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When I first picked up a copy of this book I expected it to be descriptive of what I have been observing lately: Households where the mom is in charge of everything, in other words, the phenomenon that Dr. Thomas Phelan calls “Manager Mom.” However, I was very pleased to find out that this book includes not only a description of what the phenomenon is, in detail, but also offers many examples and suggestions on dealing with this situation at home.
What is a Manager Mom? In short, it is a mom that does it all: The childcare, the cleaning, the food preparation (which includes buying and cleaning up afterwards), the laundry, the appointments, the after-school activities….You get the picture. How did this happen? How is it that moms are the ones who bear the burden of everything household related? Dr. Phelan refers to the original bond between mother and baby as well as the strong message that has been passed down from generation to generation, from mom to mom, as the culprits for this type of behavior.
In fact, Dr. Phelan calls the strong identification with “mom
duties” as Mommy ID, and explains how moms tend to feel a strong sense of guilt
when their perceived “responsibilities’ are not taken care of (by them!). This concept was quite enlightening to me as
I often hear moms tell me that if they don’t do it all, things don’t get done “right.”
If you feel this way, then this book is for you. If your family falls in what most people call
“traditional,” mom takes care of all the
responsibilities in the house, whether she works outside the home or not, and
dad works outside the home but does not contribute to household duties, then
this book describes you. If you are
tired of living like this, and would like more “me” time or you are a dad or a
partner who would like to be able to make decisions and share the burden of
responsibility, then this book is for you.
You will find many actual examples of couples that have
moved from what seemed to be the tiring routine of the house to a schema that
works for everyone! It is possible!
“I could be lost inside their lies without a trace But every time I close my eyes I see your face ” Sting, If I Ever Lose My Faith in You.
It seems somewhat incredible, unbelievable, that it has already been over 6 months since I cut ties with my employer of almost 22 years and became self-employed. Let’s just say that the writing was on the wall, or rather, it had been on the wall for quite some time. I had never been a firm believer in signs or the universe sending a message, or things of that nature, but in this case, the message was loud and clear: It was time to let go.
Now, I had always thought that if I was ever to leave my employer of so many years, it would be for something worthwhile. In my case, “worthwhile” meant making the jump from employee to entrepreneur. What I didn’t know at the time was that six months in, I was going to find so much happiness, fulfillment, and sense of purpose doing what I currently do.
A year ago, I had insomnia, and could not sleep for days, from the stress that my job caused me. I lost weight and was put on medication to manage symptoms of PTSD. This year, I lay awake at night just reflecting on the incredible things I get to live day by day. Life has certainly changed, and I am extremely thankful to those who “wrote on my wall,” as they, in their quest to make my life impossible, managed to make it incredibly purposeful. Sometimes the Universe does work in odd ways.
And if you think that money is the reason I’m saying all of
this, you’re wrong. Even though I have
been very fortunate in that department, I can honestly say that the reason for this
incredible emotion is the fact that for the first time in my life, I get to do,
every single day, and every single moment of the day, what I believe in, what I
love to do.
These emotions became all the more clear in during the last two weeks of 2019. Each end of the year and beginning of a new year tend to mark a tone of reflection. This was especially true in my case, as I was able to spend those days making connections that will last a lifetime and will truly make the world a better place. I welcomed the new year in a completely incredible, positive, and new-for-me state of mind.
I was also lucky, very, very lucky to be able to spend those days surrounded by family and friends, the kind that love you no matter what and support you always. I could almost hear my late father whisper in my ear “I told you so,” so many times. He will always be my guiding star and my inspiration. He used to love the song by Sting “If I Ever Lose my Faith in You.” We used to sing it together.
Dad, wherever you are, thank you for never losing your faith in me. Thank you for showing me the way, always.
It was nothing but refreshing to read Dr. Lapointe’s professional take on attachment and development. Let’s just say that many of the ideas that she talks about in her new book Parenting Right from the Start are the very same ideas that I have been teaching my families for quite some time. This is all especially true when dealing with special needs families, and at the same time, harder to crystallize. It is worth pointing though, and I can firmly say that this will be one of the first books I will be recommending to my families from now on.
The wholistic, and at the same time, individualized approach that she teaches the families she works with very much approximate the message that I try to instill in the families that I work with, namely:
My knowledge is not only based on years of experience but
also on years of working on the connection between Eastern and Western thought. I can only summarize it with what a parent
told me this morning, as we were talking about his daughter’s traumatic past, “worrying
and dwelling are like a rocking chair, they give you something to do but you
won’t get anywhere with it.” Those wise
words carried me through the day, and they can get you through the worst crises
as well as the not-so-terrible ones:
temper tantrums, defiant behavior, resistant behavior, and normal
developmental challenges that all parents are exposed to. Did your child have a
tantrum? Did you yell when you shouldn’t
have? Forgive yourself and move
one. Learn from this experience and take
a step back next time.
Parenting Right from the Start focuses on exactly what the title claims: Parenting way before you decide to have children, but in a non-judgmental, caring way. It explores common milestones from the parents’ point of view and from the child. It teaches parents to look at the world through the child’s eyes. The result is a more confident parent who is in control and understands that it is normal for parents to feel overwhelmed sometimes. It teaches parents to deal with those feelings of defeat and provides an avenue not only to help the child grow, but to help parents grow.
To get a copy of this book, click here. The paperback is out on October 8th, 2019.
If you have any questions of comments, drop me a note!
Like Dr. Jeneby, I also have a confession. I wanted to read Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon even though it had no relation (or so I thought) with what I typically write about on this blog. But then, I read the book, and I realized that this doctor’s outlook on life has more in common with mine than I want to admit.
For starters, in his book Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jeneby refers to his childhood, his journey through school, his different, “one-of-a-kind” personality, that made him stand out, and all these things reminded me of my life. Like Dr. Jeneby, I often felt like an “outsider,” whether in school or at work. I mostly felt like the odd one out of the bunch. I was never part of the “cool” clique, and most days I was called the “nerd.” Dr. Jeneby talks very candidly about how this phase in his life gave him the fuel he needed to stay motivated and prove everyone wrong. Like him, I do have an insatiable drive to show everyone what I can do, and in my case, what WE, as a special village, can do. We have a similar story, even if on the surface it looks very different.
Dr. Jeneby is very close to his family and takes the opportunity to show us his life. He credits his mother for providing the strong role modeling of a strong, motivated, professional woman. Her strong guidance spearheaded him into a successful life, but the support of his family through thick and thin is what keeps him afloat. In Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Jeneby talks about his desire for success, his motivation, and his realization that he could only be himself if he worked for himself. In this particular regard too, I felt connected to what he describes. I spent so much time working for “others” when it didn’t suit me, that my only regret is not having set myself free sooner.
He dedicates a good amount of the book talking about his charity work, which he pours his heart into. Like him, I cannot live without this aspect of my life, which is why I pour my heart into The Bocha Project. Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon is the unveiling of a world that I you can only see in television programs like Botched, plus everything that comes with this world: the craziness, the unstoppable hours, the constant running for time. If you like to watch plastic surgery shows on television, you will definitely like Confessions of a Plastic Surgeon, and you will get to know an awesome professional as an added bonus.
I remember years ago, when I first discovered my love for cooking. Up until that point I was somehow “afraid” of the kitchen: Afraid of being judged by my inability to produce masterful dishes; Afraid of being categorized as the brainy girl with no desire for practical things. But as luck would have it, I ran across a good cookbook (or two, or three…) and it showed me that cooking is an experience, one that starts way before we enter the kitchen. The culinary journey starts in our minds, imagining what we are in the mood for eating or drinking, and then, it continues while we shop, selecting those ingredients. The end result is us settling at home, or with friends, while we cook with our family and enjoy the company of our loved ones.
As a therapist, I often get asked what activities to use to promote the transfer of skills from one activity during therapy to everyday activities at home. Cooking with your family and including your child every step of the way is one activity that I recommend very often. There is simply so much to learn during the process of getting together to prepare a meal! Jordan Zucker’s new book, One Dish Four Seasons, supplies us with the elements we need to make this engaging, social-emotional activity as enjoyable as possible.
There is no replacement for such an opportunity to share a bonding experience, while being able to engage with your child at a cognitive, social-emotional, and gross/fine motor level, labeling objects such as food items, cookware, utensils, following directions, as in following the recipe step by step, and having the patience to see it through. Furthermore, One Dish Four Seasons is color coded so that each recipe honors a particular time of the year. Jordan Zucker takes one dish and prepares it four ways, so that each variation is thought out and seasonal. This provides a unique way to teach children about what grows during what times (i.e. why we eat pumpkins in the Fall, for example), and the importance of seasons.
Jordan Zucker’s recipes are both extraordinary and simple. The pictures are incredibly yummy and an opportunity for children to see the dish they are preparing ahead of time, the finished product. For me, the pictures are just mouth-watering. Ms. Zucker, who grew up in a very creative family that also placed a great deal of importance on family and food, makes it even more interesting by adding the wine pairings for every recipe and the record you should be playing while cooking! For me, these are two very important points: I tend to sip wine and listen to music when I cook!
If you asked Ms. Zucker what she is likely to do on a Friday night, she will say that Friday nights are just the same as any other night. You might just find her cooking! And like me, there is one book she cannot do without: Siddartha by Herman Hesse. Definitely a classic!
I recently read Victoria’s Voice: Our Daughter’s Wish to Share her Diary and Save Lives from Drugs. I have to admit, it was tough for me to even pick it up and start to read it. Don’t get me wrong: I’m an avid reader, but to read the diary of a young girl who had died of an overdose and to have her parents, through their agony, share their experience, was an emotional adventure. Victoria was only 18 years old when she passed away.
The book is a very personal account by Victoria’s parents,
David and Jackie Siegel, of what their daughter was like and the experience of
emotional stress that they went through as they saw their daughter struggled
with anxiety, addiction, depression, and anorexia, and the inevitable fallout
that all of these issues led her to.
They also share the agony of their daughter’s passing, and the struggle
to figure out their next steps, as they tried to make sense of such a tragic
It was right after their daughter’s death that the Siegels
received a text from Victoria’s friend that changed the trajectory of their
lives. Victoria had asked this friend to
share the text with her parents, in case she ever died. In this text, she directed her parents to
search for her diary, and to share it with the world. The Siegels struggled with this decision, but
ultimately they decided not only to share her diary with the world, but to become
educators and advocates, so that no other parent would have to go through what
they went through.
They shared that since their daughter’s death, they learned
so much. In fact, they wish that they would
have known what they know now before Victoria’s passing. They can’t turn back the clock, but they can
help save another family from tragedy. They
want everyone to learn about this issue so that it is not too late for a family
who is experiencing this issue. They
want everyone to recognize the signs:
Addicts can become very good at hiding their addition. They want everyone to advocate for a safer
environment for young lives.
David and Victoria Siegel have worked tirelessly to promote
laws that protect children, implement ample access to Naxolone (a drug that can
save lives from overdose), and advocate for safe-keeping of even day to day
drugs. They have testified before
Congress and have advocated for more comprehensive rehabilitation for individuals
who are suffering from addiction.
Victoria’s Voice is full of insight. I recommend it as a family reading. Families who are going through the pain of addiction are very special families that need the support of our entire village.
If you are interested in the book, you can buy it here. Proceeds from the sales of the book benefit the Victoria Siegel foundation. Please visit their website (here), to learn more about drugs, addiction, the Siegels, and their advocacy, or simply to get help.
Yes, a toxic work environment can lead to PTSD (Post -Traumatic Stress Disorder). We typically would not think of it, as this is usually what we hear when we refer to combat troops, people who have gone through severe trauma, or those who have experienced serious injury or abandonment. But there is a category of people who have been showing up to their doctor’s office more and more these days, and that’s those who are being subjected to a toxic work culture. These employees tend to exhibit symptoms similar to those who have experienced trauma. Why? Because in reality, they are experiencing trauma! There is no room to breathe when exposed to a pressure-cooker type of work environment.
What symptoms do employees present with that are cause for
Let’s name a few:
Employees feel like they are constantly “walking on eggshells,” not able
to understand how to behave and having to account for other people’s feelings
Problems concentrating: It is hard to focus when
you don’t know when the next shoe is going to fall. Fear is the enemy of concentration.
Persistent negative feelings about oneself: Feeling depressed sad, and helpless.
Having nightmares, distressing dreams: You repeat the distressing events over and
over and as a consequence, you have difficulty sleeping.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms above, or similar ones, you may be in a toxic work environment, and you need to figure out your next steps.
I thought of no better time to bring up these issues than right now. Even though I have been free from this type of work bullying for almost three months now (Yayyy!), I still experience some of these symptoms, and I want to share them with you so that you don’t have to go through what I went through.
In my old job, my boss(es) ganged up against employees, made
them feel devalued, unwelcome, and unimportant.
I used to constantly have nightmares about events at work, a situation
that many of my coworkers also shared with me.
Some of us had difficulty sleeping, eating, and experienced physical
symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches.
I actually experienced what it meant to be “disgusted” by a situation as
my gut told me exactly what that was.
I was lucky enough to seek the help of my primary health
care provider. When I told her what was
happening and what I was feeling, she recognized the symptoms right away. She let me cry for about 30 minutes, non-stop
during that first visit. She constantly
checked on me to make sure that I was putting myself first. I will be forever grateful to her for helping
me understand that I need to take care of me
This is the message that I want to leave with you today: Remember, your number one responsibility is to YOURSELF
In my work with young children, I often get asked by caring
parents about what goal/s I’m working on with their children. For the most part, goals are varied and they
depend a great deal on 1) the functioning level of the child, 2) the needs of
the family. When working with very young
children (0-3 years old), the family is the principal stakeholder.
But no matter the individual goals and objectives for each
child, the main goal of education is to help children become independent so that
they can learn for themselves. College
students, for example, will have forgotten over seventy five percent of what
they learned in college a few years after graduation (my observation), but they
would have learned HOW TO LEARN. They
would have become smart consumers and will know how to keep themselves abreast
of the latest developments in their field.
We don’t want physicians that only remember what they learned in medical
school! We want them to keep themselves up
on the latest medical news!
Similarly, children (even young children) need to learn how
to learn. How do they do this? With some individual variables, we can say
that most children learn by 1) being shown how to do tasks (commands or play),
2) being given the opportunity to repeat those tasks, even if they make
mistakes, 3) and providing them with free play time. This last point is important, as it will be
used to reveal how much a child can do by him/herself.
Children need modeling, and strategies and techniques in
order to learn from those around them, but they also need space to be able to
practice on their own. Two -year old
children have a difficult time sitting for any period of time as it is, and it
is not natural to have them sit and pay attention for a long period of
time. This would set an unrealistic
expectation for the parent and it would only hurt the chances that the child
will be able to learn how to learn. We need to build in time for children to express
Next time you wonder what’s the best legacy you can leave
for your child, think of yourself as the nest, and of your children as birds
who are slowly spreading their wings so that they can fly. What can you do for them to become more
independent? What does your child
like? What is your child good at? Does he like to do what he/she is good at or
does he/she struggle? Make sure that
when you teach your child about “learning,” you make it look more like
Of course, there will be times when you will feel like you need help, and you should ask for help! If you have a young child, and need help determining whether your child would qualify for the early intervention program, click here. If your child is 3 to 21 years old, and you need help determining whether you should request help, and want to know more about help in school systems, contact your child’s school psychologist, or drop me a note at email@example.com. I will get back to you.
“All we have to do now, is take these lies, and make them true somehow” George Michael, Freedom.
I have been trying to write this post (and others) for a few days now, but the truth is, it has been a very busy month! It is very interesting, because one of the concerns I had before my last day of being an employee was letting go of what many people refer to as a “secure paycheck.” I had done my homework, however, and I knew from many entrepreneurs in the field that a good life, with a work-life balance, independence, and professionalism, and of course, good monetary compensation to go along with the package, was entirely possible. Of course, even though this is a legitimate concern, it is one that seems to be exaggerated by our fears and the fears of our well-meaning family members and friends around us. In the end, the only regret I have about having left my job as an employee, is that I didn’t do it sooner.
As a matter of fact, this month has been a month of learning for me (as every month should be!) and I would like to share some tips for those of you who are contemplating a change, whether you have already made a decision to quit your 9 to 5 job, or are still contemplating your options.
Leaving your current 9 to 5 job is risky, but so is staying: If there is one common element to my reflections about my departure from the NYC Department of Education, it that I didn’t do it any sooner. It was quite evident that our working relationship was not working. On the surface, we managed, to a degree, to make it look like we had the same mission, but behind closed doors, our philosophies could not be more different. I worked for a division within the department that believed that efficiency was equated with taking care of our clients (families and their children) in the shortest time possible, with minimal contact, and treated families and school personnel as “suspicious” every time there was an issue. I had a boss that once asked me to talk to a school principal to get details about a certain situation in a school. When the school principal explained the situation via email (corroborated by other school personnel), my boss responded by saying: “She sounds too defensive. She must be lying,” and proceeded to make a decision based on her assumption that the school principal, and the other school personnel, lied about the occurrence.
If you are asked to do, witness, or are aware of illegal or immoral acts, leave immediately and don’t look back: You can try reporting what you were asked to do to the Human Resources department, or the legal department, but in my case, I was under the impression that they were not going to help me for many reasons. My last boss once demanded, at a staff meeting, that counselors who directly deal with families of school-age children not spend more than 15 minutes with every family. However, she said, there is an exception to this rule. “Unless the person you are seeing is important or famous,” she said, and told the staff that the lady she had seen for about an hour that very week was a famous actress on Broadway that had given her two tickets to her show as a gift for her undivided attention. I think back to this moment and know that this is when I should have left. Not a minute later.
Being an employee does not mean a secure paycheck: Yes, as long as you are employed, you will get a paycheck, but this will end the moment that someone decides that they no longer need you. I have heard of too many people who lost their jobs from one day to the next, without a warning. No one is safe in any job, with any employer. I was once having a conversation with a senior administrator from the NYC Department of Education, who told me that Human Resources and some of the senior administrator of a particular department had devised a plan to “get rid of” an employee who they no longer wanted. They were going to keep “writing her up” until she got tired and resigned. She did resign. (Hence the reason I opted to not contact the Human Resource Department).
Being self-employed means that you can put your own skills to the test. When you are employed, you are satisfying somebody else’s vision, but when you are self-employed, you are free to create your own vision, and contribute to this world in your own terms. You are free to not only help others the best way you know how, but you are also free to earn as much as you want, work the hours you want, and do it from wherever you want. The choice is yours.
Know that there are resources out there if you need help deciding if it’s time to leave. One of the institutions that helped me the most was the Workplace Bullying Institute. They helped me realize that quitting, for me, was the most powerful, and life changing decision.
The other day my husband and I were preparing for the upcoming holiday season. Yes, I know what you are thinking. The summer isn’t over yet, and we are already talking Holidays?! Let me explain. Our combined family is large, and I’m not only talking about our wonderful immediate, blended family. I’m talking about all of what that implies: my family of origin, his family of origin, my daughter, his sons, their families, our foster daughter, and their respective families. In addition to that, we both have the “package” of a previous family. As you can probably see now, there is a great deal of planning required.
One of the factors that goes into planning for this type of get-together is the fact that my youngest brother, Fernando, who is now 40 years old, is an adult with developmental disabilities. Why is this a consideration? My brother is an adult in many ways but cognitively, he behaves and sees the world more like a 2-year-old child would. He claims spots as his own (for example, the couch in front of the TV), does not want to share (don’t even think about taking his remote control), and can watch TV for hours! (dare not change what he’s watching!). In addition, he still needs help for certain activities of daily living that most of us take for granted, like going to the bathroom or eating a full meal without spilling anything or staining his shirt.
This is a huge source of stress for my mother, who in a way,
sees herself as the perpetual mother of a toddler who just happens to be really
big in size. This is, of course, a major
consideration of when, where and how we plan our events. Hence, the need to plan for Thanksgiving well
in advance, especially when huge family crowds are expected.
As I thought about Thanksgiving and how to make it comfortable for everyone but especially for my mom, I was reminded of the winding road that brought me to this place of kindness, understanding, and non-judgement. The road that brought me here was a surprising contrast. It took me quite some time and some tears of my own to understand, really understand deeply and without judgement, what it means to be the parent of a child with disabilities. No matter how old that “child” is, he/she will always be a child for those parents.
This year my mom and brother will be in town for Thanksgiving, as they normally are, and like many years before, we will be flooded with well-intentioned family members and friends, that will want to celebrate Thanksgiving at their home, and I will have to explain, one more time, why this is not a good idea. I will feel bad saying no, and they will not understand why, even with their kind offer of giving up a couch, a TV, and even a remote control to my brother, I’m still saying no. The truth is I totally understand their perspective, but I deeply understand my mother’s too.
Here is some advice and wisdom that may help the lay,
well-intentioned person, family or friend, understand their special-family
Special parents feel judged. If you take away just one piece of advice from this piece, please let it be this one. Special parents always feel that the world thinks it’s their fault. Parents typically experience feelings of guilt when things go wrong in their children’s lives, when they see their children suffering. Somehow, parents think if they could only…(fill in the blank). And to top it all off, I have heard many well-meaning family members and friends inadvertedly judge those they love by pointing out that things could be better if the parent just did something differently. So when you feel like your friend or family member is not listening, has put up a wall, or is rejecting your advice, remember that this parent may be receiving the feedback as a judgement. Be patient and understanding. Ask the special parent how it feels. Let them tell you what is like to be in their shoes.
Special parents feel most comfortable in their own environment. We all in one way or another can’t wait to “get home” at the end of a difficult day. No matter where home is, it is a symbol of rest, peace, and individuality. For a special family, the role of this special haven cannot be underestimated. Their environment may be accessible and may have accommodations that make life easier for the special family. When they say they prefer to meet at their place, understand that they may not be rejecting your invitation, they are only asking for an accommodation to be able to enjoy themselves a bit more freely.
Special parents feel misunderstood and isolated. Feeling misunderstood is a consequence of feeling judged. This is a particularly serious feeling as it may lead to depressive thoughts and the consequence of not only feeling isolated but becoming isolated. If you have a special parent in your life, pay attention to these feelings.
In short, my advice for all of you out there, friends of our very special village, is that if you have a family member or friend who is a special parent, please be there to understand, support, and lend a hand. Should you still say what you think, give advice, and lend your opinion? Of course! Your relative/friend really needs you, all of you. But just be aware of what may be happening behind the scenes, so that you can be more present and more whole to support your friend.