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Guilt: The Sequel

Friday, April 28, 2006
If you read the interview below with Debra Gilbert Rosenberg, you'll come across the following quote from Debra: "When moms feel confident and at peace with themselves, they are unlikely to make choices or act in ways that cause them to feel guilty. When they feel insecure, exhausted or overwhelmed, they may do things or make decisions that they later regret, or act in haste or anger, all of which lead to guilt. I think guilt is more related to the mom's state of mind than the stages her kids are in; every mom has ages and stages that are easier or harder for her, because of her unique qualities and life situation. When things are going well inside a mother's life, she generally behaves in ways that cause very little guilt."

I think Debra's comment is insightful because she stresses that every mom is different and every parenting situation is different. Moms end up feeling guilty if -- as a result of feeling totally exhausted or overwhelmed -- they don't have the opportunity to research or think through their various parenting options when they are dealing with what feels at the time like a parenting crisis.

When parents (both moms and dads) feel this overwhelming sense of urgency (this "I have to deal with my child's behavior/sleeping/eating problem today or I am going to completely lose my mind" feeling) they can be extremely vulnerable to advice that may not necessarily mesh well with the unique needs of their child, their family, or their parenting values and goals. And then the guilt sets in.

Of course, what makes it even more difficult to side-step the parental guilt trap these days is the idea that there's some all-perfect "Big Brother" parenting authority keeping tabs on you 24/7: someone who has come up with a set of parenting "rules" that are impossible for mere mortals to measure up to.

One of those "rules" states that you're supposed to spare your child any sort of frustration in life. Frustration is a common by-product of learning and growth, whether you're a child or an adult. You can't learn to build a block tower until you've knocked over a few blocks by mistake -- nor can you learn to feed yourself with a spoon unless you've experienced some of the frustration of seeing that blob of baby cereal dive off your spoon when it's this close to your mouth. (Arrghh!) That's what being a parent is all about: allowing your child to experience some healthy frustration. And there's no need to feel guilty about that.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:49 PM

Mom University: Debra Gilbert Rosenberg on Mother Guilt

If there's one emotion that we moms excel at (other than love, of course), it's guilt. On any given day, we can think of a dozen things to feel guilty about. So when fellow author Debra Gilbert Rosenberg dropped me an email to tell me about her book Motherhood Without Guilt, I knew we had to do an interview on the topic. It's taken me forever to post this interview (which, of course, I feel terribly guilty about). Luckily, Debra sent me a review copy of her book, so maybe there's hope for me yet. Anyway, on to the interview....

Ann: Do moms feel guiltier than Dads?

Debra: I think they do; Dads feel guilty, sometimes, too, but not as often. Women's expectations of themselves, and society's expectations of them, have gotten out of hand. Mothers expect themselves to be beautiful, fit, trim, sexy, loving, intelligent, successful, friendly, organized, neat, tidy, creative, and accomplished at every aspect of their lives. We expect ourselves, and think others expect us, to be fantastic daughters, wives, friends, workers, and mothers. And our culture teaches us that when something goes wrong with the kids, it is usually the mom who is usually at fault. No one expects that dads will be as multifaceted. When a dad takes care of the kids, people compliment him and think he's adorable, when he's doing exactly what the mom does every day. Moms, sadly, believe all of this, too. We believe that we should do everything, and do it all well, and when we don't meet these extremely high expectations, we feel guilty. Dads may feel guilty, too, but in general, they are much more self accepting in this regard.

Ann: Is guilt hard-wired into moms?

Debra: I do think moms are hard-wired to feel guilt. Women are taught early on to be nurturers as well as achievers, and to take responsibility for the happiness of others. While this is not reasonable, or achievable, women really take it to heart. That sense that they should be superwomen causes them to feel guilty even when they have done their best.

Ann: Do you "catch" guilt from other women?

Debra: I don't know if you "catch" guilt, but women certainly can be competitive with each other about their parenting and other accomplishments, and that can lead one to feel guilty for not measuring up to such high standards. While this happens a lot, fortunately, women can also be each other's best supports. After all, women understand what it feels like to try to be wonderful and loving and perfect all the time, and sharing that understanding, knowing that it's not just you who get frustrated and feel incompetent or inadequate at times, can really help erase any sense of guilt.

Ann: Can you "inherit" guilt from your family -- and from female relatives in particular?

Debra We learn from the people who raise us, and we model our own behavior most on our same-sex relatives. If your mother, grandmother, aunts and all their women friends, all worked non-stop to care for their families, and felt guilty when anything went wrong, or whenever any loved one was hurt or upset, then you probably learned that feeling guilty is the appropriate response to any problems. Unfortunately, for generations, women have been the primary caretakers of kids and families, and they have also been held responsible for their emotional, intellectual, and physical well-being. When they can't keep up with all the demands, and when bad things happen which are beyond their control, they feel guilty. And we learn that guilt is the appropriate reaction, even when it is not.

Ann: Is guilt good, bad, or ugly? Or all of the above?

Debra: Guilt can have a purpose. Guilt is good when the person who feels guilty recognizes that she feels guilty for a reason, because she has done or said something that she knows she shouldn't have. Then that unpleasant feeling, guilt, can help her learn to do things differently the next time. That kind of appropriate guilt informs and teaches the guilty party, and if she learns, she won't have to feel guilty next time. Guilt is bad when it is misdirected. No one needs to feel guilty just because something goes wrong. If you did the best you could, if something bad happened that is not in your power to control, let go of that guilt. It's unproductive and inappropriate. We cannot predict or prevent every unpleasant or bad thing, nor should we try. We have to accept that, and not let guilt tear us up over the uncontrollable.

Ann: Does guilt ebb and flow during various stages of motherhood? If so, how?

Debra: When moms feel confident and at peace with themselves, they are unlikely to make choices or act in ways that cause them to feel guilty. When they feel insecure, exhausted or overwhelmed, they may do things or make decisions that they later regret, or act in haste or anger, all of which lead to guilt. I think guilt is more related to the mom's state of mind than the stages her kids are in; every mom has ages and stages that are easier or harder for her, because of her unique qualities and life situation. When things are going well inside a mother's life, she generally behaves in ways that cause very little guilt.

Ann: Are some women more naturally prone to guilt than others?

Debra: Of course. Some women assume responsibility for everything in their lives, while others delegate much more. Some women expect more of themselves than others. Women who have realistic expectations of themselves and others are less likely to feel conflicted and guilty.

Ann: What advice would you give to women who beat themselves up over everything? (And we all know a mom like that. Maybe it's ourselves.)

Debra: First, lower your expectations. Keep in mind that if you and your kids and mate are all alive at the end of each day, that's an accomplishment! Reassess your priorities. Do you really care if every meal is worth a spot in Gourmet magazine? Would you rather play with your kids, teach them to skip rope, or iron the curtains? Take care of yourself. Spend time with friends and loved ones, do things you enjoy, with your kids, friends, family, mate, and by yourself, and remember that the laundry is not as important as your emotional well-being.

Ann: That certainly seems like sensible advice to me, Debra -- especially the part about letting your membership in the International Order of Perfectionists lapse. That, to me, seems to be the first step in letting go of the guilt. Thanks for dropping by The Mother of All Blogs.

* * * * *

Not sure if you're doing this guilt thing right? Check out this tongue-in-cheek guilt guide for moms-to-be, written by your resident guilt goddess.

| posted by Ann D @ 8:02 PM

Coffee Rendezvous

Plans are in the works for coffee get-togethers in Toronto for the evening of Saturday, May 6th and in Vancouver for the evening of Thursday, May 18th. Marla has volunteered to find a suitable venue in Toronto and Leanne has offered to choose a mom-friendly rendevzous in Vancouver. Stay tuned for details....

P.S. You don't have to like coffee to come out and join the fun. I won't hold that against you, I promise.

| posted by Ann D @ 5:32 PM

Mom-to-Mom Formula Marketing

Thursday, April 27, 2006
As a further comment on the increasingly sophisticated approaches formula companies are taking to try to get their messages out to moms, I received this message in my inbox today from an e-marketer who emails me on a regular basis. The message contained a link to a page with some nice soft-sell motherhood copy hosted on a website called GuerillaMom.com. That, in turn, contained a website, which markets Nestle's infant formula.

Dear Web Publisher: Mother's Day is May 14th and our friends at ***.com have a special gift for moms and moms-to-be that visit your site and read your enewsletters. *** has provided an eCard to be shared with Moms on their special day. They've also created a special Mother's Day screensaver, just for moms.

In addition, ***.com has provided additional tools and content by way of articles to be used for your audience - at no charge to you!

We would greatly appreciate it if you would notify us if this content is utilized on your website. Thanks so much!

Am I the only one who finds it offensive that this company is trying to use mom bloggers to market infant formula to other mom bloggers -- and without even being upfront about what they're doing?

| posted by Ann D @ 5:44 PM

Wanted: A More Baby-Friendly Political Vision

I had the privilege of being a guest speaker at the Hamilton prenatal fair in Hamilton, Ontario, on Tuesday night. (I gave a presentation entitled "Healthy Mom, Healthy Dad: Conceiving of Becoming Parents" which talked about thinking about the health and lifestyle choices you should be making and the type of parent you want to be as you start trying to conceive, when you're pregnant, and once baby arrives on the scene.)

Hamilton has a terrific health unit -- one that does a great job of coming up with creative ways of educating and reassuring parents. (I loved the display at the health fair this time around which showed the size of a newborn baby's stomach and how much breastmilk a newborn baby needed during the first day of life. Once expectant parents saw the alley-sized tummy and the tiny splash of breastmilk (actually colostrum) that a baby needed for sustinance during the early hours of life, they'd be less likely to offer baby any sort of supplement (something that can interfere with the supply-and-demand rhythm of breastfeeding when breastfeeding is being established).

Hamilton also has the distinction of being home to one of just four Canadian hospitals that have a been designated baby-friendly in the eyes of UNICEF and the WHO. According to the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada, the following four hospitals have met this criteria:

1. Installation Hopital Brome-Missisquoi-Perkins du Centre de sante et de services sociaux la Pommeraie 950, rue Principale Cowansville (Quebec) J2K 1K3 Tel:450-266-5503 Designated in July 1999. Designation confirmed in November 2004

2. St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton 50 Charlton Avenue E. Hamilton ON L8N 4A6 Tel: 905-522-4941 Designated in March 2003

3. Centre hospitalier Saint-Eustache 520, boul. Arthur-Sauve Saint-Eustache (Quebec) J7R 5B1 Tel: (450) 473-6811 Designated in May 2004

4. Maison de naissance Mimosa du Centre de sante et de services sociaux du Grand Littoral 182, rue de l`Eglise Saint-Romuald (Quebec) G6W 3G9 Tel: 418-839-0205 Designated in January 2005

This really got me thinking about all the hospitals that haven't met this criteria -- and how we're taking such a backwards approach to trying to deal with skyrocketing healthcare costs in this country. If every hospital was required to be baby-friendly, many more babies would be breastfed, and the incidence of childhood disease (including childhood obesity) would be much lower. And mothers wouldn't experience the same frustrations as they do when they aren't fully supported in their efforts to breastfeed, something that can massively increase the challenges that new parents already face during the early weeks of baby's life. When you consider all the benefits of breastfeeding (to mom, to baby, and to society, in terms of reduced healthcare costs, reduced environmental impact, reduced absenteeism in order to deal with a sick child), it's obvious that everyone wins when breastfeeding is successful. Why, then, aren't the provincial and federal governments making it mandatory that every hospital in this country come up with a strategy for achieving baby-friendly status -- and then investing the revenue needed to make that possible? Surely the long-term payoffs (personal, societal, fiscal, environmental) would more than justify the investment.

| posted by Ann D @ 11:13 AM

BabyTime Show - Toronto

Monday, April 24, 2006
I just received some free passes to BabyTime in the mail. If you are planning to attend the show and you'd like a free pass, let me know. I have a couple to give away.

2007 Update -- added April 9, 2007:
It's almost time for the 2007 BabyTime Show. The show -- which is sponsored by Today's Parent magazine -- focuses on the period from prenatal to preschool: pregnancy, birth, baby, and toddler. It takes place at the International Centre (6900 Airport Road, Mississauga). The show runs Friday April 13 to Sunday April 15, 2007, for the following hours: Friday 10 am to 6 pm; Saturday 10 am to 6 pm; Sunday 10 am to 5 pm. I'll be offering seminars on two perennial hot topics with parents and parents-to-be Sleep Solutions and Mealtime Solutions for your baby, toddler, and preschooler.

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| posted by Ann D @ 10:15 PM

Body Confidence and Yummy Food

I discovered I actually have another article in this month's Glow -- the article on body confidence that starts on page 133 and continues through the body image timeline on page 140.

Other breaking news. If you don't live in the Peterborough/Lakefield area, you just got a good reason to move up here. My friend Sharon has just opened up an amazing organic and healthy foods store in Lakefield. It's called The Market and it's right on Highway 28, just a few doors south of the Lakefield Tim Horton's, in the same plaza as the Subway outlet. The store carries super-fresh (and huge, lush) fruits and vegetables, gourmet pasta, yummy pasta sauces (I bought two types of Thai sauce on Saturday night), fresh baked goods and other foods from local producers, and so much more that I can hardly even stand to type any longer because I'm getting hungry and it's two more hours until Prince Charming arrives home to start making dinner. The good news is that everything in the store is super healthy and really reasonably priced. The even better news is that it's situated one-quarter of the way between my home and my cottage. Serendipity or what? Any Stoney Lake cottagers will also want to make note of the store's location. It couldn't be more convenient for you folks. I've told Sharon she needs to get a blog (she's a professional writer, too) so that she can start posting recipes and food tips and other interesting stuff so that the rest of the world can benefit from her new store, even if they may not be able to go there in person very often. She thinks she's going to do that, so hopefully we'll soon be benefitting from her culinary wisdom in cyberspace.

| posted by Ann D @ 3:30 PM

Magazines, Books, Author Chit Chat, and More

Sunday, April 23, 2006
Some rambles based on the contents of my desk and the immediate vicinity.

The new issue of Cahoots Magazine is out. This is the one in which my "Imperfect Measurements" column debuts -- random stats and facts about Canadian women. I'm having a lot of fun writing the column. Hope you enjoy reading it.

The new issue of Glow is out. My "Compendimom" column is back and I've got a very short article on moms, babies, and toddlers and sleep in the issue. The magazine ran a nice plug for Sleep Solutions for Your Baby, Toddler, and Preschooler: The Ultimate No-Worry Approach for Each Age and Stage in the issue, too. It's great to work with editors who really back me and my work.

I received a review copy of Random Acts of Malice: The Best of Happy Woman Magazine. (I've blogged about Happy Woman Magazine before, but, just to refresh your memory, it's the satirical woman's magazine, the place where you'll find articles like A Bitter You in 10 Easy Steps (some regular readers of this blog won't be needing this piece), Tips for Selling Your Work (a quick way to get on a first-name basis with your ISP and some of those international spam-busting authorities), and Are You Obsessed With Your Computer (if you dare!) If you have a deliciously dark sense of humor (think Starbucks Bold, but with more bite), then you will love this book.

Did you know that Sibling Appreciation Day is just around the corner? I do because my writer buddy Renee Raab Whitcombe (www.buddingfamily.com) tracks these kinds of things because she's the author of -- among other things -- Look Who's Going to Be a Big Brother and Look Who's Going to Be a Big Sister, two create-your-own photo album books for big brothers and big sisters to be.

Renee calls me every couple of months and we always have a great chat. Anyway, this time around, she was telling me about Sibling Appreciation Day, and I asked Renee if she wanted to offer some "real world" suggestions about how families with non-Brady Bunch siblings might choose to celebrate this holiday. I really liked one of her tips, which was as follows: "Politely interrupt a fight-in-progress by telling your kids about the things you and your siblings used to do to each other (like cutting their hair and hiding it under the bed or dunking their hand in warm water while they were sleeping). My kids think these old antics are hilarious and actually stop bickering to inquire about all the gory details. Later, I hear them re-telling it to each other after lights-out in their bunk bed."

I've been feeling really guilty about not posting a long-dorman guilt interview with Debra Gilbert Rosenberg about her book Motherhood Without Guilt. So to get that item off my guilt radar, I'm going to post it early in the week.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:07 PM

Earth Day Questions 8-Year-Olds Ask

Saturday, April 22, 2006
Q. Is Mother Nature married to God?

A. "We usually say that Mother Nature is the source of all things in nature because women give birth. Blah, blah, blah."

I wish I could have thought of something more inspired.

Why do the tough questions always come up in the car when you're driving?

| posted by Ann D @ 11:25 AM

Mother's Day Gifts to Give Yourself

Thursday, April 20, 2006
This is a post in progress -- one I'll be adding to for the next few weeks. I just wanted to start it now so that you could start saving your pennies now for some of the goodies on this list. Some of these items are very inexpensive; some are a little more pricey; and some are priceless. (You'll have to be patient to find out what I mean by that.) Here goes.

Oh yeah. These aren't in any kind of order.

(Here we REALLY go.)

Nanci's amazing audio gift to the mothers of the world, which Lynn reminded me about in her post today. (Note: I am interviewed in the pregnancy segment, but I'm not benefiting financially from this project. I am, however, very proud to have been chosen as one of Nanci's go-to mamas on pregnancy and birth.)

If you love books, wouldn't you love this? I also really like this. I'm not quite sure why I haven't ordered them from Amazon.com for myself yet, especially since I have a $20 gift certificate from the site burning a hole in my desk. Definitely one of life's mysteries.

Speaking of cool gifts for bookish moms, what do you think of this and this?

If you are going through a "I've got to get my hurricane of a life under control" phase like I am (amazing how repeated email crashes can put a gal in that kind of mood!) then you may want to treat yourself to some of these fabulous books that I am reading -- and loving -- right now. (Where is it written that you have to read one book at a time? NOWHERE.) Getting Things Done -- a really smart, sensible, and balanced approach to tackling tasks in a way that makes sense. There are all kinds of great places to talk strategy with other GTD aficionados, but I'll leave that post for another day -- and The Four Agreements -- a book I'm sure the rest of you read a million years ago, but that was new to me until two people suggested it to me in the past two weeks.

I just treated myself to the most heavenly-smelling candle -- Pacifica's Neroli Orange Blossom Candle, to be specific. For those of you in Canada, they're selling them at Chapters right now (at least in-store). You can smell them the moment you walk in the store. Mmmmm. That's where I got mine.

Well, those are a few items to get you thinking about pampering yourself, and all the other moms in your life. (We moms have to look out for one another, after all.) Stay tuned for more additions to The Mother of All Lists -- Mothers Day edition 2006.

| posted by Ann D @ 9:15 PM

Today We're Talking E-Words -- Like Email, Entourage, Enemy, and Evil

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Bill Gates was bragging recently about how email really isn't that much of a problem for him, thanks to the miracle tools at his disposal.

I use one of Bill's products (Entourage, which is the email program built into the Mac OS X version of Microsoft Office), and I can tell you how it is that Bill keeps his email message count so low -- a mere 100 messages a day. It's because his flipping email software crashes so often that you spend most of your day rebuilding your email database.

Right now, Entourage wants me to choose a new identity and move on. At this point, that sounds like a very appealing option -- become someone else. I thought about becoming Maria from The Sound of Music, but I could never make pajamas out of curtains, so that's out for me. Besides, Nancy makes a great Maria. I guess I'd better start working on my Nellie Forbush instead. As long as it's someone classy from a movie musical, it would be a lot of fun. (Or a lot more fun than rebuilding my email database yet again.)

| posted by Ann D @ 3:08 PM

Cleaner Confidential, Makeover Madness, and More....

Thursday, April 13, 2006
By now, I am sure a lot of my long-time blogging buddies/readers have been coming up with very creative theories to explain this almost unheard of gap in my blogging activity. For example:

1. I finally ran out of things to say. (Great theory, but highly unlikely given that I am a writer.)

2. Starbucks Peterborough ran out of coffee, and hence there was a writer fuel crisis. (Horrible thought. Almost too horrible to even think about. But it popped into my head nonetheless, perhaps because I caught up on a lot of episodes of Dead Like Me last night and the night before. I do so love that show.)

3. I have been busy gearing up for book promotion season. (Yes.)

4. I am still decluttering my office. (Yes. And, as an aside, my house was so messy last week when the cleaners showed up to try to clean it one day when I was out of town that they walked out! I kid you not. I don't know what my family did in my absence, but the house was officially declared uncleanable. Luckily, the cleaners came back yesterday -- in other words, we weren't black-listed for good -- and they told me it was mainly a matter of clutter EVERYWHERE, but it was embarrassing. We've dealt with this cleaning service for a long time and this is the first time they've ever declared our house too clutter-ridden to clean. What would Martha think?)

5. I have been blogging elsewhere. (Yes. Here and here. But this blog will always be my first love, so don't assume I'm becoming a three-timing floozy, who is blogging around.)

6. I took some time to pamper myself, finally. (Yes. This was actually a bit of forced pampering initially. Wiley sent me to Civello at Yonge/Lawrence, so that I could get a new look for the spring book tour season. There is an increased risk that you may mistake me for a supermodel, but I think the odds are still relatively low. I had a fabulous day at the salon/spa, getting my "natural highlights" (e.g., roots) colored, getting a funky new hairdo, learning how to use a flat iron, and learning how to do my makeup properly. Did you know that you're not supposed to put concealer on first -- and that you're not supposed to slather it on with the applicator wand? I did not.) I also picked up a few outfits and accessories to take on tour -- some green things and some non-green things.

7. I've been doing some cooking rather than merely writing about mealtime solutions. (Yes. And my eight-year-old kitchen sidekick has really taken to the whole foods kitchen makeover with great gusto; the sixteen year old, on the other hand, has been smuggling in contraband spongey white bread. You can't win 'em all over, you know.)

8. I've been catching up on my sleep after months (like 9 1/2 months -- enough time to have a baby!) of burning the candle at both ends.

| posted by Ann D @ 10:08 AM

Celebrity Pregnancy

Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Obsessed with the reproductive habits of the rich and famous? Check out CelebrityPregnancy.com -- the latest offspring of SheKnows.com. (I've got my own theory about why we are so fascinated by celebrity pregnancies, by the way, as you'll see if you read my quote in this press release for the site.)

| posted by Ann D @ 11:40 PM

Now and Zen

I'm waiting for the post-book reprieve to begin -- you know, that zen-like calm. The pace isn't quite as frantic and frenetic as it has been, but I'm still not caught up on my to do list. However, the number of messages in my in-box has been shaken down from a truly scary 2200 to a much less daunting 1100, and I'm starting to plan the next two months of my life (book publicity season).

Just got a peek at my schedule for BabyTime (May 5, 6, 7, at Toronto's International Centre). I'm going to be giving presentation on Mealtime Solutions and Sleep Solutions twice daily, and otherwise spending a lot of time meeting and greeting parents at the show. Looks like it's going to be a lot of fun.

I'm also going to be speaking at the Multiple Births Canada Conference in Cambridge, Ontario on the morning of Friday, May 26. My presentation is entitled "Honey, Let's Take a Babymoon!".

It looks like I'll be doing media in Toronto, Hamilton, London, and Kitchener during the week of May 8th; and that I'll be in Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, and Vancouver during the week of May 15th. I'm hoping to have at least one block of time in each city when I can host an impromptu coffee klatch, even if it's standing in the lobby of an airport or some place crazy like that, depending on how tight my schedule ends up being. (Last time I was in Calgary, I did 8 or 9 interviews in one day. It was fun but C-R-A-Z-Y, especially because an airline that isn't my favourite ended up being so late arriving in the night before that I had virtually no sleep. I am flying that same not-beloved airline this time around, too.)

| posted by Ann D @ 11:14 PM