A Space of One’s Own

deskLast year, my husband managed to shoehorn a small IKEA desk over a radiator in our bedroom to create my “home office”, my space, my escape.  Ah! What JOY!  I soon added my calendar, my pictures, my stuff.

The demands on women increase daily whether from our relationships, our work or our families and we need to develop personal strategies to incorporate physical and emotional space in our lives.

Physical Space

1. Find a space in your home you can retreat to that makes you feel relaxed.  Maybe you like to hide out in the bathroom to shower or bathe.  Perhaps you enjoy being alone in the kitchen cooking.  Explore places that makes you feel most comfortable and then personalize them.

2.  Find your favorite physical spaces to go to outside the home to clear your head – perhaps the gym, the library or a coffee shop.

Emotional Space

1.  Tell the people around you when you need a break.  If you take a 10 minute break from work to get some fresh air, you will feel better and it will increase your productivity.  Tell the people in your household or outside family that you need some time alone.  Give yourself a “time out” from your kids.

2.   Do you have any hobbies? Lose yourself in playing or listening to music or knitting or painting.  Sports are also a great emotional release.

3.  Become ensconced in a book or movie.

4. Immerse yourself in nature by gardening, hiking or wandering through the park.

5. Practice meditation – as little as ten minutes a day can provide restorative energy to the brain.

Experiment with these strategies and develop new ones.  Don’t be shy about demanding your space, your improved mood will benefit you and those around you.

This article is also published at www.myculturemagazine.com

A Museum about Moms – Who Knew?

MOM_Logo_8_14I crossed as the red hand flashed solid on the corner of 84th and 2nd in Manhattan to discover a sign in front of a building that said “Museum of Motherhood”.  It’s about time, I thought.

As you walk downstairs to enter the Museum, there is a large painted sign in black letters stating:

“Humanity depends on motherhood.  I can think of no other subject so wildly misunderstood, underfunded and understudied.  We’re here to change that.  Together, we will put motherhood on the map and dispel myths that have kept women, caregivers and birthers marginalized and educate using our strong voices…” Joy Rose 

Once you arrive downstairs, the space looks like an art museum as the exhibits are so beautifully laid out – with a library including a massage chair, as well as a snack and activity area for kids as you enter.  I sat and looked at a book on “Mommy Guilt” and after reading that yelling at your kids is a moms’ number one reason to feel guilty, I suddenly felt very at home with my sister mommies.

If you choose, you can try on the weight of a pregnant belly but since I’ve already carried twins, I passed on that.  I hope some men keep it on for the whole visit!

Here were some amazing facts I learned about mothers:

In the U.S. in 1970, 70% of women with children under the age of 6 were homemakers and 30% worked.  Today the numbers are reversed.

When Birth Control was approved in 1962, the average number of children per household was 3.6 and by 1980, it was 2.  In the U.S., 100 million women are currently on Birth Control.

60% of women in the world today give birth without the aid of a trained professional.

The exhibits were delightfully varied – from a scene of a room with an old sewing machine from the 1800s that explained about the role moms played in turning their house into a home to a tribute to moms in rock bands that included a dress worn by a singer that was made out of individual cereal boxes!

There is also a larger play-space for kids.

It was so exciting  to reflect on the history of motherhood and why mothers need to be honored and appreciated.  Take a moment now to feel inside you the gift you strive to give to your family each day as a mom.

It’s located at 401 East 84th street between 1st and York – contact www.MOMmuseum.org  for additional information.

This article is also be posted in the Wellness section of http://www.myculturemagazine.com

I get by with a little help from my friends…

mnn2SRkSome stress is a part of life and can even motivate us to do our best – like the rush you get before a show or a presentation at work.  But when stress reaches high levels it is dangerous to our health and can paralyze us from making positive changes in our lives.

So here’s my advice for combating stress. Don’t go it alone. Reach out to your female friends for love, support and just plain fun.  It’s easy for me to correlate times in my life when I was happier and less stressed with the quality and/or quantity of my female friends.  As a girl, I had a best friend for years named Lizzie and that meant I always had someone to sit with at lunch or to go ice-skating with or to just watch The Brady Bunch.  Not to mention sleepovers – if those aren’t the cat’s pajamas, I don’t know what is.

I also remember the emptiness I felt the first year at Connecticut College because I had no friends, or how depressing it was to be isolated in my early years as a Stay-at-home Mom. Friends are that important.

There is even evidence that we live longer when we have strong female friendships. In this article on women’s friendships ,  they site research in the area of friendships such as how in The Tending Instinct, Shelly Taylor found women’s relationships and need for community is based in our DNA and can also be seen by studying animals.

A study at UCLA School of Medicine discovered that when we’re with our female friends, we emit a “feel good” hormone called oxytocin that helps us reduce everyday stress.

A study by Dove indicated that 70% of women feel prettier because of their relationships with female friends. This is critical to understanding how self-image develops in girls and women.

 Most importantly, Haupart states that, Women without strong social ties risk health issues equivalent to being overweight or a smoker – it’s that serious.”

Unfortunately, with our fast-paced digital society, women’s friendships are on the decline while stress levels in women are in the increase.  Try to reconnect with friends in your life.  Be open to new friendships. 

I have a friend from Italy and she makes green tea in a pot on a tray with china cups and puts out light flakey buttery cookies. It’s a welcome and refreshing approach to catching up with a friend.

So meet a friend for tea, to get your nails done, or see a movie.  I have learned that above all one thing is clear:  We Need Each Other.

This article is also published in the Wellness section of myCulturemagazine

I like it the old-fashioned way…

journalsJournaling, that is.  I can’t imagine my fingers clicking away as I keep a digital record of my most private thoughts.  No, I prefer the feel of my Bic Round Stic pen as it glides across my preferred spiral bound, thin lined, purse sized journal.

Every feel you need a place you could vent endlessly about your trials and tribulations in love (or lack thereof), life and trying to make sense of it all???  A journal provides a captive audience that is willing to listen without judgment or comment to WHATEVER you want to say.

For me, journaling has been a Godsend.  I have shelves in my closet full of these life journals that I’ve kept since high school.   When I was done writing for the day,  I closed the book and felt I could put those worries aside and keep them in that book and it was safer that way.

It can be helpful to try different journal styles to see what works for you.  I recommend trying the empowerment journal if you are trying to gain confidence in yourself or to fulfill a particular goal.  It’s simple.  When you feel so moved, write down things that you are proud of that you accomplished that day, that week or anytime in your life.  It can be small things, like I’m proud that I got to work on time in a presentable fashion or big things, like I’m proud of myself for getting a promotion at work or helping my child feel better about themselves after being bullied at school.

The gratitude journal is very popular this year.  A way to cut through all the negativity around you is to remember things you are grateful for.  Perhaps you are grateful for a chance to talk to a friend that you’ve lost touch with or that the construction noise outside your building has finally stopped.  It can be as simple as appreciating that you have a roof over your head or the chance to have a meal together with your whole family.

So, try it out.  Put Down The Laptop.  Maybe just go down to the local coffee shop with your pad and paper and see how it feels to scribble down ideas about your thoughts and dreams.

Never Give Up!

Image 1Sometimes it’s the smallest things that give us inspiration, like a white mug with a drawing created by Jacky Fleming that sits on my desk that has a girl/ woman who is jumping for joy, with the symbol for female on her shirt, that says never give up.  I purchased it in a women’s bookshop in London about 20 years ago and it reminds me of my Junior year Abroad when I felt so free being  far away from New York and I was sure that the world was waiting for me with open arms.

What do you do when moments of despair take over and it feels like there is no hope?  We quickly lose that feeling of invincibility that you feel at the age of 21 and it’s increasing hard to conjure up hope.

So I’m amazed how one day I’m pulled out of my own funk by reading to my bright eyed 8 year old daughter from Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!”

There’s an adorable little yellow guy who struts his stuff as he goes confidently into the world.  At times, he’s “soaring to high heights” but there are many bumps and snags along the road, that “scare you so much you won’t want to go on.” But onward he goes.

I think we can all take a page from Dr. Seuss as we go through our lives.

So be sure when you step,

Step with care and great tact,

and remember that Life’s

a Great Balancing Act.

Just never forget to be dexterous and deft

And never mix up your right foot

from your left.

And will you succeed!

Yes! You will indeed!

(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

If you ever get caught in a downward spiral in your life, try taking a deep breath and find this Seuss book and read it.  Or watch one of inspiring graduation talks like the one that Steve Jobs gave as a commencement speech at Stamford that can be viewed on Ted Talks.

International Women’s Day!

It’s International Women’s day and Citibank  has some “secrets from the professional sisterhood”- with 15 insider tips for building confidence and connections.  I find that most of them apply to a woman’s personal development as well.  I hope they will inspire you!

1. Listen to your inner voice and take note of the things that ignite your zest for life.

2. Focus: keep your eyes on the prize, however you define it.

3. Keep learning and challenging yourself.

4. Create your own tomorrows: don’t wait for someone to tap you on the shoulder. Ask for what you want.

5. Celebrate your successes.

6. Push through your fears.

7. View failures as a springboard to propel you even further.

8. Always look ahead, behind, up, down and sideways: you never know where the next opportunity will come from.

9. Reflect rather than react, strategize rather than “stew.”

10. Network, network, network – and then network some more: inside your organization,within your industry, across your community, etc.

11.  Always hire people smarter than you.

12.  Never apologize for your greatness.

13.  Don’t take things personally and let go of the negative swirl.

14.  Feel free to change your mind – often.

15. Have a plan B, C and D: don’t let life catch you unprepared.

Love yourself in style

My daughter has a hand-me-down white Benetton shirt with a purple marker stain on the elbow that has a simple message for women that they often forget.

I love my style,

I love my wear,

I love my shirt,

I love my color,

I love myself.

She loves it.  Her style is smart and sassy in her sparkly gold Hello Kitty shirt with purple polka dot leggings and black fashion boots.  She explains that of course she loves herself, and because she loves herself, she can love other people.

Do you remember that sense of love you had for yourself as a young child?  Did you struggle through the tween and teenager years to feel good about how you looked and if you were “good” enough?”

Do you love yourself enough now?

Here are my ideas for loving yourself more:

Be Yourself– The more you can be yourself, the more comfortable you are in your own skin, the more you can love yourself.  If you compare yourself to others and try to dress or act like someone else to feel better about yourself, you’ll end up feeling worse.

Don’t sit around with your feelings of inferiority!  We all feel insecure at times but the more we focus on it, the worse it becomes.  Find ways to go out in the world and do things that you enjoy to distract you from these feelings.  The more you are successful in these interests and passions, the sooner you’ll gain confidence and love yourself more.

Understand it’s not necessarily your fault.  Women often follow the rules and do all the “right things” and feel responsible if they:

  • Can’t find a partner
  • Can’t find a job
  • Their marriage/ relationship ends
  • People don’t like them

Life is easier if you realize that you aren’t responsible for external factors.

Don’t try to be perfect.

You can only learn if you take some risks, make mistakes and learn.  You don’t have to be perfect- it’ll just get in the way of loving yourself.

Take Your Time.  Find Your Style.  Love Yourself.

Hats off to you, moms!!!

When we have children, we immediately add on a new identity of “MOM” that we hold near and dear to our hearts and at other moments wish we could shed, if only briefly, so we wouldn’t have to constantly worry so much.

I’ve talked to many mothers who don’t appreciate themselves enough for all they do.  I remember when I was a stay-at-home mom, at times frazzled and overwrought, I felt like I wasn’t good enough because I wasn’t keeping up with my career.   When I began to meet other stay-at-home moms around me as my children grew I was shocked at what they did (and I realized I did, too).  They were juggling a schedule for feeding, changing, cleaning, teaching and amusing children and keeping them SAFE, which may not be rocket science, but it is an art – as well as a demanding job.

I am impressed by moms who hold demanding jobs both inside and outside the home, like my sister-in-law.   She travels all over the world- Singapore, China, South Africa, Poland, and more for her job.  Still, she has the energy to stay connected with what is going on in her daughters’ lives and catches up with the family routines as soon as her plane touches ground.

I know low income struggling moms who are working, studying and raising kids and I have no idea how they manage to do what they do.  I am in awe.

Moms are doing amazing things.  Why not blow our own horns?

I believe self-esteem develops differently in girls and women

As a girl you may remember that you were praised for being “pretty” or “cute” or how your outfits looked.  Boys were told they were “big” or “strong” or praised for accomplishments.  I’m not here on my soapbox for change (maybe a little).  I’m just pointing out that female self-esteem and self-image develops differently.

I shudder when I hear my daughters, who are eight, read calories on labels of what they are eating.  They are thin yet one girl teased my daughter that she had fat thighs.  It’s hard not to get angry as they tell my daughter in gymnastics class that when she finishes her routine and pulls her hands behind her head in the dismount, we should be able to see her ribs.

Naturally women have more of a struggle to accept their looks and their weight.  Start to take a step back from messages society is sending or who is to blame.  Be determined to start sending yourself messages to overcome any inner critics in your head that are making you feel bad about your image.  Treasure the relationships that are true and honest as those reflect who you are.

Really? I thought this was 2013.

Do you think that women and men are treated the same in the workplace?  Of course not!  I was reading an article in Psychology today that explained that men were penalized for being less aggressive and moral whereas women who were less aggressive and moral earned more.

Really? So as I woman is it wrong to be aggressive? ask for promotions? higher wages?  Where is the line between assertive and aggressive?

I asked myself the other day if I were a man would I be charging more for my coaching and counseling.  Maybe.  Maybe women are still undervaluing themselves but are we being given a choice if we are rewarded for being “moral and less aggressive”.

In my research, it seems that women who are assertive are often seen as get seen as aggressive or bitchy. Further, if women get mad they are out of control and incompetent whereas for men it’s reasonable and can be a plus.

There is hope.

Quoting Amy Gallo’s article in HBR

“Don’t feel you have to muster interpersonal coldness to accompany your assertion. Feel free to be friendly and empathic while asking for your needs to be met,” says Ames. Find your own style instead of trying to imitate others. This is especially true for women. “Women need to be aware that becoming more like men is not sustainable,” says Cox. Nor do you need to be more assertive in every context every day. “You can bring out your competitive side when it’s useful and you can dial back and be accommodating when it’s helpful,” says Ames.

Play around with setting small goals and see how others react.  Spend time with co-workers so they know who you are and understand your ambitions. Feel strong and self confident as you develop your style of assertiveness that will bring you maximum success.