Channing's OCD explained in plain english

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

I have spent the last three weeks researching the crap out of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have learned a ton and I want to drop some knowledge bombs.
I've also done a lot of explaining and talking about it with family and friends. In doing so, I've realized, people know as much about OCD as I did before finding out I had it - pretty much nothing. So in true awesome Channing style, I decided to go on the offensive about it and share more.

How does it feel to find out I have OCD?

I feel relieved to know that I'm not a bad person.

Discovering that my weird "quirks" and unusually morbid thoughts I've had my entire life were part of a disease I wasn't aware of has been life changing. I have postpartum OCD, but in my research I have continually come across studies that show that women who have PPOCD probably have had OCD most of their life and the symptoms got worse after having babies. I feel this, among many other causes of OCD, strongly applies to me.

To understand OCD better, its good to know that it is a two-part thing. First is the O - obsession. Most of the time, obsessions are made up of scary thoughts that start as a small "What if?". These are called intrusive thoughts, and everybody has them. The best way I've been able to describe them is this: 

Say you're driving down the road and you see a light pole. Brains are weird, and this time, your brain says, "Hey, see that light pole? What if you ran into that light pole?" People without OCD would say to that thought, "Hmm. That was a weird thought. Hope that doesn't happen.", and they would move on.

If that thought happened to me, I would have a hard time ignoring it. I would think:
  • "Oh, that would be horrible!"
  • "My kids and I would probably be seriously injured or die."
  • "If I killed my kids in this car, I would never be able to live with myself because that would mean I was a horrible person."
  • "Okay, this is crazy. Just ignore the light pole. IGNORE IT!"
  • "I can't ignore it because its right there in front of me!"
  • "Ahhh, its getting closer! I better move lanes."
  • "Okay, I moved lanes. From now on, only THIS lane is safe, because its furthest away from the light pole."

And those are not even the worst thoughts. Sometimes I worry that I will accidentally hurt someone. Like, what if I accidentally drop my baby over the stair railing? What if I made a friend's child so sick that they die? What if I go crazy, don't know it, and hurt someone? My life is in constant question - did I say the right thing? Did I do the right thing? Did I cook the chicken all the way? Did I use the wrong word when talking about a sensitive subject? Could I ever possibly do something unthinkable? 

I thought these thoughts were things I was capable of. I thought because they were coming from ME, it must mean I wanted these things to happen. Come to find out these alarming thoughts are results of OCD and it is actually super healthy they cause me so much anxiety and its very unlikely I will ever act on them. Unfortunately, this massive amount of doubt and questioning makes it difficult for me to believe I am a good person because it is impossible to be absolutely certain that I will not do bad things.

Does it sound sad? It is. That is why knowing that -1. these thoughts have a name and 2. the reason I'm having them non-stop is because the chemicals in my brain aren't working right- helps me not feel scared and ashamed of myself.

I feel happy that I am not normal.

Because those intrusive thoughts I mentioned are SO scary and SO intense, I feel like I have to do something to either prevent a horrible scenario from happening or to stop thinking about it. This is where the second part of OCD comes into play. The C - compulsion. Compulsions are the brain's way of trying to "fix" an obsession, or at least lessen the anxiety it causes. 

Compulsions are the most commonly known symptom of OCD. Unfortunately, they are pretty misunderstood. Compulsions have a pretty wide range. The most well known ones are organizing and cleaning. However, those are not the only ones! Compulsions can include:
  • excessive checking (the stove is turned off, the door is locked, the baby is breathing, etc)
  • reassurance seeking (asking for excessive reassurance from others/articles/blogs/doctors, etc)
  • counting
  • repeating phrases
  • probably a million other things that I can't think of
Until a month ago, I thought that everyone did the things I do; I thought I was normal. Now, I am happy to hear that most people can leave their home in a state of disarray to spend a few hours with their friends. I think its wonderful that people don't wash their hands in the hottest water they can stand to ensure the germs have died. I love that people don't feel like they have to be perfect to live their life where people can see them. It is so awesome that OCD is not normal because now I know that life is not supposed to be like this!

I feel grateful that I am not alone. 

Nearly 1 in 100 people suffer from OCD. That means that out of my 250 Facebook friends, its possible that 3 of them are on the spectrum of OCD. Welcome to the circus, guys!

But really. Life with OCD can be very isolating just by nature alone. If I can't leave my house to go a girl's night because I'm not done cleaning, its hard to establish and maintain friendships. If I don't feel comfortable bringing my kids to a play date because they were sick a week ago and I have no way of knowing they are completely better, its hard to build a sense of community for my family. If I spend so much time thinking about the perfect response to a text so that I make sure that I don't accidentally say the wrong thing, eventually the "perfect" response time window passes and it becomes "too late" to respond. Because my brain recognizes that these thoughts and their accompanying actions don't make logical sense, I can't explain to anyone why I can't come to activities, why I didn't text or call back. It gets really lonely.

So yeah, knowing that there are people like me is comforting because it assures me that even though I may not be "normal" in the accepted sense, I'm totally normal for OCD. Yay! I'm 1% normal! I fit in somewhere.

What do I want people to know?

I am not afraid to talk about it

I don't mind questions. I invite them! It gives me an opportunity to talk about this new big deal in my life right now. So don't be afraid to ask me about how I'm feeling, or even ask about my OCD directly. It doesn't offend me. Offer support, words of kindness, a smile. I love that! So yes, its okay to ask and talk about it. It also helps me spread awareness about OCD, which brings me to my next point.

I want people to be educated

Two days after I discovered I had OCD, I saw someone use the hashtag #ocdlife on a picture of their kid organizing toys. Now I don't know if this person or their child has a legit clinical diagnosis of OCD or not, but for my intent and purpose, let's assume they don't.

Everyone has preferences. Clean, organized spaces are pleasurable and relaxing to be in, and generally people prefer their rooms, homes, and belongings clean and orderly. Maybe you feel inconvenienced or annoyed when things aren't put away or when toys are strewn over the floor. Maybe you even feel the need to pick up and clean as part of a nightly routine or when it gets really messy. But I want to be perfectly clear about the difference between a preference and compulsion.

OCD is an anxiety disorder. That means that life with OCD has an underlying feeling of fear that permeates every aspect of being. Unless you experience BOTH sides of OCD - the obsession and the compulsion, it is impossible to understand the depth of fear that OCD sufferers experience on a daily basis. OCD is not trendy, its not cool or cute, or even convenient. Its downright terrifying. Its the irrational feeling that unless you load the dishwasher in exactly the right way, the dishes won't be washed properly, and everyone in your home will die of a totally preventable disease and it will be entirely your fault. Could you live with yourself? What if doing one little thing, like moving the bowls to the right place, would save your family? Would you do it? Even if it was annoying? If your cutesy little organizing habit is logical, convenient, and is absent of fear, you have a preference. Not OCD.

Basically, you wouldn't lay out in the sun for a day and hashtag your tanning selfie with #melanoma. So don't #ocdlife anything unless you actually know what that means. *rant over*

Don't feel bad if you've done it. I have too! Here's proof:  This post was on my personal instagram account literally days before I found out I have the real deal! #irony

Anyway, being educated about mental illness helps because it does three things.

1. It helps you understand me. This helps you not take things personally. It allows you a glimpse into my life and an understanding of how I might be different from the other 99% of "normal" people. Being aware of OCD helps you know me better - my worries, my quirkiness, and my strengths.
2. It helps me express myself to others. Knowing that people have a frame of reference allows me to be open, honest, and forthcoming about my feelings and capabilities.
3. It reduces stigma and shame. Because you know me and how amazing I am despite my OCD, suddenly, mental illness becomes more acceptable and understood for what it is - a disease, not a definition. Another plus is that you won't #ocdlife anything inappropriately and get on my bad side. Its a win-win for everyone!

I am going to get better!

If you're sick of hearing me talk about my OCD, you better unfriend and unfollow me right now, because this thing is stickin' around. OCD is considered a chronic (meaning: lifetime) condition that has no cure and never goes completely away. I know. I'm totally bummed, too.

The wonderful news is that OCD sufferers can be helped and symptoms can be alleviated. Through medication and something called CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), relief is totally possible and realistic. I am meeting regularly with mental health pros that are helping me and making sure I'm safe and healthy. Its hard for me to express the massive sense of relief I have felt since meeting with a counselor. Its like I put on a pair of glasses that helped me see everything clearly for the first time. I feel so.much.better.

Friend, if you read this far, thank you! Thank you for caring, for being open and receptive. Thank you for listening. Thank you for your kind comments, your prayers, your questions, and even just your presence in my life. It means the world to me.

Want to know more about what its like to be #ocdlife*?

Cool! I have a million places to point you! Explore any of the links I've included above and the resources below and enjoy your trip down the rabbit hole!

Postpartum Progess has an amazing collection of resources for PPOCD (including this well-written peek into the mind of someone with it), as well as PPD and PPA. I highly recommend checking their site out!

Dr. Christina Hibbert has a blog about mental wellness and has a great series of posts on PPOCD.

When A Family Member Has OCD by John Hersfield, MFT is a wonderful book that helps families cope with OCD and love the person who has it. 

*No, I'm not over that yet. Obviously.

Meditation For Busy Moms

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Mom and meditation are two words that don't usually go together. But moms need peace and relaxation too! I want you to know that there is a way to make it possible.

The benefits of meditation include:

  • Less stress. 
  • Improved concentration. 
  • Positive self-awareness. 
  • Mindfulness. 
  • Balance. 
  • Calm. 
  • Peace.

Moms need mediation too

Doesn't all that sound nice? I could use some extra relaxation in my day. But as a mom with two (very) young kids, finding quiet time to sit down and meditate is more fantasy than reality. As much as it hurts my little yogi heart to admit, I just don't meditate that much anymore.

A few years ago I discovered guided imagery meditation. My mentor taught a class on facilitating imagery meditation, and I fell in love! Basically, its a form of guided relaxation and visualization that allows you to get the benefits of meditation in a super fun way. I get excited to do a guided imagery "journey" and its something I look forward to.

Also, if you're a person who is easily distracted during meditation, I think guided imagery is a really great option. Because you have something to continually focus on and its not completely silent, its easier to stay focused. So, for someone like me who has a hard time tuning out mental noise, guided imagery is always my first pick of mediation.

The best part about guided imagery is how easy it is to do. All it requires is 10-20 minutes of quiet and some headphones. I know, I know, quiet time is non-existent, but my solution to that is to do it right before you fall asleep. Simply lay down, plug in, and press play and you are good to go. That's my kind of meditation.

Give it a try!

This sounds super amazing, right? Its definitely worth trying out. That's why today I am sharing a guided imagery journey I made just for you, mama! Just click here to access the 10 minute audio file.

A few notes on guided imagery: Do not listen to this audio recording while driving or operating heavy machinery. Additionally, this audio recording is to be used for entertainment purposes only and at your own risk. For questions about liability and my terms and conditions, please refer to my Legal Stuff page.

Tell me

Do you have a successful meditation practice? Its okay if not, but I'd love to hear your ideas!

Self Care For Moms In Crisis

Monday, March 20, 2017

Last week was a rough one for me. I was diagnosed with postpartum OCD. To say that it rocked my world is an understatement.
For the days since, I have ridden the ferris wheel of "discovery day" - at the highest I feel relief and support and love, at my lowest, doubt and fear - going around and around again. In order to cope with the myriad of emotions, I pulled back, focused on the people in my inner circle, and rested. I realized doing this was a beautiful, sacred form of self care.

Ahhh. Self care. Its the hot idea in mama circles right now. "What are you doing to take care of YOU?", friends ask, eyes wide with concern. Pedicures and haircuts and yummy indulgences abound. I'm not about to tell you those things are wrong - they aren't. They are essential. They are a form of self care. But when your world gets turned upside down and you are grappling with circumstances out of your control and understanding, a coat of nail polish just doesn't do the trick.

Are you a mom in crisis?

If you have recently experienced any of the following, you may be a mom in crisis.
  • Unexpected job loss, either yours or your spouse's
  • Diagnosis of a chronic or acute illness like cancer, diabetes, infertility, mental illness, etc.(for you, your children, or someone close to you)
  • Death of a loved one
  • Miscarriage or infant loss 
  • Failed adoption match
  • Divorce (yours or someone close to you)
  • Traumatic event such as an accident 
  • Betrayal trauma
This is not a complete or all-inclusive list. Anything event that feels devastating, overwhelmingly sad or scary, or involves heavy change or closure in a chapter of your life has potential to be considered a crisis.

Self Care or Selfish?

One could argue that in the midst of these huge changes and circumstances, there is little or no room for taking time to yourself. Some moms may even feel guilty doing so, worrying that they are needed by others and can't afford or don't deserve a break.

The truth is, those people arguing that there is no time are right, but only to an extent. In my own experience, every crisis has lulls - things get kinda crazy at first with shock and action, but eventually things calm down, even if slightly. There is time waiting between doctor's appointments, waiting for surgery, waiting for the day of the funeral. After all is said and done, after you have done all you can do, there are quiet moments. Moments of wonder, of wait, maybe of the weight of worry. Honestly, you can fill these moments with whatever you want and I'll never judge you. But I always feel more hopeful and happier when I fill some of these moments with self care.

The only time self care is selfish is when it is "ex-tra" - extravagant (you're blowing your budget), excessive (its the only thing on your to-do list, every day), or exclusive (you're the only one who gets self-care opportunities). So as long as your self care isn't extra, you deserve and need it!

Five ways to take care of you

1. Talk to someone. There are two kinds of people you should be talking to: The first are your real-life cheerleaders. Talk to your spouse, your best friend, or your mom! Whomever it is in your life that offers positivity, love, support, and you feel awesome after talking to them, pick up the phone and talk to them. The second person (when applicable) is a counselor or therapist - a pro, with all the certifications, education, and resources to back them up. These people are absolutely essential in cases of trauma or mental health, but they are an incredible resource for anyone who needs help setting boundaries, working through tough times, or healing emotional wounds.

2. Eat something. I'm not talking about a giant slice of chocolate cake (I'm also not not talking about that either...). I'm talking about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The post-workout protein bar or the mid-morning smoothie. Girl, I know sometimes eating is the last thing you want to think about, but please don't skip. Keep some granola bars and bottled water in your diaper bag so when you're out and the hunger hits, you have a quick, healthy solution. If you don't feel like eating but know you should, just try to eat whatever is easiest and sounds appetizing. That might mean you eat out every day for a week or month. You do what you gotta do, mama. I don't judge.

3. Take a shower and put on clean clothes. I'm not gonna lie to you - there have been times when I haven't showered for a week. I can feel the funk build. The best feeling in the world is a fresh shampoo and clean skin. Fresh clothes - whether its your comfiest sweats or your most bangin' t-shirt and jeans - are what makes the difference between sweaty, second-day hair #momlife and a glowing mom goddess. Maybe put on a little lip gloss or mascara if you're really feelin' up to it!

4. Escape. You've done everything you can do to help your crisis up to this point. Now you are ready to get away. Its time to watch a new movie or an old one you love. Read a comforting or engrossing book. Go on a date night or a girls night. Go shopping, visit a friend, or go on a weekend getaway. Pick the most accessible option for your circumstances and take a break!

5. Ask for and accept help. This is probably the hardest one on the list. Opening up to people, even just enough to let them know you need their help, requires a lot of strength and humility. It also requires being honest with yourself. If you can't take your kids with you to appointments, tell your friends. Having a hard time getting in the kitchen to cook? Call your church leaders and their service committee will organize some meals for you. If someone asks you "What can I do to help you?", have a few responses ready and BE BRAVE and be honest with them. Whatever your need is, just say. Believe that people will meet that need to their best capacity.

You got this, mama!

Okay! I want you to try some self care today or tomorrow. Pick one, two, or all five of the above and give yourself some love. And you know what? I don't know everything about self-care. Which is why I need YOU to tell me in the comments what your best crisis self-care solution is. You never know who you may help with your input!

Intuitive Motherhood and Anxiety

Monday, March 13, 2017

Do you struggle with knowing the difference between worry and intuition? You're not alone.

As a mom who has postpartum anxiety, I know exactly how it feels to question almost every thought. Some days it is really hard for me to be an intuitive mom with all the noise that comes with anxiety. I stress about all the "what ifs" - what if my kids don't have friends? What if my baby dies in the middle of the night? What if I am a horrible mom and I don't even know it? Those thoughts (and the strange way they just jut themselves into my mind uninvited) make it so hard for me to trust myself.

One of my biggest questions when I have thoughts concerning my kids or my motherhood is "Do I actually need to pay attention to this, or is it something my brain just made up?". It can be exhausting for me to have to really mull over each thought every time, so I came up with a way to quickly determine the difference between an intuitive and anxious thought. I want to share it in hopes that it helps other moms who struggle like I do.

Thought identification characteristics

Intuitive thoughts are SAFE. Safe thoughts are:
  • Solution-based. These thoughts give reasonable answers to questions. They solve a problem or provide insight that is informative and helpful. These thoughts make me feel like I'm having an "ah-ha!" moment or that there is a "light" at the end of my figurative "tunnel".
  • Active. I feel inspired to act. I have a clear plan to actually do something. Even if that "something" is nothing, like allowing a natural consequence to occur, my actions are thought out and intentional.
  • From the inside out. When a thought is intuitive, it feels true to myself. I don't question if it is right or genuine. I feel like I am making an impact on the world and I am working together with the people in my life to progress.
  • Encouraging. I feel comforted and peaceful when I have these thoughts. My body feels calm and at rest. I feel comfortable sharing my thoughts with others.
Anxious thoughts are a big NOPE. Nope thoughts are:
  • Negative. I feel worried and uncomfortable when these thoughts come into my mind. My body feels tight and tense. My breathing is shallow and I feel like there is not enough air. I feel scared of either whatever I'm thinking about, scared of myself, or maybe both. I feel ashamed and I hesitate to share my thoughts and fears with others, even if they may be able to help me.
  • Obsessive. There is no end to these thoughts. No matter how much I resent thinking them, these thoughts continue to come into my mind and eventually spiral into worst-case scenarios and far-fetched, unlikely possibilities.
  • Passive. I feel helpless. I think there is nothing I can do to either stop thinking about my fears or find a reasonable solution to alleviate them. I feel like I'm watching a scary movie that I know how to turn off, but can't.
  • Enter from the outside in. I feel like the world is pressing in on me. I constantly worry about gaining approval from others like family members, friends, strangers at the grocery store. I feel like there are standards that I am pressured to meet (or else), even if they are impossible, irrational, or perfectionist in nature.

How thought identification helps you

Running your thoughts through the SAFE and NOPE identification process empowers you to objectively observe your inner self and be an active participant in your motherhood. Instead of being victim to ingrained patterns of negativity and worry, you can create an inner landscape of peace. When you feel peaceful and properly equipped with tools for success, you can make positive and healthy decisions for yourself and your family. 

A peaceful and empowered mom is a force to be reckoned with.

Take it with you!

Want a printable copy of the SAFE and NOPE identification process? Click here to download my cute free printable made just for you!

Share with me, mamas!

Do you have a thought identification process or tips that work for you? I want to hear about it! You never know - maybe your way will help another mom!

*Please note: I am not a doctor or licensed mental health professional. This post should not be considered medical advice. It is only to be used as a self-help solution. All questions and concerns about mental health should be discussed with licensed health care providers.

Intuitive Motherhood

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Intuitive motherhood - it sounds mystical but I'm here to tell you that its a real thing. Not only that, but its a powerful way to parent.

What does it mean to be an intuitive mother?
All mothers have an inner voice inside them. This voice is the one that whispers guidance, wisdom, and occasionally warnings. This is the the feeling that tells you maybe your baby is not getting enough to eat at the breast. The voice that whispers "Something isn't right." when your daughter walks in from school and beelines to her bedroom. The feeling of just knowing something, like "I wonder if he's acting out because he needs quality time." Maybe you can see how pieces of a situation fit together to see the bigger picture. Maybe you can tell when someone is being truthful. All of these are ways that your inner voice might speak to you.

All mothers have this voice, but an intuitive mother relies on it. Her intuition is a tool she uses regularly. When she comes across a new situation or a problem presents itself, she consults her intuitive voice to feel things out.

Do all moms have intuition?
Yes. Everyone has intuition, however; not all moms feel it in the same way or at the same intensity. It varies widely. Some women rely on facts and logic and are very good at piecing experiences and thoughts together. These moms are the ones who can poke holes in any story to see if it stands up to testing. Some women have a weird sixth sense and just know stuff.

But I believe learning to use it is less like a gift than it is like learning any new skill - its something that you can learn and develop, not something you're simply born with.

Imagine that you are just learning to shoot a bow and arrow. When you pick up the bow for the first time, it probably feels kind of awkward. On your first attempts, the arrows probably don't even hit the target. But the next time you come, you know how to hold the bow. You know how to hold the arrow. Each time you show up to try again, it gets easier, until one day it feels natural. You don't have to try so hard. It becomes effortless. The more you practice, the better and more accurate you will be.

How do I know if I am an intuitive mother?
I think there is a spectrum, not type, of intuitive mothers. Some moms have a very low functioning intuition. These moms are the ones who either cannot hear or repeatedly ignore their inner voice. These moms may harbor addictions to drugs or alcohol, have an untreated mental illness, or suffer from abuse (past or current). They function at a very basic level and their intuitive functions are inhibited or repressed.

If you have ever found yourself confused by expert advice, frustrated from trying to implement various parenting techniques and tricks, or completely overwhelmed from trying to mother in a "style" that doesn't feel quite right, you are likely lightly intuitive. You know when something just isn't right with you or your kids. But you might not have the time, skills, practice, or experience to figure out exactly what it is. I want to add too that its normal to be lightly intuitive as a new mom (and I mean, new mom every time, with every child).

Lastly, there is the highly intuitive mother. If you are familiar with your inner voice, can recognize when it is speaking to you, and feel comfortable acknowledging and acting on it, you are likely a highly intuitive mother.

Keep in mind that your location on the intuition spectrum is not fixed - its a fluid thing and can change with choices, practice, or neglect.

Is an intuitive mother a perfect mom?
Well, its all relative!

An intuitive mom is "tuned in" well enough to recognize a need in her family and resourceful enough to figure out how to meet that need.

It doesn't mean you won't make mistakes, that things will always work out perfectly, or even that you'll know exactly how to fix everything. In fact, making mistakes and having things go wrong can be a good thing because it gives you experience and an opportunity to learn.

But if being an intuitive mom means that you are paying attention to your family's needs and are actively trying to meet those needs in the best way you can, then, uh, YEAH - that sounds like a pretty perfect mom to me!

How does being an intuitive mother help me?
Well, prepare for a pep-talk cause I'm about to blow your mama mind.

  1. Intuitive moms have a strong sense of self - they know who they are and what kind of parent they are. They are not easily swayed by trendy parenting solutions and advice.
  2. Because of this strong sense of self, intuitive moms are confident. They don't wonder or worry if they are doing a good job as a mom - they already know it.
  3. When you are confident, you don't need validation from others. When people give their dissenting or offensive opinions on your parenting decisions, they just don't affect you. 'Cause you're awesome. And you know it. *hair toss*
  4. Since you don't require validation from others, you are freed from the obligation to please people outside your family unit with your parenting choices. 
  5. Because you are free from all the distraction and noise from outsiders trying to give well meaning (or not) advice and opinions, you can focus on your high-priority relationships - giving them the time, attention, and routine care they require.
  6. When high-priority relationships are properly maintained, you feel a sense of deep connection with the people who love you.
  7. Connection inspires a sense of purpose. You no longer wonder if people notice you or if the work you do every day matters. Your sense of self and confidence grows.

Its a cycle of positivity that continually reinforces your general mom awesomeness. *Self five!*

Okay, are you totally sold on the idea of intuitive motherhood? I hope so! If you want to take the first steps to becoming a highly intuitive mom by strengthening those intuition muscles, sign up below for my free work book "The Motherhood Map". It was made with so much love, guys. So much. I made it special for you to help you get to know your amazing inner mom. By signing up, you'll also be subscribed to receive updates from me, so you'll know when the next post on intuitive motherhood is up on the blog!

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In the meantime, tell me what you think - where on the spectrum of motherhood intuition are you? Share in the comments one way you think learning to be a highly intuitive mom would help you or your kids!

Peace, love, and power to moms,

The Perfect Stay At Home Mom Routine

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

I know what you're thinking. "Routines are for those moms. The ones who are uptight and ridiculously put together. They aren't for me. I can barely keep my kids fed and diapers changed. Who am I to keep a schedule?"
I know, because I thought that too.
In 2016, my family lived in perpetual survival mode after my husband graduated med school. We were living with family while we waited for him to take his board exams and his job to start. We moved five times in six months, some of those were inter-state moves. Also, I had a baby during that time. It was one of the most hectic, insane years of my life.
When the dust finally settled and we stopped moving so much, I started to realize that my kids and I were unhappy. I was disappointed because I knew I wasn't being the mom I wanted to be. I was fulfilling my kids needs, but only at bare minimum. We were all in survival mode. I was reminded to be gentle with myself because of the transition, but I knew something needed to change.

Rhythms for stay at home moms calendar

Routines - the natural flow of a day

Intuitively, I knew my family needed a schedule.  My kids needed something familiar and reliable. So I started building what I have since learned is called a rhythm.  Its the reliable beat in the background that keeps things on time and soothing.
It sounds kinda boring, right? I thought it would be. But honestly, my soul craved predictability, and when my soul craves, I must obey.

Why it works

Research shows that children thrive on routine and predictability. Some parents enjoy having set times for routines for their kids, like nap time is at noon, exactly 4 hours from waking, and bedtime prep starts at 6, exactly 4 hours from waking. Personally, I don't like having a set time because I've learned that my kids don't always sleep or wake up when I want them to. Each family is able to decide what kind of routine works best for them. There is no master schedule, no perfect rhythm. Its just you, your kids, and your spouse. You decide.

rhythms and routines for children

Flexible yet predictable

I love the way I do routines because they allow for flexibility as needed, but the safety net of the natural flow is still present. The rhythm can be started earlier or later as needed, like waking up at 6 am instead of 8 am, but it more or less follows the same pattern. I like having flexibility with young children. Also, I personally just don't enjoy a rigid schedule.
I also follow the 80/20 rule, which is the line of thinking that says if I keep to my routine 80% of the time, its okay to break it with little or no consequences 20% of the time. Things like play dates, parties, vacations, and special lunches at dad's work can still happen without throwing too much of a kink in the feel of flow.

How to have days that flow well

Creating the perfect routine for your family doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming. All it requires is a little thought, some creative thinking, and flexibility. Always flexibility.
Get out a pen and some paper.

1. Think about a typical day as it exists already. What do you do when you wake? How does breakfast work? Do you have to be somewhere at a certain time, like work or school drop-off?

2. Write down the parts of your day that you feel are working well. Do you already have established meal time routines? Do you have a bedtime routine that is working? Write them down - these are the pieces we celebrate because they are already ingrained.
3. If you feel there is anything you'd like to add in your daily routine, write it down. This is the time to maybe think about goals you want to meet personally or for your kids. Want to make it to the library sometimes? Go to the gym regularly? Get out more? Start homeschooling? Whatever it is, write it down.

calendar rhythms for stay at home moms
4. Imagine a perfect day. Not the "reading on the beach, forgetting the world" kind of day (though those are good too, don't let me stop you!), but the realistic kind of day where you're meeting your responsibilities and goals. Things run smoothly. You are on time. You've checked off your to-do list. Life is beautiful. Write down what that looks like from waking up to going to bed.
5. Now is the time to merge (if you haven't already) your established routines from Step 2 into your perfect day. Think about how realistic this new day looks, and cut or add activities where you need to. Will you feel bored? Add something. Will you feel rushed and crunched for time. Cut something out. Your day should feel natural. Beautiful. Simple.
6. Your end result can be as specific or fluid as you need them to be. It may look like a list, like a calendar, or like a paragraph. Whatever works for you.
7. The most important step. Implement your rhythm. Decide when you want to start. Tomorrow? Monday? When school starts? After Christmas? As long as its in the near future, its perfect. I don't judge.

As you begin to live inside the flow you've created, I think you will find a few things. You may find time to do the things you've always wanted. Maybe some of your kid's bad habits start improving (mine did). I personally found that routines have added fun to my family's day and peace in my heart.
Have you had success with rhythms? I want to hear - what does your perfect day look like?

Dealing with doctors - Tips for moms

Doctors offices can be scary places for moms. I'm not talking about germs.
When I brought my first child into the pediatrician for her first newborn appointment, it was kind of traumatic for me. My daughter hadn't gained back her birth weight like she should have and the doctor put a lot of pressure on me to increase her weight. And when I say "a lot of pressure", what I really mean is "bullied me with fear tactics".
As a first time mom, I felt like this doctor had complete control over my life. We saw her 4 times before my baby was a week old, and at every appointment she wielded her almighty clipboard, ready to cut me down with words like "NICU admission" and "failure to thrive". The appointments ended in tears and the occasional curse word. I didn't like the way my requests for help breastfeeding were met with offers of formula. I knew this doctor wasn't the right fit for me, so I switched pediatricians and future infant well visits went much better.
I feel very lucky that this first experience with a pediatrician happened while my husband was finishing his doctorate degree. I had the opportunity of making friends with the families of doctors of the future. For me, the experience of meeting these doctors as students made the entire medical profession human.
The best realization I had during this time was that the personalities of doctors were as widely varied as the personalities of my friends. Some were warm and friendly. Others were incredibly reserved. Some never stopped talking and just flaunted their medical knowledge all over the place, even when people didn't want it. Everyone was different, and that's a good thing. That means that there are lots of doctors to pick from to make sure they are a good fit for your family.

How to know if a doctor is a good fit

When you walk into a doctor's office for the first time, its almost impossible to know what kind of personality they have or if they will be a good fit for your family. Before you visit, its helpful to get recommendations from friends or your community. Once, when we moved somewhere new with no friends or family, I used Yelp to find a pediatrician and it worked out great! Reviews and recommendations will give you a good feel for the office before you even go in.
After an appointment or two, you should have a pretty good indication of whether or not things are going well with your child's doctor. A good doctor will:
  • treat your child warmly, patiently, and kindly
  • listen to you and address your concerns
  • take you seriously if you think there is something wrong with your child
  • be up-to-date on your child's specific health concerns (should be easy if they read the chart!)
  • speak to you respectfully and take the time to explain diagnosis and treatments

    Basically, are they being nice and helpful? They should be. A doctor's job is to be on your advisory board to help you be an expert on your child. I repeat: YOU are in control of your child's health, not the pediatrician. They should equip you with their very best so you can help your child.

    Signs you might want to switch doctors

    Sometimes you just get who you get when you go in the office - whether you didn't do your research beforehand (I'm guilty), they were the only Dr. available, whatever. It might work out great. When it doesn't, its okay to make a change. You'll know if you need to switch doctors when:
    • You have opposing views on important medical decisions. For example, if you decide to not vaccinate your child but your doctor heavily advocates for them even after you've explained your stance, its probably not a great patient-provider fit.
    • You feel unheard at appointments. When your concerns are pushed away with phrases like "You're just spoiling them." or "You should just feed formula instead of worrying.", its an indicator that your doctor isn't listening to you.
    • They don't remember your child. I'm not talking about remembering their name or their personality. If your kid has a chronic or acute illness or a birth defect those should definitely be memorable and talked about as they are highly relevant.
    • You don't feel comfortable sharing information about your child because you feel you will be judged or shamed.
    • For whatever reason, you don't feel like you can ask questions when you don't understand something.
    Personally, I think one of the reasons well checks are so important is so I can get to know the doctor. I know that if we are on the same page about my child's health, we are both better equipped to help my kid be healthy and safe. If I don't feel comfortable during well checks, that feeling will only be amplified in stressful situations like illness.

    Doctors are here to help YOU!

    If there is one thing I want you to remember, its this: You are the mom. No one knows your child better than you. A doctor's job is to give you expert advice on how to help your child but you always get the final say - on medications, treatments, surgeries, and providers. That's a lot of responsibility. Some people are content to trust blindly and blame when things don't go great, but not you, mama.
    You got this.

    Do you have a great tip for moms in the doctor's office, or a positive experience to share? I want to hear about it in the comments!
    © Channing B. Parker. Design by FCD.