Motherhood is never challenging, said no mama ever! Being a mom continues to be one of the most challenging and rewarding life experiences for me. It feels like our hearts are walking around outside of our bodies, doesn’t it, mamas?
While bringing priceless rewards, the role of being a mom also requires us to bear enormous amounts of responsibility that often can be stressful. How can we keep ourselves positive, happy and the best we can be? How can positivity and motherhood live hand in hand?
In the months and years ahead, one of my focuses is to be mindful about choosing to be positive and present. It sounds easy, right?
People often talk about staying positive, choosing our outlook, deciding how to face the day. I’ve read the studies about how people with a positive outlook are more likely to overcome hardships. There also is the issue of personality versus choice.
And there are health issues that make “choosing” to be positive in certain moments a good laugh. Life certainly throws us situations where being positive at certain times isn’t in the realm of anyone’s possibilities, but we’ll table that discussion for another day.
For the day-to-day activities, I believe the act of being positive is an important choice that will affect not only our lives, but also our children’s behavior and inner dialogue.
So what does it take to be positive while juggling the joys of motherhood AND navigating health issues like food allergies?
Positivity and Parenting: 5 Keys for Embracing the Positive
It helps to surround ourselves with positive people who lift us up. Enter my good friend and fellow food allergy mama Kristin Beltaos, who literally has talked about and kept a positive outlook since I met her in 2013 through our food allergy community. She truly walks her talk—and talks her talk!
Being that Kristin lives in Minnesota and I live in Virginia, we’ve had to limit our talks to email, text and phone. I hope to change that status one day soon. But in the meantime, I want to share some of our beliefs in staying positive from our last inspiring telephone chat.
With her permission, I’ve shared the highlights of our conversation to show you how this positive mama does it—and tips for how we all can do it!
1. Stop Negative Inner Dialogue; Choose Positivity.
Being positive begins by freeing ourselves from negative inner dialogue and walking our talk. It’s about acknowledging bad habits and negativity, and stopping them. They sure can become such a slippery slope. I believe focusing on positive thoughts has become a great habit for me!
One thing that my family and I do is stomp out our stressors—literally! We declare our independence from food allergy fears, in particular. We write down what is making us anxious, read our worries aloud, crumple them up, stomp on them, and then throw them away!
My family and I also make a positive plan for tackling our fears and achieving our goals as we move forward.
Part of this is listening—really listening!—to our inner dialogue. Tuning into our bodies is part of this. Kristin agrees it’s a choice and we have to create good habits.
Embracing positivity doesn’t mean negative thoughts won’t creep in, but we can retrain ourselves on how to move forward.
We talked about how we make this choice and the keys that help positivity become a habit. As mothers, we must make the choice to sink or swim and help our families do the same.
Kristin: “I believe people are naturally positive. Our experiences in life and the people we choose to be around can influence the direction of our naturally positive attitude—utter bliss or turn to an abyss. Eventually, I feel we do have to make a choice of sink or swim. If we want our children to have a positive outlook, despite challenges they may have, it’s important for them to know how accomplished they are—we create their inner dialogue by what we say, how we say it and how we make them feel about themselves.
We need to figure out how to dig ourselves out of challenges…because life is difficult. We all have a story to tell. It isn’t always kittens and rainbows.”
We talked about the importance of resilience.
Kristin: “In our house we say, ‘I don’t expect perfection, but I do expect for you to do your best.’ I dislike how many in our society provide an ‘everyone wins’ format, i.e., everyone gets a trophy. What is the message we send? You’re going to lose sometimes. How do we build a child’s self esteem to navigate failure and accomplishments if everyone wins all the time? Don’t we learn just as much, if not more, from our failures?
If everyone gets a trophy, there’s nothing to work towards. If you lose a game, you want to practice and learn to dribble better, go through the dance routine again, etc. Are we teaching and instilling perfection, which is obviously unattainable, with an ‘everyone wins’ format? What happens to our children when they lose at the next sporting event, and don’t receive a trophy? What if they don’t do as well as they expected on an exam, at a dance recital or a game of Monopoly? These are some serious thoughts to ponder.”
2. Be Grateful; Have Positive Affirmations.
If I focus on being grateful each day, I automatically feel better. One way is to talk about being thankful. Another is by taking action and doing something as a physical reminder, such as making a gratitude jar. At the end of each day, we write a note about what we are thankful for.
Part of being grateful is thanking those around us and praising ourselves, our children, our families and our friends.
In particular, Kristin said she believes we can get gratification in looking back on situations and thinking, “I never gave up.” She also has learned to appreciate the little things.
Kristin talked about how she surrounds her family with positive affirmations around the house.
Kristin: “I have this sign in my kitchen that says, ‘Grace is more than a prayer you say before a meal; it’s a way to live.’
I have a wall in our family room that’s our family wall. I have those inspirational sayings speak to our life and family philosophy. I hope that’s part of what my children will remember about growing up, those sayings that buoyed their spirits during challenges and inspired them to reach for more in life. Our latest one is about dancing in the rain and talking about what that means in everyday life. Even if things are awful, you still can be happy. You still can learn to cope and thrive through that hard time.”
If something is challenging with the kids, Kristin focuses on the positive and helps reframe negative outlooks or habits.
Kristin: “If one of my children is negative, I always ask what he thinks, or how can we make this better? They need to develop those skills of redefining an experience. What are the different ways for us to see this situation?”
When talking about our children managing food allergies, Kristin said that her son “has taught me a great deal about myself and how to look at challenges in life. I sometimes wonder if I’ve learned more from him. I’ve never heard him speak negatively about his situation. He never asks why he has these food allergies. I think that came from me telling him a long time ago that everybody has something. Even if they look like they don’t, they often do or their something may come a little later.”
Another part of the puzzle is learning to be accepting of our situations and not constantly wishing things were different. Part of this is forgiving others and moving on.
Kristin: “As you age, I think at least for me there’s been a natural progression that you come to accept your life. There’s a natural rhythm to life. It doesn’t mean you don’t get disappointed. But you become more accepting of what is tossed your way and everything doesn’t become so overwhelming. You learn to roll better with the punches.”
3. Be Mindful and Present.
For me, practicing mindfulness and being present are key to being happy and having a positive outlook. After all, if we are really focused on the present, we aren’t worrying about the past or future. We are living in the moment, enjoying the now. I think this is key. (See my recent review of Sherianna Boyle’s book about conscious parenting and managing childhood anxiety.)
Kristin and I talked about our focus and the importance of being mindful of all angles.
Kristin: “If I’m really upset about something, I say I guess there are a couple of ways to look at it. I see most of my life that way. So you can look at every situation and see the blessing and the curse in it.
I talk a lot to my kids about different ways of looking at things. For example, when one of them was really sick and down and out, I talked about when I was sick too. I show them that we all go through these patches. But I always look at the upside.”
We agree it’s important to be mindful of and understand the different personalities of our children. We each have two kids who each are very different from one another. Kristin humorously likens her two boys to The Odd Couple, Oscar Madison and Felix Unger.
4. Take Care of Ourselves.
Eating healthy, getting sleep and exercising are so important, aren’t they, mamas? Of course, attaining these ideals can be very challenging while balancing everything that goes with motherhood. I know this first-hand.
Part of it is achieving balance. Kristin talked about this too:
Kristin: “Staying happy as a woman and a mother is a delicate balancing act. If the woman part of the see-saw sometimes isn’t given enough weight, if we don’t remember to keep the woman alive with the interests that we had before we had our children, we really need to focus on recharging and reminding ourselves who we are. Motherhood can be busy enough; add in managing food allergies, and trying to achieve that happy balance can become even more challenging.
“Always remember that you are more than the challenge you manage.” —Kristin Beltaos, M.A.
When my kids were young, I was still in the crux of the medical piece of it and trying to figure out a diagnosis. Food allergies, feeding issues, acid reflux, asthma, seasonal allergies…that was our life for many years. I’ve moved on to management.”
For Kristin, some “time-away” like time with a friend or out on her own allows her the necessary time to “recharge” to be a mom and wife again.
5. Build Our Villages!
Part of living a more positive life is letting go of bullies and people who drain us. It can be very hard to do, but their negative energy is unhealthy.
Kristin and I agree that a key to keeping positivity in our lives is building our circle of support. We need to offer support to ourselves and others.
We all need a village we can count on—especially when it comes to food allergy awareness and safety.
In addition to building our villages, for our children especially, it is so important that we are aware of our villages!
Kristin: “I sometimes wonder if negativity surrounds those that have lacked a support system in their life. In my consulting practice, those that come to me typically are at a point where they need to get out of an unhealthy support cycle: either they need to develop a support system, or they are struggling with individuals that will never be of support to them. Often, people just need the clarity and confirmation from a third party to accept that some people are never going to be able to provide the support that they want and need.”
(See Kristin’s recent blog post for more on the importance of creating these support systems.)
The last thing we talked about was filling each other’s buckets. This bucket filling philosophy is based upon the children’s book by Carol McCloud, Fill A Bucket: A Guide To Daily Happiness For Young Children.
Kristin: “You either dip into someone else’s bucket (make someone feel bad) or you fill their bucket and make them feel good. Think of ways to fill someone’s bucket.
I sometimes call myself a “nudger”—some people just need a nudge or guiding influence—and most importantly, a good support system. We all fill each other’s voids.”
As you can see, Kristin truly embodies her talk and has so many empowering ideas for building positivity in our lives. I apologize to her for taking so long to write this post, but my notes from our chat were copious—and so important. I just couldn’t leave anything out!
Do you have tips on how you stay positive and maintain balance while being a mother? How do you help your children embrace the positive? We would love to hear from you!
Photo image provided by Kristin Beltaos, A Gift of Miles