures of the parents or the caregivers at home. Right. Or the, you know, the caregivers that are in their life when they're young, like they, they had kids attached to those and that's important, right. They need us to be able to regulate their emotions so they can come and, and, and, and do that. But that's can be, that's overwhelming for it to be the job of one person to that sounds like my, you know, in some ways like it's like a definition of insanity to like, be with like a 18 month old for like 24 hours a day for weeks on end. Right? Like that, that child and that person need more, you know, that wasn't how humans evolved to be. Right. We evolved to be with many people. Kids evolve to learn from, from many people and kids are so much work that we need to, to give, have breaks really, really important.Hunter: Um restorative breaks for those, those caregivers. When my, I w one thing I was very cognizant of was sharing as much as I could equally with my husband. And at some point later when my kids were littler, but than they are now, but older than infants, they would, they would just say, mommy, daddy, like they would call us bullet. Like my kids would call me daddy and my, they would call him mommy sometimes. And sometimes they would just call us both mommy, daddy. And I remember feeling like, yes, you know, like this is we're, we're both provide that what they need, right. As far as this loving presence to help them with when they need help. Right. I was really pleased that he was just as much a caregiver as, as I was. And that's, if you look at the big picture in the world, right, we need, we need to bring out the caring instincts and men too. We need to give them that chance to, to model that for the next generation. For sure.Denaye Barahona: Now you had mentioned attachment on the importance of kids gaining with primary care primary caregivers and the people in their lives. And I, I think that's as something important to touch on because I, so before I did my PhD in child development, I was a clinical social worker and I worked with children and families. And as a part of that, I worked in the foster care system. And I also worked with failed adoptions. So quite a few international adoptions that the kids came to the U S lived with the families and had reactive attachment disorder or other types of attachment disorders as a result of the transition happening during that important early period, that is so pivotal for attachment. So this and this was before I had kids. So I felt like I had a pretty strong understanding of attachment and what it looked like and what the research about it said and what the, what the concerns were were if attachment wasn't properly established.Denaye Barahona: So this was pre kids. And then I got pregnant with my first and started reading about different parenting approaches. And I came across detachment parenting and immediately was sort of like, wait a minute. Like none of this stuff is what the research shows is necessary for attachment. I will openly say that I'm not an attachment parents supporter, but I do support all the tenants of attachment parenting. I'm a strong supporter of breastfeeding and of baby wearing. And co-sleeping, if it's the right fit for your family and all of those things, but what I don't like is when we put all of those things on a list and make them a list of boxes that we have to check. Yeah. And I've seen so many families, mothers in particular fall into this pattern of adopting this philosophy that really makes them the end all be all for their child in search of a strongly attached relationship with their, with their infant or with our young child.Denaye Barahona: When the reality is that the research shows us that 75% of children are securely attached. The 25% who have attachment challenges or attachment disorders are the kids who have had parents who have passed away. Parents who have been incarcerated other types of very severe separations in those early years in early months of life. So if, when I first learned about attachment parenting and started to understand the phenomenon that was coming through the parenting schmear, especially as it pertained to the educated population, it felt a little bit scary to me to think that so many amazing, amazing mothers were all of a sudden worried about their kids being properly attached.Hunter Yeah. Yeah. I can relate to that too, because I had a less D not quite so deep understanding of attachment theory. And I took psychology in college and thought, Oh, maybe this is the source of all in my anxieties. Is that my, I think my mom might've gone on vacation when I was, when I was I dunno, six weeks old, something like that. And left me with my grandparents. But so I had had this idea in my head and I was, I had come across attachment parenting and was like, I will have a securely attached child. She will be, you know, she'll be securely attached and, and we will baby wear and do all those things too. And so I, I could, and, you know, as a relatively educated person, you know, I, I fell right into that category you're talking about.Hunter: And actually, so did all my friends, I had this moms group from the birth center where I agree birth. Some, it was very sort of crunchy world. Everybody had their, you know, baby wearing accouchement breastfeeding and all of that. So you know, it was interesting and there I but I had a lot, I had a fair amount of skepticism of it, but when, when we brought my first daughter home, we, you know, we, we ended up co-sleeping with her because she didn't, she wouldn't sleep in the bassinet near the bed. And so we, we slept with her, we tucked our sheets in a halfway into our bed. So we couldn't pull them up over our hips, which was incredibly frustrating. I can only imagine firstly, but we wanted to do it, the safe and things like that. I share with you the same concerns about attachment parenting and that it seems to like, especially the books by the Sears seem to put all this pressure on mom and make mom everything, which is too much pressure on one person.Hunter: I believe it's, it, it kind of says that, you know, it supports in a lot of ways, some of this mommy martyrdom problematic stuff, where you should be, you know, you're putting your child's needs before your own all the time, which isn't healthy. It's is when we, you know, yes, our infants' needs are more immediate. We have to meet them, but our needs also have to come into the picture or else we're going to become a hot mess. So yeah, it, it, and plus kids can have one or many attachment figures, you know, they can be attached to Granny and they can be attached to dad. And that's, that's really healthy for kids. Yeah, I share a lot of your same concerns with us. Right.Denaye Barahona: And I actually had a few months ago, someone email me and say that it seemed like I wasn't supportive of co-sleeping. And that was interesting to me to hear that. And I can understand why people would think that, and that's because most of the time when people are coming to me with sleep concerns, and I don't generally talk about sleep, sleep is definitely not my forte, because I think it's a little bit too polarizing. But generally speaking, I, if coasts co-sleeping like, if it works for you, then it works. Like you're not usually seeking out support to learn how to co-sleep better. Like if you're co-sleeping or co-sleeping, and it works for you, then that's fine. It's usually the people that I see are people who have been co-sleeping and don't want to do it anymore and are having a hard time transitioning off of it, which is why I feel like maybe it comes across that I'm not supportive.Denaye Barahona: Cause I'm trying to help people to find better sleep outside of co-sleeping. But that's usually because that's, who's looking for the help, if that makes sense. But I think that co-sleeping is wonderful and beautiful if it works for your family. And I think a lot of people start co-sleeping with the intent of, they love it and they love spending that time with their baby and with their young toddler. But then when you get to the point where it's not really working well for your sleep, and it doesn't always come to that point for everybody, but for many people, it does. You come to a point where you're not sleeping as well, your child isn't sleeping as well. And possibly even the marriage is taking a hit in the, in the process too. I think that's when we have to look at this idea of, are you being a murder around sleep? And are you feeling like you said you were going to host, co-sleep originally out the door, you said you were never going to leave your child alone at night, or you're going to be a parent in the night and a parent during the day and now you're not sleeping and you're an irritable mess all day. Like what happens then?Hunter: Yeah, it's, it's a frustrating situation because the truth is until you get to the point where you have a, a small infant and you're not sleeping at night until you get faced with a challenge that is like messing up your sleep at night, as much as having a baby, it does, you have no idea how you're going to react to that little sleep or interrupted sleep for some people they're kind of okay. And they can deal with it. And for a lot of us, it turns out we turn into raging Ben cheese don't get enough sleep. Like I remember just feeling so unregulated, right? Like, so dysregulated, so unhappy. So frustrated my day times I would be, you know, much more likely to be triggered much more likely to be triggered into, you know, sadness and depression. And you know, that actually, you know, research shows that women are more than twice as likely to become depressed as men.Hunter: And, and the research also shows that mother's depression has significant negative impacts on our children. And, and the thing about this is, is that sleep is the underlying necessity for everything else that we do. Like it's just biological necessity for us. So for parents too, you know, it's wonderful. Yeah. Like if it works for you, that's great. And you want to, co-sleep, that's great. It's fine. You know? And we co-slept with my youngest daughter until she was three months old. And then we got her into that bassinet beside the bed. Thank goodness for us. We can pull our sheets up.Hunter: And and you know, I feel like there's like a middle path, right? It's almost like you're, you know, people feel like they're either, you know, they're, they're co-sleeping, and they're, they're sacrificing themselves. And therefore, you know, getting this boost of self-esteem from doing this, this self sacrificing thing for their child, but then maybe a little more miserable during the day and during the waking hours when we're actually kind of making those memories and, or, you know, we're, or you're, you know, it has to be your, your, your child's like five doors down. And, you know, with them, you know, you don't see it, you know, you're trying to train them or whatnot, but I really do think there can be a middle path for this and, and whatever that middle path has to be. I think that the, the key ingredient is that mom and dad's needs for sleep are really incredibly important. Maybe much more important than maybe a, you know 11 months old need to nurse at night, for sure. You know?Denaye Barahona: Right. And it's funny, you mentioned 11 month old because my son, my first fell into sleeping through the night pretty early on, pretty pretty naturally, we really worked hard to set good rhythms for naps during the day. And it just kind of happened. My daughter was still waking to nurse usually once, sometimes twice during the night when she was 11 months old. And what we did, which I know not everyone's going to agree with was I sent my husband in to be with her rather than going in myself. That's what we did to that. It took two nights and she was basically like, well, if I'm not getting the boob, I'm not getting up. And she stopped, but you know, here's the thing she cried. Like, she cried a lot with my husband, but I, and I was awake in the other room listening to it, which was wasn't easy.Denaye Barahona: But I settled in this, knowing that she had human touch, not just any human touch, but loving human touch. She had a clean diaper and she had a bottle, even though she didn't ever take a bottle, I was like, just take the bottle and just offer it to her because, you know, if she's really hungry, she'll take it. And she didn't want it. She didn't want any of that. She just wanted me and she wanted us to nurse for comfort. And at that point I had decided that I really wanted to be sleeping in the night. And I did that. And again, it took two nights and it worked and it's not for everybody, but I think that if we really want a change and like, if we really understand that sleep is in fact incredibly important that we can, we can often make positive changes in the sleep department.Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. We can absolutely often make positive changes in the sleep department in it. Does it just, I think it, it requires us to recognize that, you know, I love that you recognize that you had this need for sleep. Right. And you recognize that yeah, your kid was unhappy there. Like she was like, I want mommy and I don't have mommy and you know it, but I applaud you for saying, well, yeah, she wants mommy. But for the sake of all of us, we're going to, mommy's going to take care of herself so that we can all be happier and healthier. Ultimately. I mean, the truth is like it even, you know, we're not going to go out of our way to create hardships for our kids because life is hard enough, but it would be a terrible thing for kids to never have any hardships to encounter with the support of a loving family.Hunter: But because then you're gonna end up with kids who can't handle anything in life. The truth is that we have to, they have to come up against things that said that they don't like, and that, that are challenging for them. And, and they have to come up against those boundaries and when they can come up against those boundaries and also have the support of a loving parent there, it says, yeah, sorry, you know, you're not going to get what you want. I know this is hard for you. Are they equivalent in infant touch of thereof? Right. Then that's exactly what our kids need. Right. And I feel like for me,Denaye Barahona: It has been slow and steady understanding the importance of finding my own happiness and how that impacts the happiness of my kids. And I mean, a few years ago, I would have said the things that I do now, right. Like having childcare and support at home, like I would have felt like that was pretty selfish, but for not putting my kids first every minute of the day, but now how I see how it's changed my relationship with my kids so much for the positive. Like I just, I think I'll never, never look back.Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I also encourage the listener, you know, to look at what are, you know, what are the stories that you're telling yourself about these things? You know, like we, we look at things through a certain lens and we tell ourselves a certain story about about whether it's sleeping at night or taking time for ourselves during the day, or working or going back to work. All of those things, we tell these stories that are filled with judgment and they're filled with they're filled with beliefs that are kind of backed up in our culture and things like that. So I invite people to question, you know, you know, is that, is that really true? You know, when we are, you can feel it right. You can feel in your body when there's a judgmental thought that you're having, Oh, I'm a terrible mother.Hunter: Well, this is really true. You know, Oh my, my child is unhappy. And that means I'm a terrible mother. Is that true? Like, it's really important for us to start to question some of these beliefs that drive us into this kind of martyrdom behavior, because, and I hope that you can find, you know, other sources that can encourage us to make sure our own needs are met, right. Because it's, those, those are really ultimately just stories and beliefs that are, that are driving this behavior. And we can make choices that meet our needs, that meet our kids' needs as best we can. If we can just take a step back and say, well, what am I needing? What am am I have? I had time with my friends. Have I had time with my partner? My husband have I, when was the last time I did something just for myself.Hunter: Um you know, but if we can start to take a step back and look at the big picture and look at those things, I mean, we ultimately, you know, we want to remember that we were living whatever we're living is, what our kids are learning, right? So we have to live what we want our kids to learn. You know, do you want your kids to learn, to not take care of their own needs, to not value themselves? So then if that's, you want them to value themselves and you want them to take care of their own needs, as difficult as that might feel, if you've have a story about self-sacrificing motherhood and how great that is, it may feel uncomfortable too, to say, you know what my needs matter, but I'm encouraging you to do that because it'll be good for you. It'll be good for your kids. It'll be good for your relationship for all of you in the long run.Denaye Barahona: Yeah, I totally agree with that. Well, thank you so much for this. This has been such a great chat Hunter. I feel like we could go on and on. We really didn't even touch the impact of this on this.Hunter: Marriage. Yes.Denaye Barahona: How'd, you know, that we didn't even touch the partnership and the impact of martyrdom on partnership. And I think that is another huge maybe for, for another day, right? Yeah.Hunter: Yeah. This is absolutely true. And really your, your marriage or your partnership is that's one of the biggest impacts of, of kids' happiness, right. That are so important to take care of that, for sure.Denaye Barahona: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. Absolutely.Hunter: Thanks so much for having me on today.Thanks again for tuning in to the Simple Families podcast. If you want to stay in touch with Simple Families, the best way is to, to simple families.com and to leave your email address, the email list will keep you in touch with what's going on on the blog, on the podcast and In the community. If you want to learn more about Hunter and the things that we talked about today, you can go to simple families.com/episode160.If you hear something that you like, feel free to share it on Instagram, put it in your stories and tag me so I can, I can see it. I'd love to chat more with you there. And if you have a second Go to iTunes and leave a rating or review for this show, it helps it to reach more people. Thanks for being a part of Simple Families. And if you're interested, I would love you to pick up a copy of my new book, Simple Happy Parenting available, wherever books are sold. Have a good one. The post SFP 160: Selfish vs. Selfless Parenthood [with Hunter of Mindful Mama Mentor] appeared first on Simple Families.
29 May 2019