Tag Archives: responsiblity

#ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

Across the country (and even over seas!) young mothers are uniting in a discussion on a common topic – their experiences as a young parent. The hash tag #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear was started by blogger and former teen mom, Natasha Vianna about her frustration with comments made to young mothers. You can read more about how and why #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear started in Natasha’s blog post at the PushBack.

Clearly Natasha struck a chord with other current and former young moms, who have utilized the hash tag and shared their own frustrations and experiences. As a former young mom, I too joined in on the discussion. I was 19 years old when my first daughter was born and by 23 I had two daughters. The stares I received and the comments people have felt the need to share with me have, at times, been appalling.

Shortly after leaving my abusive, dead-beat boyfriend I was at my postpartum check up. My beautiful 6-week old daughter was sleeping in her car seat, as I sat in the waiting room filling out papers.  Two middle-age ladies who were sitting near by “whispered” to one other about how I was, “Just another one of those girls.”  It sadly wasn’t the first nor the last negative comment I have heard.

You’re doing a good job… for a young parent (& why is that surprising?)

Why didn’t you marry your [abusive] baby’s father?

Your life held such potential [it still does]

Really? You have two kids?

Its irresponsible of you to want your own identity and interests

 How unfair that teens are having babies when there are couples who are unable to conceive [no correlation]

I was fortunate to connect with a young mom group in my area at that time called MELD. Once a week several other young moms, myself and our children would meet. For the first hour we shared dinner with one another and our children. Afterwards our kids would be watched by volunteers and the remaining time would be split between sharing and education. As we shared our experiences with one another, there seemed to be an endless supply of rude, appalling things we were being told.  Though I have graduated from the group, I still keep in contact with most of the moms. I have also made amazing, supportive friendships with many young parents online.

Despite assumptions and stereotypes placed on young mothers, we are succeeding. I’ve completed a college degree and am working on a second one to become a social worker (working with young parents and their children). I’m a member of my school’s honor society and my GPA is a 3.549. My young mom friends have also graduated high school and gone to college.

As Katie of A Girl Like Me blogs: “We’re not all on welfare, and we’re not all party animals or sluts or druggies like the girls who give the rest of us a bad name. We love and take care of our kids just as much as ‘normal’ aged mothers do. We’re still intelligent and productive members of society. We grow up with our kids, and I feel like we learn more life lessons that way. The young moms I know are some of the wisest people in my life.”

Natasha Vianna blogs that, “Hearing the success stories of young moms can sometimes anger people even more. If we’re not falling into the ‘stereotype’ and have made something of our lives, we are told we are still a bad example! We are told we are promoting the concept of becoming a teen mom. When we fail, we get the ‘I told you so!”

The stereotyping and judgments placed on young parents is appalling and damaging to their success and the success of their children. General assumptions, such as the ones shared on #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear can be truly damaging. We are empowered by speaking out and sharing our experiences as young moms. I encourage all young moms, current and former, to join in the  conversation on twitter #ThingsAYoungMomDoesntWantToHear

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Are We Doing Enough for Our Veterans?

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day. An annual holiday in the United States honoring military veterans. While it’s wonderful to have a day honoring the brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country, it isn’t enough.

The fight doesn’t end when they get home…

Homelessness, unemployment, disability, substance abuse and mental illness all face service men and woman upon their return. Lack of family or a support system, compounded by inadequate or nonexistent services does not present the honor and respect our veterans deserve.

There are some resources available to veterans. The National Center for PTSD offers information on Post Traumatic Stress disorder in veterans, though they do, “not provide direct clinical care or individual referrals.” Afterdeployment.org, “is a behavioral health resource supporting service members, their families, and veterans with common post-deployment challenges.”

Flickr: finishing-school

Serving San Diego county in California, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) provides comprehensive and innovative services for military veterans and assistance to needy and homeless veterans and their families. Solider On, serving the state of Massachusetts, “assist[s] veterans with both picking up the pieces of their lives and filling in the gaps that public agencies do not address.”

Soldier On’s mission statement declares that, “Homeless veterans need an interwoven effort that provides a safety net of housing, meals, health care, substance abuse aftercare and mental health counseling. They also need job assessment, training and placement assistance. Our mission at Solider On is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing, treatment and recovery for addiction, food, and clothing, as well as medical, counseling and job-related services.”

“Because government money for homeless veterans is currently limited and serves only one in 10 veterans in need, it is critical that private groups such as Soldier On reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care.” Private groups comprise a large part of programs providing assistance and resources to homeless veterans.

The story of Herold Noel, an Iraq War veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and living in his car in Brooklyn, is featured in the documentary WHEN I CAME HOME. The film examines the challenges that are faced by combat veterans returning home and the battle that many must fight to receive the benefits promised to them. The trailer is provided below and you can view the entire movie streaming online for free on hulu.

I Miss You

July 7, 1949 – November 10, 2010

One year ago today my father passed away. He was 61 years old and died alone at his house from heart related problems. He was also an alcoholic. I don’t dare omit that information because it’s important. For most of my childhood my dad was sober. For the last five or so years of his life, he was in a cycle of active alcoholism, treatment/rehabilitation, being sober and returning to active alcoholism. At the time of his death he had been sober for a brief period.

I loved my father. He was the person I most looked up to. I tried to help him. I drove him to hospitals. I offered my support. I called to check up on him and to help him with anything he might need. But, here’s the thing that I feel those who have not directly dealt with alcoholism/addiction may not understand: Only the person using (alcohol and/or drugs) can decide to get help.  Family and friends can assist in creating conditions that may make that decision more attractive.

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc (NCADD) offers

I know my dad knew I loved him. I don’t have any guilt over how I acted towards him. I feel no regret that I didn’t do enough for him, because there was nothing more that I could have done. I felt I needed to set boundaries to protect myself and my children. I don’t feel bad that he didn’t see them more, because when my daughters saw him, he was well. He wasn’t falling down drunk and they will never have those memories of him being like that. Instead they have memories of a papa who made them fairy houses and brought them presents from the festivals he had been to and who dressed up on Halloween like a fisherman.

I refuse to let the years when my dad was an active alcoholic cloud my memories of him. Instead I’ll focus on the years prior, when he was the dad I looked up to, who believed in me, who understood me, who was my hero. That’s the dad I’m going to remember.

I’ll remember the dad who I could call when I locked my keys in my car for the 5th time – an hour away. I’ll remember when he would take me fishing. When he took me to pick fiddle heads and dandelion greens. I’ll remember his obsession with the Iditarod. And the presents he would make me out of wood. The time he taught me how to weave a basket. And when we would find him on his mail route and have lunch with him, car-side. I’ll remember going camping and walking on the beaches. The time he took me out in the boat on the lake, gave me a canvas and paints and told me we would both paint what we saw and then compare it. I’ll remember all the times he helped me get my cats down from trees they had climbed and become stuck in. The 4th of July parade. The times he snuck my brother and me candy and drove us around looking at holiday lights, so we could finish it before we got home. Canoeing. All the talks with him about anything and everything. The lasagna and soups he would cook. His tattoos. I’ll remember how he taught me about gardening and flowers. His love of animals. Bob Dylan songs. And trips to Vermont and the cows…

Despite the sadness, I honestly also feel relief that he doesn’t have to suffer anymore. He wasn’t perfect but he understood me more than most people ever have.  He shaped me so much in my love of nature, animals and literature and, most importantly, in believing in yourself. I love you dad and I miss you.

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Resources on alcoholism and recovery:

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc (NCADD)
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Resources for people affected by alcoholism of a friend or family member:

Al-Anon/Alateen
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA)

Procrastination

I have so much to do.

Not just today, but everyday. Always. I’m a mother of two daughters who are three and seven. They take dance lessons and swim lessons. They have health issues that require doctor appointments and tests. They need lunches packed, homework help, stories read, projects planned and all the amazing things that go along with being three and seven. Including tantrums and dramatics.  I’m attending school for social work and I’ve set a goal to achieve a high GPA. This requires research, homework, papers, traveling to and from school, etc. I live in a house with my kids, my partner and our four pets. Four pets that require a lot of care and attention. And the house? That requires a lot of attention as well. I have chronic health issues that require appointment to doctors, therapies, medications and the need to sometimes slow down and take care of myself. And this isn’t even mentioning half of the things required daily and those that surprisingly pop up.

I have a lot to do. And, I’m sure, so do you.

It can get overwhelming fairly quickly. The easiest way to not get overwhelmed is, of course, to just not do it. Procrastination. I swear it was invented just for me. But despite the desire to just put things off, many of these things simply must be done.

Here’s one way I manage my procrastination: I make a list. A list?, you say. Yes, a list.

Remember to get some milk. Don’t forget to pick up the prescription! I need to start that paper for school! Laundry needs to be folded… I should email Mary…etc.

When the thoughts of all I need to do are flying through my head…instead of ignoring them, I write a list. I write mine on whatever paper is nearby. I’ve even written them on napkins because that’s what was available in the moment. I jot the items down in shorthand, as they come to me. And once I begin writing it’s not unusual for things to appear that I hadn’t realized I needed to do. Just write.

Once I’ve gotten them all down, I add one more. A simple one. Make a list is a good one. Or an item that I’ve already completed. Trust me here. When I look at a list of things I’ve (quite often) put off for a while, I feel pretty guilty. And horrible. Adding an item that I know I can cross off immediately,  feels good. I truly don’t know why, but putting a line through an item on my to-do list gives me satisfaction. That good feeling often propels me to continue on, if only so I can cross more items off my list.

And then I begin doing them. I don’t go in any kind of order. I just start doing the items on the list, with the ultimate goal to complete them all. If it’s a particularly long list, I likely won’t. If it’s a particularly short list, I also might not complete it. But the point of making a list isn’t to make yourself feel horrible about not “doing it all.” The point of making a list is to, a) organize and visibly see what needs to be done, b) have a sense of accomplishment in completing any of the tasks, and c) get some of what needs to be done completed. Even if you complete one thing, it’s one more than what was completed before!

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist my plan is usually to do everything amazingly well. If I do one thing amazingly well & a few others decently well, I call the day a success.  Some days, if I do one thing even half-way well, I call the day a success. There will always be more things to do, tasks to be completed. For today, see what you can do, right now, in this moment with all the resources you have.

Besides, it feels pretty awesome to cross off completed tasks. 🙂

Taking Care of Yourself

I had my afternoon planned. I was going to find a frame for a picture of my dad from upstairs in my house, I was going to get some schoolwork completed ahead of schedule and I was going to write a blog post here about Triggers. As I was upstairs, looking through a box of frames, one of my cats suddenly screeched, jumped and ran like a bat out of hell over the box of frames and my hand.

My initial feeling was confusion. I didn’t see any reason why she was so suddenly spooked. As I looked down I saw that not only had she scratched my hand to the point of bleeding, but she had scratched the picture of my dad. Three deep scratches entirely through the picture.

You may be thinking, so what?, and not knowing the significance, I wouldn’t blame you. The picture of my dad was actually part of his memorial program from his funeral. I had wanted to frame it so I could look at it daily. As the cuts on my hand began to sting and bleed, I felt angry. And sad. I wanted to scream and yell at my cat. I wanted to throw things. I just didn’t want to feel this way.

Taking a moment to calm down, I took deep breaths and tried to focus. I knew that getting angry and acting on it wouldn’t help the situation. My picture would still be scratched. So would my hand. My cat would still be scared. I decided in that moment to move on. Holding onto any anger would only make things worse. Instead I took another deep breath, sighed heavily out, and went to check on my cat.  She was still quite scared. I still don’t know what scared her but, as my pet, it was my job to calm her down and comfort her.

Coming back down the stairs, still quite a bit frazzled from what happened, I decided to try and see what positive I could find in the situation. I had been running around all morning, doing errands, and was really running on empty. I hadn’t eaten breakfast or lunch. Sure, I was getting things done and being productive, but I wasn’t taking care of myself. I fall into this trap quite often, the trap of taking care of everyone around me and never quite getting to the part where I take care of myself.

So instead of doing all the (very productive) things I had planned for the afternoon, I’m going to make myself some lunch, sit down and eat it, and maybe watch some Sons of Anarchy (such a guilty pleasure!). I can do the other things later on. And I’m not going to feel bad about it. Of course there needs to be a balance in our priorities and what we do, but taking care of ourselves needs to be included in that.

I once heard an analogy that has been labeled the “Oxygen Mask Theory”. It boils down to this:

When you’re on an airplane you’re instructed to put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others in putting on theirs. If you don’t put your own mask on first, you’d likely pass out from lack of oxygen before being able to assist anyone else (your child, your family members, your friends, the guy sitting next to you who can’t figure it out, etc). It makes sense it that context. In day to day life how often to we put the needs of others before the needs of our own?

Yes, everyone matters. And, if you’re like me, you want to help everyone. In anyway you can. But don’t you count as part of “everyone”? Don’t you matter too? On an airplane, putting on your oxygen mask allows you to better help everyone around you. In life, taking time to take care of yourself also allows you to better help everyone around you. This is so important as a parent. Or a social worker. It also serves as an example of what we wish for others to strive to do.

Slow Down, Start Over

Yesterday morning I was already running late. Wednesdays are my busiest, craziest day of the week and I somehow always manage to fall behind. I went upstairs to wake my daughters, only to find E, my 3 year old, standing in the bathroom with an exploded pull-up. An exploded poopy pull-up. Now, if you haven’t ever had to deal with this (and I truly hope you’ve been spared!) let me tell you, it’s…disgusting. Not only did the pull-up explode but there was poop all over her pajamas, her legs and the floor. E needed a shower (which is what you get when you live in a house with no bathtub, but that’s a different story). I got Z, my 7 year old, downstairs to get dressed and ready (not an easy solo task for an easily distracted little girl) and went back upstairs to give E a shower. Of course, E didn’t want to take a shower. After much pressuring, she got in the shower and, 20 minutes later than expected, we all made it (somewhat) ready to the dining room table.

At this point we weren’t just a little late anymore, we were really late. And I still needed to feed them breakfast, put dinner in the crockpot and finish getting ready. I gave them breakfast and started on dinner. When I looked back a moment later, the girls were fooling around and not even at the table. I’m not going to sugar coat it. At this point my patience snapped and I raised my voice to tell them to, “sit at the table, be quiet and eat your breakfast.” One of them started to say something and I cut her off saying, “if it isn’t an emergency, I cannot hear it now.” They sat. They were quiet. And they ate their breakfast. But I felt like shit over how I had handled it.

As I began putting the chicken in the crockpot, piling ingredients on top, I took the moment to slow down and really process what had just happened. Was it worth damaging my relationship with my children to avoid being late? We were going to be late either way. Did it really matter (why I was upset)? Or could I let it go?

I thought it over and, quickly, decided that my relationship with them was of #1 importance. I sat down at the table with my daughters and apologized for raising my voice and being snappy. In doing so I owned up to my mistakes and modeled an appropriate method of resolving them. I asked them if we could all start the morning over, because I didn’t like how I acted and how it went (again, taking responsibility). Unprompted, they both apologized for not listening to instructions and said they would also like to start over and try again.

I work very hard not to raise my voice with my children, as I realize what they must feel when I do so. I don’t like it when someone raises their voice to me. It makes me feel horrible. And small. On the occasion that I slip up and do raise my voice (and, who are we kidding here, it does occasionally happen as stressed out parents) I like to use the Slow Down, Start Over model. It acts as a reset button. And you can use it anytime you wish.

Slow Down, Start Over

  • Slow down. Take a moment by yourself (go to the bathroom if you have to!) and take a few breaths to calm down. Then, process what just happened. Reflect on your own actions. Determine what your priority in the situation is (for me, it was my relationship with my daughters).
  • Own up to your mistakes/behaviors. Take responsibility for your actions. And then apologize.
  • Ask to start over (try again, reset, etc).
  • Let it go. This is important. You really need to let it go and move on. Holding on to feeling of guilt and the like will only cloud the rest of your day. Which you are starting over.
  • Start again, being cognizant to behave as you originally wished you had.

The process of doing this shows kids how to take responsibility for their actions, that mistakes are ok (AND that moms make them too!), to apologize/make ammends, and to let it go so you can try again. It frames mistakes as a method of learning and growth. It can be parent or child initiated. And, many times, it works. After our morning start over the remainder of yesterday went quite well. Yes, we were late, but my children were able to see me as human (instead of the supermom I try to be) and we were able to use it as an opportunity to learn.

Me, Ever Evolving

I’m (still) working on staying in a positive place. In a positive state of mind. In a positive perspective.

I cannot change the world around me. I cannot change the way other people choose to act. Or not act. I cannot change who my family is. Or which of them are alive to be here with me. I cannot change what people think or say about me. I cannot change how the driver on the road in front of me drives. I cannot change the teachers my daughter or I have. I cannot change the weather. I cannot change where I live. I cannot change the bills I have to pay or the things that need to be bought. I cannot change the work I have to do. I cannot change the chores that need to be done. I cannot change the way my kids react to situations. I cannot change the choices of others.

I can change how I deal with it. And how I view it. And how I react. I can change what I do. Nothing more.

“Life is not a matter of having good cards, but of playing a poor hand well” – Robert L Steve

I’m working consciously every day to do this. My world isn’t going to change any other way. And in doing so I am starting to see things as looking up.Last week the home daycare my girls go to needed to close for the day last minute, due to the death of a family friend. In the past I might have gotten worked up and anxious about it, jumping ahead to all the what-if’s without even allowing myself to process. Instead, I looked at my calender, saw I didn’t have anything I had to do sans children and simply told the provider that I was sorry for her loss. No panic. No worry. That day I kept E, my 3 year old daughter, home with me and we watched a movie and painted our nails. Later she helped me make bagels into pizza for lunch and chili for dinner. Nothing had changed except how I chose to look at the situation.

On Saturdays the girls take swimming lessons at the Y, with a 1/2 hour break in between the timing of their lessons. It’s usually a struggle and quite stressful. But last week I brought coloring books, workbooks and colored pencils.  Z, my 7 year old daughter, and I walked down the street to get some coffee/steamed milk for everyone while B, my partner of almost 7 years, stayed at the Y with E while she swam. It was the last class of the session and E did so well in the Pike level of swimming that she was been moved up to the next level (Eel) for the next session! This will work out much better for us because now their lessons will be one after another, instead of a 1/2 hour break in between. Instead of what could have been a stressful morning, I was able to feel more relaxed due to planning and going into the situation positively.

I’ve been thinking more about what I need and want. It still feels really selfish most of the time but I need to take care of me in order to begin feeling like I’m moving in some direction (hopefully toward happiness!). Currently I’m in the Human Services Social Work transfer program at my community college. I’ve already completed an AA in Early Childhood Education. I want to transfer after graduating to earn my BS but hadn’t really looked too deeply into it. Mostly out of fear. This week I met with the transfer counselor to find out when Elms College (where I’d like to transfer to) is sending a rep to the community college so I can meet with them. I’ve also been looking into financial aid and scholarships, since Elms is expensive. I was looking through the Elms website and noticed that Elms College offers merit-based scholarships to transfer students, noticeably the Elms Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship that is offered to students that have been inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society (the scholarship is pretty hefty at $8-10k a year!).

In further researching Phi Theta Kappa I learned you need a 3.6 GPA to be invited to join. So I am now working to get my GPA up to a 3.6 (from a 3.549) so I can get admitted to Phi Theta Kappa. This means I need a 4.0 from here out at the community college, though if I retake a class I previously had earned a C grade in and received a B+ or A, that would significantly help my GPA. I likely will retake that class since it’s a 100 level class and I took it in 2002 when I honestly (and unfortunately) didn’t care much about my education.

I’ve been attending a weekly DBT class since the beginning of 2011. It’s structured in modules, each covering two topics and lasting 11-12 weeks. I’ve found the class itself and the skills taught to be quite helpful and very likely helping in my growth. I was upset that I had to drop out of the last module due to time constraints but I’m really glad I could take this current module. I hope to begin sharing some of the skills I have learned in DBT here.

All in all, I feel better. It’s not perfect. I still cry when certain songs come on the radio. Or when I’m watching sappy kids movies with the girls. Or when I think of my dad (who passed away in November of 2010). I don’t know that those things will ever change though. But I’m choosing to look at them differently. It is what it is and nothing more. Making it anything more than me crying at a song (etc) just makes that feeling bigger than it truly is and allows me to get stuck in it. I don’t want to get stuck feeling like that. Instead I will try to ride it like a wave, to just let it come and wash over me, to experience it, to acknowledge it. And then to let it go.