Thursday, July 28, 2016

Rise of the Bad Moms!

With the new movie Bad Moms coming out next week there seems to be a rise in glorifying the bad moms and our less-than-perfect mommy moments.

This movie has a fantastic cast of moms who have all talked publicly about their own bad mom moments. Mila Kunis, for example once forgot to strap her daughter in the car seat while driving. Yep, so many of us have been there. My daughter was less than a year old when I did the same thing. It was only when I got to my destination that I noticed I had put her in the car seat and never put on the five point strap. Instead of feeling relief that she was okay I ruminated on the mistake and added to the running list of things I would beat myself up for in my head.

 Copyright/ stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo
About 10 years ago when my daughter was a toddler we were in Target and I don't remember exactly what she was doing at the time but it was clearly not what I wanted. Whether she was begging me to buy her a treat or acting out, I am not sure. I just remember trying really hard to keep myself together as I attempted to set limits with her in the middle of the store. I must have been clearly frazzled and I felt on the verge of yelling when an older woman came up to me out of nowhere. She said, "Mom, I know this is hard but you are doing a really good job. I can see you are wonderful mother."  I cried. Right there, in the store. I needed to hear that so badly. Now, 10 years later I don't remember the situation, but I remember that comment and the impact it had on me.

The rise of the bad moms, for me is not about really being a bad mom but about normalizing imperfection. 

Although this movie is meant to be a comedy and to poke fun of the helicopter picture-perfect mommies out there, I think there is more important message to take away from the rebellion against perfection parenting. In today's world it is so easy to feel awful about ourselves because we don't match up to the social media idea of perfection. No one is perfect. For the most part we are all trying our best and yet so often moms are vilified on social media. In the last few months there were quite a few public incidents that seemed to spark a witch hunt instead of the compassion and support families needed. What happened to the time when public news stories of tragedies brought people together to support and empathize with other parents? 

Harsh criticism and judgment is not just something we do to others but something many of us do to ourselves. As a working mom I had overwhelming mommy guilt when I felt as if I was failing as a mom trying to live up to unrealistic expectations I put on myself.  Since sharing my story I have been contacted by so many other moms just like me that struggle with self-criticism that gets in the way of thriving as parents. As a therapist I often work with people who struggle with negative self-talk and self-judgments. They believe that if they feel guilty that makes them terrible parents.  The truth is that we all make mistakes and those mistakes do not define us. Kindness, forgiveness and compassion for others and ourselves are critical to let go of the guilt that gets in the way of everyday parenting.

I am looking forward to enjoying the movie Bad Moms coming out this weekend and hope it serves as a reminder to everyone there that you don't need to be perfect to be awesome!

For more information on Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom, check out Mommy Guilt quoted in the New York Post, like it on Facebook or follow me on Twitter! Workshops are also available for parent or employee groups in the New York/NJ area!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

5 Sanity Saving Tips for Back to School!

I used to love that back to school Staples commercial from a few years ago that has the parents dancing and singing in the isles "It is the most wonderful time of the year".
After a summer off most of us are ready to get our kids back to school and into some sort of routine. My experience has been summer is full of extra ice-cream, later bedtimes and more playtime and fun. Structure goes right out the window. Even as a working parent my children attended summer camp which was 99% play time, which made the transition to school so much harder. Now that it is time to get organized and ready to go back to school, here are 5 tips to make it just a bit easier! These five as well as many others can be found in the book "Lose That Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom."

1. Set goals and write them down!
What is it you need to get done to get ready? School clothes shopping, doctor physicals, refills of any inhalers or medicine or perhaps filling out bus forms or permission slips?
Writing down what you need to do and the steps you need to take in order to get it done can make all of the difference between a stressed out first week of school and a calm and organized one. Set up a calendar and timeline and check off or cross out what you have completed. Believe it or not you will actually be more likely to achieve your goal when you see your self closer to it. Writing down and checking off items on your to do list helps your brain see yourself as closer to getting it all done. So get a notebook or a planner and start making your list for a smooth back to school.

2. Prioritize "Happy"
During times of change, like transitioning back to school, it is normal to feel added stress. Even positive events can increase our stress levels We have a negativity bias that becomes even more pronounced during this time. What that means is we tend to put more weight on the negative or problems in our lives than on the good or the positive events. A simple way to increase mood is to identify the things we are grateful for and identifying and savoring the good that can often be overlooked or taken for granted. A bedtime ritual I like use with my kids is called "Fill Your BAG Happy". What you do is imagine a BAG that is filled with the negative and stressors of the day and then picture yourself emptying it out to clear out all of the junk. Then you use the letters of the word BAG to refill it.

  • What is the Best part of my day?
  • What did I Accomplish?
  • What am I grateful for? 

Spend a few minutes answering those questions each day to remind yourself of all the good and the positive as you finish your day. My son in grammar school does it with me every night and my middle schooler writes it in her journal.

3. Take Care of YOU
As moms and dads we often are so focused on our children's needs that we put ourselves last. Make more time for yourself and your spouse. Let go of the guilt and recognize that you need to put your oxygen mask on first in order to best take care of your children. Practicing self-care and self-compassion is not selfish, it is crucial to your well-being and your children's well-being. If that means going to yoga or to the movies or spending a half an hour extra to read a magazine or a book, do it. You do not need to sacrifice your happiness to be a good mom, in fact the happier you are the better you can be for your children! You want to set an example for your children that self-care is important.  You may want to go to the gym, read a book, go for a walk, meditate, see a move or plan date night. Whatever it is that you need to do for yourself, make it happen, even if it is just a few minutes on the phone with a girlfriend. Do it. A few minutes more of Sponge Bob is well worth your peace of mind.
As a clinical therapist and life coach I often find the first thing I teach overwhelmed parents is that it is okay to take care of your needs. Mindfulness meditation practice daily has made a huge difference in my life and my ability to be a better parent to my two children.

4. Clear the clutter
When my personal space is chaotic and disorganized, I feel chaotic and disorganized. Back to school is the absolute worst. Every day it seems the kids'  backpacks come home drowning in "mommy homework." Keeping it all organized can be a difficult task. I found the best way for me was to set up systems and routines for the kids to put all the papers in a file folder so that I can sort through them as I needed. The same is true for toys and other clutter around the house. Purging the clutter and having storage and organization systems can help lessen your stress. Lot's of great ideas for storage can be found easily by checking out local dollar stores and recycling. It can be overwhelming task to take on at once, however if you tackle one area of your home at time you will be clutter free in no time. If you want some professional help I have a friend in NJ who organizes playrooms, check out The Toy Tamer for some really cool ideas.

5. Delegate
Remember it takes a village! Ask for help. Get involved in carpool or trade babysitting with other moms. Make this a team effort. Don't forget to delegate to your children too. It is amazing how much we do for our children that they can do for themselves. Toddlers can help make the bed, pick up toys or dust furniture. A kindergartener can set the table, help make food, match socks, take care of pets and sweep the floor. First graders can get themselves dressed, put dishes away, vacuum or empty the trash. Get your children involved in helping out around the house and taking care of responsibilities like preparing lunchbox for school the next day or getting backpack ready.  This not only saves you time but teaches them basic skills they will need as they get older. I can't tell you how many times I would get frustrated that my babysitter did not know to clean up after feeding my children a meal. I, now remind my oldest the importance of cleaning up when she babysits for other families.

For more tips and insights on back to school and other topics such as managing food allergies, birthday parties and dealing with head lice, check out my book "Lose That Mommy Guilt, Tales and Tips from an Imperfect Mom."
Remember to not let "perfect" get in the way of fantastic parenting!

Cara Maksimow, LCSW, CPC
Maximize Wellness Counseling & Coaching LLC

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Friday, July 8, 2016

Parents, it starts with us

"You can truly grieve for every officer who's been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach, those two ideas are not mutually exclusive. You can have great regard for law enforcement and still want them to be held to high standards." John Stewart, 2014

Respect for people, all people, seems to be absent from the conversation when we continually take sides with one and against another. We forget we are all part of a common humanity.


Racism is very real and continues to be a problem we can't ignore. Instead of perpetuating hate and anger, let’s seek to better understand the factors like bias and fear that perpetuates the problem.

Whether we are talking about Alton Sterling & Philander Castile, about yesterday’s #Dallas Shootings or about, Muslims, LGBT,  or gender, it doesn't matter. Whatever the topic, the conversation always seems to be about "us vs them" instead of being about love and empathy for all.                                                    

I don't have the answer but I know it starts with each of us in our actions and our words. As parents we have a responsibility to teach our children to live with kindness, cooperation, love, compassion, and forgiveness.
That's it...   -Cara