Don’t Forget About You!

CalvinHobbesParenting

The number one thing people tell you about parenting?

Kids come first.

End of story.  No discussion, no questions.

Now, I don’t disagree with this advice, but there’s a fine distinction between the “kids come first”, and the “I have to do what’s best for my kids” approach.  The moment you do something for yourself, there are plenty of people ready to write you off as a selfish parent.  Don’t listen to them.  Listen to you kids.  Ask your kiddo, “Do you like it better when mom and dad are stressed out, or when we’re happy.”  Gee, I wonder what they’ll say.

Thankfully, people are starting to realize that if you want to raise happy, healthy kids, you have to be healthy and happy too!  This is important to remember, and I noticed it the most in this Proud to Parent program.  Every meeting, we go through a few questions at the beginning.  Guess which question is the hardest to answer….

“What have you done for yourself this week?”

This might seem like a strange question to ask, especially coming from the “drop everything for the kids” approach to parenting.  But it makes a lot of sense, and I think people need to remember that.  Any parent, no matter what age, will tell you that parenting is exhausting at times.  Parenting is a tough job, no doubt about it.  But it’s also so incredibly rewarding, and in order to get the most out of parenting, you have to be able to take a step back and reflect on it.

If you’re like me, it’s always hard to take time for yourself.  Between work, school, kids, and every other obligation I’m signed up for, “me-time” isn’t exactly a top priority.  You feel guilty, you can’t stop thinking about work tomorrow, or that exam coming up, you miss your kids.  But I’ve also started to see how important it is.  Trust me, if I’ve had time to hang out with a friend or relax and read a book, I have way more fun with my son.  Sleeping too; man does getting enough sleep help…

So don’t be afraid to help yourself help your kids.  If you need a break, that’s ok.  If you need a night out or time to yourself, don’t let anyone tell you you’re not entitled to that.  Parenting is a full time job, and full time jobs have vacation time for a reason.  Everybody needs a vacation, even if it’s just one night.  Trust me, taking a day to recharge, catch up with an old friend, do some yoga, take a nap, whatever, will pay back tenfold.  If taking a night to yourself lets you be able to relax and have fun with the kids all weekend, it’s totally worth it!

So let me ask, what have you done for yourself this week?

Balancing Life and Parenting

lifeI feel that due to all of the expenses and obligations in daily life a
lot of parents are not able to spend all of the time they would like
with their children. Having a child is a life-changing experience, and
supporting them is too. I have struggled daily with thoughts that I do
not spend enough time with my girls. Many times I feel ashamed of the
little time I spend with my daughters. Juggling work, school,
financial obligations, and just life in general has made it hard for
me to be with them at all times. Sometimes I feel like I am a bad
parent and I get emotional because I feel like I am missing so much
while at work. One of my fears was that they would forget about me, or
get closer to someone else and not want me. The most emotional thing
for me was that I did not get to see Genesis take her first steps when
she began walking. I wanted so bad to be there for that moment but it
wasn’t possible. I was very hard on myself about missing her “firsts”
but from that I have learned to better appreciate the time I can spend
with my girls.
I want Genesis and Samyrah to know that everything I do in my life is
for them and that I really do want to be a great mother to them. After
work I fly home and hug them tight. I miss them every day. I keep
pictures at my desk and it helps miss them a little less on some days.
Thinking negatively about me as a mother was not going to change the
time I spent with them, what I missed, or how they felt about me .I
may not be the perfect mother, but I strive to be the best mother I
can. Working and getting my college education is something I am hoping
they appreciate when they are old enough to understand. It is my way
of building a foundation for our future life.

Headless Chicken

218px-headlesschickenI have been sitting here staring at this screen on and off for the past hour trying to figure what I have to say about being a young parent. Clearly I have decided to start typing, but I still have no idea where to start. I know what I want to say. The problem is how do I tell my story without sounding like a crazy woman.

Here is my attempt…

Since becoming a young parent, I do not remember the last time I was not tired. Between work, school, and caring for my son, I feel like a chicken with its head cut off running around aimlessly. With that being said, I have never been happier in my life. I smile so hard that my face hurts more than my exhausted brain. The best part of my day used to be falling asleep to Netflix. Now, the best part of my day is when Caleb is asleep and his diaper is full. I pray that he doesn’t wake up while I am changing him because I have so much work to do, but by the time I’m done and I look up at him and he’s awake. My first thought is, “Just great!” Then he looks into my eyes and he smiles at me and I can’t help but smile back. I feel like giving up EVERY SINGLE DAY, but his smiles gives me the push that I need to keep going. I laugh when I should cry, I watch him sleep when I have a million other thing I should be doing, and while people thought becoming a young parent meant my life was over, but I have never felt more alive.

To all the other chickens with your heads cut off, I can’t tell you how things will work out for you because I am still trying to figure that out for myself. What I can say is that you are not alone. Stay strong and be #proudtoparent !

Louisha

Hard working single mom’s

denise imageBeing a single mom is very hard, stressful, and depressing. Being a single mom and working is even more stressful and depressing. Work causes stress, and being a mom also causes stress so you feel so stressed out and don’t know what to do or where to go. You get so desperate that you feel like you are all alone and don’t have anyone to help you or cheer you up. You feel like your not a good parent because you have to work enough hours to get enough money to pay bills and take care of your child. I am here to tell you that you’re doing a GREAT job and keep up the good work!!

I know exactly how you feel because I am going through it myself. I am a young single hard working mom. I am my daughters mother and father. Alot of times I get out of work so tired that I just want to lay down and sleep my life away, but then reality hits me that I am not able to do that because I have to take care of my daughter first and put her to sleep before I can get some rest. Most of the times I feel like I’m stuck in between these four walls and can’t get out. But then I think of all the help I get from my family and how lucky I am to have that help.

Never feel alone. There’s always someone out there willing to hear you and give you advice. Never feel like you are not good enough, because you are. Keep working hard even if you feel like giving up because “Hard work pays off”. Give all the love you can to your child because they need to feel it. Never give up, strive to do better in life for you and your child because in the future that child will thank you for never giving up on them.

How can I be a Leader when I’m not Even Ready to Parent?

Cam PhotoLeadership

Leadership is kind of a funny word.  Oxford describes it as “The action of leading a group of people or an organization.”  Well, that doesn’t sound so hard right?

Except for the bit about leading (what is leading anyway?)…oh and finding a group of people that believes in you…oh and the bit about actually being able to lead them, having the time to do it, being able to speak so that those people will listen to you, and even getting people to realize that you could be a leader.

So, other than all that, I could be a leader, or you could be, right?

Exactly!  From the moment your child is born, you’re a leader.  Parents are leaders.  Think about it, this is probably one of the only times in most of our lives that someone depends almost entirely on us…for everything.  Our kids literally couldn’t survive without us (No pressure, right??).  So if we’re leaders for our kiddos, why does it stop there?

Being a Young Parent Leader

Being a young parent provides an amazing opportunity to become a leader.  Parenthood teaches people a lot about themselves and about others.  Even though ‘leading’ a 3 year old kid in his day-to-day life might be a bit different from coaching a team or managing a department, I bet there’s more similarities than you think.  I mean, those little eyes look up to you whenever they need guidance, and they probably will for most of your life.  People always need guidance, but with kids, it’s especially important to provide guidance.  Sometimes people think parenthood defines a parent, without realizing that every parent defines their own path of parenthood.

Especially when you’re a ‘young’ parent, people seem to think the doors to your future start closing.  Some people think “young parent” and “successful” are totally incompatible things.  Personally I look for every single opportunity to prove those people wrong.  Hey, I may not be perfect, but I can sure be a decent dad and a successful guy.  I refuse to let someone else label my parenthood is a limiting factor in my life.  All other parts being equal, for some reason, when you’re a “young” parent, some people tend to forget about the good things parenthood does.  Why is it when we see young parents, the “Congratulations!” go out the window, and in comes the questions:

“Are you sure you’re ready?”

“Will you be able to finish school?”

“Do you have enough money for to raise a child?”

I’m not even sure if people expect answers, they just love to point out that parenthood is going to be difficult.  Thanks for the heads up random stranger on the street, I had no idea I looked “too young” to have a kid.  Is it hard?  Sure it is, but parenthood isn’t exactly easy, whether you’ve got a fresh high school diploma or you have a social security check in your hand.  But, if everything in life was easy, how would we grow?  How would we ever rise to the occasion?  Being a young parent sure is hard, but it can also be an amazing step toward a life that we, as individuals and parents, can be proud of.

So really, being a young parent is an amazing way to become a leader.  There is no single force in my life as strong as my son.  Through him, I have grown stronger, learned and accomplished more, and reached new highs in my life.  Stop worrying about all the doors people say get shut, and start looking for the open window.  Think outside the box.  I’ve had more opportunities to help people since becoming a father than I can count, and I’m very proud of what fatherhood has done for me.  Looking into my son’s eyes, I have found motivation, responsibility, determination, confidence, inspiration, and so much more.

I dare you to ask someone about some traits leaders have.

And I bet you $5 they’ll say one of those traits.

-Cam

Being a leader to my children.

melissa photoI believe that a leader is someone that people look up to. I feel like I am somewhat a silent leader. I’d like to think that sometime in the future I will be seen as a leader for others but for right now I am focused on being a leader for my daughters. Life changes when you have children as many people have experienced. There have been many challenges I have faced since becoming a mother, but I feel so blessed to have my children in my life. They are my inspiration to work harder, reach higher, and become a better person-possibly a known leader.

When I became a mother I realized that everything was no longer about me. Everything I do now is for my daughters and their future. I want to be the person they look up to and want to be like. I aim to have a great relationship with them and love them unconditionally. I want to give them all the things I never had as a child. I am their mother and their leader.

I have learned that even though the roads aren’t always plain and smooth, life teaches us things we can learn in the future. I am proud to parent because I feel like this experience gives me a chance at leadership. These experiences become part of us and we may touch others in our lives by sharing these experiences. Being a young parent I want to encourage others that are in the same situation and motivate them to push forward no matter what. Leaders aren’t always well known but when you do take that time to reach out to someone and be that voice for them-even if it is to that one person, you are a leader.

Not just about me

ashley photoWhen I knew I was going to have my son, Liam, everything changed. I stopped smoking and drinking – I made a commitment to eat really healthy. I also began to research everything I could find about pregnancy; pintrest became my best friend. However, I knew I also needed to change the environment I was around. This choice was the most difficult. Choosing to remove myself from dysfunction also meant loosing someone I love. He didn’t agree with what I wanted for our son. I wanted safety, I wanted love, I wanted happiness, I wanted a calm enviorment, I wanted to give my son the beginning I never had. I changed so quickly when I knew I was going to be a mom, I had no choice. I guess I shocked him, I can understand. I couldn’t wait though I needed to do what I had to.

I want to be the best me I can for Liam. With that comes giving up a lot of things I did before I had him. It also means walking away from whatever is unsafe and unhealthy. Its difficult sometimes when my friends ask me to come out and hang with them. Or ask me when I won’t be breastfeeding anymore so I can drink. My son is only 2 months old so me not being around is not really an option. I also do not have anyone that can really watch him at this point, he is always with me. With this however, I get to see him explore the world in a different way everyday. I have not missed one of his smiles. I love this, it will definitely be a struggle when I go back to work in a month.

Being a young mom, doing this pretty much on my own is so difficult. I can’t tell you how many times I have cried. I also cannot tell you how many times I have smiled. At this point I have also really started to look at my goals and priorities. Ones which I need to do not just for my son but also me. Looking at everything that I need to do can be really overwhelming, but it helps when I remind myself that I can accomplish them, and that it doesn’t have to happen over night.

My world is no longer about just me. It’s no longer about just living in the moment and doing whatever I want. My world is now about making my son’s world safe, healthy and beautiful. Everyday I probably do something wrong, but I also probably do something right!

Contribute to the 2015 Young Parent Anthology!

Anthology

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Apply to our Young Parent Ambassador Program!

What: The Young Parent Ambassador Program is an employment and leadership program that empowers Boston’s young parents and helps them reach their goals.

Who: Young parents 25 years or younger (must currently be an expectant or parenting young adult).

When: Participants must be able to commit to 2 – 5 hours of work per week, November 2014-August 2015

Where: Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston MA

Contact Ariel for more information: 617-582-0187/alchilds@partners.org

APPLICATIONS ARE DUE FRIDAY OCTOBER 31ST AT 5:00 PM

Download the application here: YPA 2014-2015 Application