How do you want to be perceived as a mother?

Earlier this week I gave a talk to 20 or so women— it was more me doing what I love doing best, facilitating deep and real conversation. 

I asked them to share one word that described motherhood as well as what gets in the way of being present. From there they dove right in. Really enjoying the space to talk openly about how they are REALLY experiencing mothering. And not just 'positive' and 'negative'. Just the truth without judgment. So important. When we can lessen the judgement, we get unstuck and feel less alone.

We often don't allow ourselves to share the hard stuff and the great stuff because we don't want to be perceived as...ungrateful, selfish, negative, bragging or too happy. 

This is a great little exercise...ask yourself this:

I don't want to be perceived as ______.
I want to be perceived as ________. 

Being aware of your train of thought is huge. 

All this to say, I acknowledge you and all that you are doing as a parent. No matter where this finds you and where you are at. Please know that you are supported, not only by me rooting you on, but by something much bigger. 

We share this big blue sky. You're never alone.

On this Mother's Day, may you acknowledge all that is real and true for you. The grief of what you may have lost or what may have been. And the joy of what is right in front of you. 

Mama of a sensitive child? You're not alone.

In this six minute video, I share an example from our epic morning and a few things you can do to bounce back from a less than desirable moment. Of course, with the foundational belief that at any given moment, we are all doing the best that we can with the amount of stress, support and sleep available to us. 

When things are intense, I often judge and call my daughter names—mostly in my head and once in awhile, something slips. And of course, I am not happy with losing it on my daughter, mostly because I want her to know that her sensitivity is a gift rather than a fault. And yet it triggers me oh so much!  

So I imagine like you, I'm consciously shifting patterns and habits, so that I can be there for my daughters, the way I like for people to be there for me when I'm at my worst. With some inner work, I now get triggered less and can bounce back quicker. What does this do? It maintains the connection and trust between me and the other person, despite the intensity of the previous moment. So there's hope and progress. One step forward, two steps back. 

What does it mean for us when we aren't calm and collected and lose our shit?

Initially we may believe we are 'bad mothers'. I know I used to judge myself and feel so much shame. I only admitted my secrets to my husband; now I feel more comfortable sharing with others because I don't believe in 'bad mothers'. Simply tired, unskilled, imperfect moms. That's not wrong. It's part of the experience. We will be tired. We will make mistakes. We will develop skills.  You can join our free and beautiful space of strong, smart and conscious mothers in the Gray Mothering Collective. I could tell you some stories too perhaps if we ever talk 1:1. Either way, don't do this alone. It's better together. 
 

 Free community space. Click to join.

Free community space. Click to join.

It is possible to judge less and take it as an opportunity to learn and understand what is going on. At each stage and age, we are going to be triggered and grow. I'm not sure we have much choice. 

If anything I've said resonates, than let me know in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Five ways to think about the dark

Often in our society people over-focus on the "positive' and of course, I'm a silver lining kind of person. However, there is much need for the dark as well. It scares people to look at their shit. And I get it. It also takes special kind of people to truly be there and not fix, judge or give advice. The lighter you want to be, the more essential it is to navigate through the dark and shed some of that heaviness.    

"We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men and women are afraid of the light".
—Attributed to Plato

Now I'm not sure it's always easy to tolerate our kids' fears, however what stops us from truly being there for them and being the kind of parent, spouse, friend we want to be, is that we are actually getting in our own way. Maybe not always. But often. I've done a shit ton of inner work and it's ever-evolving as new storms come and test the skills I've learned (awareness, compassion, trust, surrender, acceptance, empathy, boundaries to name a few). 

So if you're still reading, good for you! Have you noticed that I love introspection and depth.  As we start winter and the holiday season, you may also have other stuff simmering beneath the surface. Irritation. Blah. Overload. 

And another layer deeper. Grief, envy, shame. Conscious or not. We all have it. 

Here are five ways of thinking about the dark. Whether for a moment or an extended time.   

1. Everyone has shit to work through. 

That's not to minimize or compare our own experiences. Simply, there is comfort in knowing you are not alone even though your shit is unique to you.

2. It *can* be transmuted into medicine.

Know that there is more than one way to look at things. Often we think of dark as being 'bad/negative/wrong'. It's not. At least not until you shift things. 

3. Use your allies.  

Often we avoid looking at our shit because it feels uncomfortable, unsafe and frankly not somewhere we want to be. Nor do we know how to change old habits and generational patterns. Or understand why it's important. Until you find something or someone that can reflect the light you have within so you can find your way.

4.  It's cyclical.

The dark is less scary when we know there will be light. And there will be dark and light after that. Obvious, I know. And sometimes we forget. Especially when we can't "see". 

5. Facing the dark has its benefits.

When we go deeper and shine a light on all the thoughts, feelings and patterns we'd rather keep hidden, even though not always fun, we unlock a power within and lessen the control it has over our lives. Think more calm under pressure. Permission to be you— imperfections, failures and all. Being less triggered and overreactive.

Of course, two steps forward, one (or three in my case) steps back ;)

Maybe you know this or you have no idea what I'm talking about, either way, I'm sending you loads of light and love as we celebrate the first day of winter. 

Lynne xo

P.S. Simplicity group starts Jan 11-Feb 1 (4 week series)!
You can register here.

A perfect time to talk about "getting back to basics and focusing on what really matters".  

Folks who have completed simplicity series will be invited into The Gray Mothering Collective deep dive that starts in February. More details to come. How does Triggers + Trust sound for a title?

 

2017 Fall Simplicity Parenting Series

The fall is a time of transition and change— something that we can count on in life. The thing that I have found that has helped me through the ebb and flow of life (read: ups and downs) is not only to trust and let go of doing it someone else's way, but slowing the fuck down. Which takes some conscious effort and a bit of rebellion in our very fast paced world. 

This is why I, and others, have found the simplicity parenting series so helpful. This is time and space that you create as a parent to reflect on the direction that you and your family are headed.  

These gatherings are not about quick fixes (is there such a thing?), however we are all about  'less is more' + doing what is sustainable. It is also nice to hear from other like minded people (who may make different choices than you but simply want what is best for their children). 

90 minutes of devoted time for six consecutive weeks. Doable and motivating. In our last group, we were parenting some odd 30 kids total ranging from in utero to 16 years of age. Pretty neat to think of the ripples created. 

The group starts online next month- Monday, October 16 from 8-9:30pm EST. You can read more here. Oh and enter promo code BACKTOBASICS before Wednesday to receive $100 off. 

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to hit reply.

Looking forward to connecting with you, 

Lynne

P.S. If you live in or near Toronto and are intrigued by horses or would love a day away from the fam, there's always the option of joining us on our last retreat of the year—Friday, October 20. Read about Paddock

Simple tips if you're thinking of renting out your home via Airbnb

Last year we rented our family home for four months to make a dream come true and since we had a positive experience, we thought why not rent our home while we are away visiting family or on vacation in order to provide us with another stream of  income. Although this isn’t for everybody, it works beautifully for us right now.

Now I must say, before I jump in to explain how you can mitigate risks to ensure a smooth process, that renting to Airbnb guests does involve some work, including looking at your mindset. Most people worry about theft, damage, creating tension with neighbours and someone else having sex in your bed! All legit and worth thinking about.

Here are some things to consider BEFORE renting your home:  

  1. Simplify

You will need to do a decent purge and simplify the rooms in your home before welcoming guests. This makes the process of cleaning and tidying easier. Also consider that it gives a better energy to your home, thus attracting high vibe people (this is my very scientific explanation).

There are many resources out there including my ebook on Simplifying Kids Stuff to help you with reducing excess, but put simply, get rid of shit you don’t like or need. People have way too much stuff anyway and the benefits far outweigh hanging on to clothes, toys, books and other things that aren’t being used.

2.  Time investment

When I know we’re going to have guests, the week leading up to their stay, I will be more vigilant about organizing and cleaning up. Crumbs in the cutlery drawer? Wipe them down. Hair elastics in every room of the house? Gather them up.

It takes Mark and I a solid 3 hours each of cleaning, tidying, shifting our clothes out of the way to prepare our house, washing towels and changing sheets. This works out for us because we work from home. Alternatively, you could hire someone to do this.

3. Belongings

We simply move some of our clothes in drawers and closets in the bedrooms to make room for guests. I’m not even sure if guests use the space, but we tend to create more room than necessary. It can be a bit of a bother when coming back home to move things back, but again worthwhile. And it motivates us to reduce even more. Simpilfying is an ver-evolving practice. It depends on how much stuff you have and how much room you want to make as well as how long your guests are staying. If it’s just a weekend, maybe people just live out of their suitcases and have access to a drawer. Longer than a week, I would make more room.

Besides clothes and any laptops, there isn’t much else we need to move, unless there’s a doll or special item that a child wants to put away, everything stays as is. But I don’t have expensive jewelry, purses, shoes or anything that I would miss if someone took.  When we rented our home for four months I did take down personal family photos and made some beautiful wall hangings inspired by dream catchers. Imagine what how you would like a space to be when you are staying in someone else’s home and create that.  

4. Trust

Once we were clear and committed to going overseas, we attracted the right family. Trusting in the process while taking the steps necessary to make it happen was just as, if not the most, important step we took. As with all great adventures in life, there is always some level of risk. That’s what makes it exciting. Perhaps you are increasing your comfort level with uncertainty?  Working with an equine therapist helped me move through a fear that I had.

Which also brings me to the fact of remembering to be in the now and accepting what comes your way. You want to go overseas? You want to spend the summer out east? If this will make that possible, I say go for it (just don’t hold me accountable ;) Things may happen and you need to remember that if and when they do, you will be ok. You can and will handle it. Of course, doing your due diligence to optimize the whole experience for everyone— you, your children, the renters and your neighbours.

5. Shame resilience

I used to feel a bit of shame for opening up our home to guests because I’m not sure I would do this if money was abundant.  At least maybe not in our personal living space. But it comes down to choice. And I believe this is a smart and wise option for us and many in this season of our lives (especially when living in one of the most expensive cities in the world). Why not take advantage of the ability to earn money when you’re not in your home or have your mortgage paid while you travel). More flexibility and not having to work 9-5.  Sign me up!

I know a lot of people who rent their homes for a variety of reasons. While we were in Bali, we rented villas on Airbnb and also met several families funding their lifestyles this way. No shame in that!

This is an important conversation to have and point to bring up. In general, we don’t want people to think we’re struggling for money or less than (money is such a shame trigger), but we are not defined by how little or much money we have. We are more than that.

6. Flexibility

It takes some level of flexibility with dates and figuring logistics out, but ultimately you call the shots. We leave the calendar open for people and if the time works, great, if not, we turn the request down.

Aside from getting proper home insurance, here is a list of actions that we put into place:

  • Set clear guidelines on profile (no smoking/pets) and screen all guests (they can't book unless we approve it)

  • Establish occupancy limits

  • Add a security deposit (we have it set at $500)

  • Protect sensitive information like electronic and physical files

  • Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors

  • Childproof your home

  • Provide contact information sheet (local emergency numbers, nearest hospital, host contact number as well as backup) Would you like a copy of ours to use as a template?

  • Notify neighbours that there will be guests

  • Supply a first-aid kit

I’d love to know, after reading this are you more clear on whether you want to rent your home or not via Airbnb?

 

There are many reasons for not showing up

Trying an adventure like Paddock can be very vulnerable especially when you don't know anyone. You aren't sure what it's all about and it's an investment in yourself, time and money. 

And it can also be super enriching to meet new faces. To be open to something new and different (hello, I can't be the only one who gets bored with routines!) as well as serve as an opportunity to show yourself some compassion. 

What is Paddock? 

It is a one-day-workshop using Equine Therapy as a framework to support Mom’s at all stages, (including those wanting to be Moms but experiencing fertility struggles and those who's children have left the nest). Click link to read more.


In case you are interested in attending the Paddock workshop or thinking of doing something new but you're not sure, here are a few external and internal blocks to address:

1. LOGISTICS

There is always something to sort out whether it's childcare, rides, house chores and family schedules. What needs to happen in order for you to go? Who can you ask for help from? What is your priority?

FYI: The all day workshop is happening on Saturday, April 22— the weather *should* be warmer! And we've added a Friday workshop for those who prefer a weekday in June .  This is a great exercise in letting go of having to do it all and receiving some help to run the ship while you're away for the day taking care of your self! 

2. MONEY

A few years ago when I saw a two day equine therapy workshop being for $500, I knew I wanted to go but money was tight for us (cancer treatments, maternity leave and disability can add much financial strain but that's a whole other topic— stay tuned for a blog post about simplicity + money, we had a great thread going in the Facebook group). That very day, my mom phoned to say "since I just sold the house, this year I want to give you $500 for your birthday!" The money went towards paying for the workshop (even though we could have used it for other things because it was important for me to work through some stuff and I was intrigued)!  

And when it is a matter of not having "enough" money, instead of saying "we don't have the money", it's much more empowering to say  "this is not a priority right now" or "my priority is XYZ". 

3. IT FEELS SELFISH

I used to struggle with feelings of being selfish when I took some time for myself or spent money on myself. But after burning out four years ago, I realized I needed to up the ante. Ask for (more) help. Say no. Acknowledge what is. Sleep. Do what I had to do, to prioritize me so I could be healthy and well. 

It's not selfish, to prioritize you. It's necessary. Sometimes, the constructs and circumstances of our lives make it feel impossible but certainly, it is possible. 

4. RECEIVING SUPPORT

Trust me, I've cried many tears about how much support (whether practical, emotional, mental, spiritual), I've needed. Asking for support or admitting you can't do it all, shows strength, not failure. 

Sometimes we are the givers, sometimes we are the receivers. AND sometimes, if not always, it is both. 

Let yourself receive and if you feel called and you are available, give yourself this transformational experience! 

How to create space for your desires

I'm not sure you know, but last year my family and I fulfilled a dream of traveling to Bali for four months. And it wasn't that it was easy for us to make it happen. It was easier once we committed. Of course.  But we had to travel with $60k worth of cancer medication that had to be kept cold and the girls were 3 and 5 when we went! I also had to work through the thoughts, feelings and beliefs that could have held us back. Like the fear of losing my husband after we fulfilled our dream— because it felt like maybe this symbolized our last trip together (and I didn't want that). 

Three things that helped me in that 18 month lead up time to actually going were:

1. Simplifying. Our stuff. And knowing what mattered to us and why.

2. Equine therapy. Being in a group and with the horses allowed be me release some emotions around the fear that I carried and I was then able to connect to my inner knowing and awareness that things were going to be ok. I'm glad that I was able to move into a place of trust rather than being ruled by fear. Our trip was that much better because of it.

3. Like minded people.
Finding and surrounding myself with other women who can simply be who they are, not judge and are truly genuine with their intentions is also key for navigating life and dreams. It's nice to know you're not alone and to receive encouragement when needed. 

I believe in the power of shining a light on the dark areas in order to grow and expand and live a more grounded and calmer life— no matter what is going on. 
 

Motherhood Quotes

Here are some quotes that resonate for me, perhaps they will for you too.

"It is not what I do as a mother, but who I am as a human being that will make a deep and lasting impression on my children. I can only bring peace to my children when I possess it myself."
—Katrina Kenison

 

"Children are not a distraction from important work. They are the most important work". —CS Lewis

"Who we are and how we engage with the world are much stronger predictors of how our children will do than what we know about parenting". —Brene Brown

This doesn't mean to imply you are responsible for your children's happiness and all of their behaviour. No way. It means that you are responsible for you. And who you are and how you respond does matter. They are watching. They are modelling.

no one is perfect

If that leaves you feeling bad, give yourself some compassion and forgiveness and know that you can create change. Progress not perfection. 

This is where the power lies. There are no quick fixes and band aid solutions. A reality we come to realize, sooner or later, that the only thing we can control is ourselves.