Stress Management For The Working Mother

Originally posted today on the Huffington Post… http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/stress-management-for-the_b_6139470.html?utm_hp_ref=divorce&ir=Divorce

The compliment I receive the most about my writing is that I am honest (to a fault) and that I give my readers empathy. By reading my blog, you feel that you aren’t alone. Some of you even admit that I make you feel more normal because my crazy life makes you feel better about your own situation. So overall, I guess it’s my relatability to my readers that keeps a lot of you coming back for more.

With that being said, if you relate to what I am about to write, then I will apologize in advance. Wholeheartedly… I’m sorry.

Recently our office had a doctor come in to talk about “Stress Management.” It seems whenever someone talks to me about stress I think, “I don’t really have any major stress in my life.” Then reality punches me in the face when I think about everything I face on a daily basis. Sure I don’t have any MAJOR stressors in my life, but when you have ten million small stressors, then it begins to add up significantly.

Of course some may view this as stress… others of us just view it as another normal week for a working mom in a blended family.

We have four kids at four different schools with two different custody schedules. Not to mention piano, tutoring, soccer, cross country, basketball and two girls playing tennis. Two kids had school pictures last week, which meant haircuts. Plus the end of the month in my husband’s job is exceptionally busy. He and I both will probably spend at least eight hours in the car this week carpooling kids. Every week is tough logistically, but I am proud to say we are surviving.

Although lately I haven’t handled my anxiety well, I feel like I do have plenty of coping mechanisms in place to manage my stress. As a working mom, this is what I rely on to get through the week.

1) Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends

I usually feel like I have a firm grasp on my emotions, but the past two weeks has been tough. I am not proud of it, but I have not handled my emotions well. I have yelled, I have cried, and I have overall been VERY short tempered. I met a friend for a margarita the other night and I filled her in on all of the crazy in my life the past two weeks and she said, “Val, no wonder you are struggling! That’s a lot!” Just talking everything out with her made me feel so much better. Having friends who validate you can be just what you need.

On Friday, I came home to a present at my back door:

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After hearing about my week, my sister-in-law was sweet enough to leave me a “just because” gift. When we have friends who constantly remind us of our worth, then we are rich indeed.

2) PLAN, PLAN, & PLAN SOME MORE

IMG_1941Many working moms cause themselves unnecessary stress by not being prepared for the week. As a result, they are frantically running around last minute just trying to get by. I admit I am a freak when it comes to planning, but it helps me keep my sanity!

Each week I email my babysitters a detailed email about where they need to be and when with the kids. I then copy the same email and add (in red ink) exactly where my husband Joe needs to be and when. On his email I add the weekly menu and what I will need him to do. It is truly an act of team work, but when everyone knows where they need to be, then I don’t have to worry about it.

I also suggest that you include the kids by putting a detailed calendar on the wall in your kitchen (or other centrally located place). You can even involve the other parents by creating and sharing a Google calendar. My ex-husband, his wife, my husband, our kids, and I all share a Google calendar. We can all access the calendar on our cell phones and know all important information regarding the children, even when they are not with us.

3) Allow Extra Time To Avoid Being Late IMG_1975

One of the most stressful feelings is leaving your house knowing that there is no way you will get where you are going on time. It’s that sweaty, heart racing feeling that your child may be late for an important rehearsal or practice, but there is really NOTHING you can do about it and as the parent is it COMPLETELY your fault. We can blame the kids for not being ready or for not having their bags packed, but as the adults it all falls back on us. Make sure the kids pack up their bags the night before and put them by the door. Get up earlier if you must to make sure you can leave a few minutes early.

If you are like me, then you are probably used to being right on time. I am usually not early, but I am usually on time. The problem is, if you don’t allow extra time, then traffic can wreak havoc on an otherwise well planned day. It certainly can’t hurt for your child to get to practice early. It eases stress for everyone in the car.

4) Make Time For Yourself

I know personally that it is tough for me to get up and I’m immediately plunged into “mom mode.” Two mornings a week I have to leave home at 6:15 a.m. to drive 40 minutes to drop my son off at school in another county, turn around and drive back to drop off my daughter. Then I race to work to work eight hours in my “office job.” Then it’s straight back to “mom mode” with piano lessons and basketball games and soccer games and choral performances and homework and dinner and showers. Then the kids go to bed and I shift into “wife mode” when I try to connect with my husband. Did you see what was missing?

If I went seven days a week without any “me time” then I would go absolutely insane! Because of this, it is imperative that you find some time for yourself. Whether it’s working out or reading or meeting friends for drinks. Carving out time for yourself can feel selfish, but as a working mother it is important for survival. I’m so thankful that I have a husband who understands that. He recently sent a group of my girlfriends and me to the beach for the weekend as part of my birthday present. I came back from that weekend renewed and ready to get back into the swing of my chaotic schedule.

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So lean on your friends (and even ask for help if needed), schedule religiously, add time to give yourself a buffer when going somewhere, and look out for yourself every once in a while. Working mothers juggle a ton of balls at once (especially in a blended family), so you have to find out what works for you because a happy mom makes for a happy family!

 

Shake It Off…

With four kids between the ages of 11 and 15, we hear a lot of “he said/she said” drama. In the day of Instagram and Facebook and SnapChat, our kids are constantly looking for ways to embarrass each other (and me). I always have to be on my game because at any given time one of them may snap a pic of me to send to 10 of their friends just to be funny. I’ve gotten so good at turning away quickly that there are probably millions of pictures floating around in the internet cloud of “deleted SnapChat pics” (sure… they just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again…) that look just like this:

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This need for kids to embarrass others is a common theme that we see throughout adolescence. A girl may be upset that the boy she likes doesn’t like her… but likes one of her friends. She then goes to their other friends and tells lies and ugly secrets about that friend to get the other girls not to like her and in hopes that the boy will hear the gossip and not like her too. I could give about twenty-five examples from my own childhood of that scenario playing out play by play. The friend who the boy liked gets rejected and ridiculed by all of the girls for no reason whatsoever except that she was unfortunate enough to be liked by the wrong boy.

My favorite thing to tell our kids when I hear about this kind of situation is “SHAKE IT OFF.” I can turn on the Taylor Swift song below and we can dance until we forget what was upsetting.

That seems to work for them (for now) although I realize that as the girls get into their teens it will be a lot more hurtful and harder to move past. The alienation that can happen with teenaged girls can be devastating. I have a couple of friends who still talk about that alienation and how it affected them for years.

Yesterday I heard some gossip about me that was absolute lies. I called one of my best friends who is the best sounding board of reason that I know and I said, “I know I shouldn’t care, but I am so upset that a lot of people may hear this and it is just so far from the truth! What if people believe it and don’t like me??” She said, “If you know in your heart that you have done nothing wrong, then you have to move on. If you did do something wrong, then you have to own it and apologize and then move on.” She added that real friends will talk to me before coming to any conclusions. While I know that is true, why is it so hard to swallow?

How can we teach our children to move on after having their feelings hurt when it’s almost impossible to do as an adult??? Even when we know in our hearts that we have done nothing wrong?

I saw this on another friend’s Facebook page this morning and I knew I had to include it:

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The whole world would be a better place if we all truly tried to get along rather than hold grudges and try to make others look bad. It’s not healthy for anyone to be in a war. If you know in your heart that you are saying things that are true and right and just, then you are on the right path. As Shel Silverstein said above, when we are all happy and silly and love each other, then EVERYONE WINS.

My favorite Bible verse says,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

My goal is to shake off the gossip and focus on my amazing family. I have a husband who is not perfect, but he is perfect for me and I love him with all of my heart. I’m so proud of the communication we share and the dedication he shows to our relationship and to our family. There is not doubt we will have the best time growing old together. Most importantly, I am proud of the Christian man he is and what a good role model and father he is to our kids. We have four funny, beautiful, smart kids who make us so proud every single day. I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for who know that I would never be malicious and unkind. I have the most supportive and loving family who is always behind me 100%.

The next time my girls come to me about unkind words being said about them, I am going to encourage them to think of all of the excellent and praiseworthy things in their lives. Make a list if they need to, and pray over everything on the list. When we focus on what we have to be thankful for, then everything else is petty and insignificant.

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Triangle Style Magazine – Best Hometown Blogs

I am honored to be able to share that my blog has been featured in the newest Fall Edition of Triangle Style Magazine as one of the BEST LOCAL BLOGS!

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Triangle Style is a great magazine, so go find one today and check out my excerpt.  Thank you to Triangle Style for including me! This accolade has encouraged me to branch out a little and blog about more than just parenting issues… I am working on one right now about some of my favorite restaurants!

Click on HERE to read Triangle Style Magazine or you can click on the pics below to see the specific pages where I am mentioned. Thank you all for your support!!!!! Val

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Anxiety and the Brain: 25 Routes to Safety

ournewpartyofsix:

As someone who struggles with anxiety, I LOVE THIS POST. There are so many helpful tools in here for anyone who deals with this beast on a regular basis. BOOKMARK IT! Val

Originally posted on Motivational Medicine:

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I CAN’T DO IT!!! I JUST CAN’T GO!!!” She sobs mournfully while gasping for breath. “My heart is racing, my chest feels like an elephant is sitting on it, and I can’t breathe! I think I’m having a heart attack!” “Sweetie, everything is gonna be alright. Remember your breathing exercises. You are healthy and strong, and this is your anxiety.” “You don’t understand!!!” She screams angrily “You just don’t understand!!! I am gonna die!!! I am so scared!!!

Anxiety is the sensation of fear in the absence of a real threat. Our brain responds to both fear and anxiety in the same way. In fact, all negative emotions shift the brain into survival mode, creating the illusion that our life is in danger, and then our brain prompts us to fight, run away, or mentally check out until the threat…

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If You Were A GOOD Mom, You Would Be Sad…

At the beginning of every summer I feel such a loss in my heart when the “summer schedule” begins because the kids spend every other week with their dad. As you all know, I thrive on schedules and I feel comfort in predictability, so the change is tough on me. That first week (or even two) when the kids are gone, I withdraw. Everything makes me sad and I crave to talk to them nonstop. At the beginning of this summer, I was driving alone down the road listening to my Broadway Show Tunes (as “ALWAYSSSSS” the kids say) and the song “Learn To Live Without” came on. Although it is written about divorce, I fell all to pieces. Here’s the song:

Sadly, the sentiments are the same for me in the summer… I have to learn to live without.

The funny part of it is that I don’t just miss the good stuff about the kids… I also miss the not-so-great stuff. Sure, I come home to an empty house without 5 gabillion plates and cups in the sink, but it doesn’t bring happiness to see the shiny silver at the bottom of the sink (I know?!?! I didn’t know it was shiny silver either!!!!). I miss the smell of Axe body spray in an attempt to cover up that someone REALLY needs a shower. I miss the piles of dirty clothes (even the inside-out Nike Elite socks that I have to reach my hands into to turn right side out). I miss walking up the stairs and feeling a little panic at the overwhelming smell of nail polish remover.

My first few weeks of summer are spent in mourning. I don’t know why I let the change affect me like I do, but it just happens. I have no control over it and all I can say is, “BLESS JOE’S SWEET HEART” for having to deal with me.

Then something changes.

I come home one day to an empty sink and rather than feel an emptiness, I smile. Not in a “I wish life was like this every single day!” kind of way, but in a “I can handle having no real worries for short periods at a time.”  My life goes from learning to live without them to hopping in the car on a Friday and heading out of town while knowing the kids are all taken care of.

Picture me riding down the road singing this song (bizarre video, but the song is amazing):

Last week, I received an email from a reader who is also in a blended family. Her letter said:

Hey lady!!! I have a good idea for a blog…. Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this way. We have had all 5 kids for over a week together straight. Which we love every second of it! Then today when they all went to different homes, the feeling was such relief. Even though I miss them terribly it’s wonderful to sit down and eat without dealing with teenagers or take a walk, etc. Just wondered if that feeling was just me…. Am I alone with this?? Now I always miss them but….. It is a positive to having another house for your children to go to!

And she is right! There is a sense of relief when you come home to an empty, CLEAN house. There is peace in knowing that when you walk in the door from work you won’t be bombarded with questions – “Can we go to the mall?” “What time will dinner be ready?” “If I finish my homework, can I go fishing?” “Can we paint?” “I’m starving, can I have a bowl of cereal since dinner isn’t ready?” For me, I like that I don’t have to rush home from work, so I can go do things that make me happy. While the kids were gone last week, I went to dinner with my sister-in-law at my favorite restaurant, then went to the library and walked around looking at books until they closed. (I must be maturing if I am closing down a library instead of a bar!) It’s just nice to be able to do what you love without having to worry about the kids.

BUT THEN THE GUILT HITS.

My friend’s email hinted on this “Mother’s Guilt.” It is real. We have been trained (and our kids encourage this way of thinking) to think that we should be home and feel sad when our kids aren’t around. Joe and I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago without the kids and one of them said, “Why do you always go to the beach without us?” IT WAS OUR FIRST TRIP OF THE SUMMER WITHOUT THEM, but that one question made me feel guilty for going without them.

Let me say it loudly, YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR ENJOYING YOUR TIME WITHOUT THE KIDS WHEN THEY ARE WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT!!!! Being a mother is tough, so if you want to spend the entire Saturday in bed reading a book while your kids are at their dad’s house, then DO IT.  If you want to take a trip with your husband to New York, then DO IT.  I feel strongly that if you focus all of your energy on your children while they are with you, then you have earned the right to live your life to the fullest when they are not with you.

To stave off the guilt, I make sure to focus 100% on my kids when they are with me. When one of them speaks to me, I make sure to turn toward them and look them straight in the face. We wonder why kids always have their noses in their electronics… it’s because that’s what they see their parents doing! I also make sure to work extra hours when they are away so that I don’t have to work as much when they are with me. I understand mothers who feel guilt if they are always doing their own thing when the kids are gone, so then they have to work nonstop while the kids are with them. They don’t get to spend any quality time with their kids! That would make me feel horribly guilty too! If you do everything in your power so the kids know, wholeheartedly, that they are your priority, then you can feel free to enjoy a little quiet time away from them.

You don’t have to be sad to be a good mom. Don’t let that mother’s guilt fool you into thinking that way.

Plus, we all know that in another couple of days…. THINGS WILL BE RIGHT BACK TO NORMAL.

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Five Delicious Flavors For Summer

It is widely known that I am a stress-cooker. Not a stress-eater per se, but a stress-cooker. It is highly relaxing for me to turn up music in the kitchen and just create.

Our custody schedule switches to week on/week off in the summer, so it seems that every summer I struggle terribly the first week or two that the kids are away.  Add to that the fact that we were without my stepkids for two weeks straight too and you can understand why I have been cooking like a mad woman!  For some reason, this summer has been harder on me than normal. I have struggled emotionally with schedule changes that have kept me away from my children much more than normal.

The kids are getting to an age where they want to do fun things with friends and go to camps, but if those fun things are to take place, then I have to give up my custodial time for them to happen. I hate to give up my time, but I want them to be able to have summers they will always remember while doing fun things with their friends.

So I have been cooking… a lot.

I wanted to share five of my favorite recipes that are perfect for summer. We keep these in the fridge all summer long and they provide many meals for our family. The two things that almost made the cut were pimento cheese (if you have never tried it, please make the Magnolia’s Pimento Cheese… trust me) and chicken salad (I don’t use a recipe, but my family adores it!).

IMG_15801) Barefoot Contessa’s Orzo with Roasted Vegetables – This is summery and light. I made it this past time with fat free feta cheese and it tasted just as good. The pine nuts and basil make the dish! If you do Weight Watchers, then each serving is probably about 4 points per half a cup. It’s great with a grilled chicken caesar wrap or a turkey sandwich.

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2) Blackbean & Corn Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette – O.M.G. There are no words to describe this.  I saw the recipe on Pinterest and thought it was worth a try.  I had no idea how I would crave this… It is THAT good.  The only thing I do that is not described in the instructions is I scraped the seeds out of the chipotle peppers first because I didn’t want the heat to be too intense for our kids. It is perfect!

3) Sassy Salsa – This is a recipe I got out of the Raleigh Junior League cookbook years ago and I use it religiously. It’s better than any salsa you can buy in the grocery store and is great on southwestern salads, blended with ranch for a tasty dressing, or as an added flavor for your scrambled eggs. It’s a simple recipe and the only thing I do differently is I use the entire small can of V-8 because I like the salsa to be more red than pink!

IMG_15794) Grilled Chicken Pasta Salad – I have shared this recipe numerous times before, but it is one of our absolute favorites!  My children would eat this every meal if I would let them. Sure there is a lot of oil and cheese, but at least it’s olive oil! I try to stay positive. I keep this in the refrigerator as often as possible because it makes an easy and quick dinner or a simple after-school snack. I have been making this recipe for so many years that I am not even sure where it originated.

5) Frozen Peach Pie – I am not sure where this recipe originally came from either but it is HEAVENLY. I remember my mom making it when I was in high school so I asked her for her recipe and made it a few weeks ago. PERFECTION. It’s perfect to make a few when it’s peach season and then whenever someone you know has a death in the family or a new baby or something, you can pull one out and WOW them!! Thoughtful and yummy.

I hope you all enjoy my favorite summer recipes. I would love to hear what your favorites are for the summer!

“YOU Are My Priority!” – Words Every Child Deserves To Hear

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We live in Raleigh, but two kids go to school in Wake Forest. One goes to school in Raleigh. One goes to school in Wendell.  I work in downtown Raleigh and Joe works in Cary. Whew….

I ordered my first Mom Agenda yesterday and I am now anxiously wishing away July so I can start using it daily.  With four kids, I have exhausted all ideas on how to keep my calendar organized.  I have used first initials and I have color codes.  I have tried online calendars and paper calendars.  I have found that I do much better with a paper calendar where I can see everything laid out at once.  I still use my shared Google calendar so that my ex, his wife, Joe and I can all be on the same page, but I am hoping this Mom Agenda will dramatically change my life!  It has been tough enough with four kids in general, but this school year is bringing about massive change for our party of six.

Two kids are in year-round schools, so they started back this week.  One is in high school and one is in middle school.   The other two are on a traditional calendar, so they will go back at the end of August.  Our life will be rocked at that time… because all four kids will be at different schools.

Yes, you read that right… four kids at four different schools.  Schools located in three different cities/towns.  I’m wondering how Joe and I will be able to keep our jobs and still get kids to and from school every day.  Not to mention all of the activities that two high schoolers and two middle schoolers have. (Why have I chosen at this time to quit drinking?)

People ask me on a regular basis how in the world we do it with four kids and different custody schedules.  I usually can answer them easily because we have just made it work.  I have got NO WORDS right now.

Until the school years are both in full swing, I am completely unsure how we will get everything done.  Hiring help is usually easy, but not when you live in Raleigh and you are asking them to drive out to Wake Forest and Zebulon.  That’s not an appealing job prospect for a college girl.  Our last sitter leased her car, so that extra mileage was a big deal.

This should be an interesting year and I am honestly tired just thinking about it, but THIS IS IT!  THIS IS LIFE!!!  Our boys only have four years left before they head out of our nest for college.  The girls will be following shortly behind them.

I want to remember every second of this.  We know we are blessed beyond measure to have found each other after all of these years and even more so because our children all love each other so much.  Not everyone gets the chance that we have to spend the rest of our lives with the true love of our life.  So until that day, when the last child hugs us goodbye and walks to her packed car, our focus is on loving our kids and making them our #1 priority in life.

I said that to Crawford while we were on our family vacation to Disney World.  She was feeling sick and so we went to sit down while the rest of the kids rode rides with Joe.  She said, “I’m sorry you are missing the ride because of me” and I replied, “Honey, you are my priority.”  The look on her face said it all.  THAT is what our kids need to hear.  They need to know that THEY are our priority.

Joe will be driving forty minutes to Wake Forest to get the kids to two different schools three days a week and then driving another forty minutes to get to work.  I will be driving thirty minutes out to Johnston County to take one child to school and then driving back in to Raleigh to take the other child to school before driving to work.  Not to mention Warren’s basketball and workouts, Will’s cross country and basketball, Hattie’s soccer and horseback riding, and Crawford’s track, piano, and basketball.

Joe and I will be driving all over Wake/Johnston counties for the next four years, but we will be doing it with a heart full of love and a smile on our faces.  The next four plus years our babies are our PRIORITY.   Does anything else really matter?  No.

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Summer Vacation in a Blended Family

Summer is upon us!! In a blended family, summer presents an assortment of planning issues and hurt feelings. It’s tough enough in a divorced family to deal with scheduling issues, but throw another family in the mix and you feel like burning your calendar in the backyard fire pit rather than trying to work them out.

As we were working out custody schedules this summer, it turned out that we would not have my step kids with us on our planned family vacation to Myrtle Beach. The vacation had to be a specific week because we were planning it to coincide with a basketball tournament we would already be participating in. Of course I was not too happy to learn that two of our kids would not be on our family vacation! So I swung into action…

I found out we would have my step kids the week after school got out for my kids, so I started planning. I wanted to do something not too crazy, but fun…. something where we could really have family time… but everyone would enjoy it. I wanted to go somewhere we could drive… Yeah, we went to Disney World.

Thankfully my ex-husband gave up his first week with the kids after school got out so that we could throw all six of us in the Suburban and head south. For weeks before the trip I was convinced I had lost my mind. As I booked dinner reservations and Fast Pass reservations I started to second guess myself.

Disney World in JUNE? It may be hot as the devil! Making an 8+ hour drive with four complaining kids? Not even frequent stops to Cracker Barrel would help the misery! Not to mention to save money I booked a two bedroom condo, so I was fearful the kids would fight incessantly the entire trip.

A week before we left I received a call to confirm my reservations and they had us booked in a two bedroom condo with one master bedroom and one bedroom with a queen bed. I had a meltdown. I tearfully explained to her that I have four kids and that I couldn’t possibly survive the week under that duress. I didn’t think there was enough wine in the state of Florida to get me through!!! She was very kind and upgraded us at no extra cost to a three bedroom condo for our stay. I knew at that moment that everything would be just fine.

And it was PERFECT.

The drive to Orlando was uneventful. We left at 5am, so everyone except Joe slept until we were almost halfway through the trip. Once we got there we were excited to find a gorgeous condo and we went straight for the pool.

Since my step-kids had never been to Disney World before, I wanted them to get a taste of it before we went to the Magic Kingdom the next day, so I booked dinner at the Polynesian resort for the night we arrived in Orlando. I am SO GLAD I did… We had a great dinner and then we rode the boat ferry to the Magic Kingdom and back (while watching the electric water parade). The fireworks started as soon as we docked back at the Polynesian, so we watched them from the dock. After the fireworks were over, we settled into a beach chair on the beach and watched my favorite Disney movie, Tangled, on the big screen on the beach.

I think the excitement and joy of that first night set the tone for the entire trip. It didn’t hurt that we had awesome Fast Pass reservations, plus kids who all like the same rides, and did I mention the weather was actually 15 degrees lower in Orlando that week than it was back home in Raleigh? My step-son even got to celebrate his 15th birthday at the Magic Kingdom. He was wished “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” by pretty much every Disney employee on that day! (I will post more about his birthday dinner soon… it was a HOOT!)

Blended families often face difficulties in scheduling. The key is to not let the bumps in the road cause you to give up. You have to deal with the disappointment and roll with it. In this case, we rolled with it and ended up having the trip of a lifetime with our family. Flexibility is key when in our situation. Since my children’s father gave up his time for us to take the kids to Disney World, I am giving him back that time at the end of the summer so that HE can take them to Disney World.

It’s all about give and take… flexibility… and communication. Who is the winner in this situation? THE KIDS. And that’s all that matters. (Plus I still get to take the kids to Myrtle Beach for the week for the basketball tournament… so I guess I win too. :) )

7 Deadly Sins of Co-Parenting

Published today by The Huffington Post……..

Co-parenting with someone who you admittedly would rather not deal with can be challenging and exhausting. Avoid these seven deadly sins of co-parenting so that you can work through the conflict to successfully raise your children – together.

Wrath – This is a common feeling for one going through a divorce. Wrath is an uncontrolled feeling of hatred and anger that cannot be quenched. Because of wrath, many of the other deadly sins of co-parenting are committed. While most people going through it feel they are justified in their wrath, the only ones who really suffer are the kids. If you feel that you have uncontrolled anger, then seek help. It won’t just benefit you… it will benefit your children.

Greed – This is a sin of excess where you have the desire to possess more than you need. In co-parenting, this takes the form of trying to “win.” You may find yourself in court trying to get more custody or more child support, while putting your children through the contentious battle without thinking about what is best for them. As a co-parent, you must be willing to share the children and encourage their relationship with the other parent. If you try to keep the children from the other parent, then the kids will remember it as they mature and the plan will ultimately backfire on you.

Sloth – This rears its ugly head in the form of laziness or failure to do what one should. In co-parenting, this is most likely seen in the inability to follow the Court Order. There may be some things in the Order that you don’t really see as important, but as long as there are little things to argue about with your ex, then you can never be the best co-parents that you can be. You must understand that you will be held accountable, do what you agreed to do, and things can slowly improve.

Gluttony – This is a sin of selfishness. If you choose to put your needs above the needs of your children, then you are being gluttonous. A glutton in co-parenting would be a parent who continues to fight. He/she can’t get enough of the drama and attention, so the fighting continues long after the conflict should have passed. These are the people who want to keep the divorce high conflict even when they are fully capable of working things out.

Envy – It’s easy to feel envy after divorce. You may envy your ex being in a new relationship or you may envy the fun trips your ex takes with your kids. Envy is being discontent with what you have while wanting what someone else has. Dante defined envy in Purgatorio as “a desire to deprive men of theirs.” Envy is difficult because it can cause you to make irrational decisions and can lead to depression through dissatisfaction. You have to focus on being happy with what you have.

Pride – This is the deadliest sin of all because it is the source of all the others. If you believe that you are better than others and you fail to recognize what benefit others may bring to the situation, then you are being proud. Ideally, when you are married, you discuss things with your spouse and make decisions jointly. After a divorce, you must attempt to continue to make decisions jointly, but the dynamics of the relationship are much different now. Don’t let pride get in the way. It is in the best interests of your children for you to swallow your pride and admit that your ex may handle a situation better than you. If it will benefit your child, then admit your weakness in that role and let your ex take care of it.

Lust – You may think of lust in a sexual way, but for the purposes of co-parenting I am referring to an intense desire for anything – power, money, time, control. Lust for control can ruin a co-parenting relationship. Co-parenting requires that you become business partners in an effort to raise your children. Just like in a business relationship, you cannot have a successful partnership if you are both fighting for control. A successful co-parenting relationship will require compromise and communication.

Facebook Fatigue Syndrome

“Keeping up with the Joneses” used to be a simple idiom. People would use the phrase to refer to the desire to accumulate material possessions. Social status was measured by how much one had or collected. Inability to “Keep up with the Joneses” would cause major dissatisfaction in the lives of those striving to have more and be more than their neighbors and friends.

It was simple back in those days because we didn’t have the internet or social media. We could only see a limited amount of friends daily, so our desire to “keep up” would be based on who we encountered regularly.

My how times have changed…

We now have Facebook where people can post pictures of their gorgeous beach homes with their perfect view of the sunset from the front porch overlooking the ocean. New status updates pop up every minute with friends sharing how happy they are in their job, with their marriage, or with their best friends. Profile pictures show gloriously happy, beautiful people enjoying life.

And you aren’t……

Their kids are more successful than yours. Their Mother’s Day present was more thoughtful than yours. Their husband loves them more than yours loves you. Their clothes fit better on their perfectly sculpted (“I work out more than you”) bodies. They spend more time on vacations than you and they do AMAZING things like go cave diving and drink fruity cocktails with sweat perfectly beaded up on the glass (while you are stuck in your office with no windows).

Our focus becomes on how much better their lives are than ours, which is just another complicated example of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Depression sets in as you wonder what you are doing wrong and why you can’t have all the wonderful things that they have. I have actually been told by a friend that she had to take a break from Facebook because it was making her feel too bad about her own life.  She was suffering from what so many people suffer these days – Facebook Fatigue Syndrome.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” isn’t the same as it was many years ago… I think that now it is not a desire to have the material possessions of others as much as it is to have the same happiness that it APPEARS they have while looking through the lens of Facebook or Instagram.  Add into that Etsy & Pinterest and the envy is to possess the creativity of others.

People fail to realize that Facebook is just a simple way for someone to paint the picture of their life that they want others to see. It’s not necessarily reality. A lot of times it is obvious to me when a friend is trying too hard to stress to others how great his/her life is. Other times I may see a friend who posts an anniversary picture with her husband telling how lucky she is (when everyone knows he has been having an affair with a co-worker for the past two years and she has been fighting for her marriage). Sure, we see the big 51′ Jarrett Bay they just bought, but do we see the massive debt they accumulated just to get it or that the purchase of the boat has caused the couple to discuss divorce?  We see a friend our age who looks so amazingly beautiful in her pictures, but we don’t think about the amount of money she has spent at her plastic surgeon or what filters she used when she edited the photos.

Try to remember that you can’t take every post and picture on Facebook at face value. This realization that people view Facebook as some sort of “Stepford Wives” look at our friends has made me want to talk to my daughters about the importance of viewing themselves as individuals without comparing themselves to others. We want our children to grow up with a healthy self-esteem, but then we turn around and continually compare ourselves to others and focus on our own inadequacies.

If you have found that you suffer from Facebook Fatigue Syndrome, try to remember that someone may appear to live a life of perfection on the outside, but you don’t know anything about their internal struggles. As I have heard my entire life, if we take all of my problems and your problems and put them in a pile, I will quickly take my own back… Be thankful for what you have and focus on being the best that YOU can be.

This is my tough love for Tuesday… a little bit of positive thinking (albeit a tad harsh) to get your focus in the right place.

valerie