“Out of Office”: Why Vacations are Important for Your Mental Health

Summer isn’t quite over yet, thankfully. But have you taken your vacation yet? As a kid many of us experienced yearly 1-3 month vacations from school, stress, and generally any responsibilities. Then we became adults and all those glorious breaks disappeared. Tragic.

Have you ever wished you took better advantage of those breaks? And if you had those breaks now, what would you do with them??

If you can think of even one thing to answer that question with, you probably could use a vacation. Vacations are a luxury, yes. But vacations can also be a necessity. A break used intentionally can make all the difference in your ability to work and interact with others.

coconut trees

Why take a vacation and what are you suppose to spend your time doing? The short answers, 1. Self care and 2. What you want to do, not need to do. Taking a break is all about taking a step back from all the duties and to do lists and really giving yourself some intentional lovin’. Vacations allow for intentional self care. The busy work weeks often leave minimal time to check in with yourself and how your mind and body are feeling. Vacation is free time to really dive deep into this self care and make yourself feel good again. Doing what you want with no time constraints or restrictions makes whatever it is you are doing more enjoyable. Cherish this time.

Giving your mind and body a break from the daily hustle allows you time to reflect on your goals, your values, and your desires. These vacations can be mini or extravagant. Whether you take a day off just to sleep in and head to the beach, or take 2 weeks off for massages and world travel. This time is about fulfilling those aspects of life that get put on the back burner throughout the rest of the year. You should feel refreshed, relaxed, and energized after a break.

You may be asking yourself, “How can I even afford to take a vacation?” Here is the key. Vacation is not about stunting on the “gram” or out doing your coworkers. Vacation is about you and how you feel during and after that time off. If you spend all your time focused on taking the perfect picture you are going to come back feeling just as stressed and depleted as when you left. If you really want to be intentional and relaxed plan ahead, and live within your means. Maybe you can’t afford a week off, but maybe you can afford a day or two tacked onto an upcoming holiday weekend. Put in that request now, and not only will you have something to look forward to over the next few weeks, but you will have all your coworkers jealous when you come back to work the day after them.

 

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Do you need to be a world traveler or can you just be a local tourist? My husband and I love using our vacation time to pretend to be tourists in our own city. We try out restaurants during the day that we don’t usually have time in the evening to go to, or we take off time mid-week when normal attractions are empty to feel like we have the whole place to ourselves. We use our time to connect with each other and have those in depth conversations that we don’t always get to have because the little one is needing attention. Parent hack: if you have a little one in daycare or school…leave them their! Take those 8 undisturbed hours to enjoy your partner! It’s cheaper, easier, and trust me they won’t even know you were having fun all day when you go to pick them up from school. 😉

Make vacation your own! Use the time to connect with yourself and your loved ones. Do the things that make your body and mind feel good. Get that dopamine flowing, and have some fun!

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Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!: Intimacy During Pregnancy & Postpartum

Remember when you were having fun trying to get pregnant? I’m feeling sexy, let’s have sex!  I’m ovulating, let’s have sex! I’m bored, let’s have sex! Any reason was a good reason to do the deed. Then you actually got pregnant, and let’s just say you weren’t as eager any more. Then! You had the baby and thought you’d be eager to get back to having some fun, but that didn’t happen right away. Well that’s because pregnancies and children change your romantic relationship. The question is do you let it change for the better or for the worst?

bed bedroom blanket clean
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

One of the most common statements in couples therapy is, “We never have sex.” Surprising? Maybe not, because of course lack of sex is often a result of lack of intimacy, respect, understanding, and many other things already missing from a relationship. These same things can get lost in the changes that occur during and after a pregnancy. Let’s talk about some of the ways sex changes when a baby is on the way.

1st Trimester

You may still look like yourself for the most part, but you probably don’t feel like yourself. Between morning sickness, severe fatigue, and just the stress of understanding that you are actually growing a human inside of you…sex is probably the last thing on your mind (I mean that’s what got you in this situation in the first place! #TurnOff). Your partner may still be very much into you though…no pun intended.

As you go through these unrecognizable changes your partner may still be ready to jump in the hay and may not understand why someone who was all about the sexy time a month or two ago is suddenly completely over the idea. This is the best time to talk to your partner about what’s going on for you and try to get them on the same page. As things start growing and feeling more and more uncomfortable, it will get harder to have a rational conversation about your partner’s needs as well as what you need.

Try practicing other forms of intimacy. Whether that be cuddling, kissing, hugging, eye contact or (let’s stay scientifically correct) fellatio or cunnilingus. If you don’t know what those last two are, Google it…actually on second thought. Don’t Google it. I’m talking about a good old fashioned BJ and well in the words of Cardi B let him “swim with his face”. Anyway…moving on.

2nd Trimester

The first 3 months can be rough, but with the 2nd trimester some changes may occur. The path of pregnancy is a continuously evolving one and you may notice changes in mood, changes in your body, and changes in your sex drive. Some women even experience an increase in their libido during this time! The tricky part about the 2nd trimester is getting back into the swing of things. If you got your partner on the same page during the 1st trimester it is easier to divulge to them that your desire is back and your ready to see what that body pillow was really meant to do.

Now, with a growing bump your partner may have some fears about what is and isn’t okay when it comes to sex at this stage. Always check in with your doctor to make sure they don’t have any concerns about you doing the deed (and trust that asking about sex is definitely not going to make your doctor uncomfortable…they stare at lady parts all day, they don’t have an uncomfortable bone in their bodies). Take the time to educate yourselves on what sex could look like at this stage, and possibly take a birthing class to help build trust and intimacy in this time of delicate emotions. Going to therapy during this time (individual or couples) can also be beneficial for exploring how you are really feeling about this pending new life.

pregnant woman in white dress shirt
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3rd Trimester

Things are getting a little lot more crowded and uncomfortable. You may have to get creative with your positioning in this stage, but the deed can be done (again, double check with your physician). Use this as an excuse to practice your listening skills and communicate what works and what doesn’t work for either of you. This is technically the last time you will be able to get it done for a few months.

Also, carve out time in your schedule to discuss how you are both feeling about this new life growing and how things might change after their arrival. Set expectations for how you would like to stay connected once sex is something that inevitably becomes less frequent (at least in the short term).

Postpartum

The baby is out! Woohoo! Time for sex, right? Wrong. You have another 2 months (at least) before any doctor will give you the okay for sex. Let’s be honest those first 2 months you’re probably not going to have the time or energy for sex anyway (a newborn can really suck the life out of you). Use these two months to practice less physical intimacy (refer to 1st Trimester) and start discussing your birth control options with your ob/gyn as these will need to be started ASAP if you don’t want to be doing this all over again in 9 months. Note: you CAN get pregnant while breastfeeding, so do not use that as a form of birth control.

This is a time of transition for any couple, so recognizing that things will not be exactly the same, and putting in place some ways to create small, intimate moments that now work with your new life will be critical. If you are struggling in this time to communicate with one another your needs, utilize your village and have someone babysit for an hour or two (take up friends/family on their offers for help). You both deserve a break. Take some time to go on a date or go to therapy together. Giving yourself some grace allows you to be a better partner and parent.

Teenagers: 7 Things You Do and Don’t Remember about This Tumultuous Time of Life

Oh, the glorious teenage years. Seven years of raging hormones, testing boundaries, discovering who you are, and deciding who you don’t want to be. Working with teenagers has reminded me about all the ups and downs that the average teen goes through, and also reminded me that being an adult with coping skills and real life experience is something I shouldn’t take for granted. Parents of today’s teenage generation should be applauded, but they should also be reminded that the average high school graduate this year was born in 2000…just think about that. They were practically born with a smartphone in their hand.

I not only applaud the parents, but I applaud the teens that make it through this time with limited drama. Being a teenager is hard. Living with a teenager is even harder. That’s why I want to discuss the 7 things you do and don’t remember about being an adolescent.

parent and tween

Hormones

This is a lot of parents’ first excuse for any bad behavior portrayed by their teenage child. This is one thing that a lot of us do actually remember. Being horny, irritated, angsty, defiant, hormonal teenagers. It is true. Teens are going through arguably the most hormonal-ly, disfunctional time in their adult lives. This isn’t necessarily a good excuse to let them slide on any and everything however. This is a good time however to talk with your teen about managing their emotions and developing useful coping skills for when they are feeling anxious, depressed, or just annoyed. Good coping skills can look like practicing “self care” with your teen. Go get your nails done together (mom or dad), share a journal and write about the highs and lows of your week, or just try teaching a healthy way to give space and check in when appropriate. Helping your teen gain these skills now will save them a lot of money from not having to go to therapy later in life.

Autonomy

Figuring out how to be an independent person and thinker is something a lot of us adults don’t remember. We’ve been thinking for ourselves for so long, we can’t even imagine what it’s like to not have your own individual thought process. Adolescents are just developing this however. Adolescents spend a large portion of those 7 years figuring out how to form their own opinion and how to view themselves as a unique individual instead of a small portion of a family unit. That’s why your teen never wants to do anything with you, because being seen with you makes them your child instead of solo, independent, autonomous, whomever. That is why giving your teenager space at this age and room to make decisions on their own is so important.

One of my favorite quotes from my anti-helicopter parent father is, “I give you enough rope to hang yourself.” This sounds dark and twisted, but really all he is trying to say is, “I’m giving you enough space to make your own decisions, whether those are good or bad decisions is up to you.” As a teen I totally didn’t get this, but looking back it worked like a charm. I had plenty of opportunities to get into a whole lot of trouble (and there were definitely times I did make poor choices), but I rarely went to “the end of my rope”. I was one of those teens with no curfew and no real clear restrictions on what I could and couldn’t do. My parents always reasoned with me though, so I knew that coming home by midnight on a Saturday may fly, but anything past 9:30pm during the week was pushing it. Instill good boundaries, but let them roam.

Bullying/Peer Pressure

Bullying and peer pressure is something that we all remember either participating in or being drug into. Unfortunately, although we may remember what this looked like for us in high school, bullying and peer pressure look very different for our teens now. What use to stop at the end of the school day, now continues 24/7 online. And what use to be pressures to drink or smoke cigarettes, now looks like pressures to vape, eat edibles, and all sorts of other stuff that I don’t want to scare you with listing. Talking to your kids on a regular basis not only allows you to know what’s going on, but it gives you a baseline for determining when something is a little off with them. Being able to pick up on those cues (such as shorter responses, more time in their room, less time hanging out with friends, amongst various other things) can help you know when you need to intervene or start asking the harder questions. Provide your support and be involved. They may resist at first, but they will eventually share if you are consistently providing the opportunity for them too.

Self-Esteem, or Lack There of

Teens are so consumed with themselves it seems crazy. Selfies, updating bios, obsessing over outfits and makeup and hair cuts, oh my! This self-obsession ties into that autonomy I spoke about earlier. Adolescents truly believe that everyone is paying attention to everything they do, when really they are all to obsessed with themselves to notice anyone else. This time of experimenting with their identity is so important to building their self-esteem. Make sure you are supporting their identity (whether good or bad) and practicing self love yourself as a good example.

I will never forget the day my mother called by best friend fat. 🤦🏾‍♀️ Okay, she didn’t actually say that, what she did do was comment on the fact that she wasn’t looking super tiny anymore after coming back from summer vacation. My mom thought it was a good thing that she gained a couple pounds…my friend on the other hand spent the next week obsessing over the fact that she “looked fat” because that is how she interpreted the comment. What started off as a harmless comment, turned into a teen’s obsession with her weight and a dig at her self-esteem. So be mindful about how you speak to your adolescent (and their friends), and reinforce the fact that every teen has their unique, positive qualities.

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Your First [Fill in the Blank]

Something we all may remember is the “firsts” we experienced as teenagers. Our first kiss, our first dance, our first date, our first…whatever. It’s probably been awhile since the last time we had a “first” of anything, but it is something that teens are dealing with pretty regularly at this age. Everything is new, and though we may want to talk about our experiences and convince them that hearing a story from 20+ years ago is a suitable replacement for them actually experiencing it themselves, that is not how teens usually “learn their lesson”. Now I am not saying to hold back any advice you wish someone had given you in your younger years, but I am saying that you have to expect teens to fail and make mistakes for themselves still. Some advice will stick and some won’t.

One way to make giving advice a little easier is to ask your teen what questions they have about certain topics before just dishing out whatever it is you know. Validate any concerns they may have and normalize their experiences…okay these are my therapy words. By “validate” and “normalize” I mean use phrases like, “That does sound really tough to deal with.” or “It may feel like you’re the only one experiencing that, but a lot of your peers probably are too.” or “I went through that when I was your age.” or “Your older sibling asked me the same thing.” or any variation of these phrases. The important part of this whole thing is making your teen feel heard and understood, and creating a safe place for them to ask about these “firsts”.

Social Media

Let’s be honest. If you have a teenager right now, you did not have social media growing up. For parents today, social media is something that is new and maybe a little scary. Your child probably has at least 4 or 5 different profiles on different platforms, and maybe 1 or 2 on platforms you didn’t even know existed. This is one area that the old, “I remember being a teenager.” line does not apply to. Although you may not have a social media account or know how to use one that doesn’t mean you can’t support your teen in making good decisions while on these platforms. Some things you can do is encourage them to set their accounts to “Private” so they aren’t easily accessible to “strangers”, and educating them about scams, predators, laws, and the permanency of online content.

Things NOT to do when it comes to your teen’s Social Media Usage:

  • Make a fake profile to stalk them. No. Don’t do it.
  • Ignore the fact that they have been locked in their room for 5+ hours online
  • Encourage them to be “InstaFamous”
  • Hover over their shoulder asking for passwords
  • Give them a phone, tablet, laptop, etc. with no rules or regulations attached. Examples of Good Boundary Setting Rules: Electronics off by bed time, No phones at the dinner table, Bad grades = electronics taken away, One household member must be following you on all platforms (an older sibling may be a good choice for this one)

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Not Quite Being an Adult

Being a teenager is one extra long, awkward dance between being a kid and being an adult. Bringing together the hormones, autonomy, peer pressures, self-esteem, “firsts”, and social media is a wicked concoction. This is a gray area where certain things are okay and certain others are (for lack of better terms) illegal. It is important to have these conversations with your teens and also expose them to what being an adult is really like. Teaching them useful skills that aren’t taught in school anymore like how bills work, how to cook, how to do their laundry, how to budget, and other tasks that you may remember thinking, “How the heck does this work?” when you were their age. This is the perfect time for them to start practicing how to be an adult. With your assistance, dedication, and openness this can be a really fruitful time of growth. As much as this is a time of finding balance for your teens, it is also a time of finding balance as a parent. And when all else fails…go to therapy. 😉

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You are Not SuperMom. SuperMom is You.

How many “Mom Blogs” do you follow on Instagram/Pinterest/Tumblr/[Insert other Social Media site]? Be honest. 2?  10? 25? More?? They all perfectly curate a page  of inspirational pictures and stories to show how amazing their kids, home, and overall life is. Even the pictures meant to show how messy life is or  how “real” they are, have been perfectly staged and professionally photographed.

This is all bulls**t. Excuse my French.

As a fellow mom, I know how hard we can be on ourselves, and these ideas of what a mom “should” be really don’t help. They make us feel like we should be doing more. Spending more. Committing more. Giving more. But how much more can you really give? Just the fact that you had 5 minutes to stop and scroll through Instagram is a miracle! When screaming toddlers and angst-y teens are a part of your everyday life there is no time for figuring out how to be SuperMom.

Women are naturally super human. We literally create life within us. Yet we live in a society where the act of CREATING LIFE isn’t enough. We are suppose to create life, tend to the house, bring home the bacon, and please the spouse. We let society put all these expectations on us, but what are we expecting of ourselves? Why are we listening to society??

Today I want to remind you of 4 reasons to stop trying to be SuperMom..

1. It’s impossible to do it ALL.

tired mom

Have you ever heard that multitasking is just doing multiple things badly? Well it’s true. Research shows time and time again that as we increase the quantity of things we do at once, we also decrease the quality of all of those things.

Have you ever tried cooking, dinner, helping a child with homework, doing laundry, and feeding an infant? You probably burned at least one part of dinner, the child ended up more confused about how to do long division, the laundry smelled moldy after being in the washer too long, and the infant got more food on the floor than in their mouth. Wow. Isn’t multitasking great? *Rolls eyes* What if you just cooked dinner, and asked the child to feed their younger sibling. The infant might have gotten fed (and spent some quality time with their older sibling). The dinner would have been cooked and stove turned off in a reasonable amount of time, leaving time to help the oldest child with their long division. And maybe you even got in a load of laundry done while they finished up their homework. Viola! This is how you get things done.

2. It is overrated.

Being the best of the best is overrated for sure. So what if you get every chore done in record time. What do you get for that? Pretty much nothing other than being really tired and unwilling to play with your kids (who have now holed themselves up in their rooms while you finished cleaning). No one is passing out trophies for doing it all. Things do need to get done, but some things can wait so that you can stop and smell the roses. Enjoying time with those precious humans you created is the biggest reward for being a mom.

If you must do the vacuuming, dusting, dishes, etc. though…here’s a hack. Have the kids do it with you. Turn on their favorite music, and assign them all chores. I know even my one year old likes to “help” me push the vacuum around. Dance and vacuum like no one is watching, and collapse on the couch with the kiddos when you’re done. Make spending time together the #1 thing on your to do list.

3. You lose yourself.

mother hiking

Being SuperMom means tending to one or more kids, tending to your spouse, and tending to the life that you were meant to live (not tend to). It makes you lose the very essence of yourself. What were your interests before the spouse or children came along? When was the last time you did something that remotely resembled that interest? Does SuperMom get the chance to tend to her own needs ever? No. Because SuperMom’s life does not have time for herself.

Stop to recharge yourself. Sometimes you need to take off the cape, so you can remember your true identity and live YOUR life. You can’t pour from an empty glass. You have to give yourself the space and time to get yourself in order, so that you have the patience and energy to give to these other valuable relationships. Just like you rather spend 5 minutes with a relaxed, happy spouse than an hour with someone who is grumpy and tired…imagine which version of yourself would your family prefer to spend time with?

 

4. Your kids already think you are SuperMom.

black mom and daughter

We spend so much time trying to be this fictional person. When in reality this fictional person was based on a real life you! You are already enough. You are already doing enough. Just the effort you put in is more than enough. You ARE SuperMom! Your kids see it. Your spouse sees it. Now it is time for YOU to see it. Trust me. Your kids think you are the greatest thing since sliced bread. They may not say it (or show it), but they know it. No child is going to school and asking their friends, “Did your mom get all the chores done yesterday? Because mine sure did!” That’s not happening. Trust me. The only one comparing you is you. All your kids know is without you their world would fall apart. You are literally holding their world together. Isn’t that super human?

 

The point of this all is to remind you that no matter how much or how little you get accomplished, what’s important is that you are putting in some effort. You are trying to be the best version of yourself, not the best version of the woman on your timeline. Here’s to you, Mom! Thank you for being a super version of you!

 

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How to Tell the Kids about Your “Conscious Uncoupling”

Ever heard of giving your kids “the Birds & the Bees” discussion? Well you’ve probably never heard of “the Conscious Uncoupling” discussion. Yes it is just a fancy name for “divorce”, but it exemplifies how you should approach discussing this topic with your children. Being conscious to the fact that this decision affects them just as much as (if not more than) it affects you, and being conscious to the fact that they deserve input to this process where it is appropriate.

When you and your partner decide that the relationship is no longer healthy for either/both of you, it feels like a very personal and individual decision. However, it has a rippling affect on the people closest to you, most importantly the children closest to you. There are multiple ways however to cushion the blow when announcing a separation to children.kids and dog

Be Open and Upfront

You may think that you’re doing a great job of hiding any negative feelings between your spouse and yourself, but the kids know. Children have a “sixth sense” when it comes to problems between their parents. They know when things are going well and they definitely know when things are not. Make your kids a priority in the situation and prepare them for this change. The only reason to postpone telling your kids is if you aren’t sure if it is actually going to happen. No need to jump the gun on this difficult conversation.

Continue Showing a United Front

This is extremely important. In your children’s eyes you are a package deal. Whether you are separating, divorcing, or “consciously uncoupling”, you are both still a parent to your children. They still need the same things from you that they needed when you were together. That means being able to respect one another and (at least pretend to) be as friendly as possible. Although you can decide to stop being in a relationship, you can not decide to stop being a parent.

Spare Them the Details

Telling your kids that their parents are no longer in love is hard enough. Do NOT add on top of that all the reasons you think the other parent is [insert bad words that children should not hear]. Your decision to separate is about your relationship with your partner, not your child’s relationship with their parent. Trying to damage that relationship is not your place and is just plain old cruel. Children will grow into adults and decide for themselves what they think of their parents and what type of relationship they want to have with them. Do not try to make those decisions for them.

Emphasize Your Relationship with Your Child Instead of with Your Partner

Spend this time explaining to your kids your love for them, and how that does not change. Children are very self-centered. It is just how they are at this stage of development. Honestly, your kids don’t care that you are no longer going to be together. They care about whether you and them are going to stay together. This is most likely the first time they are being introduced to the idea that two people can stop loving one another. This makes them fear a change in their relationship with you. Your job is to reinforce that your relationship with them is not going to change. This is also a good time to mention that the separation/divorce is not their fault. Be very clear that it has nothing to do with how much you love them.

Try to Create Routines and Consistency Between Two Households

Kids thrive when they are able to predict what will happen next. Divorce is a big shock, but it doesn’t have to unravel their sense of security. Creating consistency between two households can be difficult, but it will make all the difference in making the transition smooth. Don’t make a custody schedule based off of your needs. Make it based on what works best for your children. If your kids are old enough to give input, please give them that courtesy. Consistency looks like…

  • Keeping some of their favorite things at both homes (favorite toys, snacks, etc.)
  • Sticking to the house rules they have always had (bed time, amount of TV, etc.)
  • Having both parents at family activities (birthdays, school events, etc.)
  • Not changing plans at the last minute (who’s weekend it is, who’s picking them up from school, etc.)

 

When finding it difficult to have these discussions or finding that co-parenting isn’t going as smoothly as you would like, consider family therapy. It gives a safe place for kids to have their voices heard and for parents to practice helpful tools in the process of creating a new family dynamic.

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