Dads You Matter Too

Dads are typically overlooked when it comes to raising kids, but many of us know that without the great and positive men in our lives, we would just not be who we are. Dating back only a few short decades it was normal to think of the words “Parent” and “Mother” as synonymous.

According to previous social standards, dad’s sole purpose within a family was simply to provide and protect. Mom, on the other hand, was known to be the housekeeper, child-barer, and care taker. Due to this overwhelmingly inaccurate ideal that men were not meant to raise children, there was a stigma, that has since been challenged, that men could not be a stay at home parent or be an active member in the raising of a child.

In the 1970’s, research on fathers and parenting started coming to light. There were studies that showed that there is a direct correlation in paternal parenting to the positive impacts of emotional, social, and education development. It is actually affirmed that fathers spend more time practicing stimulation, playful activity during one-on-one interactions with infants and children than mothers do, increasing the child ability to regulate feelings and behaviors.

Fathers who have a positive involvement in their children’s lives:

  • Aid in the well-being and general health of their children.

  • Help their children increase self-esteem.

  • Help girls to grow up having a more positive opinion of men, making healthy relationships come easily to them in the future compared to those who do not.

  • Help boys establish what a great male role model and father figure are for their own future families.

Aside from the facts and the statistics, dads are awesome.

They are the first ones to teach us things like sports and roughhousing. They push you to play your hardest and work your hardest just to be the best version of you that you can be. They have the best (worst) jokes and somehow instinctually know how to rock a barbeque grille the moment their first child is born. There is no car problem they cannot fix and no heart they cannot mend. At the end of the day, we know they are human and maybe sometimes make mistakes, but we love them anyways. Thank you to all the awesome dads out there. We wouldn’t have known what it’s like to have the world’s best hamburger if it wasn’t for you!

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New Mommy Love

The things we “forget” to talk about as new moms:

Moms have a lot on their plate and soon-to-be moms are no exception. There are a lot of things that we just don’t talk about when it comes to motherhood, pregnancy, and childbirth. But, why? Why is it so difficult for us to have conversations about these things? Where are these unwritten rules that we should let a mother figure this all out on her own?

It is important to expend all of our efforts in helping every mother be the best version of themselves. After all, this new journey is no walk in the park. Being a mom is hard work and the more help you get, the better off you, your mental health, and your baby will be.

Here are important concepts moms wish they would have known before they became pregnant:

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are real and are not Baby Blues.

Research is now proving that if you have untreated depression or anxiety or a predisposition to depression or anxiety to seek therapy as a precaution. The chances of depression or anxiety returning during your prenatal or postpartum stages are high. Make sure you are in touch with your thoughts and recognize that feelings of sadness, guilt, loneliness and fatigue are related to depression. As well as thoughts related to past negative events and loss of pleasure in things you would typically enjoy. Also, be attentive to negative what if scenario thoughts related to parenting and motherhood. Feelings of extreme fear, worry or panic are also a red flag.

Your body will never be the same.

One new mom stated, “you look at yourself in the mirror one day and you are a normal woman, the next day you are growing a human being inside you. Then, you’re a mother with stretch marks and saggy skin. I know it’s a beautiful and incredible thing, but I wish looking myself in the mirror to tell myself ‘It’s okay. It will all be okay.’ was something someone could have prepared me for. No matter how strong you are, it is something that is a true battle.”

Some women struggle with self-image, others struggle with loneliness, being left alone for significant amounts of time with the baby when their significant other goes back to work. It is important to know that these feelings are normal. It is important to know you are not alone and other people go through these feelings.

It is easy to lose touch with your significant other.

All of a sudden the dynamic changes. No more late-nights and parties, all of a sudden your whole world revolves around a baby. Your significant other now sees you in a way they never have before, having to help you go to the bathroom and having leaky breasts. These are not things either of you have experienced so it’s normal to want to push them away or reevaluate the dynamic you once had. It’s important to give yourselves time as a couple to reconnect and find time to remember why you fell in love in the first place.

Taking time for yourselves does not make you a bad parent, it allows you to keep a healthy relationship and loving environment for your new addition.

Even though you may have heard about these things before you experience them, you still may not be prepared when the time comes. Talking about it can help you better prepare for the changes you are about to encounter. Mama, you are never alone.

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Infertility Does Not Define You

1 in 8 couples will have trouble conceiving a baby, that means 1 in 8 of your family members and friend group. That is too many people to even count, yet why do we feel all alone when we can not grow our family? Instead of talking, sharing and learning to empower each other we create guilt, fear and shame that does not allow us to grow. Infertility does not have to define you or hold you back, your worth is not based on your ability to have a baby.

So what is infertility?

According to the Office of Women’s Health, for women under the age of 35, infertility is defined by not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying. If you are over the age of 35, it is categorized by 6 months of trying. In the United Sates, about 10% of women between the ages of 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here are some common Misconceptions about infertility:

It is the woman’s fault.

This is not always the case. In fact, about 1/3 of infertility cases are due to maternal factors and 1/3 are due to paternal factors. The other third of problems regarding infertility are unknown or caused by a mixture of both.

Most people can conceive whenever they want.

In fact, according to the Fertility Specialist Medical group, it is normal for even two perfectly healthy, fertile people to try for a few months to get pregnant. Over five million Americans of child bearing age have some sort of issues with fertility in their lifetime.

Infertility means you cannot have a child.

Infertility only means that you have been unsuccessful in conceiving a child naturally after one year of trying. In today’s society, with the help of modern medicine, the majority of people who seek help and are given the proper treatment do go on the have children.

Now, because infertility is typically a private thing, you may not know that your sister, cousin, friend, brother, aunt, uncle, niece or nephew is struggling with the stress of not being able to conceive. Therefore, it is important that we stay impartial to those who may be having a hard time.

There is no reason to place stress on couples to grow their family.

Questions like, “So, when should we be expecting a new member?” or “You’ve been together for a while, why haven’t you gotten pregnant yet?” can be extremely painful questions.

Parenthood is a transition into adult life for men and women individually, as well as a couple. Being unable to have a child can lead to serious negative emotions like anxiety, depression, and anger which can ultimately lead into marital problems and social isolation.

Couples that are going through this may feel burdened by the ideas of stigmatization and diminishing self-esteem. This is why empathy is so important.

If someone you know reaches out to you about their struggles with infertility, here are a few things you should NOT do:

Offer recommendations.

Unless you are an expert on the subject, chances are you will offer the same advice google did, which can be extremely stressful and redundant. Sometimes offering an ear is the best you can do.

Be overly expressive about your own pregnancy.

Although it is great for you to be excited for yourself, this is sensitive for others. If you know someone who is dealing with this, it may be difficult for you to share your good news with them. If they are your friend, you can still tell them, just in a more sensitive manner. Instead of bursting with joy over the phone, maybe reach out over dinner and casually let them know, including the fact that you do not want to upset them but rather keep them in the loop.

Be dismissive.

Saying things like “It will work itself out.” Or “You’re still so young!” can make someone feel as though their feelings are inadequate. Instead, offer support and let them know you are around to help if they ever need it.

Just remember, you don’t always know what is going on behind closed doors. You don’t always know what people are battling. Be cautious with what you say to couples who do not have children (or are trying for a second) and try to just listen.

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Make Change Happen

Routines are hard to maintain. They are healthy because they keep us organized and help us maintain some sense of normalcy. But what happens when there is a glitch in our routine? What happens when we have to make a change?

Now, change can be a very broad term. We can change many things like the color of our hair, the clothes we wear, the way we act or even the way we think.

Each form of change comes with one common factor: the unknown.

Every time we make a change we take a risk, no matter how small or how noticeable this change may be. The changes that are the hardest to make though are those that come from within, rather than those that appear on the outside. Working to make an inner change is hard and it is completely normal to not know where to start or how to go about it.

Let’s talk about some examples of what making an inner change looks like.

It is healthy for us to notice our negative qualities and want to adjust them.

A bad trait we sometimes have is addressing ourselves with a negative tone. By this I mean you wake up in the morning, get ready for work, walk past a mirror and think “yikes” to yourself as you walk out the door because you’ve had better hair days before and today was just not cutting it.

We can start by taking baby steps toward the changes we wish to make that will create an overall happier version of ourselves.

Step 1: Identify the problem. What is causing you to be upset? When you go through your daily routine, take note of the things that make your day better and of the things that make you feel uncomfortable. By identifying the underlying causes of our feelings and insecurities, it becomes easier to change these behaviors slowly over time.

Step 2: Create a plan to make things better. If you notice every day you do happen to be that person that tells yourself you don’t look that great when you walk out the door in the morning, make it a priority to find something about you that you DO like. Look at yourself and find one thing to compliment. This will help build self-esteem and help us realize that no one is perfect so we must love our imperfections.

Step 3: Surround yourself with support. If you feel uncomfortable around a group of people, you feel like they are not good for your mental health, find a way to fix it. This does not always mean kicking people out of your life or cutting them off but, instead, try to find other grounds to talk about, other common factors. Learn to listen, rather than talk for a more positive outcome.

Step 4: Maintain a routine. Once we have identified the things we wish to change and come up with a plan to enact this change within our daily lives, we must find a way to keep the positivity prevalent.

As I’ve said before, being human is hard. It is not always easy to know right from wrong. It is not always clear what steps we should take to make ourselves feel happier. Change is ultimately inevitable. So, if we can learn how to maintain a sense of normalcy while going through a change that we decide on, it will make it easier to cope with the changes in our lives that are out of our control.

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Self-Growth is a Steady Journey

This week I decided I needed to take my own advice.

As I have been writing about self-care, self-growth and the preservation of the love we have for our own selves, I came to the realization that these things are much easier said than done. I looked in the mirror and saw someone I love, but she’s not quite present on the surface. The part of me that loves myself to the fullest potential was hiding somewhere deep within.

So, the question stands:

How do I find the version of me that is capable of loving myself, and others, to my fullest potential?

Well, first I had to figure out what was shadowing me and what it was that was dimming my light. This was not easy. This came with tears and telling myself some things that I had been pushing behind me for a long while now. I thought about why I felt like I am not good enough, why I felt like I need someone else to love me, for me to love myself, and why I allow the opinion of others to affect my mood and cloud the lens that I see the world through. Ironically, the answers were simple.

Some very hard questions that revolve around a simple explanation:

I was afraid.

I was afraid that the negative people that surround me are, in fact, right. I was afraid that the ME I see every day in the mirror is not the version of me others perceive. I was afraid that I will never get my happy ending.

This, though, is negative self-talk; something we may acknowledge but ultimately want to stay away from. There is no good reason to consistently try to believe the negative accusations that you direct at yourself.

So, I joined a yoga class. In my practice I focused fully on my breath and my intension. I brought those negative feelings in with me and I let them melt away through my pores as I went through the flow of Vinyasa.

By the end of my practice that day, the stress and anxiety that filled my head and my heart had calmed down and I finally felt grounded for the time being.

After this I suggested connecting with loved ones. So, that is what I did. I met my sister for dinner and we talked about irrelevant topics like school and how we want to redecorate our rooms. A day that started so wound up and uncomfortable turned slowly into a calm, comfortable conversation.

The last step is to set a goal. I am often very busy and find myself feeling overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities so I had to truly think about what I needed. I needed to feel comfortable in my own skin. I needed to be calm and collected while I navigate my day. I needed to show myself that I am capable of giving my body and mind more love than it has been receiving.

With that being said, I set two goals:

My first goal is to attend at least four yoga classes a week. These classes will help me become more in-tune with my physical self, helping me feel grounded in the process.

My second goal is to make time for breakfast every day. I do not always have time for more then a coffee and a quick bite on the go. Changing this routine will not only help adjust my health and eating habits it will become a healthier alternative for my mental stability and sleep cycle by creating a routine and forcing myself to make time for one specific thing each day.

I have been active in following through with these goals for two weeks now. After a week of this routine I felt better. My mind had found a safe space and I began to understand how much I had truly been neglecting myself.

After two weeks, I am thrilled. I have started to see changes in my physical self and I am finally focused on creating a better me for ME, not for others. My path may not be the right path for you, everyone is different, but I encourage you to find one.

As the wise Buddha once said, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”

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