Compassion fatigue ; even Superman takes a break from saving the world!

wpid-img951416.jpgMy former sister in law once told me while I was still carrying my first born in my womb, that being a parent would be the most difficult yet most rewarding job I’ll ever have. She was right. I think even the most seasoned of parents question the choices that they make for their children, wonder if they’re doing everything that they could for them, stay up at night worrying about them when they are away, worry if they’re being over-protective or not disciplining them enough, and we all hope we are not causing irreparable damage!  Believe me, I have witnessed many who have raised children without an ounce of compassion and nurturing, but when you put your heart and soul into your job, whether as a parent, nurse, doctor, teacher, politician or first-responder, you utilize an enormous amount of physical, mental and spiritual energy and  risk suffering from burnout or as my pastor so eloquently phrased it; compassion fatigue. Those of us who are natural givers can suffer from depletion if we do not take the time to step away from all of the giving and allow ourselves to restore our energy levels and rest our weary minds and hearts.

My typical day starts at 6:30 am, getting my son up and out the door to make his 7:15 bus. He is a morning person so there isn’t much struggle there.  I then have about half an hour to check email/facebook/wordpress before it’s time to get my not-a-morning-person-until-you-turn-on-music-and-dance daughter out of the bed and ready for school. While she’s getting dressed, I’m making her lunch, packing her snack, filling her water bottle and making breakfast for her so she’s out of the door on time. Now that half of my normal daily energy level is spent, I try to get in an hour of either meditation and/or exercise  before I head to my client’s office to work. If it’s a good day there are no phone calls from school nurses or other clients who need my attention while I’m working. After I squeeze a day’s work into four hours, I rush home to meet one or both kids, start dinner, then head out to pick up or drop off my artistic one to some type of lesson, try to get work done while I’m waiting but am usually distracted and then commence to getting her home and finishing dinner. If I’m lucky enough to finish dinner in-between helping with homework, reading and completing paperwork sent home from school and phone calls, we may eat before 7 pm which is usually the first time I’ve sat down all day.  I then try to squeeze in a little family time during dinner either at the table or watching one of the few shows we all agree on; Family Feud or Chopped if there isn’t a good family movie on cable. The next hour is spent getting my seven year-old bathed and ready for bed, trying to stay awake long enough to read her a book and tuck her in. I walk back downstairs to the living area, take a deep breath and prepare to spend an hour of quality time with my son. If I can keep my eyes open through the latest episode of Ninth Grade Ninja or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, it’s a miracle, but he only cares that I’m there and he gets me all to himself for a while.  At about nine I send him up for his shower and check on the younger one to make sure she’s asleep. It’s at this point that I feel the exhaustion setting in, but I have to get a second wind, put away leftovers from dinner, respond to any client emails, do laundry, stock the dishwasher (I hate to do dishes) and connect with friends and family I don’t get to see or talk to on a regular basis. On a good night I’m in bed by 1AM setting the alarm for five and a half hours later. This is the life I know. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom, and as difficult as it is parenting solo, I would not  trade it for anything! I am fortunate to have the time to spend with my children day and night. However I truly believe that the only way that I can be a so-called “great mom” and serve my family, friends and my clients with the care and attention that they deserve is to make time to retreat from all of it every once in a while. It’s not easy when you are the sole parent to remove yourself from your children without an incredible amount of guilt, but I am learning that if I am at peace, my state of being is transferred to my children and they are much easier to parent! Simply put, if you spend most of your hours giving, you have to take a fraction of that time to allow yourself to be on the receiving end. If there is no one to take care of you, you have to make the time to care for yourself.

I have a ritual that began over four years ago when my children’s father and I separated, that I still continue religiously to this day. Every few months I take my mini-retreat. My budget is tight so I can’t do it often, but I make sure that I save enough each month so that when the time comes, I am ready to book the room. At first I did it because I couldn’t stand being in a quiet house when my kids were with their father on Christmas night, and I wanted to get out of the house to keep from missing  them. I had a discount coupon for a nearby hotel and decided to reserve a suite for the night. The best thing about my private is that for a little more  than the price of a tank of gas and a mani-pedi, you get a full suite to yourself, a two hour manager’s reception (yes, that means open bar) and a hot breakfast in the morning. Aside from those perks, I get to enjoy a bubble bath without anyone banging on the door to get in, I can watch one of the two flat screen televisions on any channel I want whenever I want, I can relax on the couch and read without anyone yelling “Mom, tell my brother to give me back my “fill in the blank”! And after my glasses of wine, snacks and bubble bath, I can sink deep into the plush pillow top mattress and the down pillows, and coast into a deep sleep, assured that no one will knock on my door and interrupt my slumber unless of course I sleep through breakfast and the maids are ready to clean the room!

After my meditative breakfast I head to the pool area which is almost always empty at 10am in the morning and take advantage of the late checkout I requested by going for a swim and an extended relaxing and dreamy float in the Jacuzzi. I can’t  tell you how refreshed, relaxed and renewed I feel after just twenty-four hours away from it all. The hotel is only about half an hour from my home and at first it felt silly to pay for a room so close to home, but for someone who has the exhaustive task of taking care of not only my children, my home, my business and clients and myself it is an oasis!  Yes I could stay home and take a bubble bath or sleep late but as a mom, I would spend more time feeling guilty about the dishes in the sink, the floor that needs sweeping or the laundry piling up around me and I wouldn’t be able to relax or feel the freedom of escaping from all of the normal day-to-day duties.

I encourage you to think about the definition of compassion fatigue and if you’re affected. Stress can have a major impact on both your spiritual, emotional and physical body so I urge you to take the time to renew your compassion and challenge you not to feel guilty about it, at least until after you slip into the bubble bath. Try it and share your experience in the comment section below.

Even Superman retreats to the Sun to renew his strength after a day of saving the world!

 

Yes Black Girl, You Can Get Head Lice!

Toni's Room

1175313_568687379833427_1961770643_nI am writing this to inform not just parents of African-American children, but also School nurses and all those who have spread the myth that it is impossible for African-American hair to become infested with head lice or that black girls cannot get head lice from their non-black friends. I know first hand that it is not true. I found three live lice in my daughter’s hair just a few days ago, and I couldn’t believe my eyes. I recalled years ago when there was a case at my son’s Pre-school and his teacher told me that he didn’t need to be checked because head lice do not gravitate towards, nor attach themselves to hair shafts that are not completely straight and that the only lice that would “take” to our hair are African lice. Naively, I believed her and felt relieved that I wouldn’t have to be concerned about…

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Yes Black Girl, You Can Get Head Lice! The Finale

Toni's Room

Success! Success!

Here we are a month later and still no return of the yucky head lice or nits (eggs) so I thought it would be helpful to parents like me, who are virgins to this experience, to follow-up my first blog post on March 2nd http://tonitalove.com/2014/03/02/yes-black-girl-you-can-get-head-lice/ about how to eradicate head lice from African-American hair using natural products.

You definitely need to refer to my original blog post where I found out that one of the best ways to kill head lice is heat. After the Rid shampoo that they sell in the drugstores started to take my daughter’s natural hair out on the spot, I searched for an organic remedy. In a few words, the natural remedy is heat to kill them and heavy oil to help loosen the eggs that they leave behind. Both my daughter and I wear our African-American hair in its natural state, but I did invest in a flat-iron…

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Empowerment B.O.O.T. Camp For Girls – FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV

Empowerment B.O.O.T. Camp For Girls – FOX 29 News Philadelphia | WTXF-TV.

Watch “Behind The Max Trailer (Max does the NAE NAE)” on YouTube

Behind The Max Trailer (Max does the NAE NAE): http://youtu.be/Ak2c4lo26ec

SaveBlackBoys.org

James Hilley_Art Exhibit 2010

My son recently had the opportunity to attend the summer science institute, a program at The Franklin Institute. He LOVES science and math and thrives in those environments so although it would have meant a 40 minute drive into the city and back each day, I was willing to make the sacrifice for him as an investment in his future.  By God’s grace, my youngest brother, who also travels into the city every day for work offered to have him stay with him during the week and he would be responsible for transporting him back and forth to camp. What a relief! If my tween was going to experience being away from home for the first time, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation than for him to be with a family member who just happens to have a houseful of boys for him to hang with. Win. Win.

Well, he had the time of his life visiting waste management plants, meeting kids his age, working with petri dishes and laughing with his Uncle “T”.  I missed him but as an independent mom,  I am learning to let go and trust the village and accept that there are lessons that I cannot teach him. Sometimes the village is family, and sometimes it comes in the form of an unexpected phone call from a major museum about a  subsidized science program that is the perfect fit for my kid. I accept it all and give thanks.

In the meantime, I spent some much-needed quality time with my daughter. We have a special bond, but because of some other issues going on in her life she has a yearning for nurturing that I normally have to divide between the two children. We did the typical girlie things and talked about her beauty, her gifts and how to respond to girls who laugh at her hair when she wears it out in a curly natural style (I’ll tackle that subject in another post!). We took ‘selfies’ and the Black Girls Rock t-shirts that I ordered the previous week came in the mail and she said that she felt like we were sisters. Win. Win.

When my son came home, full of testosterone and erupting with information about his two weeks at science camp and spending time with his uncle, aunt and cousins he was surprisingly clingy. He had a ball but actually missed his nagging mom and his overly dramatic sister! We’ve since spent many an evening with him huddled up next to me on the couch after I tucked his sister into bed, watching anything from Transformers to the Cooking channel. He is really a great kid, and extremely bright but the reality is that too many kids just like him go missing, get lost in foster care or the criminal system, or just expire on the streets. And although we live in the suburbs which lowers his risk somewhat he as a young, gifted black boy is still very much a target. So when I recently came across this website, Save Black Boys.org, and saw the t-shirts, I thought of the matching shirts worn by my daughter and myself the previous week. What better way to show my love and support of my son and to keep our boys in the forefront of the minds of all that meet us, than to get matching t-shirts for my son and I as well. We all need to save our black boys;  they too are America’s promise. They too hold the key to making this a great nation. Each time we lose one, we lose  ourselves because we all are one. We need to save them from being racially profiled, save their minds, save their souls, save their self-esteem, save their pride, save their brilliance, save their masculinity, save their lives. What will you do to show them that we care? How will we save them? If you don’t have time to write your congressman, mentor, start an non profit or teach, you can show your solidarity. I am not connected to this program in any way, I just love their boldness and the shirt is nice too! 🙂

Get yours here:

http://saveblackboys.org/pages/about-us?customer_posted=true

The Kids To Do List this Summer–Daddy Style 07/19 by RikkiRJones | Self Help Podcasts

Great information to help Dads with ideas for managing kids activities during the summer, hosted by Rikki Jones and facilitated by Joel Austin, President of Daddy Univercity, Inc.

http://www.daddyuniv.com

H&F continues the series: The Kids To Do List this Summer–Daddy Style 07/19 by RikkiRJones | Self Help Podcasts.

Taming the Procrastination Beast

I am constantly fighting my procrastination or that of my children. I am hoping for recovery as soon as I get time to read this book! 🙂 Great article!

Your Rainforest Mind

Smart people procrastinate.

Really? What do smart people have to procrastinate about? Can’t they just get things done with ease and aplomb?

Oh, brother.

(Now I realize that you may not be a procrastinator. And if you aren’t, that doesn’t mean that you aren’t a smart person. I’m just making a sweeping generalization, as is my tendency, because so many of the rainforest-minded folks I know, are. Procrastinators. And, as I’ve told you before, I know a heck of a lot of smart people since I’ve been working with them in some form or another since the ’70s which I realize suggests that I must be close to geezerhood. Which I am. But, age aside, I still have a totally unscientific anecdotal experience of hordes of g-g-gifted people waiting until the very very last minute to complete whatever it was that needed completing.)

Really.

For those of you who are procrastinators, then, or…

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Make Summer Learning Fun

wpid-20140704_214339.jpgWell, it’s the second week of July and I can’t believe we’re half way through the summer! It’s difficult to achieve the correct balance between fun and learning during the school year since there is so little time, so I am always searching for ways to incorporate both during the summer months. Rare is the child who actually wants to learn during the summer – they feel that it’s their time “off” from school and the mere suggestion of doing anything, including getting up early for camp results in huffs and puffs and why’s and ‘why can’t we’s. And that’s when I remind them that they have off from school, but mom still has to work! Fortunately, I have some flexibility with my work schedule, so I try to sign them up for mostly afternoon camps and use the morning as time to do other activities. My daughter is artistically talented and my son is academically talented so it’s more than a challenge to find something that they both enjoy at the same time. But I love a challenge, and I pride myself in finding and creating mini-adventures that we can take during the summer, aside from the normal museums, summer festivals, parks and playgrounds. We have some fun times and I always try to end the summer with a vacation at the beach which gives them solace and serves as a huge incentive to complain less and listen more. For the past few years, I’ve found it works best if at the beginning of summer, I lay the ground rules for our summer days and I thought I’d share them with you:

  1. Reading Comes First –  My kids know the #1 house rule is that no electronics are turned on until they’ve completed at least 30 minutes of reading. It’s not a popular rule, but it keeps their brain exercised and gives me at least 30 minutes of peace and quiet in the morning! The way I make this fun is to take them on a trip to the book store at the beginning of the summer, give them a budget and let them pick out anything they’d like. Two books have to be on their school reading list and the other two can be anything from a journal to a comic book or anything inbetween. We also visit the free library several times throughout the summer. My son loves to read so it’s not an issue with him so much; my daughter would rather have her teeth pulled. She didn’t want to feel like she was still in school, so with her I decided to take another angle. I showed her that she could log her reading time on the Media Upper Providence Free Library website and get prizes and she has been excited ever since. 
  2. Exercise – The other rule is that they (we) have to get in at least an hour of exercise, and since we have a large trampoline in our yard it’s usually the first choice. They also have the option of riding their bikes, going to the nearby playground, gardening or playing in our yard. On rainy days I throw a big towel near the back door, put their rain boots and coats on them and let them make mud pies and search for rain puddles. The also have the option of playing Wii Sports or Just Dance, or we head to the Local YMCA to swim. If they resist I remind them that I will be happy to find them other options like washing laundry, vacuuming their room or emptying the dishwasher, which usually gets them out the door quickly!
  3. LImited Computer/TV Time – My fifth grade teacher used to remind us that the same shows that come on in the school year are shown as repeats during the summer…and she was right! During the school week the television is on maybe for an hour a night, so they tend to overdose during the summer. It is summer, so I will allow more staring at the tube longer than usual, but after the first hour, it’s time to take a break and do something else. The computer can sometimes be a welcome escape, but also an information overload, especially for intense personalities, so I encourage it to be used mostly for playing math games, Free Rice which helps them learn vocabulary as well as help to end world hunger and reading books on Storia or Kindle. They get to spend an hour or so at the beginning of the summer researching the internet for the best kids websites for the subjects that interest them. Hoagie’s Gifted website is a great starting point for such discovery. 
  4. Summer Wish Jar – Last year I started a summer wish jar. I gave the kids about five pieces of paper each and gave them time to think of things that they’d like to do during the summer that we normally don’t have time to do. The wishes can range from spending the day in their PJs to a nature walk in the park, to a day at the beach. I let them know that it cannot be anything extremely expensive and we will most likely not have time for everything but it gives me a good idea of what they’d like to do before September arrives. I am always touched when I see a paper that says “movie with mom” or something similar, and those nights popping popcorn and staying home make some of the most indelible summer memories!
  5. Summer Journal – Every few weeks, to help them keep up with their writing skills, I encourage them to write about their summer (good or bad) thus far. I give them the choice of whether they want me to read it, or keep it private (although I usually read it anyway), and it’s a pressure-free way to keep them writing during the summer. 
  6. Forget the Rules Days – Yes, I try to buy organic, gluten free, infuse reading, exercise and teachable moments into their summers but every once in a while, I have an impromptu, forget the rules day. They kids never know when it’s coming, but I may take a day off from work and we stay in our pjs, watch way too much television and order take out all day. Or we all put on our rainboots and I drive around the town like a flash mob looking for the largest puddles. The other night, after I came home from work and fixed a healthy, gluten-free dinner, I announced that we were going to take a quick run to the Wawa before the thunderstorm passed through and everyone could pick their favorite dessert. When we got home, I suggested we all climb up on the trampoline to eat our goodies and watch the cloud formations. My kids looked at me in disbelief but were so excited to see me climb up, lay back and gaze at the clouds. They forget that I too was a child. And the best part of being a parent is that if you let them be children, they will always help you remember and guide you back to that special place of childhood wonder. 

Everyone carries memories of their childhood with them throughout their life, and although I can’t shield them from the stresses and disappointments in life, my wish is that their good memories outweigh the bad. The challenge is finding the balance between being a responsible adult/parent while allowing them to be perfectly children. And while you are doing that, you are teaching them more than reading, writing and arithmetic, you are also teaching one of life’s most valuable lessons..balance. 

How do you plan to make summer learning fun for your children?

 

Apps Parents Should Know About

Whisper App

I’ve come across articles similar to this in the past few months (see below) and since I am not tech-savy I appreciate that there are those who are concerned for the safety of our children in this new age of social media . I do have a Facebook account, and Instagram and a Twitter account, but if I have anything to do with it, my children will have neither of them until they are in high school (and even beyond depending on how the tools of communication in our society change by then). Every day you see a news blur about an abducted child, or missing/exploited teenager and I believe it is much more prevalent today with Apps that not only allow unidentified strangers to contact our children but also track them by GPS and lure them into their adult world. I see how easily my own children can be obsessed with the games they play on their tablets and it’s clear to me that the more time they spend staring at their screens, the less time they spend reading a book, riding their bikes, being aware of their surroundings and having normal, healthy conversations and relationships with friends and family.

Call me old-school, but even during the summer months my kids know that they don’t turn on the television, laptop or Kindle until they’ve read at least 15 minutes. It gets their brain going and also guarantees me at least 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning! Hey, I’m human. I am fortunate to be able to have extra time with them right now since I am working primarily from home and I know that this arrangement may not last forever which is why I try to instill the importance and love of reading in them at an early age. Of course we have fun during the summer. We all get to sleep in, we go to the movies, swim at the Y, they go to the local arts summer camp, sports camp and they watch much more television than they do during the school year. I try to provide them with memories that will last for decades, and for me it’s all about balance. I believe the more I keep them feeling connected at home, the less they will look to outside sources.

Again, I’m not judging anyone else’s parenting styles or choices but just trying to bring awareness and information. I may be the only one in my community unaware of the potential of these seemingly harmless apps, but somehow I doubt it. I hope that after reading this, one more parent is aware and checking in on their child’s social media activities and that it may lead to one less kid being abducted from their front step and if so, my work here is done.  Wishing you and your children a fun and safe summer!

Apps Parents Should Know About | Dangerous Apps for Kids – FamilyEducation.com.