There’s nothing quite so powerful as a story. In particular, our own personal stories. The vulnerability we create by sharing and owning our stories (when we feel safe and comfortable enough to do so) holds so much power. That vulnerability opens up opportunities to learn alongside each other, but also to open minds, change opinions, and empower others. It gives us permission to feel, to dig into the deepest depths of ourselves, to question, grieve, play, laugh, empathize, and to explore. And in many cases, reveals to us the true beauty and complexity of what is within our reach in in every day life. With a single collection of words, our stories (and we ourselves) have the ability to fulfill one of our most basic human needs: the need to feel like we belong, and to know that we are not alone.
So here is your friendly reminder: You are not alone.
Regardless of where you are in your parenting/life journey, you are not alone. We’re in your corner. There comes a point in every journey where we need to lean on the wisdom of others, and if you’re there right now (and also if you’re not!), that’s totally okay. As doulas, we have our own stories, but we have also witnessed the many successes and struggles of other families too. And if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that parenting can be hard, and sometimes we all need a little extra TLC. That’s where we come in. Of course we love getting to meet your beautiful baby, but we’re also here to check on YOU. To help you get your needs met while you look after your little one. We know that if parents are nurtured and cared for, their babies will be too. We are professionally trained to support parents without judgement and in ways that make sense for their unique relationships with their babies. We don’t have an agenda for how we think you “should” parent because we know that parenting is already hard enough. We don’t expect you to be perfect or to know everything. We don’t judge, and we know that sometimes you’ll want to think of something other than parenting. Above all else, we embrace and honor whatever decisions you have made for you and your family. Instead of giving you directions, we walk with you. We’re just here to listen and to help.
Happy Thursday everyone!!! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight is highlighting the wonderful Marlene McGrath!! Not only is she an amazing mother, but she’s also an incredible prenatal and postpartum yoga instructor. We HIGHLY recommend checking out her classes. Plus, she’s located right here in Ann Arbor!
To find balance in her job as a hospital social worker, Marlene began studying and practicing yoga in 1991. Now, Marlene is the mother of 3 teenagers, and teaches yoga full-time to students ages 18-99 with a specialty in prenatal and postnatal yoga. You can find her full class listing at: yogafocusannarbor.com !
What brought you to support moms and babies?
I was a yoga teacher before having children, but during my first pregnancy realized how much yoga helped me stay connected to my changing body and cope with labor, birth, and recovery. I then decided to pursue more training to specialize in teaching yoga to pregnant and postpartum women.
If there was one myth you could “bust,” what would it be?
The myth: that pregnant women just need to deal with significant discomfort and pain during pregnancy, that it is just part of being pregnant.
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
Working in my garden, walking my dog, having outdoor adventures with my children, family, and friends.
What moment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of the moments when I see my children negotiate difficult experiences.
Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.
My hope is that women who practice yoga during their childbearing years develop a knowledge of and relationship with themselves that will serve them through parenting and all the transitions to come later in life.
People have a lot to say about pregnancy. Between the recommendations, cautionary tales, shoulds, shouldn’ts, educational literature and things your coworker says “Will Make You The Worst Parent On The Planet.” Everyone has an opinion. In all honesty, we’ve worked with so many parents who have been thoroughly freaked out and terrified by the horror stories that other parents, family members, and friends have told them about their own pregnancies. Of course these loved ones mean well and they just want those they care about to be safe! But sometimes adding that extra two cents can do a lot more harm than good by making pregnancy way more stressful than it needs to be. We’re here to give you strategies to manage the sea of opinions that might try to sweep you off your feet throughout pregnancy and parenthood.
So what should you do when you’re being bombarded by opinions from those around you?
First of all, DO NOT GO ON WEBMD.
We cannot stress this one enough! Talk to your care provider, doula (if you choose to have one) and people you trust if you have concerns. Reading an article that says you’re already dead will probably not help matters much.
To help with feelings of anxiety in the moment, we introduce to you the “Thank you for letting me know” technique.
This technique was coined by my magnificent roommate: Maggie. She’s your friendly neighborhood list-enthusiast and an accomplished educator of today’s 12-year-old youth. In other words, she is an expert at managing chaos. A few months ago after an exhausting day at work, she gifted me one of my favorite coping strategies to pass on to stressed parents. Maggie walked through the door, dropped her backpack, looked at me, and in a moment of exasperation said
“I swear, the phrase that I use the most at my job is ‘Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.'”
She went on to describe the chaos of her classroom; the consistently hilarious but exhausting interruptions of 12 year olds as they test the boundaries of social interactions, rifle off internet memes, and erupt in Fornite dances. To all of which, while suppressing laughter, Maggie’s response is “Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
“Miss Maggie!!! Sarah ate 10 packets of ketchup even though you said not to and now she has a stomach ache!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.
“Miss Maggie!!! Jerrell is laying on the floor for fun and he doesn’t feel like moving!!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat. (Also Jerrell get off the floor).
“Miss Maggie!!! Timmy buried his head in the snow and now his face is super cold!!” Thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.
Believe it or not, this mindset has helped so many of our clients. I think it goes without saying that we don’t want you to take up yelling “THANK YOU FOR LETTING ME KNOW PLEASE TAKE A SEAT” at every person who expresses an opinion.
But the next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by someone else’s input on your pregnancy, birth, or parenting philosophies just follow these steps:
Take a deep breath. Inhale and exhale.
Pretend the unnecessary feedback/anecdotes/judgments are 12-year-old Sarah eating ketchup packets
Tell Sarah “thank you for letting me know, please take a seat.”
Picture the intrusive opinion (aka Sarah) stepping aside and physically taking a seat
Take a few more deep breaths
It sounds silly, but it’s actually a really helpful way of centering yourself through visualization. Plus it’s a generally recommended coping mechanism for anxiety! The “Thank you for letting me know” strategy allows you to acknowledge outside input but not let it overwhelm you, wrack your confidence, or disturb your sense of calm. This way you can see the situation for what it is, set the unnecessary information aside, create healthy boundaries, and focus on what’s important. Even vocalizing “Thank you for sharing this with me, but I’m going to continue parenting in the ways that make sense for me” can be a great boundary to set with loved ones as your due date draws near.
So there you have it. Whether you’re a new parent, a parent-to-be, a seasoned parent, or just someone who struggles with anxiety, you now have a new possible tool to add to your Mental Health Tool Kit 🙂
A note to every teacher out there:
When we think of superheroes, we think of Superman flying majestically through the sky or Batman mysteriously watching over Gotham City. But not all heroes wear capes. Within the walls of our schools work some of the single most dedicated, inspiring, and transformative individuals in the country: the kids themselves, who have the power to shape our future, and the superhero teachers, who have the power to shape the futures of our youth. This post is a shout out to all of the amazing teachers out there. The life-changing, and future-changing work you do every single day is not lost on us at Tree Town Doulas. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
As labor day weekend comes to an end, we plunge headfirst into the season of fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, ripe apple picking, brisk nights, and cider mills. That first month back to school can be a doozy, especially for parents still in summer mode. Not only are we faced with developing a whole new routine from scratch, but now we’re also faced with a whole new set of challenges as our children grow into the next school year. Teachers often have their students set goals for the coming school year, so it’s only fitting that we do the same!
The word “mindfulness” is thrown around a lot with the images of spas, fancy art projects, and far-off lands. When really all “mindfulness” means is checking in with yourself. We recognize that most parents don’t have time to sit down, much less getting their nails done or get pampered at a spa. With this in mind, we’ve come up with a 3 minute exercise we’d like you to do. Obviously we’re not going to ask you to do homework because we know you’ll get enough of that with your little ones 😉
As the week goes on pick 2 of these prompts. Reflect on each of them for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Even set a timer if you need to! Focus on your thoughts and how you react to each prompt.
What is your biggest win from the 7 days?
What are 3 attitudes you want to embody this school year?
What makes you feel calm?
Have you felt stressed or anxious today? What did you do to overcome it?
What realistic adjustment could you make to your daily routine to give yourself more energy?
What have you recently said “yes” to that is not a “hell yes”?
What does it feel like to go back to school after summer?
Who is someone you have not talked to in a while that you’re grateful for?
Is there an area of your life that needs to be more organized?
What is something you’re anxious about for the coming school year? How can you reasonably prepare for this?
What is one thing you need to let go of?
What is your 3rd most unique strength? How can you make it as strong as your 1st and 2nd?
What do you spend a silly amount of time on?
When was the last time you laughed?
What is important to you this school year?
When do you have a hard time letting go? When do you feel so overwhelmed you “check out,” and what does that look like for you (e.g. checking social media too much, feeling irritable, etc..)?
What is one long term goal you’re working towards?
How have you shown yourself patience in the last week? How can you continue to do so?
And that’s it! I know it doesn’t seem like a lot, but checking in with yourself (and your kids!) in this way for even just 3 minutes per day can work absolute wonders for your mental health. Being a parent can be unbelievably stressful, especially when you add the school year, your kids’ new schedules, extra curricular activities, homework, and work (job and/or house work) on top of that! Both parenting and the new school year will come with a plethora of expectations from all directions. When the stress starts to pile on, these expectations can easily transform into self-criticism and sometimes even assumptions or criticism towards the kiddos. Practicing mindfulness not only improves memory, but also increases our patience, understanding, emotional intelligence, stability, adaptability, and decreases self- and outwardly-directed criticism. Will you still lose your cool sometimes? Oh heck yeah, because kids are a handful! Plus, no one is perfect! But giving yourself those 3 minutes per day will help lengthen your rope a bit so that you can let go of expectations, set goals, weather what you can’t control, and address what you can. (PROTIP: goals are flexible and have the planning/growth process built into them, but expectations often revolve around assumptions with no means to achieve/ resolve them). You’re an amazing parent and your kids already know this. So please cut yourself some slack, show yourself some patience, and give yourself that 3 minutes per day!
Both you and your kids (and their teachers!!) will thank you for it 🙂
Happy Thursday everyone! 🙂 This week’s Community Spotlight will be shining on the founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, the fabulous Elise Bowerman!!! Elise is truly one of a kind. Whenshe’s not busy running the Sweet Momma Yoga studio, she’s spending time with her family and instructing incredible Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga Classes.Within the walls of her studio, she facilitates parents finding peace, empowerment, resilience, and reassurance within themselves and between each other as a community. So if you’ve been feeling the pressure of pregnancy, parenting, or just life in general lately, look no further!
Elise Bowerman operates the only Southeast Michigan Registered Prenatal Yoga School (RPYS) offering teacher training for anyone who’d like to specialize as a Prenatal (and Postnatal) Yoga teacher. As founder of Sweet Momma Yoga, she provides a one-stop-shop for those looking for Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes, and for the RPYS graduates a platform to build their business faster than if they were starting from scratch. Elise has been practicing yoga for 20 years, teaching (even Prenatal Yoga) for over 10 years, and holds the following credentials with Yoga Alliance: E-RYT 500, RPYT, YACEP. You’ll find Elise in Livonia (the city she grew up in) every Monday night for Prenatal and ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga classes; and twice a year offering the 85-hour Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training at her home in Bloomfield Hills.
What brought you to support moms and babies?
The women in my life, including my mom, weren’t capable of offering the emotional or physical support I needed to feel normal, healthy, and confident as a mother; and as a woman. Plus, being depressed and anxious left me feelingalone and afraidmost of the time.
Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga classes was where I found practical information and connected to other birthers to help figure out what the heck I was doing! It gave me reassurance to keep going through the long days.
Basically, on a deep level – I’m offering what I never received. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed and afraid becoming a mother. By offering time to tune-in, connect with the breath, the pulse of self + baby, and community in which we all belong – I’m breaking the broken cycle women in my family were unable to tap in to, in hopes my children are empowered if they become parents one day.
If there was one myth you could “bust”, what would it be?
The myth:one must be ’zen’ or athletic to participate in Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga. These classes are designed for our busy lifestyles and all fitness levels! In fact, most participants are brand new to yoga!
You wouldn’t expect to go to the gym before you get in shape, right? Same thing for the yoga practice… it’s called a practicefor a reason. We meet ourselves on the mat to see what we’re bringing in that moment. Observing how we feel mentally and physically. Then we explore! We notice our thoughts, invite some new thoughts in, move our bodies to see if the movement provides support, a challenge, or simply curiosity to explore more. There’s no need to be ‘calm’ before coming to class. There’s no need to touch your toes, either. It’s the process of the practice that keeps us coming back for more.
What do you enjoy doing when not working?
Now that our kids are nine and seven a greater sense of time apart has developed compared to the five and under years… So, I’m basking in it! These days I love watching movies with my hubby and kids on the weekends. During the summer I’m outside tending to our yard; staying connected with nature, and appreciative to all it has to offer. I love our home and yard. Maintaining it keeps me grateful for all our the blessings. During the school year a morning highlight is enjoying breakfast or lunch with mom-friends after a yoga practice together. Then coming home to no one else around… I really love that part. After school hours I’m running around with the kids 🙂 #momlife
What moment are you most proud of?
On a personal level my proudest moment was birthing my daughter with no interventions. I knew I could do it, and when I did (peacefully), it ignited a passion to share with other birthers the possibility to birth with trust, understanding, and peace.
Professionally I am most proud of the moment – actually moments – when former Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga students join in my Prenatal Yoga Teacher Training course so that they may provide the empowerment they received when they were students. When students become the teachers they are such a force of nature thrilling to witness!
Tell us about something in your practice you would like everyone to know.
Prenatal and Postnatal Yoga is open to all birthers; well, that’s not completely true… I have students who haven’t given birth join in ‘Me Time’ Momma Yoga because it really isn’t about parenting or birthing… it’s about the desire to spend time to decompress and connect with the ‘core’ of the body and self. In our classes we are focused on building confidence through education, the practice of yoga, and the connection to one another. This yoga supports however and wherever someone births. As teachers, we are holding a light to help our community birth and parent with love.
A young woman wearing boxer shorts and an oversized t-shirt sits on her couch watching television. A handful of popcorn goes cascading down her front as she misses her mouth entirely. She shrugs, flicks to the next episode of America’s Next Top Model, and slouches back into the squish of her sofa. An irritated look paints her face as she absentmindedly pets the grumpy cat siting next to her. Suddenly, the cat flies across the room in an explosion of screaming as the woman yells at the television “WHAT ARE YOU DOING MARJORIE?!?!?! GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, YOU ARE BETTER THAN THIS!!!!” A feline death glare containing the rage of a thousand suns radiates from underneath the neighboring table. The woman pats the cat’s head, “I’m sorry kitty, it was important!”
This past weekend, that woman was most definitely me.
I can always tell I’m reaching the point of burn-out when my irritability is ramped up ten-fold. That, and when I spend an unusual amount of time watching (and yelling at) reality TV shows in my boxers. Self-care can be difficult as a doula, but we know that it’s even more difficult as a parent.
Becoming a parent means you are suddenly thrust into a position where taking care of yourself is no longer the priority. And honestly, a lot of the time it’s not even remotely on the radar. Your little ones become an extension of yourself, and caring for them quickly occupies the tiniest nooks and crannies of every day life. Of course we know that you love your kids! But for many parents, not having a minute to themselves throughout the day can feel incredibly draining, suffocating, isolating, and even alarming. Especially for parents whose self-care routines are integral to healing from mental illness or past trauma.
If you find yourself snapping at your kids more than usual, feeling guilty/inadequate, or in general feeling floaty/detatched, there’s a chance that you’re approaching or are already experiencing burnout. Recognizing burnout ahead of time can be incredibly helpful. Not only so that you can change course for a more sustainable day-to-day routine, but also to conserve energy, and ensure you’re feeling like the amazing parent that your kids already KNOW you are!
Here are a few things you can do to prevent burnout from happening even in the hectic whirlwind of parenthood:
1. Take 5. Even taking just 5 minutes a day for yourself can make an enormous difference. Whether you’re a new mama taking care of your newborn or a seasoned parent who’s been around the block a few times. Everyone meets their wit’s end sometimes. So take a breath, set a timer, and spend that 5 minutes doing whatever you gotta do to center yourself. Sit in a closet for some peace and quiet, listen to music, call someone who makes you smile, or even just lay on the floor and stare at the ceiling (this can be weirdly therapeutic). It’s okay to reset and collect your thoughts.
2. Prioritize. Pick the things that absolutely need to get done today and save the rest for later. Your house doesn’t need to sparkle 24/7, but the baby needs to eat and Jimmy does need clean underwear for school tomorrow. Put your energy where it is needed most.
3. Nix the comparisons. Comparing yourself to other parents is tempting, especially in today’s parenting culture. Everyone wants to be “The Best Parent Ever.” But the secret is, your kids already think you’re the best. Do what is feasible and makes sense for YOU as a parent. Ease up on the criticism and try seeing yourself through their eyes because they already think you’re pretty great! 🙂
4. Teach your kids to do things independently. This one can seem daunting because kids can be so stubborn sometimes. But especially as your children get older, pushing through that resistance can save a lot of time and energy in the long run. Not having to worry about the little things like chores and getting everyone dressed will allow you to save your energy for the things that the kids can’t help out with. Plus it instills them with a sense of confidence and accomplishment!
5. Change your expectations. You don’t have to be perfect to be a good parent. It’s okay to not finish everything on your to-do list, and an extra few minutes of tv-time will not melt their brains into mush. Loosen your grip on those expectations of yourself and tell your self-critic to take a hike unless they plan on paying rent! It’s hard enough to be a parent, so cut yourself some slack.
6. Intentionally set aside time for yourself. I know this one can seen downright impractical, or even impossible. But it is so necessary. Making sure your own needs are met will allow you to feel more calm, collected and present (aka what every parent needs in the face of a tantrum). Your kids need you to take care of yourself because you can’t pour from an empty cup. So get out there, hand your kids over to your partner/ family member/ friend/ playdate/ babysitter for a couple hours, and go do something that makes your soul happy. No guilt whatsoever because a parent’s gotta do what a parent’s gotta do.
7. Ask for and accept help. Reaching out does not make you weak, and there is no shame in accepting help when it’s offered. The image of “Super Mom” is enticing, but I assure you that she’s just a myth! It takes a village to raise children because no one can possibly be everything for everyone. Communicate your needs with loved ones and ask for help/support when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Being a parent is a full-time job and there’s no reason to make it harder than it needs to be!
8. Spend time with friends. No one can lift your spirits or put you at ease like your friends. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and like you’re losing yourself in the everyday life of parenthood, grabbing coffee or calling a good friend for a few minutes can help remind you of all that good stuff that’s already inside of you. Plus, venting and talking with other parent-friends can do wonders for lifting some of the weight off.
9. Be kind to yourself. Turning kindness and compassion inwards toward ourselves is a game-changer. By changing the way we talk to ourselves, we give ourselves room to feel, grow, and exist as people. Instead of berating yourself over the things you “should have” done, try a few of my favorite reminders: “I’ve done my best for today. I will keep trying tomorrow,” “It’s okay that I’m not perfect,” and “I will show myself the kindness and patience that I show others.” And if those don’t work, sometimes a good old fashioned “No one is bleeding or in immediate crisis so that’s good enough for now” will do the trick 😉
If you find yourself nearing the Yelling-At-Reality-TV-In-Your-Boxers point of burnout, take a minute to breathe. You are human and deserve rest too. Give one or two of these a try every once in a while to see if they resonate with you. Above all else, please remember that you are not alone in this.