In 2013 I took a class called The Power of Decision.
It changed my life.
It was based on a book The Power of Decision by Dr. Raymond Charles Barker. A Science of Mind leader, Dr. Barker was from New York City and he pulled no punches.
"I will show you that indecision is actually a decision. It is a decision to fail."
What?! Hold on a minute, the book has barely begun and you hit me with this? Can we ease into it a little bit?
And so it went. Powerful, short sentence after powerful short sentence drilling into you the knowledge, and the power, and even the dreadful failures, of your own decision-making.
No whining allowed. No excuses, either.
Dr. Barker gives examples of those who decide and of those who do not and he writes, without shyness or apology, about how he avoids people who just don't take their lives into their own hands.
"I cannot help anyone unless he has made up his mind..."
But, but, but... you're a Reverend, aren't you supposed to be there for everyone? Not when he has decided his time is valuable and he will not waste it. Ouch.
I loved it.
But while the entire book was fabulous what really struck me was his message about children.
"Children are afraid of making mistakes because of their strong emotional need to please their parents."
(And Indecisive adults are still worried about displeasing someone.)
It had never occurred to me before: children are not always taught to be good decision makers.
But how do you do this? How do you teach them to be good at making decisions?
His answer is simple: tell them they are good at making decisions.
So if a child asks: "Where should I put my wet towel?" You could say: "If you were alone in the house, and no one was here to help you, where would you put it?"
And they may say: "On the side of the tub."
And then you have to stop yourself from correcting them because you might really want it hung up on the hook. But maybe that's harder than you thought because they are much shorter than you. And honestly, it was a darn good decision to put it on the side of the tub because the answer was not "on the couch" or "in my bedroom" or "here, you take it".
So yes. Yes. That was a good decision. That would satisfy the requirements of keeping the house safe from a wet towel. Thank you. You make good decisions.
If you keep this up, if you keep telling them they make good decisions, they will bloom right before your eyes into the adults you hope they will be. Ones who make good decisions.
This world is full of options. That's a blessing. But some days it doesn't feel like one.
Play dates. Classes. Social groups. Outings. Family gatherings. So many things to do.
Are you feeling stressed out by all of the options? Yes, choices are a blessing but when it's play dates, classes, social groups, outings, family gatherings, sports...
How do you eliminate the planning stress?
When I feel put upon, stressed out, or cornered, I have to remember: What do /I/ want?
That changes everything.
Instead of feeling like the world is throwing boulders at me that I have to catch or duck lest I get pummeled, instead I remember: I get to choose.
And not only that: "Look at how many amazing choice I have!"
From there the rest is easy. That's because I've practiced listening to my intuition, and my kids have, too. Intuition is your soul, your Big Guidance, and it never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever steers you wrong.
It even does scheduling.
I have a 6 month old baby, a 10 year old a daughter and a 6 year old daughter. I have a husband who works from home. I have a big summer ahead of me. What do I want?
Ease, of course.
Fun, oh heck-yes.
I want to be easy. I want it to be in our Highest Good. And I want it to be awesome.
So now, from this perspective, nothing seems stressful. Possible sleepover? Trip to Great America? Maybe. If we want. If it is something our Higher Self says "ooooh!" to.
And if it is not?
There is no pushing. No protecting myself (under the guise of protecting my kids). No guilt for saying "no thank you" and no fear of missing out, doing it wrong, or screwing up.
It is just... perfect. As it is. And as it is not.
So now: bring it.
An email box full of invitations? I can handle it. My soul already knows what my summer looks like, and from that perspective, it is AWE-SOME.
I have another baby so that means it's time to get cracking on organizing my life differently. By "differently" I mean "don't get all cranky because you can't get anything done".
Important Note: Don't let the word "baby" stop you parents of kids, tweens, or teens from reading this post. This strategy works for parents with kids of all ages. I just happen to have a baby right now, OK?
Now where was I? Oh yes.
Take my To Do list.
(No, really, take it. Ba-dum-CHISH!)
In the past, it was great to have a running To Do List. It was all I needed. Skim the list, pick something to do, do it, check it off. It was so simple.
But then I had a baby.
Suddenly that To Do list was a huge, looming pile of "Can't Get Done's" - a shadow of shame and frustration hanging over me, weighing me down. Nursing, changing diapers, rocking, holding a baby.... all great times when my body was busy while my mind was free to watch the clock tick, the dishes pile up, the emails to go unanswered, my hair to grow split ends, the thank you cards to be unthanked...
I felt like I couldn't get anything done. I got frustrated when I was interrupted - again. It was stressful.
So I started playing with how to organize my time. First I tried creating a smaller, daily To Do list from my main one. That seemed like a great idea. I could just pick the top three to five things I would, (really, truly, would) do that day that were critical.
Except it didn't work.
Now I had a smaller, but even more pressing To Do list looming over my head throughout the day as I changed diapers, rocked, held, soothed... and I felt even more stressed out because it was a shorter list and I wasn't even able to get thatdone right away.
After years of research and trial and error I have found the To Do list system that works for me - particularly when I have a baby or a toddler. You know, one of those constant-interuptus little people who, bless their hearts, might not take a 2 hour nap that day when you need it.
My system is all about flow.
It's main design is not necessarily to get things done, but to keep me from feeling stressed out. Which, ironically, means I end up getting more things done. (Tricky, but true.)
Instead of assuming I have complete control over time, my To Do list works in a world where I don't have to. (You mean I don't have to control time? No! Yay!)
I will still pick the top three to five things that I really want or need to get done that day and put them down on paper, but instead of just making a list, I categorize them into time opportunities. Or, because I still have a daily paper organizer (in addition to my online calendar) I will pencil in the To Do near the part of the day in which they can - or are most likely to - get done.
What can I do while the baby is awake?
- Folding laundry. (He loves to play with the socks on the bed.)
- Light cooking. (He loves to be held and I am a one-handed wonder at the stove.)
What requires babysitting so I can leave the house?
What requires the baby to be home with me but occupied or asleep and I am OK to be interrupted?
- Digging out the garage
- Taking a shower
What requires the baby to be occupied or asleep at home with someone who can tend the baby if he wakes or needs something so I am uninterrupted?
- Email to a client
With this new framework I feel more flexible and generous about getting my own needs met.
I can actually do that while the baby is in the carrier and I'm standing outside.
Writing a blog post?
This good for my soul and my creativity but I don't need to write every day. How often? Weekly would be great. If I am feeling well rested and inspired, I am totally happy to write in the morning - and get interrupted to change a diaper like just now - but only when the older kids are in bed and it's just the baby and me. Right now at 5 months old he's still very quiet. ;)
Knowing this means I can look forward to one morning when it lines up. Because it does. I don't have to push it.
With this type of To Do list I can:
Once I stop fighting reality or stressing out, it all flows.
That feels fantastic.
And, incidentally, so does getting stuff done. :)
Have you ever raised your voice at your kids? ("Stop yelling!" she yelled.) Haha!
Oh, boy, have I. More times than I care to remember. It's only now, ten years into parenting that I'm really starting to get it.
(And therefor, change it.)
If I notice something....
....it's because I'm either paying attention to it or because it's ME.
Which means that if I'm yelling at my kids to stop yelling, it's definitely me.
This goes back to the only parenting trick that really works.
It's a 2-step process.
1. Make a list of all the things you think should be different or better in your child.
Everything that drives you nuts about them. Everything that keeps you up at night worrying it will kill their success in life. Everything that embarrasses you. Everything that makes your life difficult.
2. Now work on those things in you.
I said that.
If you stop trying to get your child to clean up their room and instead tackle your own clutter issues, everything will change - including them keeping her room neat.
When you stop crabbing at your kids for being cranky and maybe meditate instead and dealt with your own inner ick, everything will change - including how your kids treat each other and themselves.
It's humbling. It's empowering. It's weird.
It can be hard. It can be easy.
But it's just like they always say: when you're pointing a finger at someone there are three fingers pointing back at you.
Right now I'm taking my health to the next level.
I just had a baby and I'm noticing more of what's "wrong" with me than what's "right". (Read: baby gut.) It's taking a lot of discipline not to notice every.last.thing.that.could.be.wrong.with.my.kids.
I'm making up imaginary medical symptoms as I go.
I know as soon as I have peace with my body, I will see peace in theirs. It's good parenting right now for me just to, you know, just shhhhhh.
Sometimes it's good parenting for all of us.
It's been 10 years since I had my first child and OMGosh they have invented such amazing stuff since then!
Some of my friends are having babies. They asked me what I like for my latest baby (born in 2013). Here is my list:
Amazing things. They are the right size with armrests to nurse or feed a baby, and they rock so smoothly without squishing little toes.
Even if you bottle feed the nursing stool is awesome for propping your legs a bit while you hold a baby for a long time in a gilder rocker. I didn't have one for my first two kids and now that I do have one I have said "What was I thinking?! They are so worth it!"
Newborns are tiny things, squishy and all curled up. Their heads flop around. How are you going to wear them? I adore my Moby Wrap until the baby is at least 5 months old. Do not get a color just to match your baby's gender. Get a color you would wear if it were a shirt. Once you put this thing on you will wear it all day like a shirt. If you are having a hard time putting it on take my advice: let the ends drag on the ground. They won't touch the baby anyway once it's on you. Also, be VERY CAREFUL with slings. You have to make sure the baby's head is not chin-to-chest or they can't breathe. This hard to do with a newborn in a sling and I DO NOT recommend slings for newborns. Keep your baby's head high enough that you can kiss it. The Moby Wrap does this.
Ergobaby Carrier or something like it
Once the baby is big enough I use an ErgoBaby Carrier or some carrier where they baby's hips are positioned wide and above their knees (NOT a Bjorn). A carrier that rests on my hips as well is awesome.
Baby Scratch Mittens
Yes, it's important for the baby to be able to suck on their hands. Yes, you should keep their nails trimmed anyway. But even this third-time mom has a bear of a time keeping her newborn from scratching her nipple while she's trying to learn how to latch again. Get the mittens for you until you get the hang of it.
Emery Boards Before Nail Clippers
Newborn nails grow fast but they are also soft. Their fingers are too small for nail clippers, even the safety ones. A cut finger is too easy and can get infected so just use your mouth to chew the nail or use an emery board while they are sleeping or feeding to soften and file them down. Easy peasy. Nail clippers are for later.
Aden + Anais Blankets
I have baby blankets a friend used with her son who is now 16. They are bigger than those useless receiving blankets you get in a pack at Target and I saved them because they were the only thing I could swaddle my baby in. This time around a friend gave me some Aden + Anais blankets and I am hooked! I bought more. They are THE BEST. Get the 47 x 47 inch ones (make sure of this size because they brand different blankets for different stores) and opt for cotton NOT the bamboo which are not really bamboo but rayon which is chemical made. Plus the cotton ones have a better grip and babies are squirmy. Yes they cost money. Buy them anyway.
I never had a swing until this last baby. Either we were broke or we had no room for one or both and I just didn't bother with it. My Sister-In-Law dropped off hers last year so I could use it and now I wonder what the heck I did without it. See TroublesomeTots.com for info on how the swing can be your new bestie. It's a terrible name because the website is sweet and the woman is caring and I wish I had read it ten years ago. I don't think it really matters what swing you get but I have heard rumors there is at least one that comes with a plug as well as battery options. I would get one with a plug if I had to buy one.
I love picking out strollers. Personally, I'm a Graco gal. This time around I could have spent $1,000 on one and I still went with the Graco click connect system. My favorite test is to push it around the store one-handed. If I can't one-hand a stroller it's out.
Try to park in a tight parking lot, open the back door of a SUV or sedan and get your baby or infant carseat out. Sliding doors ROCK.
My midwife suggested we blow dry the baby's butt to keep down diaper rash. This is yet another something I wish I had known with the first kids. Get one with a "cold shot" button so you don't burn a bum.
One more thing I thought was silly or just excess that I didn't bother with until this time around when someone handed me down one. OMgosh these things are the best. Baby doesn't howl now in the night because, um, wouldn't you if you were half-asleep and someone took an ice-cold something to your bottom? Shocking.
Even if you get a My Brest Friend, get a boppy. I didn't have one for my first two kids, this time I splurged and yet again I wonder what I did without it.
My Brest Friend
If you nurse, a My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow. Especially if you are a first-time mom. Get a Boppy as well, but definitely get thisl. I think for new nursing moms it's critical. For bottle babies it's unnecessary.
Smartphone or iPod with Wifi
You will spend a lot of hours rocking, feeding, nursing, holding, being with a newborn. It's nice to not go crazy lonely as well. With Facebook and texting and email you can still be connected to other adults even if you can't talk on the phone. These things did not exist with my first two kids like they do now and I attribute having an iPhone as a HUGE factor in my current happiness. I'm not alone! Yay! Plus, they have really awesome apps like feed timers and sleep timers and baby apps. And you can use it as a flashlight at night. And download white noise onto it to play. The list is endless. Of course you can use a tablet or iPad , but you can't hold an iPad in one hand while you carry a baby, not even the mini.
Along those lines, trips to the bookstore are not so easy now. Find a way to download and read books. Since my eyes strain reading books on a computer or tablet I have a Kindle with no backlight. It's as great as reading a book and I can download new books from my glider rocker.
White noise is your friend. Use it.
Black Out Curtains
One more thing I didn't bother with until this baby and WHAT WAS I THINKING?!?!!
Even in my small house it's nice to have another place to put down the baby so I can pull something out of the oven. You can get a traditional bassinet or you can get a playpen with a bassinet feature.
Changing Diaper Situation
Whether it's a changing table or a bassinet or a dedicated top of a desk with a changing pad on it like I'm using, a dedicated diaper changing place that doesn't require you to bend over too much is awesome. You will be changing a lot of diapers.
Organic Crib Mattress
Get an organic mattress with no off-gassing otherwise your baby is breathing in the chemicals they put in mattresses all night long.
Amazon Prime Membership
Delivery is your friend. Use it.
You will have a much nicer year if you have a cleaning service that comes every two weeks. Trust me. Imagine never having to clean that tub or scrub those floors again! :)
I had one with all of my kids. They hit about 6 weeks old and I'm like, "Where do I put them? They don't want to lie down and they can't sit up!" My son adores his bouncy chair. He laughs and coos and plays with his monkey friends on it for at least ten minutes. "Ten minutes?" you exclaim. "Is it worth it?" Oh heck yes. But only if you want to eat your dinner.
If they take one or not it's really up to them. Every kid is different. But that night when they want to get some gas out and they can't eat anymore and they want to suck to relieve their anxiety and either your body or your pinkie finger are worn out you will be glad you have one. Make sure you boil it for 5 minutes before you use it for the first time and of course, let it cool off and squeeze it before you give it to the little one since a really hot bubble could be hiding inside it just waiting to get sucked into a mouth. Ouch.
Boudreaux's Butt Paste
I use the natural version. It's the best diaper cream I've used in all my ten years of butts and diapers.
Sunday Afternoons Sun Hat
The. Best. Sun. Hat. Ever. For babies, for toddlers, for kids, and even for me. We all have them.
OK, not really needed for a baby, but if your kid won't poop in the toilet someday even though you know they can, try it. Kids are smart even if they can't articulate it. Sitting to poop is hard work and doesn't ever complete the job compared to standing or kneeling to use a pull-up. Let them squat over the toilet on a platform instead and be amazed.
Earthing Sheets or Throw Blanket
Earthing totally calms people and babies down. Since you may not be outside for quite some time, you can emulate the healing and soothing benefits of connecting with the Earth indoors. It's anti-inflammatory and stuff so do your research before you employ it if you are on blood medication.
If you are nursing you have some. If you are not nursing see if you can get yourself some. If your baby has acne, breast milk will clear it up. Cradle cap? Breast milk will clear it up. Diaper rash? Breast milk will clear it up. Pink eye? Yep. Breast milk. Basically just bathe your child in breast milk and all is well.
Before your baby is born get goldenseal and some Q-tips. Put it on your newborn's umbilical cord stump every time you change their diaper and it will dry up and fall off in a week vs. the usual weeks. SO AWESOME. Make sure you use Q-tips and don't double-dip to keep the powder clean. Make sure you don't get it in their face. P.S. The link to HerbLore.com is important. Keep it. My doula friend knows this woman personally. Her products are authentic. My midwife uses them. She rocks. Etc.
Because you can't put a onesie over that umbilical cord stump.
Footy Pajamas In Every Size
Babies usually grow out of their footy pajamas in the middle of the night. It's helpful to always have the next size up clean and handy to put on in a flash. Just sayin'.
Sounds obvious, but I forgot about it this time until I had to go out. Get one you like since it's like an extra purse.
For you. I'm partial to Dansko clogs and even Crocs. Yes, I said it. When you have a baby and you need to step outside for a moment you don't want to have to figure out how to bend over and tie your shoes.
Slippers You Adore
Because you will wear them a lot. A lot.
Extra Contact Lenses
Stock up before your prescription runs out. Going to the eye doctor with a baby can be skipped for a long time. Yay!
Got Someone Who Wants To Spend A Fortune On Your Wee One?There are only so many outfits your newborn or baby needs. Soon, however, they will need or you will want:
If you can't stop someone from spending on you, you can direct the flow away from mounds of space-consuming stuffed animals and plastic toys. Woot!
For when your child wants something and you are feeling pressed for time…
...or you have something else to do.
Lately my four and a half year old daughter has been saying, “Just one more book and I promise I’ll go to bed.”
Sometimes I read an extra book. Sometimes I don’t.
And the kicker:
Tonight she asked for an extra book. I didn’t want to read another book.
“No, honey, no more books. Time for bed.”
“Will you lay down with me?”
This sounds so cute. Honestly. Who wouldn’t want to cuddle with their adorable little kiddo?
Except my mind flashes back to when this meant, “I’m not tired and I don’t want you to be tired either so how about you pretzel yourself onto my tiny bed while I do jumping jacks on your head?”
I also thought about the 9,367,851 things I wanted to do before bed. Or the fact that I wanted a break. Or that I still had to get the baby to bed or…
In that brief pause of not answering my daughter an inspired, intuitive angelic message came through. It translated into something like: “You can do anything for two minutes”.
That made so much sense to me I said, “OK” and before I knew it my daughter was scootching over to make room for me.
I pretzeled myself onto her tiny bed and braced for impact.
Wow, she really wanted to cuddle this time.
It was so cute, her arms wrapped around me. I smiled and sighed contentedly. I thought, “What could be better than this?
She says: “Let’s look at the ceiling and pretend we’re seeing fireworks.”
Wow, this is so much better! There we were, our heads together, our arms around each other, pointing out imaginary fireworks.
“Look! A red one!”
“One in the shape of a flower!”
“I like the purple one!”
It was one of the most magical things I’ve ever experienced with my child. It was so simple, so inspired and so real.
The Not Part
Afterwards I realized the most important thing I did was what I did NOT do.
I did not say to her, “Ok, but only for two minutes.”
I simply thought, “I can do anything for two minutes” and so I surrendered to those two minutes. In doing that I ended up with a whole lot more.
We are busy, no doubt about it.
Sometimes we can’t just stop what we’re doing and play (dinner on the stove, baby on the changing table, UPS at the door). Most of the time we might not stop because we really don’t have “all day”.
But what about two minutes? Do you have that?
Not: “OK, FINE, but only for two minutes…”
I am talking about thinking to yourself: “OK! I can do anything for two minutes!” while saying to your child, “YES”.
If you can surrender for just two minutes you leave the door open a crack…
…and magic might just wander in.
Sometimes big cures and wide-sweeping change comes in tiny packages.
This one is only 3 seconds big.
I'm a talker. If you are like me your mouth opens instantaneously. When I'm in a good mood the Mouth is lovely.
"You're awesome!" "Thanks so much!" "Hey, I love you!"
But when I'm not in a good mood the Mouth is not so nice...
"No!" "You're making a mess!" "You can get more paper only if you clean it up."
Living with a bad Mouth can make anyone tense.
(Have you ever tried to NOT make a mess when you were tense? Have you ever tried to NOT forget something when you are tense? It's a set-up that readers can see from page one. You know the main character is going to get it in the end. Or your kids, and that's no fun for anyone.)
Not wanting to put up with my own Mouth anymore, I tried to fix it.
I tried to only say nice things. I tried to get more sleep. I tried many, many, many things but they only made me feel worse because they centered on the fact that I'm not always as nice to my kids as I want to be. :(
But even worse, they didn't work.
So I looked at the problem from a new perspective. Instead of trying to fix it so that I'm always in a good mood or always thinking nice thoughts (tall mountain to climb, ya think?) I realized that it doesn't matter if I'm tired, it doesn't matter if I'm cranky, it matters what I say.
So one day I decided to add 3 seconds - just 3 seconds - of silence before I answered a question, said anything or opened my mouth.
This small thing changed my life. It changed my kid's lives.
Instead of knee-jerk "no's" or stress-induced "nagging" I made conscious choices before I spoke. I could say, "Let me think about that one for a moment before I give you my answer". Or I could simply clean up the spilled water without a fuss.
Noticeably and quickly the atmosphere in the house rose but do you know what else happened?
I was in a much better mood and I thought much nicer thoughts! Ha!
The best part yet: it was so easy to implement compared to "fixing" myself. I didn't have to change me. I didn't have to become a better person. I just had to add 3 seconds.