To All the Mothers…

10 Incredible Motherhood Quotes to Make Mom Feel Amazing:

Mother’s Day 2010 forever changed my feelings regarding this day. I would like to say that I can look at each year as a new and different experience and I believe for the most part, I do that with other aspects of life. Unfortunately, Mother’s Day has remained a negatively tainted day for me that brings a tinge of pain and sadness. For the last 6 years, I have managed my feelings and worked at looking at this day for what it should be – honoring mothers and all that we do while embracing our children who have made us who we are. It has been a personal journey for me that I do not share with others. And, yet, the last week and a half, I have had many women come in for their sessions and a few friends express disdain for this holiday. I came across two women yesterday that when asked how their Mother’s Day was, looked at me with ambivalence. Nothing special. And, although people make all attempts to make this day special for their loved ones, I came to the realization, that mothers yearn for so much more than what this day offers. In talking with several women, none of who know how I personally navigate through my own feelings this day, shared a sense of sadness they always feel despite how their family tries to acknowledge what they do and the residual feelings that linger after. But, here’s the problem – why is it that there is ONE day in which all those around us reflect upon the sacrifices mothers make day in and day out? One day to reflect on the daily grind and the pains, joys, and intricacies that make our jobs more than a job. One day to acknowledge that we, too, need to be cared for and looked at the way we care for and look at our children. This day is almost condescending despite its well intentions. It was even more difficult as I sat there in church and listened to a pastor struggle with how to incorporate Mother’s Day into his homily, considering it is a “secular” holiday. WHAT? Mother’s Day is not a secular holiday and it shouldn’t be minimized to a hallmark day, either. It is a day in which we should honor the women in our lives, as it biblically states we should. The Bible actually states we should honor our mothers (and fathers). This is not an instruction to do just ONE day out of the year, but always! Mother’s Day should be a reminder in how we should honor the women we care for everyday and not take advantage of all the aspects it takes to be who we are.

Who are we? We are women who have miraculously created a home for a growing human in our own bodies and then, throw away our misconceived notion of what we believe our bodies should or should not be like. We are women who despite having not eaten, will feed their children first and sometimes, with our own bodies because it no longer belongs to us. We are women who do not sleep for fear of the unknown and because our children will be forever implanted in our dreams and sometimes, nightmares. A woman whose dreams no longer about herself, but about her family. A woman who has lost the ability to contain emotions because her children make her vulnerable with laughter, joy, pain, and tears. We are women who despite self-doubt, mommy-guilt, and sadness, are strong and beautiful and brave. And, there is not a holiday that can define or dictate how others view our role in this world. Our role in our world is carried through everyday that we care for and love our children (and spouses) because we do not only carry our children for nine months, we carry them forever.

So, for all the women who have felt sadness since Mother’s Day and continue to reflect negatively on what we are not or what we do not have, I would like to share three quotes from men I follow on Instagram that reminded me that I am so much more than Mother’s Day – I am someone important,  who makes a difference everyday:

Mark Hart @biblegeek shared this beautiful message about his wife: “Heaven sends us Mothers that we may have an earthly reflection of God’s heavenly love. There really are no words to describe how blessed our kids are to have this gorgeous soul as their Mother. She is a picture of grace, constant in her love and patient with them (and me) to depths I can only pray to one day achieve. She is a woman after Mary’s own heart.”

Ryan Frederick @fiercemarriage wrote: “Fathers have unique access to their children’s hearts. Their tender love and intentional leadership can build confidence and instill character like nothing else. On the other hand, harsh words and emotional distance can devastate even the most resilient kids. Men…husbands…fathers, the most immediate and potentially impactful way you can love your children is by loving their mother well. They watch, they listen, and they feel the way you love her. They hear how you speak about her when she’s not around. They learn how you respect her by observing directly – even when you don’t think they’re watching. They see how you love her when she’s hurting, after you’ve had an argument, and when you laugh together. Husbands, love your bride with everything you got. Give yourself up for her, sacrifice your agenda if it means serving her more selflessly. …. Love her fiercely always.”

Mark on @Kellyejensen “hacked” his wife’s account to glorify her by saying, “This girl…is the love of my life. The best mother I know. She is more loving, patient, kind, hopeful, supportive, beautiful, fun, cool, adventurous, wise, and exciting than the kids and I deserve. She is our rock. She takes time every day to think of each of us, what we need, how to connect, how to love us. She teaches me everyday how to be a better man, husband, father, and person. I am beyond blessed to call her my wife and best friend. I just wanted to say (mainly because I never say it outside the confines of our home) that I love her. Am grateful for her. Am impressed by her everyday.”

To all the mothers out there who question their worth and haven’t stopped mulling over their emotions from a weekend ago – these three men have just validated that what we do is not just important on one day, but has affected them all year round and has molded their families to be better than yesterday and to be great tomorrow.

Charise

 

Acknowledge Your Spouse!!

If you were like the other millions of people in the country, you watched Kobe Bryant’s last basketball game. At the end of the game, when he was given the floor to address his fans, he thanked his wife for all the sacrifices she has made in holding down the fort at home, so that he could flourish in his professional career. In my opinion, it was the most memorable thing he said that evening. Many female clients enviously share there sadness when they read other husbands post endearing comments that acknowledge all that their wives do for the family. My female friends gawk with mush whenever they hear a husband praise their wife in a public forum. I believe that women’s intense reaction to this type of praise is because the vocation of being a wife and mother has become marginalized to a reality show of  “Real Housewives.” So,  it pleases me to see and hear more men acknowledge the work women actually do.

As always, I would like to make clear, this is not a woman versus man post. I will be the first to recognize and acknowledge what many men do to provide and support their families. If anything, living in Orange County, I have found myself praise more men for what they do for their families as they drive the term of success to an extreme level. This post is for the women who take their vocation seriously. Men are inherently hunters. They go out, they work, and they are called by most of society to provide. That being said, I have seen numerous times, men who are traveling more than their fathers and grandfathers before them, simply to provide more. I have seen men work harder and more hours without boundaries of leaving work at work. I have seen men juggle more than one job. All praise to them for hunting and making the sacrifices. However, we often times see that the work of the woman at home has been minimized simply because they are “at home.” This is false in every facet. I am a professional woman. I am also an “at home” and single mom when my husband is away at work. And, I can honestly say that I am more exhausted being with my children for the entire weekend than I am working a full week. I was taught by my mother and grandmother, that a wife keeps her home as an honorable and respectable sanctuary for which your husband provides so that they can come home to peace after a long day’s work. Thus, I make sure that when my husband comes home late, my home is spotless and the kids are taken care of. He does not have to worry about dishes, lunches for the next day, clothes, homework, school and scheduling issues, and the home is vacuumed, cleaned, and countertops are cleared so that his home is a place in which he can hopefully relax. This requires A LOT of efficiency, organization, focus, energy, patience, and juggling of different personalities and needs (in my case, FOUR!) Now, I am not asking for praise because I love being the “woman of the house” and despite being a feminist, I am a traditional wife and mother who takes my role in their lives with more weight than I would like. HOWEVER, as I often see in couples counseling, much of the complaints from both husband and wife, have been the lack of appreciation. Many wives feel that their husbands don’t recognize what they do in order to keep the household stable while their husbands are at work. So, my solution, and what I advise my clients to do is to express gratitude everyday for something your spouse does, no matter how big or small. When we focus on the positive attributes of our spouse and when we acknowledge what our spouse does on a daily basis, we are more appreciative of not only our roles in our household, but also our relationships.

Women, at least the ones I surround myself with or read about, are not reluctant to praise their husbands. However, men, for whatever reason, are not always cognizant of what is done when they are away. They minimize scheduling; chauffeuring; planning; re-educating ourselves on word math problems; talking about constant worries, needs, and stressors that the kids are disclosing to us; being mindful that our everyday choices with our children mold and develop their character; and for some of us working women, that we too, contribute to the household financially. I often times see women want to “give up” and it’s not because of the workload. It is because of  the lack of acknowledgement for what women do that has not been weighed as importantly as that of a man’s role in the household.

So, for all of you who need a daily reminder, I would suggest that you follow fiercemarriage.com . They remind us daily of how to be a better spouse to one another. Their Instagram and blog has been a wonderful place to reflect upon our vocation as a husband or wife and I am an avid fan.

Charise

The Day I had a Panic Attack When My Daughter Said She Wanted to be Just Like Me!!

Let’s be truthful. I am a pretty good actress. I am not boasting – My husband will reassure you this is true and my daughter validated this thought not too long ago. I walk out of my home looking put together. I present calm and collected. I speak well. I manage my emotions to the point where people believe I am so confident that insecurities are non-existent. My head is high, chin up, shoulders back and I look like I have my sh*t together. I follow through with responsibilities and people say I make it look easy. But, let’s be real. I am a true definition of a HOT MESS!!! My insides often times feel like they are going to burst out of my skin. My brain is constantly compartmentalizing my life. My emotions…well, let’s just say that my journey through peri-menopause give “Hot Mess” its definition.

That being said, I am well aware and intuned to my shortcomings. I am self-reflective to a fault. I am constantly trying to redirect my life to a place I wish it was. I am my own worst enemy despite years of practicing positive self-talk. I will get down on myself more than anyone else to the point that my friends believe I am beyond neurotic for bringing self-depracation to a new level. However, this is a part of me that stays hidden within the confines of my over-exploding brain. And so, when I discovered that I was pregnant with my first daughter, anxiety and fear shot through me so fast that I just about fainted. All I could do through my pregnancy was go into “functioning mode” about how to prepare for my daughter’s life so that she doesn’t grow up to be me or have traits that I despise in myself. God forbid that I have countertransference with my own child because she carries the same traits that I loathe in myself! And then, my daughter was born and I loved her like no other. I was going to make it so that she wouldn’t experience the same insecurities I do. You know, because we can control all of that!!

Now, I must say, I believe that I do the best I can with my three daughters. I keep my issues separate and see them for them. I try to raise them to feel empowered and work on developing their character. And, then one day, my beautiful, hard-working, kind, loving daughter was crying and BAM – the world and God slapped me across the face and woke me up with a moment of sheer unrequested humility! She was crying and upset with herself (because the apple truly doesn’t fall far from the tree) and said….”Mommy, I just want to be like YOU. I want to be successful, have it together, and perfect.”

AAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

I fell down to my knees, letting my daughter see my tears fall down my face, as I grabbed her and held her. The first things that came out of my mouth was, “NO! I don’t want you to be like me!” I had to be quick on my feet and not make this about me. Thankfully, my therapist brain turned on and it was a heart-to-heart dialogue that was about honesty and mommy’s real struggles to keep it together and that perfection is not something to attain as a substantial goal. I affirmed her that all her positive traits are what makes her so lovable. She is not called to be her mother or anyone else. She is called to be the kind, smart, talented, faithful, and yes, beautiful girl she is. She is not to compare herself to anyone else but herself. “This sweety, is a life long journey and an area in which I still work on in my life regulary.” The manner in how I normalized her feelings and reassured her that her “perfect” mommy is not perfect, but rather can associate with her, made her regress into my baby as she retreated into a fetal position in my arms. Little did she know that I was talking as much to myself as I was her!

What did I learn from this evening other than I wished I had my psychiatrist colleagues number’s on speed dial for myself? I learned that when I feel like I simply can’t pull it together or are self-doubting, that it is OK for my daughters to see it. It is healthy for my daughters to see me struggling with something and that I can’t do everything. This is a way for my daghters to connect with me when I am honest about how hard my day was or when I have made mistakes. Should they still see me work hard? Yes. Should they still see me pull up my bootstraps when I am feeling depressed? Yes. Should they still see me contained and present as though I am fearless when I walk out my door? Absolutely! My daughters should see that I am multi-faceted not just for their sake, but mine. Lesson learned.

My Pride and Joy

My Pride and Joy

And the most heartwarming validation after feeling like a horrible mother who inadvertantly placed unacknowledged pressure on my daughter? – The following day, my sweet daughter put a picture of myself on her screensaver. She gave me a hug and said, “I don’t care what you say, mommy, I still want to be just like you even when you don’t like yourself.” I heard you God. I heard you – I have eased up on myself. Ok, I’m trying anyway…

Charise

When Death is Too Overwhelming

And in His will is our peace – Dante

Let’s face it – January has been a month of grief. Everytime I turn on the news, I hear of someone’s passing. Add to it the reality of who we live amongst, and we have encountered clients, colleagues, peers, and family who is grieving someone’s death. One person even expressed, “Ok, January – enough with the deaths! It’s too much.”

There are deaths that occur everyday. There are some that have an incredibly profound impact on us. More than 90% of the time I counsel clients dealing with grief, they ask, “When will I get over this?” My response is always the same – “You won’t. No one gets ‘over’ death. They get through it.” This is part of why death becomes overwhelming. When celebrities die, there is somewhat of a disconnect because we were not proactively engaged in their lives. However, when someone we loved dies, it is difficult to process the positives, negatives, lessons to be learned, after life questions, and all the other issues that surround our process of grief. I have attended many funerals. I have even planned my own. Morbid? Maybe. But, I have. It is something personal for me as there are specific things I want for when I leave this earth. What may be more morbid? I have assigned clients and students to write their own obituary. Why? Because death is a time of reflection. Reflection on life. Reflection on that person. AND, reflection of ourselves. This, in and of itself, is overwhelming. Whenever someone passes away, I always take the opportunity to reflect on the admirable traits that person had. I then, internalize it to the point where I make it an opportunity for me to grow in those traits. Everyone leaves something behind. And, I want all that is good in people to be projected and reflected in who I continue to be on this immortal journey we are living.

So, when death becomes overwhelming, stop. Breathe. Reflect. That person was in your life (directly or indirectly) for a reason. What will you take from it? Some may say, that I am simplifying death. Maybe so. But, I am not uncomfortable with death simply because of my own personal faith. It is a concept or a reality of how I can feel at peace, knowing that we are all here temporarily. The overwhelming aspect of death is knowing that our senses will be physically missing someone we care for. But, our senses and our ability to implement the beauty in others that have gone before us, is what continues beautiful legacies.

via

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Charise

 

Is Being Merciful on Your New Year’s Resolution List?

Happy New Year!! Many of you know that I don’t necessarily participate in New Year’s Resolution Lists. I can appreciate them and I recognize that for many people, the beginning of the year brings a sense of motivation. I make a resolution list every day, week, month…but, constantly hearing and reading various different resolutions throughout the last few days has been good in keeping myself motivated, positive, and strong for our journey to self-actualization.

The last couple of months, I have processed and reflected on my life quite differently. I am a therapist. I am a friend. I am a daughter. A sister. A mother. A wife. All multi-faceted aspects of me that direct my everyday life to always provide care and compassion for another person. And, I am proud of this. But, when Pope Francis declared 2016 as the year of Mercy, for some reason, I was processing this differently.  For an entire year, I trained myself to pray unceasingly and the focus was on the Jesus Prayer – “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.” My brain prays it repeatedly (especially on days when I am particularly tired of motherhood and irritated with wife-hood!!) It is my mantra, if you will. Mercy was my focus that year because it was the year I did missionary work. Despite it being the most emotionally difficult year of my life, I was able to stop and “smell the roses.” It was easy – standing still in the mountains, overlooking the various lakes and meadows, being hosted by some of the most gracious people in their most exquisite homes. I could not help but grow in humility, accountability, and grace when spending a year with other missionaries doing self-less work. And, yet, that is when we notice ourselves in our selfishness. It was easy to ask God for mercy as I traveled the country. But, as a professional adult who is a wife and mother, the only time I have found myself to “stop” is when I am soaking in my children’s laughter or smelling their sweetness when they sleep, or recording their singing and playing in my memory bank. So, when Pope Francis declared 2016 as the year of Mercy, I could not help but wonder why I could not stop any other time throughout my life. This is what I concluded after much reflection in my prayer time…

The latin word of “mercy” is misericordia. It is derived from two words: misereri, meaning “to have pity on” or “compassion for” and cor, meaning “heart.” The essence of mercy is not an emotional one, rather behavioral  – to help another with kindness and share in their misery, so to help or “rescue” them. I feel this is easy for me – to be merciful to others. To extend compassion and kindness. But, it can be difficult as we grow older and we are constantly faced with struggles, conflicts, stressors, and interpersonal relationships that challenge us. Every family has their struggles, mine included. And when reflecting upon mercy and my morning prayers, I felt compelled to redirect my thoughts. I do not lack in feeling grateful. However, I definitely feel a lack of people feeling grateful for me. With family conflicts, I have found myself taking steps back, being merciful if you will, for years – accomodating, navigating my own personality around other people, appropriately disassociating from judgment, accepting negativity because others don’t necessarily know how to exhibit affirmation and affection comfortably, etc. I found myself being merciful towards everyone. I could not “stop to smell the roses” and feel God’s mercy despite my constant prayer. Why? My conclusion was that I did not extend that same grace of mercy towards myself as I did others. I cannot expect people, my family, in-laws, colleagues to be merciful upon my sad heart, if I could not extend that same compassion towards myself.

So, from a spiritual perspective, I have focused on how to become more merciful – to myself. From a psychological perspective, this makes sense because unless we can take care of ourselves and treat ourselves with honor and respect, we cannot be that for others.

Is being merciful on your New Year’s Resolution List?

Charise