Organic Melinda

healthy living with a Latin twist


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Day 30 – A Day of Work, Work, Work

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 I have switched my site to a new server. I will only be posting on this blog for the next week or two until I have completed the site transfer. 

To My Little Princess,

What a day this has been. Mami woke up to edit for a client, transfer my website to a new server, edit for another client, and work some more.

I am sorry for not being as attentive as you needed me to be, but I am glad that I got to hold you in my arms while I worked. You got to play with my hair and fall asleep on my chest.

I know that there will be many more days where I will have to work around the clock in order to establish my business.

I hope that this will be a temporary process and the income will flow in from Eat Like A Vegan and my Healthy Living Consultations.

I have faith that things will get better, soon, and we wont have to fret about whether or not you can run around and drop food on the floor here and there.

Grandma has been gracious enough to let us stay here for the month, but our time here is coming to an end soon. We have to find a place to live.

Luckily, Daddy has a job interview on Wednesday, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that he gets it. That would be so awesome, because he has been working part-time. But, we shall see what the future holds.

I am pushing through, applying to jobs, and continuing my efforts.

I really hate the thought of having to leave you for 50 hours a week, so I am trying my best not to have to, baby girl.

Now that it nears 5 a.m., it’s time for Mami to get some sleep.

Everyday of my life,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 29 – Somersaults

Dear Little Acrobat of Mine,

After my interview with Tasleem Jamila of Radio Islam where she and I discussed living gmo-free, supporting local farms, and my services, you and I had a ton of fun this afternoon.

I took you on a trip to the backyard and brought you to stand in the sun for a little while.

Afterwards, we came back home, and I played with you in bed. I would place the blanket over my head and you would lift it up and laugh so hard.

Then, we could go under the blanket together. You would giggle and put your feet in my face telling me to kiss your toes.

I tickled you as you laughed and laughed some more.

We sang capoeira songs. Now, you know two songs – la la la eu and oi sim sim sim oi nao nao nao. You sing them on your own, clap your hands, and then make me join along.

you and Daddy doing capoeira

During one of these moments, you did your very first somersault, today!

I am so proud of how athletic you are at only 18 months old.

You are flourishing so quickly and getting so smart.

Of course, you’re still my baby girl as you demand kisses and cuddles.

You always want to fall asleep in my arms and stay there the whole time you’re napping.

I am usually happy to oblige.

I have to breastfeed you, now, so I have to go.

With a boobie in your mouth,

Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 28 – Prisoner of Love

To My Love,

Hello, my sweet. You are rest, right now, and I am right besides you. I have a super long to-do list, but, even in your sleep, you want all of my attention.

Today has been an odd day for me. I was up much of last night working on my second book, editing my website, setting up the course material for DDFS, and I didnt get to sleep until about 8 a.m.

I woke up around 10:30 am because I had a meeting scheduled with Francesca, who has been a guiding light these past 6 months. She’s helped turn me into a more competent business woman. Today, she and I talked about my course design, workshops, and pricing. She’s been super helpful in helping me turn my skills into a business.

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You’ve been clingy much of the day. I am sure that you can feel how preoccupied I am with thoughts in order to secure our survival.

Because I have been so busy trying to build my businesses, I am just going to lay here next to you while you sleep and comfort you.

You’re more important to me than all of the money in the world. Mami is just trying to secure our financial future.

This series is coming to a close in just a few more days, but I have decided to keep writing to you at least a few times a week.

I cannot wait until you’re old enough to read these letters.

Every day,
Mami Loves You

—-
About this Series:
In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.


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Day 2 – Fear and Hope

To my Beautiful Brown Princess,

I write with a heavy heart, today.

Last night, the Miss America pageant selected Nina Davuluri, an Indian-American woman, as the winner for the 2014 season.

While the Indian community rejoiced along with Brown women, others revealed the painful, colonial, and racist history that still plagues the United States.

Davuluri’s Americanness became an issue for discussion. Her heritage was a point to be ridiculed and feared. Her success was labelled a failure for the American people.

I felt rage, my dear.

Rage on behalf of the women who continue to face shaming for their bodies, thoughts, appearances, and ethnicities.

But, mostly, I felt rage and fear of the world that you might inherit.

When I look at you, all I see is my joy – my love.

But, how will people see you?

How will your Afro-Latina heritage impact the life you live?

I remember all too clearly comments that soon followed your birth where people hoped that you’re skin would not be “too dark” and that your hair would not be “bad.”

I, immediately, quieted those comments – forbade them out right – explained over and over again that there was no such thing as skin too dark or bad hair.

And, I wonder, will you, some day, have to have those same conversations, fight the same battles that brown people have been for so many decades, or will you live to experience a better, more humane world?

I pray that I raise you to have the strength to educate others when the moments come.

No matter what a soul ever says – know that you are beautiful. You are chosen by the Most High to exist. You are the essence of life.

You are my love, always, and eternal.

Together, we will work to make this world a better place if only by expressing the purity of love that is shared between a mother and her daughter.

Remember always,
Mami Loves You

p.s. I will work every day of my life to ensure that the world you inherit is better than the one we have, today.

—-
About this Series:

In honor of Latino Heritage Month, I will write 30 letters for 30 days to my beautiful daughter. This series is entitled, Mami Loves You. In these letters, I will tell her about the world around her, and reflect on her development.

Each Tuesday and Thursday, I will honor a Latina woman that I believe is a great role model for my daughter to admire. Through these letters, I pay homage to my role as a mother, and I will teach my daughter about one of the cultures that has birthed her.

To Subscribe to the series Mami Loves You, follow the link: http://mamilovesyou.com/ and fill out the form.

Last Chance for YOU to enter this Book Giveaway

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Here’s your chance to win a #FREE copy of my #book!!

Share this image to your social media networks and make sure to tag Organic Melinda (@organicmelinda #organicmelinda).

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Confronting Mommy Guilt

I never really felt loved as a child.  Perhaps, this is the sentiment of many middle children – the older kid gets the attention, and when it’s your turn, another kid is born.

As excited as I was to be a big sister when my baby brother was born, I felt cheated  by the lack of attention my mother was able to afford me.

Naturally, then, when my daughter was born, I, often, feared that she would feel as unloved as I did growing up.

I felt like I had to spend every waking moment of my day by her side, and needing a break or leaving her with someone else was selfish.  After all, I birthed her. She was MY responsibility, right? And, I wanted her to feel loved!

Regardless of how far feminism has come, women are still the primary parents, in my experience, during the early stages of child development.  I’ve discussed many times why I believe this to be the case.

Some reasons are:

1. Many men have not been socialized to be caregivers.

2. Many men feel incompetent taking care of young children.

3. Some men just feel like it’s the mother’s responsibility.

4. Some men aren’t present.

5. Even when the dad is present and wants to help, the baby wants mommy, anyways.

All of the reading and mommy blogs do not prepare you for the transition from living as an individual to having a small human being be 100% reliant on you for everything at ALL times of the day.

What does this really mean?

Being a mom is HARD, and it’s a lot of work.

The days of peeing and/or pooping in peace are long gone. Much of your spontaneity is lost, and your sense of adventure is limited by your need to always be prepared to meet the needs/demands of your baby.

Naturally, after 16 months of nonstop, around the clock baby time, I began to feel worn out.

Well, let me back up a little bit.  It was not being a mom that made me feel worn out. It was juggling starting my own business (Organic Melinda), writing and editing L.I.V².E.,  marketing, applying to PhD programs, and learning that I had spinal injuries ON TOP of being a mom that overwhelmed me.

So, a few days ago, after not sleeping for a few weeks to get the book together, I had a little break down.  I had to work around the clock and through the baby’s naps and sleep time to complete the project. I mean, seriously,  I am blogging now at 5:30 a.m. while my daughter plays with my hair to soothe herself back to sleep.

I called my sister crying because I, actually, (God Forbid) doubted my decision to be a mother for a moment.

I had a particularly rough day.

My daughter’s father was out the entire day, and I was trying to listen in on a workshop about how to better build an internet company.  At the same time, I was communicating with people about how we could market L.I.V².E.and my daughter was having one of her “mommy hold me all day, every day” moments.

So, there I was, sitting on a computer chair, listening to a talk, emailing, and I had my daughter in my arms.

On top of all of that, I discovered that I have nerve damage in my left arm a couple of weeks ago, which sucks doubly, because I am left-handed.  I had received physical therapy in my arm to start healing the nerve damage.

And, of course, my daughter in all of her toddler glory decided that she did not want to lean against my chest. NOPE. She was going to put all of her body weight on my left arm, which was causing me excruciating pain.

So, once again – I was sitting at my computer desk, listening to a chat on web marketing, sending emails, and holding my daughter who was causing me a ton of pain.

I tried to reposition her like 20 times, before I just got pissed off, and I put her on the floor.

She was letting out her banshee, toddler, how dare you not hold me screams.  Just non-stop, and the exhausted human side of me just wanted to scream, SHUT THE EFF UP!

But, I didn’t.

Instead, I took out my frustration on the lecture by turning it off and cried with her. Begging her to please just stop crying.

Mommy is trying to hold you, babeh, but you’re causing mommy a lot of pain. Just calm down, my love. Please. I beg you. You are hurting momma, and that’s not nice. 

I mean,  there I was trying to rationalize with a 17 month old begging her to please relax while I, myself, was crying.

That’s what predated the call to my sister.

Please, take this kid. I cannot take it any more. Right now, I wish I had an….

What a shitty thing to say about the one person who I love most in the entire world.

I cannot even type it out, because I know that I do not feel that way. I know that while I advise women to please take their “me” time and not try to be a super hero, I was still trying to be one myself.

I cracked, and I felt and still feel like shit about the horrible thing that I said.

And, so, here I am blogging about it, because I know I am not the only woman who has said some shitty, shitty comment in a moment of utter and complete stress.

I knew my sister probably judged me, and thought I was a total bitch for my comment.

But, let’s be honest – being a working mom is really fugging hard.

I, literally, forwent showers last week, just because I couldn’t get to certain tasks and I would just pass out on the couch.

Following the terrible statement and the deep feeling of shame and guilt that I could ever utter such a thing about my daughter, who I love more than life, I realized that I really just needed to relax.

I took too much on too fast, due to the urgency of our financial situation and the fact that we are on the verge of homelessness.

I have to build Organic Melinda. I have to find a way to make the money that I need for my security deposit and to make sure we have a decent apartment to live in.

So, the solution – stop trying to do everything myself ALL at once. It’s not going to happen. I am just going to be frustrated, and my beautiful daughter is going to pick up on my energy and be antsy, too, which is probably why she wanted me to hold her nonstop all week.

Now, I am making sure to implement some rules for myself to ensure that I never utter a phrase like that, again.

1. Stop trying to do it all AT THE SAME TIME.

2. Ask for help.

3. It’s okay to cry.

4. Ask for help.

5. Put the work away and spend real quality time with my baby.

6. Ask for more help.

7. Create a work day for myself – no more around the clock tweeting, instagraming, etc.

8. Have faith.

9. Ask for help, again.

10. It’s okay to choose sleep when the only options are sleep or shower.

11. Talk to friends and family when frustrated.

12. It’s okay to need a break from your baby – I actually need one to regroup.

13. Remember that I am building Organic Melinda to secure our financial future.

14. Put the damn phone/computer down for a few hours a day.

15. I will not accomplish EVERYTHING, today.

I have to forgive myself for my flaws, and stop putting so much pressure on myself.  I’ve begun by asking my mother to baby sit my daughter so that I can have some “me” time, which is a super big step for me.

I am setting up 1 item I want to accomplish for my business each day and working exclusively on that item.

Today, I put away the cell phone and computer and spent quality time with my daughter. Just the two of us – no interruptions.  It resulted in us passing out on the couch together.

I asked my mom to baby sit for a couple of hours and I went to the gym.

The bottom line is that if you are exhausted and overwhelmed, you’re probably not going to be in the right state of mind to provide for your child’s needs.

I am giving myself permission to take a break from my mommy duties when I need it.

I am forgiving myself for that horrible moment and that horrible feeling and that horrible statement.

I am taking it one day at a time, one task at a time, one moment at a time.

My daughter will be a healthy, happy human being IF I am a healthy and happy mother.

So, say fuck it to the mommy guilt.

Go for a walk, and BREATHE.


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The Causes of Emotional Eating and Tips to Stop

With commercials and advertisements constantly telling us to eat, eat, and eat some more, many of us feel hungry all of our waking hours. Yet, what often follows food advertisements is an onslaught of more advertisements about diet and weight loss.

We are constantly being told through media images that we must eat to enjoy life, to be cool, to hang out, BUT we must be fit, muscular, and thin while we do it.  These mixed messages often leave us in a state of confusion.  You add the fact that food is tied to so many of our identities and cultural memories, and eating can often become a blanket of comfort, a tool to deal with pain, and an escape from anxiety.

In this post, I will share information on the causes of emotional eating through my own experiences and those of Marriage and Family Therapist, Yaritza Zayas and Lori Brannen-Graham, a Personal Trainer and Holistic Nutritionist.

Defining Emotional Eating

Yartiza defines emotional eating as, “The use of food (any food) to cope with a feeling state that is overwhelming. This does include feelings that are categorized as “good” or “happy” (i.e. pride, excitement, etc) not limited to “negative” feelings (i.e. sad, upset, anger, etc).”

Lori states, “Emotional eating can be defined as using food to either comfort oneself in times of stress or ‘self-medicating’ through food.”

According to webmd.com, “Eating to feed a feeling, and not a growling stomach, is emotional eating.”

Unpacking the Definition

In other words, we all experience emotional eating.

Emotional eating is not a problem that is only experienced by people who are characterized as over-weight. It is, also, not a problem that is only experienced by women.

Having a celebratory drink or slice of cake after running a marathon or getting a job promotion is a form of emotional eating; as is the stereotypical image of a girl downing a pint of ice-cream and a box of chocolate after a break-up.

Emotional eating can also be seen in fitness models and bodybuilders eating weekly “cheat meals” to deal with feelings of deprivation after a week of strict calorie-counting.

Many people eat when they are bored; this, too, is a form of emotional eating.

When Emotional Eating Becomes a Concern

Celebratory eating is, generally speaking, not a problem if it is not excessive.

The concern with emotional eating rises when it becomes a cycle that an individual cannot break him/herself out of or an individual feels like s/he has little to no control in stopping.

If you eat, and then experience feelings of guilt, anger, or frustration, it is a good idea to ask yourself why you just ate.  Were you hungry or did other emotions spark your desire to eat?

In our interview, Yaritza and I discussed food as an addiction.  Like any drug addiction, food can serve to mediate anxieties, fears, feelings of worthlessness, and can make you feel good.  It has been well-documented that sugar has addictive properties akin to cocaine.

Emotional eating can also be form of self-sabotage and an immediate outlet to cope with unwanted feelings. Survivors of physical and sexual abuse are known to resort to emotional eating as a way to make themselves what they perceive to be physically unattractive or as a way to cope with feelings of emptiness or pain.

So, if every time you are sad, anxious, or angry, you run to the refrigerator, you are probably an emotional eater.

 Causes of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating can start at a very young age, such as when children receive food as a reward for good behavior.  In my conversation with Yaritza, we discussed the prevalence of this behavior in the Latino community. While treats as rewards, in of themselves, are not a problem, they create a connection between good feelings and food, which can last a lifetime.

Here is a free-list of other factors that cause and/or contribute to emotional eating:

  • stress
  • anxiety
  • a break-up
  • anger
  • sadness
  • lack of impulse control
  • wanting comfort
  • inability of coping with and handling difficult emotional states
  • feelings of deprivation
  • eating below caloric requirements
  • boredom
  • psychological difficulties or mental illness
  • having an eating disorder

Each of these factors can work together to create an environment conducive of emotional eating.

Personal Stories

Lori shares her difficulties with emotional eating when she was a bodybuilder a few years ago.

 “I had developed ritualistic eating habits and patterns that consequently led to some health issues and the feelings associated with emotional eating. I would restrict myself all week knowing that I had a planned ‘cheat’ on the weekend. During the week it’s all I could think about….I dreamt of chocolate. It was always the same disappointment each time, though. I would spend the following day lethargic and cranky, promising myself to not binge until the following weekend. I led this lifestyle for so long it just became normal to me.”   

While Lori struggled with feelings of self-deprivation and extreme calorie-counting to maintain a competition-ready physique, Yartiza shared her emotional triggers.

“I have battled with overeating and my trigger was anger. I have a quick temper and to avoid getting violent or to calm the anger feelings I’d overindulge to get so stuffed that I couldn’t move and essentially  become helpless and a non-threat.”

I have also struggled with emotional eating as a way to mediate anxiety, stress, and even as a way to stake claim over my body.  Perhaps, the last part was more triggered by anger.  In a previous post, I shared my struggles with having a positive view of my body.  I discussed some of the difficulties that arose from constant name calling, and my mother policing everything that I ate.  At times, I would eat just to defy her.

Anxious and stress-related eating began when I was in college. I had to work multiple part-time jobs while going to college full-time and maintaining a high GPA.  During mid-terms and final exams, I would sit down with a giant bag of chips, a large container of salsa, and a jug of purple soda.  All of the junk food would provide me with a sugar rush that would keep me awake long enough to study and finish papers. However, I would feel the damaging effects of eating so much and so unhealthy for days after these events, especially when I would binge eat to stay awake for 3-4 days straight.  

Dangers of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating, for many, is a coping mechanism to deal with difficult times, but it can actually cause further difficulties.

Certified Personal Trainer & Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Lori explains, “There are many dangers associated with emotional eating, including (but not limited to) many psychological troubles such as self-loathing, guilt, frustration, disappointment, shame, and/or feelings of failure. These feelings can perpetuate stress and keep the cycle on-going. Emotional eating can be habit forming and long term can cause metabolic damage. It can also lead to yo-yo dieting (to compensate for an emotional food binge) and lead to major body weight fluctuations. “

Family Therapist, Yaritza asserts that emotional eating can lead to “lifestyle diseases like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. [and it can be] linked to other addictive behaviors (not limited to high risk behaviors like drug use, for example).”

Another danger of emotional eating is that individuals might not learn other ways to cope with difficult emotions or times.  It is important to have healthy ways of coping with life’s difficulties and celebrating good times without turning to food.

Tips on How to Stop

Now, that we have an understanding of the factors that lead to emotional eating and the potential dangers, here are 8 tips shared by Lori, Yaritza, and I on how to overcome emotional eating.

1. Practice Mindful Eating

“Use hunger as your guide and eat until you are comfortably full. Practicing mindful eating can bring your focus and awareness to the food directly in front of you. If mindful eating becomes a habit it will become harder to revert back to emotional eating,” advises Lori.

2. Stay Hydrated

In our phone interview, Yaritza explained to me that our body signals are the same for thirst and hunger. Many times people confuse the two sensations.  If you have eaten in the past hour or so, and, all of the sudden, you are very hungry, drink some water.  If it satiates your desire to eat, then you were thirsty, not hungry.  Staying hydrated also helps you to feel fuller longer.  Most people require their weigh divided by 2 in ounces of water per day.  For example, I weight 129 lbs, so I would need at least 65 oz of water a day.

3. Recognize  Your Triggers

It is important to figure out what triggers your desire to eat or over-eat when you are not hungry.  Once you figure out what is causing you to eat when you are not hungry, then you can begin to stop.

Lori states, “When you are in a moment of wanting to soothe yourself with food, find something else to do. Replace that habit with something new.”

4. Keep a Journal

It is good to keep a journal of your feelings and a log of your food.  By keeping track of your feelings, you can begin to identify the emotions that trigger binging, explained Yaritza.  Keeping a food log makes you accountable to what you are putting into your body.  Keeping a journal has helped me a lot in my own battle against emotional eating.

5. Exercise

Yaritza and Lori are very physically active women.  They exercise almost every day and both commented on the importance of exercise as a tool to cope with stress, anxiety, and other emotions that lead to emotional eating.  Exercise, also, releases feel good hormones into your bloodstream, which can curb negative emotions which may trigger food cravings.

6. Eat Enough

It might seem ironic to suggest that you eat more food when you are struggling with emotional eating, but I found that feelings of deprivation are a major factor in emotional eating.  Make sure to eat high quality, healthy food, and keep healthy snacks around you.  If you are not eating enough to sustain your body and activity level, you will definitely feel unwell, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

7. Switch Out Sweet Treats for Healthier Ones

When I find myself wanting to eat because I feel stressed or anxious, it is hard for me to find junk food in my household.  I really avoid it like the plague, because I know that the momentary feeling of goodness and satisfaction will soon give way to my stomach hurting and feelings of regrets and anger towards myself.

So, instead of feeding my emotions cupcakes and cookies, all I can find in my refrigerator are carrots, hummus, and fruits and vegetables. While this does not directly solve the problem of emotional eating, it serves as a baby-step in the process.

8. Seek Professional Help

It is always a good idea to speak to a therapist or psychologist when you are an emotional eater.  Therapy can provide you with a tool-kit in order to better manage your triggers.

Resources

If you have any more questions on this post or any of my previous posts, please send an email to organicmelinda@gmail.com.

To learn more about emotional eating and how to cope, click the links below.

http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/

http://www.eatingdisordersanonymous.org/


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10 Tips on How to Balance Your Family Life

I received a Dear Organic Melinda email from a mom who wanted advice on how to balance work, school and family life. You can read my response to her by clicking here.

In order to assist exhausted mommies (and daddies), I put together this list of 10 tips  that describe some of the ways that I have tried to achieve balance as a work-from-home mother.

1.       Stop trying to do it ALL.

Many of us have preconceived notions that if we are not independent women a la Beyonce’s song paying our own bills, maintaining our own homes, and looking like we spend 15 hours at the gym every day, then we are complete failures.  There’s a reason why it takes two people to make a baby.  Nature requires, at least 2 people, to raise it.

It’s okay to leave the dishes piled in the sink for a few days and not fold the laundry as soon as it is done being washed.  And, hey, if you are taking care of a newborn all day long while your partner is working, and you didn’t shower yesterday, it’s okay to go to sleep when the baby does. No one is going to tell the Gods of Hygiene.

It is, also, okay to ask a friend or family member to please come over and watch your baby while you finish up work for a client, a report for your boss, or just take that aforementioned shower you need so badly.

2.       Get your partner/child’s father involved!

Sure, he might not change the diaper as well as you do, and he might leave dishes partially dirty when he washes them, but if I learned anything from my survey and personal experiences is that Daddy (or Mommy #2) is essential to your overall well-being!

While most women play with baby dolls in a seeming wave of culturalization towards motherhood, most men do not have the same experience.  Chances are that his baby is the first baby who he has ever taken care of.  This leaves some men feeling inadequate, and if you point out his flaws in child care, you are going to add to those feelings of inadequacies.

Let him/ her know how important s/he is to raising your child. Say thank you when s/he cleans the house, takes out the garbage, or whatever.  The Ms. Independent claim is a myth that we need to deconstruct because it only leaves women with MORE work to do.

Remember, children need a father figure in their lives (whether biological or not), so be sure to facilitate that experience for them.

3.       Make time for yourself.

I have struggled A LOT with this one.  Because of my family history, I have serious issues trusting others to babysit my daughter. For the first year of her life, I was so adamant about making sure that all of her needs were met, that I forgot about my own needs.

I gave up a lot of my passions, and I found myself, one day, wondering who I was anymore.

I started to carve out space for myself by hiding in the bathroom as soon as my partner came home from work. Yes, the bathroom. I’d go in to pee, and just sit in there for an hour to be alone with my thoughts.

Then, I joined a gym and left my daughter with her father 2 hours a day just to unwind and take care of my mind and body, which leads to Tip 3.

4.       Exercise.  

I know that with everything you have to do, exercising just does not necessarily seem like a priority. But, it really needs to be.

Most gyms, these days, have a free daycare with your membership.

If you cannot bear to leave your baby with someone else or you cannot afford a gym membership.  There are tons of DVDs online that have Mommy and Me workouts.

There are, also, parks with tracks and your neighborhood.  You’d be amazed what a 1 mile walk or jog will do for your mental health and energy levels.

Find ways to incorporate exercise into your current lifestyle so that it does not become another item on your To-Do list.  You can use an exercise ball instead of a chair in your office. I’ve seen quite a few office workouts online, too.

5.       Set specific work hours.

This is a challenging one for us work-from-home moms, because we tend to work while the kids are napping and sleeping. Many of us don’t have our own offices or any staff.

Lately, I have been working almost around the clock on my cookbook, and I have to tell you that I am tired and cranky.  And when I am tired and cranky, the entire household is tired and cranky.

My baby cannot rile me up enough for me to really, truly want to play with her, and I am mad at my partner for relaxing. So, please, set a daily schedule of when you can blog, advertise, write, etc, and learn from me.

For mothers who work outside of the home, do NOT answer emails or phone calls when your work hours are over.  The drawback of the technological boom is that people constantly have access to us.  When you clock out, let your work day end.

To the stay-at-home moms, you, too, get to go off duty. Pick a time every day when it’s mommy time and no one can ask anything of you, which brings me to the next tip.

6.       Turn off all of the technology for at least 1 hour a day!

Yes, I know, how blasphemous, right? Imagine not checking your email, business reports, analytics, or Facebook account for a whole hour!

Many of us are super addicted to our gadgets. How could we not be? We are incredibly reliant on them for work, family relations, and to answer questions we just don’t know the answer to, like how to make vegan cheese from scratch.

However, we are robbing ourselves and our children of quiet time and not really giving undivided attention to the important and necessary tasks of our day.

Sometimes, I am on my phone blasting out emails, editing, and advertising, and then my daughter walks up to me asking for a hug.  In those moments, I realize that she is more worthy of my time than a blog post, so I give it to her.  I try to be more mindful of spending more quality time with her.

7.       Stop pressuring yourself so much!

Related to tip number 1, I urge you to stop being so hard on yourself.  All we can do is our best at any given situation, and for type-A personalities or over-achievers, like myself, we think our best is perfection.  Perfection is a myth.  It’s okay not to give your all to every task that comes your way.

8.       Hug and Play with your children.

This tip and tips 3 and 5 can go hand-in-hand.  My daughter gets a thrill out of me using her as a chest press or holding her while I do squats. Sometimes, after seeing me do squats, she does squats with me.  It’s got to be one of the cutest things I have ever seen.

Children do grow up way too fast, in my opinion, especially when you’re a busy mom.  Make sure not to lose out on this special time of their lives.  If you have a toddler, kick a ball around with them. Remember that children require affection and physical touch in order to be emotionally healthy adults.  Go shopping with your teenager.  Call your college-bound child and ask them if they want to go hiking.

9.       Ask for and Get Help!

Seeing a psychologist, speaking to a friend, getting a support network of mothers are excellent ways to unwind and make sure you are mentally and emotionally healthy.

Often times, feeling unbalanced is a sign that you are neglecting some of your own needs and/or you are not sure how to cope with the added responsibilities and pressures of having a child and being a professional.

I struggled with post-partum depression after my daughter’s birth, and a wonderful psychologist really helped me overcome that difficult time.  I also speak to friends and family when I am overwhelmed.  And, of course, sometimes asking for help means ordering take-out.

10.   Take a 5 minute break. 

When you are feeling overwhelmed by it all, just take a short break.

Put your head in your hands and just breathe.  You’d be amazed how much of a difference this can make, especially in the middle of a toddler tantrum.

Remember to relax, because in the words of James Howe, author of Totally Joe, “Life is short and there will always be dirty dishes, so let’s dance.”


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Mothers, we are NOT super heroes, and that’s okay.

Dear Organic Melinda, 
How do women balance working/going to school and doing various other things while raising a family? I think I’m doing okay but could do better. It’s hard.

Best,

Evita

 ~~~~~~~~~~

Dear Evita,

The day that you sent this question to my inbox, I was immersed in a conversation with another working mom, who was incredibly exhausted.  As an anthropologist trained in research methods and analysis, I did a short questionnaire in a few Facebook groups with high concentrations of working mothers in order to provide you with a full answer, which is divided into 2 blog posts. See here and there.

The first trend that I noticed was that many mothers are absolutely exhausted.

The second trend was that mothers who felt balanced or never really thought about balance exclaimed on how incredibly wonderful and supportive their partners’ were in day to day activities.

The third trend was that some mothers, even with supportive partners, were overwhelmed by work demands as their bosses had increased their work hours due to the declining U.S. economy.  These mothers often struggled with guilt about being away from their children for 45+ hours a week.

A forth trend was that stay-at-home mothers were fed up with people assuming that raising a small child is easy, and therefore, they had no right to be tired. These mothers struggle with raising a baby, taking care of themselves, and then having to cater to a partner’s needs. Many of the pressures came from the fact that this group of women does not bring income into the household, and, therefore, her perceived duty is to maintain an impeccable home.

The fifth trend, which builds on the forth trend, was that work-from-home mothers were even more exhausted than mothers who worked outside of the home, because their lives, too, were perceived to be easier since they got to work while wearing pajamas.  Often, people would make comments like, “but you were home all day!”

Did Feminism Fail Us?

While I read the tales of exhausted mommies and reflected on my own daily struggles with balancing raising my daughter, maintaining a home, and working on my start-up business, I began to wonder if the feminist movement had failed me and, in turn, all of us.

The dozens of books I had read on the status of women throughout the world, who still struggle with owning their own bodies, life choices, and futures, ruminated in my head.  Was Marx right? Did the oppression (read exhaustion) of women begin with the nuclear family?  What about Ortner’s ground-breaking piece, which suggested that the oppression of women was directly linked to birthing and lactation? Are we still caught in the age-old split between the public and domestic spheres?

It appears that, in many ways, while women have gained access to higher education in the U.S., entered the workplace, and became mom-trepreneurs, the majority of child-rearing and household work continues to fall on the shoulders of mothers. But, does this mean that we are still oppressed, and that feminism really did fail us?

In some ways, yes, I believe it did, because the expectations for women, are, now ten-fold what they are for men.   And forgive my hetero-normativity for a second, but it also appeared to me that men’s roles have not drastically changed in the last 50 years as women’s have.

In all of the frustration of Betty Friedman’s Feminine Mystique, I, immediately, wanted to blame patriarchy (read as my partner) for the fact that I am so exhausted or society for expecting me to do so much.  That is, I am expected to have the dishes clean and the house and the baby, and, yet, never complain or look tired or feel exhausted.

Then, I ran across THIS ARTICLE, on a book written by the president of my alma mater, Barnard College.

And, I thought, YES! This is it! Tell it like it is Debora L. Spar.

Lay the pressure off of your shoulders!

The first part of your question, Evita, that stands out to me is that you “could do better.” By whose standards?  Why do you think you even need to do better in the first place?  Who or what is making you feel inadequate?  Are you trying to be a Super Woman?

Forget about doing better. Just do your best.

As Debora L. Spar points out, there are various factors that play into our feelings of inadequacies about ourselves as women, mothers, partners, workers, and friends.

The hard truth is that each of us, in spite of our posters of Rosie the Riveter and social-conditioning, just cannot do it ALL.  We need help, and there is nothing wrong or weak about admitting that you need help, and getting it.

I often feel exhausted and I want to scream, pull out my hair, or run away.  Let’s be honest, at some point, most new moms have missed their pre-baby life.  It’s not because we don’t love our babies or we aren’t grateful of having babies or the life we live.  It’s because it’s been 6 months since you had a full night’s rest, you cannot remember if you showered, today, and you’re hungry but too tired to cook.

Yes, the house is messy, and you need a shower. I know you want to look sexy for your partner when s/he comes home. And, now, the baby is screaming, crying. Oh, no, don’t touch the electrical socket! Ahhhh, take that out of your mouth!

But,just forget about it all for a second.  Sit down with your baby, don’t care about the dishes or the gum in your hair, and read my post 10 Tips on How to Balance Your Life.