Archive for Motherhood Posts

published in Book Reviews, Childfree, Decision Making, Family, Health, Motherhood, Mothering Matters by Maryanne | June 24, 2017 | 6 Comments

This is the 8th and final Mothering Matters blog in the Spring 2017 Blog Series:

A Must-Read Resource When Making the Motherhood Decision…or ANY Major Decision for that Matter

 

 

“When you isolate your desire first, and then weigh it carefully against your personal circumstances, it’s easier to make your decision.”

– Ann Davidman and Denise L. Carlini, Motherhood: Is It For Me?

Book Review of “Motherhood: Is it for me?”

For many women, the motherhood decision is a given. For some, the decision not to have children is just as clear. But for many of women – myself included – the motherhood decision is not so cut and dry.

In fact, I spent two decades struggling over whether or not I wanted to become a mom. In the end, life – and my choices – pretty much chose for me.

And as glad as I am that I ended up not taking the path of raising a child/ren, I could have saved myself an awful lot of time and energy…that was spent thinking about the decision, if the brilliant book, Motherhood: Is It For Me? Your Step by Step Guide to Clarity, had existed to help me work through the process of making a decision.

Alas, it wasn’t published until 2016.

But for all the other women out there, currently struggling their way through the “Should I or shouldn’t I…become a mom?” question, I highly recommend reading this book.

And yet, here’s the thing: even though I read the Motherhood: Is It For Me? book at the tender age of 49 😊 I actually found it to be extremely useful in helping me make another major life decision over the past few months (more on that in another blog).

In my opinion, that’s the sign of a very good book!

But why, perhaps you may be asking yourself, would a 49-year old single gazelle have taken the time to read a book entitled, “Motherhood: Is It For Me?” in the first place?

Well, here’s the scoop: one of the authors, Ann Davidman, contacted me several months ago, after watching our documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood.

Ann is a Motherhood Clarity Mentor and a Marriage and Family Therapist. Ann has been helping women work through the motherhood decision for more than 25 years.

In fact, the book stems from the Motherhood Clarity Course, which is a 14-week program that helps women who are struggling with indecision about whether they want to become a mother.

Ann’s co-author, Denise L. Carlini, is also a Marriage and Family Therapist. The authors know from their professional experience that an analytical pros-and-cons approach often fails to successfully answer this most personal question.

Because of the Whatever Floats Your Boat documentary and the Mothering Matters blog series, Ann asked me if I would read and review their book. I said yes. And I’m awfully glad I did.

Right off the top, Davidman and Carlini explain the difference between determining one’s desire – what the heart truly wants – and making one’s decision: what course of action are you actually going to take?

This is important because: “When you isolate your desire first, and then weigh it carefully against your personal circumstances; it’s easier to make your decision.”

So often, we get caught up in trying to MAKE a decision before we’ve taken the time to really think through what it is we truly want…and that goes for anything in life, not just motherhood.

Here are just a few gems gleamed from the book…perhaps you might find, as I did, that regardless of where you’re at on your path, there is some very sage life advice here:

“Sometimes an important piece of information needs time to completely unfold, and sharing it prematurely can disrupt the unfolding…even the most well-intentioned feedback from others can disturb the feeling of safety you’ve been creating for yourself and push you off track.”

In other words: it is very wise to keep the early part of your decision-making process to yourself. Don’t let the riff raff in until you’re ready to let them in!

“Slowing down may indeed feel uncomfortable at first, but we’ve learned that allowing yourself time and space to examine and accurately perceive the various aspects of your life is far more effective than generating those pros-and-cons lists that only seem to keep you stuck in an endless loop of indecision.”

“Thinking is good, of course, but so much more happens when you write. The writing itself takes twists and turns in a way that thought processes can’t, creating a fertile environment for more and more to emerge.”

Ahhh…music to a writer’s soul.

“Bring intention to your process while you suspend judgement, and trust that on a deeper level something is happening.”

“Most women find that when they grant themselves permission to not know, they feel less fatigue and have more energy for exploring.”

“What needs to be known first is what you want for yourself regardless of the circumstances of your life.”

“Trying to make a decision based on your internal emotions and the external circumstances in your life at the same time creates all kinds of pressure…trying to figure out your desire and your decision at the same time creates gridlock.”

“There are no appropriate or inappropriate fears. There are only the fears that live inside you for good reason.”

“Human nature compels us to seek answers actively. It can feel excruciating not to know, and fluctuating between answers creates the perpetual illusion that at any moment the answer will come and provide relief…making a case for ‘yes’ and then making a case for ‘no’ doesn’t help you get any closer to getting off the fence; it only serves to temporarily soothe anxiety, nothing more.”

“When you relax into self-acceptance, the result is spaciousness. From there you can more easily gain access to the answers that are already there.”

“When you’re able to say yes to a big dream or future possibility, whether or not you know how it will come about, you move forward toward it and life tends to meet you, often filling in the details.”

“As you imagine your future, do you feel that you’re entitled to have things go the way you want them to?”

See? I told you it was a brilliant book 😊

Here is the link for further information on (or to purchase) Motherhood: Is It For Me?

“At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”

Lao Tzu

Related Blogs

Getting to the Heart of the Matter – To Be or Not To Be…a Mom?

Undecided about Motherhood? A Motherhood Clarity Mentor Shares Her Personal Story and Professional Advice on Making a Decision

Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening, the playwright of Saviour and the screenwriter of God’s Country. She is the executive producer of the documentary, Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood. Maryanne is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. If you would like to receive her regular weekly blog, please sign up here.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.

This is the 7th Mothering Matters blog in the Spring 2017 Blog Series:

Undecided about Motherhood? A Motherhood Clarity Mentor Shares Her Personal Story and Professional Advice on Making a Decision

 

By Ann Davidman

 

“Ultimately a fulfilled or satisfied life is not about whether you have children. It’s about knowing who you are, what you want in this life, and making that happen.”

Ann Davidman, Motherhood Clarity Mentor

Thank you, Maryanne, for having the courage to produce the Whatever Floats Your Boat…Perspectives on Motherhood documentary.

If I’d been on the boat in 2005, I would’ve introduced myself as a 49-year-old, grief-stricken, childless widow whose husband died 3 years earlier—and who still wanted to have a family. My husband and I had been together only 4 years when he died. I loved him and we had plans to sail around the world with our children.

Two years into our marriage he was diagnosed with cancer and told he had 6 months to live. The plan was to get him well, have children, get our boat, and set sail. It was ok with me that our plan was delayed; I was an optimist and I “knew” without a shadow of doubt that he’d recover. It never occurred to me that after an 18-month battle he would succumb.

We froze his sperm before his 1st round of chemotherapy. After his passing, I tried 6 IUIs with his frozen sperm but failed to conceive each time. I realized that I didn’t wanted to be a mom at all costs, and I didn’t have the drive to do IVF.

I had no fear of being an older parent. I wanted to marry again, become a parent through adoption, or meet someone with children. If I’d been on that houseboat for your documentary, I would’ve walked off the boat wishing everyone well and gone back home to meet someone who wanted the same. At 49 I did not want to be a single parent by choice.

But not long after that I knew it just wasn’t going to happen. I made a very conscious decision to stop pursing motherhood. I came to know that I would not raise children, I would not be pregnant, I would not experience motherhood. The idea of what if I regret it never entered my mind.

I had tried everything that I knew to do and was willing to do.

I wanted to punctuate this decision by asking all the women in my life who were important to me to write about how I had made a difference in their lives. I needed to know that if I wasn’t going to be a mom, I still made a difference in the world.

I gathered all the letters and had a ceremony with the co-author of our book, Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity – we lit candles and she read one letter, then I would read another.

We took our time and felt the words of what each person wrote. This allowed me to see who I was and take in the difference I’d made in their lives. Ultimately that was more important to me than having a child or becoming a mother. Clearly, I was a mother to many. When I could internalize that truth, I was able to move forward with my life. This was my version of a No-Baby Shower.

After that, I was done. I would no longer be on the path of trying to become a mother. I had grieved that it hadn’t played out as I’d wanted.

Fast forward to 2017, and my life could not be more rich, more wonderful, or have more unmeasurable meaning. I’m delighted—overjoyed, really— that I do not have a child. I don’t spend a minute wondering what if this or what if that. If I had gotten pregnant in 2002 after my husband died I would now have a 15-year-old.

I would not want a 15-year-old at 61. Even though I remember at 49 being okay with being an older parent, I could not know then what I would feel like at 61.

Since I was a young person, I always wanted to impact the many more than the one. When I look into the eyes of my many nieces, grandnieces, and nephew with a kind of love that bursts open my heart, I know they see in my eyes how much I love them. My loving them is a privilege, and it’s what nourishes me.

I also make a difference in many women’s lives as a Motherhood Clarity Mentor—I help women gain the clarity they seek about whether to be a mother.

As a 61-year-old woman who has the advantage of looking back, I offer those women who are undecided on the motherhood decision this:

First go deep inside and ask yourself:

“Do you want to be a mom?”

“Do you want to raise a child, or do you want to contribute to the next generation?”

You need to know these answers deep inside of you before you can make a decision. Then you need to know why. Not because you should defend what you want and not because you owe anyone anything about your desire…but to know for yourself why you want to be a mom or not to be a mom.

You never need to tell anyone why you want to be a mom or not to be a mom, but you need to know for yourself. Because once you know why, then you are better equipped to make a conscious decision. I do believe if you make a conscious decision in that order, only good things can happen.

Children are amazing and, of course, raising them is beyond anything anyone can put into words – but it is not up to a child to make your life fulfilled. That is up to you. It’s up to you to help a child have a fulfilled life.

Ultimately having a fulfilled or satisfied life is not about whether you have children. It’s about knowing who you are and what you want in this life, and then making that happen.

Here are 4 suggestions to help you begin to move toward clarity – no matter how stuck you feel:

#1. Stop immediately making a case for YES and a case for NO. This will only create gridlock in your brain. The function it mainly serves is to protect you from feeling ambivalent. Ambivalence for many is very uncomfortable and most people will do just about anything to avoid the feeling.

#2. Instead, write down this statement: “At the risk of feeling uncomfortable, I will decide to not know on purpose. I will make peace with this before I do anything else. As soon as I accept that I don’t know, I’ll have access to more information than I’ve had access to in the past.” Then plan to not know, on purpose, until you can feel at peace with not knowing.

#3. Make a list of 3 decisions that you’ve previously made that you feel good about. Write a few sentences on each one, describing the sensation of how good it felt to have made those decisions with clarity. This is the feeling you deserve to have when deciding either YES to motherhood or YES to a childfree life.

#4. What verbal and non-verbal messages did you receive while growing up (from family members, society, your community, or your religion) about you becoming a mother? Some people don’t know how to want something different than what is expected of them.

Spend time entertaining these questions to help you think outside of your current circumstance. They’ll provide you with powerful clues about why you don’t yet trust yourself to know your desire and to make the decision that’s right for you.

Before you can make a decision you need to know and understand your desire. You also need to understand where it comes from and why. I ask you to accept this idea and understand that this is a complex issue.

Whether to become a mother is one of the most important decisions a woman makes in her lifetime. It makes sense that it’s not so simple to answer. But the cycle of indecision can end with thoughtful and compassionate guidance.

About Ann Davidman

Ann is a Motherhood Clarity Mentor & Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. For more than 25 years, Ann has been helping women decide about motherhood or a child-free life. Ann offers the Motherhood Clarity Course, a 14-week program (self-guided, online group, or private one-on-one) that helps women who are struggling with indecision about whether they want to become a mother.

In 2016, Ann and her co-author, Denise L. Carlini (a Marriage and Family Therapist), published their outstanding book, Motherhood-Is It For Me? Your Step-by-Step Guide to Clarity.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.

published in Caregiving, Change, Family, Motherhood, Mothering Matters by Maryanne | June 8, 2017 | No Comment

This is the 6th blog in the Mothering Matters 2017 Spring Blog Series:

Raising Kids Who Care – Can Compassion Be Taught?

 

“Caring is something that needs to be taught by example. Words are easily forgotten. Actions are not. Actions leaves a lasting impression.”

– Anon mother of three

For this Mothering Matters blog, I interviewed a mom of three children who has requested we keep her name anonymous.

Question #1. What do you mean by raising kids who care? Care for what? Someone or something other than themselves? Compassionate? Volunteering? To be kind & considerate? To give back?

What I mean by raising kids who care is raising them to be thoughtful and caring…that means raising kids to think about others before always thinking, doing and wanting everything for themselves. I believe that will create compassion, which leads to volunteering, giving back and enriching someone else’s life, whether that be a human or animal life.

Question #2: Why is it important to you to raise kids who care?

It is important to me because it’s my job. I brought children into this world. The world suffers a great deal of pain and suffering. Only kindness and compassion can heal this. I want to do my part to ensure my children contribute to the kindness and compassion – not the pain and suffering.

Question #3: Tell me about your experience with your daughter and volunteering in an orphanage? How did that impact her?

When I was a single mom, I took my 6-year old daughter to South America to volunteer in an orphanage for 5 weeks. Our job as volunteers was to just provide some love and interaction with the children. The government-paid workers provided their basic needs – food, clothing, shelter – but they never had an adult that truly cared for them. My daughter loved to hold and cuddle those babies.

Even as a young child, my daughter understood the need for social interaction for those babies…their need to be loved by strangers because they didn’t have any one person who loved and truly cared for them.

I had always felt a bit badly for my daughter because she didn’t have a father. He died when she was a baby. But when I got to the orphanage, I realized those kids had NOBODY. Whereas my daughter had me and grandparents and aunts and uncles and lots of family to love her.

As a six-year-old, she saw that and realized how fortunate she was.

She was very compassionate with those babies because she could see those children didn’t have anyone. Those babies just had their diapers changed and then were put back into their cribs. The babies wouldn’t even be held when they were being fed. They would just get a towel rolled up under them, to prop them up, and given a bottle.

We would take those babies out of the cribs and give them their bottle. The nurses didn’t like that because it would spoil the babies and they would want more cuddling. But we did it anyway and I explained to my daughter why: because those babies needed the physical love and touch.

Scientific studies have shown that infants benefit significantly from human touch and cuddling. So although those babies wouldn’t remember being held, they would still be the better for it. My daughter understood that.

Question #4: How is this showing up in her life now, as a teenager?

Now that she is a teenager, at times it appears to me – as the parent – that it is all about her. She is not motivated to help out at home and just wants to be with her friends. And yet she IS very compassionate with her friends. Many of her peers come to her when they are distressed. She has the compassionate ear they confide in.

So even though she’s not volunteering right now, I think that will change. I think her early childhood experiences of volunteering has stuck with her and when she passes through the teenage years, she will do more of that.

Question #5: How old are your sons? What are you doing with them to try and make them learn compassion?

My sons are 7 and 9.

Right now, with the boys we have sold some children’s books at trade shows and are donating all the profits to a charity. This was their idea. It came into discussion after reading a bedtime story about a child’s experience in a developing country who didn’t have food or parents. My sons felt badly about that, so we brainstormed a way to earn some money and then donating it.

When we were at the trade show, we told people we were donating money to charity and the reasons why. Ronald McDonald House is our first charity – we chose that so that I can physically take the boys there and they can actually see the impact this has on the kids staying there. I also want my kids to see that it’s not just in developing countries where children need help.

My heartstrings have always been pulled that way – to children in developing countries. But I want to show my kids the direct impact of their charity. By taking them to Ronald McDonald House, my kids will see children who have significant health issues – and I think that will help create compassion and gratitude for their healthy bodies and lifestyles.

On that note, my mom always taught me she was thankful she had a capable and able body to DO work. It’s human nature for kids to complain because they have to do chores. And yet, I think it is important that my kids learn how lucky they are that they can physically do chores. Because a lot of children aren’t blessed with good health.

In other words, I want my children to be thankful they have a healthy body to do the chores and jobs around our home and farm. I want to continue the valuable lesson that my mom taught me.

Down the road, we’ll see how these book sales go. At some point, we also want to raise money for kids in a developing country then go there and donate those funds, so they can see that impact as well.

Question #6: Do you think “caring” is something that can be taught? Or shown by example?

Caring is something that needs to be taught by example. Words are easily forgotten. Actions are not. Actions leaves a lasting impression.

Question #7: I know you are concerned about kids/young people these days having a real sense of entitlement…

a) what does this mean to you?

To me, a sense of entitlement refers to when kids just expect everything to be done for them – and they don’t have to do anything in return. It’s the “me, me, me,” thinking.

b) Why do you think this is?

I think it is because as parents, we all want the best for our children. But I think that sometimes parents don’t realize that what is actually best for children is not giving them what they want. Sometimes saying no to kids is the best thing for them.

I read the book, Me to We, by Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger, and it really resonated with me. I agree we need to change a lot in our society to make that shift from me to we. It starts in our small communities and in our homes.

I’ve heard so many people say something to the effect of, “My Dad was too hard on me, so if my kid doesn’t want to do something, I don’t want to make them.” So then they go and do the exact opposite! But I don’t think that’s the answer. It doesn’t make sense because spoiling kids by giving them everything and not teaching them how to do chores, etc doesn’t work in terms of raising kids to be responsible adults.

c) Why do you think it is a negative thing?

Because teaching kids a sense of entitlement is not making our kids compassionate. It is not raising children to think of others and help others. It becomes more about wanting more for themselves.

d) What are you doing as a parent to try and ensure your kids don’t have that sense of entitlement?

We are not giving them everything they want. We say no to them sometimes. And we get them to do age-appropriate chores. We are teaching them the value of earning the right to their privileges.

It concerns me there are so many parents working insanely hard to provide for their kids – and yet the kids don’t have to do anything in return. I’ve spent a lot of quality time with my kids and sometimes chores can be really fun! We’ve had some wonderful bonding moments teaching them how to do chores.

And I spend a great deal of my time taking my kids to sports, so I feel they can help me with the household chores. To be honest, I find it difficult that some other parents aren’t doing that – because then my kids turn around and tell me, “Well so and so doesn’t have to help out with this and this.”

This is especially true in the teen years.

I have always wanted to be that fun parent that has a close relationship with my kids – and I do – but I feel frustrated because I’ve fought an awful lot with my teenager. She thinks we are strict, unreasonable parents for wanting her to help out at home. It’s made us not close in some ways…and I think part of that has come from her watching other kids not having to do any chores.

I think if she’d been surrounded by kids who did have to help out, she wouldn’t have been so angry at us.

Mind you, I do get compliments from my daughter’s supervisor on what a hard worker she is! So she does work hard…just not at home.

And we get lots of compliments from people about how nice and polite and hard-working our children are. For example, at a recent work-session on our farm, all our kids were out there working their butts off and people were really impressed at the work our kids could do!

I feel proud about that…and the kids do, too.

e) So are you succeeding in helping ensure your kids don’t have a sense of entitlement?

Yes, I hope so.

Like that old saying, I feel there are two gifts I can give to my children: one is roots and the other is wings. By teaching them compassion, saying no to them at times and having them help out with chores, we are showing them the value of earning their privileges…those are the roots.

Then when they leave the house, those are their wings…what they do after that is out of my control. But if I have given them their roots, I know it will help them become kinder, more responsible people.

Question #8: Anything else you would like to add?

 Yes. I just want to mention that I think we appreciate something more when we have done without it for a period of time. That’s partly why I think it is so important to say no to our kids sometimes. It is human nature to want more, more, more. So it is our job as parents to teach kids to appreciate what they already have….and that there is always something to be thankful for.

I also feel that my job as a parent is to teach my children that helping others will help bring them happiness. In the Me to We book, they really touched on that message: that true happiness is helping others. Teaching kids how to be kind and compassionate helps makes the world a better place and creates a more meaningful life for them.

Mothering Matters is an initiative of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc.

For further information about the Mothering Matters blog series, here is the link.

If you would like to receive the Mothering Matters blogs and/or read the other blogs, please click here.