Everything You Need Is Within

What I’ve learned through my spiritual journey and how I hope to guide my kids on their own 

Although I was born into a catholic family, my mom never took us to mass. The only time we’d go to mass was when we were in Honduras for the summer and my aunt dragged our asses to church. Even then, we’d either fall asleep on the pew or stare off into space and take cue from those around us to know when we should stand or sit.

I don’t think my mom ever found solace in the repetitiveness and ritual of Catholicism. She found it through musical devotions and free prayer. I remember as a little girl, I’d wake up at night and see her sitting in the dark living room with music on, crying her eyes out, trying to figure out the whole single parent thing. I didn’t understand it then, but it got her through probably the worst years of her life. The music connected with her, it made her feel like she wasn’t alone and that soon, all will be okay.

What I am most grateful for is that my mom maintained an open mind towards religion/spirituality when I chose to try to find God in the darkest years of adolescence dealing with depression—even though her catholic background would creep its head in sometimes (You’re going to hell, etc.). She motivated a culture in our home that allowed us to be curious about other practices and encouraged us to discover God in any way we needed to. It probably stemmed from a desperate need to help me through my rebellious stage. And though she wasn’t strict about ritual, Sunday school, reading the Bible or anything like that, she always wanted us to have a strong spiritual foundation.

I by no means assert myself to be religious or a spiritual guru. I’m not religious AT ALL and I’ve only recently begun to discover what spirituality means to me. The only reason I felt compelled to write this post was because Emma, who will be seven in October, is a never-ending pit of questions, eager to understand anything she can about God. It started when her brother, from her dad’s side, was baptized.

Why was he baptized? Was I baptized? Are you going to baptize Oliver? Who’s God? Is it a man? Do we go to heaven? Does he have magic? Is he mean? Why does he get angry? 

I answered as best as I could, but, honestly, I didn’t have the right way to explain any of it and I told her just that. Yet all of her questions helped me figure out how I wanted to help her build this essential foundation. And I use the word “essential” because I don’t want to oversimplify the most important relationship that she will ever have for the sake of controlling behavior we think of as undesirable or because we think she won’t be able to understand.

My job as her mother in this aspect of her life is not to give her the rules and regulations of being a godly person or how to get through the “gates of heaven.” I hope to guide her as best as I can by creating the space she needs to develop her own thoughts and ideas of what being spiritual means and how she chooses to practice it.

Based on this, I gathered my thoughts on what I think are the ideas that can help her build the foundation of her journey as a spiritual being. And I’m sure as I write this post, I will continue making discoveries of what spirituality means to me.

God and Religion

When I was a little girl, I was absolutely terrified of God, Jesus and the Virgin Mary—almost as much as the Devil. If I was alone, I’d imagine that they were standing in a corner, watching everything I did, fearful that they would take me. They were very ominous figures in my life. God was a bearded, burly white elderly man (much like Saruman the White in appearance and temperament), who was always shaking a finger at me because I constantly misbehaved. I lived much of my childhood and adolescence with guilt and shame, always thinking I was going to hell. I look back at that fear, shame and guilt and there’s one thing I know for certain: I never want my children’s relationship with the Source of All Things, with Love, with the Universe and Themselves to be based on such heavy and burdening feelings.

Who is God?

I learned God to be Love. And that Love lives in me and you, in all living things and everything we create (Emma seemed to understand this definition—I was clear that this is what I came to know in my journey. She might learn differently). It’s the energy of the Universe; it is the Source of All Things. For now, I will continue to use the word God. However, the word God does not help justify this expansive and infinite force that lives in all of us and all around us.

God is not angry or judgmental. It’s an unconditional love and all it wants is for you to fulfill your life true to that energy that lives in you, who you really are.

Note: I did not use the word He.

What is Religion?

When Emma asked me this, it was probably the one question I had a clear answer to: Religion is a way or journey you chose to take to find God. Jesus found God and he went on to teach others to do the same. When I mentioned this, I wanted to make sure she knew that just like Jesus, there have been other messengers of God; helping others in their spiritual journey.

There is not a single or right way and it may work for you and it may not. I’ve learned that you can always take bits and pieces from any religion and apply them to your own journey. Spirituality is defined by oneself and I want my children to know they have absolute control over how they connect with what lies within.

In my research, I found that this website offered a clearer definition of both Religion and Spirituality: Click Here

Life After Death

Emma’s curiosity is most intense when it comes to Heaven. I think since the death of Charlie, her American Bulldog that had been around since before her birth, she’s connected her understanding of heaven with a comfortable definitive answer of what happens with life after death.

My response to her questions about Heaven is, “I can’t give you an answer because I have never been there before, but I think that the light that makes us who we are goes back to God. Just like I told you that God is in all of us, Charlie’s light that made him who he was, goes back to God too.” Believing that those we love continue to exist calms her anxiety about death. I explain to her that death is only scary because we don’t know what happens next—-death is not the end, life just changes.

I don’t believe in hell or the Devil. I believe that the existence of evil lies in people’s distance from Love and therefore, God. I don’t ever want to use the ideas of hell or the Devil to control my children’s behaviors. By teaching them about Kindness and Compassion, Acceptance, Gratitude, Living in Truth, etc., my hope is that they will lead their lives according to these beliefs. I not only talk about it; I show them through action. I teach them that through acts of Love, I am sending out prayers into the universe and that everything I put out into the world, it is reflected back into my life.

Open-mindedness and Acceptance

I always reinforce in my attempts to explain these things to Emma that this is my take and my understanding of God, and that it’s okay to have a difference of opinion because everyone’s journey is different. She will have her own journey and will make her own discoveries.

As I was thinking of what to write in this section, I thought to myself, the only time you are wrong in a discussion of religion and spirituality, is when you think that your way is the ONLY way. Just as I teach Emma that we don’t treat people differently for how they look, I teach her to respect and not judge others for their spiritual journey, or at all for that matter. Nor do we think of them as less than ourselves. Spiritual/religious righteousness does not make you any closer to God.

Kindness and compassion 

Kindness and compassion have been easy for Emma to understand. Being spiritual does not mean you are pure and free of fault or sin. It’s being able to act with a heart of love and compassion, despite your imperfections as a human being. My mom always set an example for us to follow, extending a hand to those in need as her prayer.

By teaching Emma that the Light that makes us who we are is part of God, I would like her to understand that we are all divine beings despite our journeys as human beings. We embark on our spiritual journeys to connect with that Light once more. Because we are all divine beings, she is beneath no one, and she is also not above anyone. Keeping this in mind, she will overcome feelings of worthlessness—should she ever encounter them—and she will learn to recognize the Light in others.

Namaste: “The divine light in me bows to the divine light within you”

I think the most powerful and valuable lesson within Kindness and Compassion is that you have every right to establish boundaries. Boundaries do not make you cruel and heartless. Boundaries are set from the kindness and compassion you feel for yourself—which is the first and foremost relationship you need to tend to in your spiritual journey.

Gratitude 

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in my spiritual journey is that of Gratitude. How can we truly exalt the Light that exists in the world and within us when we are selective about the occurrences in our lives for which we are grateful? I am guilty of this and I’ve only recently come to recognize how much so I am living with scarcity mentality.

Scarcity is the mentality of not enough.

Not enough sleep, not enough money, not thin enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not enough exercise, not enough time…you get the gist. My automatic thought when I wake up is that I didn’t get enough sleep and when I go to sleep, I’m plagued with thoughts of all the shit I couldn’t get done. We are so burdened by thoughts of lack that it’s impossible to feel that we are living a fulfilled life. We are also creating an arena where inadequacy and unworthiness rule; where the thought “I am not enough” blinds you to the Light that you carry inside.

Gratitude does not stem from circumstances of abundance. Gratitude is born through the intention of enjoying and appreciating ordinary moments, ordinary things; declaring that there is enough and that YOU are ENOUGH. This thought process has helped me to truly be present as a mother. It has also helped me recognize with joy the Light that surrounds me and lives within me, my kids and my husband.

Living in Truth

Love cannot exist when you are not living in truth. Love cannot be recognized if you’ve built and defend a life based on lies or deceitfulness. The farther you live from the truth, the greater the distance you create from the Light that lives within.

Our paths to God can be found in the vulnerability that is born when you shed a life of appearances. There is no shame in admitting your faults. On the contrary, it frees you. I want Emma and Oliver to understand that when they live in Truth, their path is cleared of shame and guilt, the anchors that drag you down to darkness.

Everything You Need is Within

I hope Emma’s curiosity never fades. Her never ending who’s and why’s  and what’s have helped me recognize the essence of introducing and practicing these ideas throughout her childhood.

Who could I have been if I was taught that God is within me? If I knew that I am enough? If I understood that the path to Love is one forged with Truth and Vulnerability? What hardships of my life would I have escaped if I had known that everything I needed was within me?

This path that I’ve chosen to discover God/the Universe/Love/Light—whatever you want to call it—is helping me become the mother my kids need to live a fulfilled life, free of shame and guilt, always knowing they are worthy of Love and always knowing they are enough. Every journey is different and I hope that I am able to help build the foundation they need to create a life that is true to the Light they discover within themselves.

The One Certainty of Our Relationship

If only relationships could be as seamless as the image social media helps portray—-the cute videos of dad playing with the kids or the amazingly filtered pictures of mommy and daddy showing off a little PDA while having a night out—like that ever happens, the family enjoying a weekend getaway or even the occasional #mcm or #wcw post. The reality is you only see as deep as that post lets you see, give or take a mildly vague caption to remind the significant other of their love and devotion.

And guess what? I’m guilty of it—-I think many of us are.

It’s obviously much easier to post of joyful moments, of love and affection, showing the world just how lucky you are to have someone who shares your world. But to tell you the truth: I can be an ogre sometimes, like a Shrek on steroids kind of ogre. And just the same, Jarred can be a 12-year old jackass. We’re both headstrong, with type A personalities. Mix in lack of sleep, mental exhaustion, demanding children, stress from work and all the other craziness life throws our way, and you’ve got two adults who love each other, but are willing to skin each other alive if they so much breath wrong. It’s not always sunshine and roses in this household, but we love and support each other to death.

And the reality about relationships—one that we don’t usually expect—is that things won’t always be PERFECT, much less your significant other. We set high expectations, unrealistic standards, not talk about our issues and wonder what the hell we are doing wrong. Don’t be fooled into thinking that love is supposed to be easy. It’s not. The truth is, none of us are easy to deal with, let alone please all the time. The perfect person does not exist. Love is seeing the darkest sides in the other and defying the impulse to jump ship.

It’s been four years since Jarred and I met on Tinder and we’ve experienced both ends of the spectrum—I don’t think I could ever call our relationship boring. It’s been really effing hard, but it’s also been amazing. It’s been four years of surrender, vulnerability and growth: the first year a whirlwind, the second a revival, the third a relief and this fourth year, has been a realization.

The Whirlwind

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“They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

The first year of our relationship cannot be described with any word other than intense. I swiped right to a picture of a hot shirtless bearded man covered in tattoos, never imagining that someone so different from me, would swipe right too. The relationship moved rather quickly, and I think because we rushed, we later found ourselves dealing with the serious obstacles of fear of commitment and loyalty.

We discovered truths about ourselves and each other that were hard to unveil.  And we did so little by little as we dealt with a custody battle, moving in together, learning to parent as a couple and dealing with jobs we hated. Our foundation was not strong enough to withstand the overwhelming pressure. Soon, the fog of the intense chemistry that we once felt was cleared by a painful circumstance brought on by the reality of our imperfections.

And I think this is where most relationships come to an end: when you see the darkest side of the other—when that veil slips off and you see all your partners faults in full view, with no obstructions. Their image is suddenly tainted and that standard you once held for that person has been proven false.

I experienced both sides of the coin in my previous relationship, as the victim and the culprit, but this time around I knew what I wanted. And what I wanted was to build a life with Jarred. I had seen his darkest sides and I understood the scars, the faults and the confusion about our relationship—I was once that person in the past.

The Revival

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“Love has a powerful way of removing the mask we all insist on wearing.”

Once we chose to understand—and forgive—we let go of the past and moved forward with a relationship in acceptance of who we really are. It was only then that we were able to build a stable foundation and establish the trust needed to rely on one another. There’s no sugar coating it—the recovery was a difficult journey. But what a difference it was to love each other in the lowest of lows. Because we almost lost each other, we learned to truly appreciate the connection we had.

At first it was awkward. There was uncertainty in both of us: Will this happen again? Can we really move past this? Will this always come up in the future? Will we pay for this mistake forever?

We took it day by day. We learned to talk to each like lovers again, we provided each other with reassurance, we took the time to talk—really talk—and listen to one another, and we worked on ourselves as individuals. And soon enough, we began reviving that fire we once had when we met, before all the pressures took over and inundated us with fear. Once that intimacy returned, so did the trust. WE did what WE had to do to prove to one another that WE were in this for good.

What was so wonderful about the revival of our relationship was that everything in our lives made a turn for the better soon after. Jarred’s position at work improved, I found a new job, our battles in court had positive outcomes for us, we were learning to live and parent together effortlessly and everything seemed to work itself out.

I think when we are immersed in dark times, it seems as though we are drowning and there’s no way we can ever come up to the surface again. I’ve learned that if you really love someone and you’ve committed yourself to that person, you will always find your way back to breathe again, no matter how much you must fight. And there will always be dark times because life isn’t seamless. Reality isn’t easy. But you grow together and after you face these dark times, that wave of relief will always come.

The Relief

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“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.“  – Rabindranath Tagore

Our relationship was different; we were different. We matured as a couple and as individuals because we overcame a hardship meant to break us. The revival wasn’t temporary and so, we found ourselves in a state of relief: we weren’t going to lose each other, and we can really make this work.

As we rebuilt our relationship, we became each other’s refuge. We supported one another’s goals and with trust restored in our relationship, we gave each other the space we needed to be individuals without doubting the other. But we always knew that we’d have each other’s back when we needed it.

I always said I wanted a relationship with someone I could grow with. In my mind, I only ever focused on financial and professional means. This idea that I would have to mature with someone and figure life out with, was never a focus. And I think because we idealize relationships, we tend to turn the blind eye on all the dirty work you must do to make it work for the long-term.

No, you shouldn’t have to change a man/woman. But as a couple, you help each other grow. You help them learn from their mistakes, think in a different way, show them a different perspective and all the amazing things REAL LOVE can do.

And when we thought we had reached a pinnacle in our relationship, we were thrown into a whole different kind of loop: we were going to have a baby.

The Realization

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“A lover doesn’t discourage your growth. A lover says, ‘I see who you are today, I cannot wait to see who you become tomorrow.’” – Donte Collins

I found peace in Jarred.

Throughout my pregnancy and even my normal state of mind, my brain just works overtime, thoughts racing at 200 mph non-stop, affecting my way of speaking, behaving and reacting. I commend the man for his patience and his ability to slow me down. He has opened my eyes to myself and has helped me understand things from my past that affect my present.

Having a baby tested our relationship in a different way. There were days that I knew I was unbearable because I was breastfeeding round the clock, working and trying to be my best for Emma. There was little to no time for Jarred and the pressure started to run us down.

Thank goodness, he’s the communicator in our relationship. I have never been the type of person to show my feelings, much less talk about them, whether they were good or bad—I just walk away. And I think we survived the difficult side of having a child because he forced me to open up and help him understand what I was feeling and what he can do to help me.

He has never closed off from me just because I’ve never been able to communicate. I’m grateful for it and I realize how sure I am of us every time he doesn’t let me walk away. For the first time in my life, I can be vulnerable and defenseless without it being held against me—one of the many reasons he has my heart.

The One Certainty 

We will always love each other.

No matter the ups or down. No matter how annoying or difficult we can be. Whether there’s a ring on my finger or not.

And that’s something you must never forget when you are going through difficult times in your relationship. Remind yourself of all the reasons you love one another and appreciate all the things you’ve overcome; how much you’ve grown together. After all, no matter how much you’d like to point fingers at the other, there will ALWAYS be a lot of growing you have to do as an individual.

Coping While Co-Parenting: The Many Things I’ve Learned

The best security blanket a child can have is parents who respect each other.

Emma is probably the most resilient child I have ever met. She had just turned two when her father and I separated. At first, it was incredibly difficult because she couldn’t understand how all of a sudden her mommy and daddy were no longer under the same roof. Her meltdowns at pick-ups were completely heartbreaking. She didn’t want to be with just one parent; she wanted us both—at the same time. I had also never spent a single night without her. There were nights I’d cry from the anxiety and pain that came from having to leave her with her father. But this was a consequence to our separation, and I’d have to bear with it because I’m not Emma’s only parent.

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The last thing I wanted was for Emma to develop a trauma because the two most important adults in her life couldn’t get their shit together. Why should she have to suffer the consequences of our decisions and actions? Staying in an unhealthy relationship was not an option for me, so I did my best to make sure her assimilation to this change was as healthy as possible.

Emma’s father and I have polar opposite personalities from different cultures and different upbringings. We do not have the same parenting style and as a consequence, we bump heads a lot. It’s taken nearly four years and a hefty attorney’s bill to establish an amicable relationship (even though there are moments when I really just want to lose my shit). This journey has been a true test of my patience and good will, one that will continue teaching me to ALWAYS be the bigger person for Emma’s sake.

There is nothing better for your family than for you to be at your best, for you to be at your own peace, for you to be showing them in every way who you are, and what you stand for.

I’ve become aware of the many things one has to practice in order to keep your integrity intact through co-parenting, especially if the other parent is difficult or simply does not have the same values or priorities. Some might seem like common sense, but when the wrong buttons are pushed and emotions take over, common sense and propriety aren’t really our first impulse, are they?

Not in any specific order, but here’s all I have learned thus far:

Your child comes first

Always. Every interaction between parents should be based on this. Whether or not things ended on bad terms, you still have a child to raise, preferably with parents who are on the same team.

Never speak negatively about the other parent in front of/to child

This requires so much awareness! You think  your child is immersed in playing with their toys or hypnotized by their iPad, but they are aware of everything you say and sense the tone of the conversations happening around them. It’s so easy to vent to a family member or friend when asked what’s going on with the other parent, especially when you’re being crazed by never ending battles. If your child is near you and you don’t have anything nice to say, your response should always be, “Let’s talk about it another day.” Some of those people around you will be relentless and will make backhanded comments or make faces, but this is when you need to communicate that you don’t want that kind of behavior around your child.

At the end of the day, the only person changing the child’s perception of the parent should be the parent herself/himself. Through his/her actions and words, the child will eventually understand the parent’s true intentions. 

Never act out of spite

And I repeat, NEVER ACT OUT OF SPITE. At the end of the day, the ones most affected by your actions are your kids. Keep your heart in the right place and make sure that your choices will be ones to make your kids proud, not resentful.

Conversations with the other parent should not have “colorful adjectives”

I remember being introduced to the terminology “colorful adjectives” in our first mediation, which was a complete disaster. Still run with emotions and big time ego, it was a complete waste of three hours. The mediator suggested we start using a court mandated application for communicating about our daughter. Things to avoid (colorful adjectives): curse words, derogatory remarks, backhanded comments or threats, etc.

Communicate consciously, state the facts and recommend a solution.

The great thing about this communication app (Talking Parents) is that it’s a court admissible record of your communication with the other parent. If they chose to ignore or offer a nasty response and don’t take the child into consideration, you have recorded it.

Respect the time the child spends with other parent

When Emma left to her dad’s for two weeks at a time during the summer, I felt like I was missing an extremity. It felt abnormal to be away from her for so long and of course, I worry. But the point of the summer schedule was for her to make up time with her dad and his family that she loses throughout the school year. I would not want for him to intrude on our time together, so I don’t intrude on theirs. I wait until our designated FaceTime call or I receive a random call from Emma throughout the day (I like to think it’s because she misses us). Seeing her and hearing her voice once a day is enough to calm my nerves and remind me to back off. I’ll follow up with a text to her father for clarification if she tells me she’s not feeling well or I find that something is off.

Promote inclusiveness and healthy relationships with other parent’s family or significant other

This has to have been the most difficult part of moving forward in trying to build a relationship with Emma’s father as a co-parent. Now if anyone’s met Jarred, you know that he’s covered in tattoos from his chin down, including his knuckles and feet. If you’re from the Latino culture, you would completely understand that the older generation harbors a complete distaste for tattoos and judging is instinctive. Jarred and Emma’s father met for the first time during a pick up and he was waiting at his house with four cops because Emma had said that Jarred hit her. Now I completely understand his concern, even though I know Jarred would never lay a hand on her. But as adults, wouldn’t the right way to have handled this was to have a mature conversation and formally meet the other man in Emma’s life?

And as our relationship grew more serious and we started living together, the more the animosity was affecting Emma’s relationship with Jarred. She’d come home telling Jarred that he wasn’t her daddy, even though no one ever forced her to call him daddy. But as a parent, you can’t reprimand your child for saying these things because a then three year old, and a now five year old, could not be guilty of outside influence.

One thing I have ALWAYS told Emma is that no matter who it is, if they love and care for her and earn her respect, they can be her family. I always give her the example that is mirrored on her father’s side. I ask her if his wife loves her and cares for her and treats her well? And her answer is always yes. I explain to her that if she ever feels the desire to call her mommy or anything similar, I would have no problem with it because she earned that right. I remind her that she is a very lucky girl to have such a big family that loves her.

There is no need to create tension in Emma’s mind and pressure to feel that she has to act or be a certain way to appease her parents. There are moments when you can see the battle she suffers when she wants to call Jarred daddy, but has to sort of explain to herself that it’s okay because she’s with us.

Through my actions towards her father and his wife, I have hoped to create an amicable interaction. I invited him and his family and his wife’s family to Emma’s birthday party. For Christmas, I got a little gift for their not yet born baby boy from Emma. This and many other little things I’ve done with good intention and sincerity because I want Emma to see that it’s okay to love people who are not blood, like family.

Today, we are on a good path. I think Jarred has proven to be someone special to Emma, even though the only person he ever needed to prove anything to was Emma. We are patient and sympathetic to her confusion, helping her understand the guilt she feels and allowing her the right to make these kinds of decisions on her own.

Support one another

Whether we like it or not, Emma’s father and I will have to deal with each other for about  another 12 years; if not, more. As adults we both made the conscious decision of bringing her into this world and took up the responsibility of being her parents. So why would I want to see him, as Emma’s father, fail? Why would I wish him any wrong? Now don’t get me wrong, in my frustration I have thought that it’d be easier if I didn’t have to deal with him—-I’m only human.

Today I feel like we have finally reached a place where we can text each other and say “Listen, Emma is being a pain in the ass and I had to put her in time out.” During the summer, for example, I had noticed that Emma was finally chewing her food and actually eating at a normal pace. I texted him telling him that I had no clue what they did when she was with him, but it worked and I thanked him for it.

At the end of day, we are a blended family trying to do what’s best for Emma. Keep in mind, this is not a competition of who is the better parent/stepparent; you’re a team.

Remind yourself that you are not the only parent

As a mother, this is such a difficult thing to do because you feel that you always have your kids best interest at heart—-and I do. Learning to let go has been rough, but I’ve tried my hardest not to lose my head over things I cannot control, especially when she’s in his custody (i.e. bedtime, mealtimes, how they spend their time). I have had to come to the understanding that he will never wish her any ill or would never put her in danger. As long as she is well-taken care of, he is doing his part.

Sharing the responsibility of decision making has also been something that I’ve learned to do. I was raised by a single mother, bearing all responsibility for my brother and I, but this was only the case because my father could give a rat’s ass. Emma’s father WANTS to be involved, he WANTS to partake in Emma’s life, and what gives me the right to take that away from him or from Emma for that matter? Because I’m Emma’s mother? No, he’s Emma’s parent too. Even if he didn’t pay child support (which isn’t the case) could I impede his existence in her life because Emma has the right to have her father in her life. I include him in every decision made, in every school event, in every issue regarding health.

It isn’t asking permission, it’s considering the other parent’s rights in your child’s life.

Others do not have a say in your co-parenting arrangement

Just like any other aspect of your life, there will always be people that will have an opinion on how you handle your co-parenting arrangement. The most common complaint I get is, “Why does it seem like Emma is with her dad every weekend?” My first thought is: what would I have given for my father to want to spend every weekend with me. Yes, I would love to spend time with Emma on the weekend, uninterrupted by routine, and I do at least one weekend of the month. And as Emma’s father once told me, this is a consequence of my decision of moving an hour and a half away from him. So we compromised and Emma gets much needed time with her father and his family.

Another biggie is child support *rolls my eyes*. This was definitely not my priority during our final mediation. I wanted to leave there and not ever have to fight over my daughter like she is a possession. As long as we left with a final custody agreement in place and my integrity in tact, I felt comfortable with the end result, even though it would take a lot of getting used to.

Compromising on a custody agreement and co-parenting arrangement is not to be built based on what others think is best for you and your child; IT SHOULDN’T EVEN BE ABOUT YOU. And sometimes doing whats best for your child means sacrificing certain things.

People aren’t always going to understand, but what does that matter when the only person you owe an explanation to is your child?

Children are not messengers and never pump them for information

It’s as simple as that. My questions to Emma go as far as: Did you have fun with Daddy? Did you eat? Did you poop? How did you behave? I don’t probe any further. I have already had serious conversations with her about abuse, and not because I think it goes on, but because I want her to know that its something she should make me and her father aware of in case it ever happens.

Whatever needs to be communicated to her father, I do so directly to him. Emma is never aware if I am upset or bothered by something regarding her father. It’s not something she should be concerned about. I don’t ever want her to think that she needs to feel the same way towards him.

Keep a journal

From early on our separation and once we started dealing with the courts, I started recording any incident that made me uncomfortable or just details regarding Emma’s everyday. Lately, her weight and health has been of concern, so I have started to meticulously record what she eats when shes with me and her weight at the end of the week.

When you have to discuss something that bothers you or try to bring a concern to the other parent’s awareness, you have to have specific details to back your point. Whether directly to the parent or because you are dealing with it through the courts, its imperative to support your concerns through real incidents. Hopefully, they’ll note that you aren’t doing so because you are bat shit crazy and vindictive, but because you have your child’s best interest at heart.

Things will work out…

I promise. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right thing. Continue to keep your heart in the right place and you will reap blessings into your life. Every decision you take, every action you make—one day, you’ll be held accountable by your children.

Dear Mom, I Get It Now

Sometimes I open my mouth and my mother comes out.

…And sometimes it’s not a good thing.

My mom was an immigrant from Honduras and barely spoke a word of English, but worked incessantly to give us a comfortable life. No matter how hard things got for her, she made sure my brother and I never suffered her hardships. There was always dinner on the table and a roof over our heads, but as kids, we never realized at what cost our comfort came.

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The older I grew, the more cognizant I was of how hard she worked. She cleaned apartments—sometimes up to three a day—ironed, watched kids and sometimes even cooked. Long grueling days took a toll on her physically and only now that I have two kids of my own, am I realizing just how mentally exhausted she was. With no one to tag team with, like Jarred and I do, she came home to deal with my brother and I. So, when we misbehaved, she would react according to her mental state: anxious and completely deprived of self-care.

As a child, I wouldn’t have been able to understand her reactions to us as a consequence of her exhaustion. I mistook her reactions as lack of love and I grew rebellious, which created this endless cycle of fighting and emotional neglect. Our home was a battle field, overwhelmed with mistrust and unease.

Since I had Oliver, I’ve reflected greatly on how much mental health affects parenting. I don’t think a day goes by without me saying to my mom, “I don’t know how you did it!” I’m beyond proud of how strong she was to keep it together for our sake. But how different would it have been had she taken care of her mental, emotional and physical state?

Conscious Parenting and The Importance of Self-Care

Lately I’ve noticed that most of my time with Emma is spent raising my voice and just trying to make it to bedtime without losing my shit. Between the baby crying for a boob and Emma being her loud usual self (that’s her Cuban side), my anxiety sometimes gets the best of me. I lash out on Emma, I am unable to calm the baby and it takes me twice as long to get anything done. When both kids are finally asleep and I calm my mind and reflect, I am not proud of how I’ve handled myself. I have flashbacks of my childhood and realize that I am repeating my mom’s behaviors. This is deeply unsettling to me because I would never want Emma to feel the way I felt when I was her age.

For about a week or so now, I have tried to be more conscious of the way I speak to her and handle situations when I feel my brain entering to a state of anxiety. I try not to react to the chaos and simply take a step back, breathe and ask myself: How can I correct the situation? Am I overreacting? Am I taking on too much? When I take the time to analyze my environment, it becomes easier for me to respond appropriately.

“When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.” -L.R. Knost

Being mindful in parenting has been greatly beneficial to me, though it has only been a step forward in correcting my behavior. I know for a fact that there are certain things I need to do for my mind to be in the right space. For one, I need to EXERCISE. It’s been close to a year now that I have not done ANY kind of exercise. This is something I plan to take on within the next week or so. Secondly, REST—an incredibly difficult feat. I know that I take on way too much and my expectations for myself are very high. I am very hard on myself if I do not reach my goals and I tend to run myself to the ground. Not to mention I have a 4-month old chunk, who feeds like he’s being starved to death every 2 hours. Last, but not any less important, MEDITATION. I used to make the time to listen to Deepak Chopra or any other meditations I could get my hands on. Or just listen to calm music to get my mind to stop running through that never-ending to-do list.

It’s been difficult adjusting my life to being a mother of two and allowing myself the time to take care of my mental/physical health. I feel like I’m falling apart sometimes and I know I can’t be the mother I would like to be if I am not in right state of mind. Now that I have come to acknowledge my behavior, I am going to make more of an effort to take care of myself. Yes, it’s going to be hard—doing anything for oneself as a mom is definitely hard—but at the end of the day, my kids would rather have a healthy and happy mom than one who cannot partake in the fun.

And to my mom who did the best she could and who sacrificed herself for us to have what we have today, I get it now. And I hope that Emma looks up to me, the way I look up to you.

Safe Detox Smoothie While Nursing

About two weeks after Oliver was born, I started breaking out into hives on my extremities. Apart from being overworked by a newborn, I was itching all over. My arms were covered in scabs from scratching and I became extremely self conscious. I decided to go to the dermatologist and was sent home still not knowing what I had. I was prescribed a topical steroid and was told to take some Claritin, even though it would affect Oliver’s heart rate.

In my frustration, I researched heavily on anything that caused raised bumps all over after giving birth. I found different forums with women experiencing similar symptoms caused by something called postpartum hives (more info here).

So apart from losing my hair, looking like a zombie and having different sized boobs, I have to deal with seemingly incurable red, itchy welts. My mom had been insisting that I detox my body, but I was hesitant to do so because I am nursing Oliver. She suggested that I drink beet juice, which shouldn’t affect the baby. So I did my research and to my surprise, beets and beet greens boost milk production!

Going on Day 8 of drinking this smoothie and not only do I feel lighter and energized, my hives have slowly disappeared, with one or two bumps in total! Oliver has not suffered any side affects, like gassiness or pink poop, but with any food, be wary of how your baby reacts to the ingredients. Not all infants react the same.

Strawberry-Banana Beet Smoothie

For best results, drink in the morning before having breakfast. Makes 1 serving.

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Ingredients

1 Raw beet or half, depending on size (Don’t throw away the greens, these are actually the most nutrient-rich part of the plant and can be sauteed or used in a smoothie)

1 Banana

3 Strawberries

8 oz Plain almond milk (Dairy tends to make babies gassy)

1/4 cup of uncooked oatmeal oats (Also boosts your milk supply!)

4-6 Cubes of ice

Directions

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend at least one minute or until completely smooth.

 

ENJOY!