Mama Doc Philosophies

All Articles in the Category ‘Mama Doc Philosophies’

I Like The Film Alike, A lot

Many of us struggle knowing which pitch or tenor to take in balancing the responsibilities, rigors and rule-following of regular school and work-life with the need to extend boundaries to live with our children in poetic, artful ways. How and when to comply, and how and when and why we sometimes don’t want to. It’s ultimately tricky and nuanced, yet the opportunity to live in color is just so profound.

Life is precious and unpredictable.

Thing is, sometimes we just miss the moment with our children. Sometimes we really are too demanding, too rigid, perhaps too purposeful. At least I know I am and can be. When I realize I’ve been blunted or on-task in ways that separate me from my children’s mindfulness or creativity or I’ve stunted my children in any way, it can feel a tiny bit like despair. Like a big, juicy #momfail.

I must say, I like Alike, a lot. This sweet film embodies the pulse of the challenge in living mindfully and playfully with children and the immensity of its import in daily life. There is a moment in this film that feels as tremendous as the love we feel for our children in real life. I cried witnessing it.

Everyone is born creative. Creativity can be especially fluid and accessible during childhood (some experts and parents and teachers and artists, of course, worry we work creativity “out” of children as they grow with our schooling structure and rigidity). Thankfully, children often get to live days that make space for the creative process and the exploration and silliness so wonderful in being alive that we stop making space for as we “grow up.”

Although this beautiful short film doesn’t offer any answers it moved me immensely.

I’ve been reflecting on mistakes I’ve made (ohhhhhhh, parenting is so tough!) but it also brewed a sense of optimism in me. I saw a glimpse of the big huge opportunity illuminated in each new day that unfolds. Enjoy, enjoy!

 

That Could Have Been Me: When An 8 Year-Old Knows She Belongs

harry-potterDuring carpool recently I witnessed an 8-year-old realize her relevance and her sense of belonging even more than before. What a total profundity. It happened by accident and this involves J.K. Rowling…

It’s my belief that getting a child to understand their import is a hope housed in almost every parent, teacher, auntie, or grandfather. When those of us, even peripherally involved in a child’s life, witness a child discovering their capacity, import, potential, and connectedness the moment can be immense. I don’t think I’m overstating this.

Everyone wants to feel they are capable. Everyone wants to feel they belong. We learn and see and feel our connection in infinite ways.

You’ve probably read a lot about parenting your children more with a focus on “grit” than with a focus on accomplishment. I think most of us can all agree that perseverance and a steadiness in keeping a “can-do” attitude is far more important for survival and for joy in life than any accomplishment we’ll ever have. In fact it’s in our failure that we perhaps find ourselves feeling more connected and less alone.

The best moments we have with our children are therefore neither about grit nor honing success — they are typically about presence. Being aware of the sincere vitality in being alive together and a part of when our children grow, delight, see, or be seen is a thunderous thing. The moments when it happens are hard to contain in our heart, no matter how big it is.

Working to cultivate grit is certainly a meme in the perfect-parenthood swirl of advice this decade. Working to extend yourself so you fail is something all of us want to do when we think about tapping into our true potential as workers, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and community members. But it’s hard to push to fail and sometimes, as odd as it sounds, it’s hard to fail well.

Sometimes failure happens because we’ve stretched ourselves too far. Sometimes, of course, it is the external factors that bring failure. Most of the time it’s a combination of the two. Sometimes we learn about failure through our own experiences as we stumble and then heal our own scars.

Connectedness, togetherness, and the capacity to contribute to things greater than ourselves will always be foundational for humans. Every day should be about building more and more of this entanglement with each other, with those that we love, as best we can.

So back to that day carpooling. On the way to school, my car full of delightful school children, we got talking about about the Harry Potter series and specifically J.K. Rowling. I mentioned that I remembered hearing she’d submitted her book, “about 7 times before a publisher had accepted it” and now she’s the author that has sold books faster than any other human on earth. When I realized I wasn’t certain about my facts, I did something I DON’T typically do. I asked my 10 year-old to grab my cellphone (!!) and look up the real story of J.K. Rowling and her attempts to publish her first Harry Potter book.

He used wiki, then he used a search engine and landed on a version of the story. At this point we’d parked at school and so an 8 year-old now was leaning over his shoulder helping interpret what he was reading online. Curiosity was abloom.  The children found this explanation: Read full post »

5 Ways To Fight Loneliness

img_1673It seems to me that some of the greatest suffering in life comes with loss. Loss has all sorts of shapes and various hues of intensity. Comparing one loss to another in unlikely to ever do anyone any good. What feels big to someone you love IS big. For you, for your children, for your mom, or for your friend. Perspective shaping is important at times but acknowledging pain in loss is tantamount. Losses we feel can be immense (the loss of a person’s life) or obscure (the loss of personal direction) or even simply burdensome (where are those *&$#-ing keys?!?!?). We humans, including our little ones, feel worst when we’re disconnected, when we feel we’re somehow disorganized with our community and don’t belong, or when we are enveloped with a sense of loneliness.

Bullies know this well, of course, in part because of their own isolation. But so does everyone who has ever felt love. Being lonesome is agonizing.

Loneliness is bad for your health. In some research it’s on par with the effects of obesity and heart disease, injuries or violence.

For some, holidays are like blood-letting when it comes to loneliness. When any single one of us suffers we all lose a little. Those of us who are feeling disconnected will only sense and experience solitude with greater fervor as families, groups, friends and co-workers join hands to celebrate this time of year. Look around and imagine.

Or think about a starling murmuration and its beauty. It’s the choreography that makes it a thing of elegance but it’s also the intimacy in knowing that all those birds fit — all of them have a dependence and place with each other. Those little birds feed on both the single bird next to them but the group, en mass, too. I have to think they feel they belong as they twirl in the sky and progress across it. They give to and take from the group. And it reminds me that those outside of the murmurations typically want in.

We can all make this better for ourselves and for those around us. As we ready to step earnestly into December, I say we do more for each other this month. Counteract the forces and gravitational pulls of loneliness and isolation around us. Teach our children they can help, too. At dinner tonight and tomorrow maybe bring it up?

5 Ways To Fight Loneliness

  1. ONE: We can talk with our families about who we could invite to our homes, to our parties, and to our celebrations. Just imagine making a goal to invite one person into your fold you may not have thought to include. Just one person to one day or one event you wouldn’t have thought to include before. Even if they don’t typically don’t “celebrate” what you do. Make an invitation to someone by Friday, December 2nd.
  2. TWO: If loneliness seeps into you on any of these days, grab your bearings by turning off the noise of the murmurations around you. I think of this in terms of making sure you don’t stare at the masses. Turn off social media for 12 hours (or 3 days!) and immerse yourself in something you love. Be fastidious with yourself — put the devices down or turn them OFF if they lead you only to those murmurations and inclusions you don’t feel a part.
  3. THREE: Practice gratitude. This can be brisk and powerful in the face of loneliness. Write a quick thank-you note this week or jot down in a journal 3 things for which you’re thankful every day, for a week. The minute you elevate those around you in import is the same minute we feel truthfully happier.
  4. FOUR: If you sense someone around you is lonely, call. Don’t just text. If they don’t pick up the phone, call again. Invite them to a quick walking meeting, coffee, or lunch. Just do it.
  5. FIVE: Get a good night’s sleep. However banal that sounds we know sleep deprivation has us look at the world with cloudy lenses. We also know it even has us remember improperly (we color our memories negatively when sleep deprived). I seriously believe we all feel less alone after 7 to 8 hours (more for children!) of sleep.

Self-care And Parenting, Sleep And Loneliness

My passion in work and the focus of my career is centered around improving the health and well-being of children. It always will be. I can get SO wrapped up in the opportunities to leverage every tool I’ve got to clarify, learn, relieve suffering, and contribute to pediatric health. I feel lucky to have the tools I do to translate/partner with patients and families and I feel humbled by the ongoing challenges in reducing pediatric illness and injury…earnestly it can leave me feeling very obliged to do more and more and more. There is just so much we can do to leave this planet better than how we found it. Most of us feel this way, of course. One of the thrills in working in a clinic and a hospital, a TV news station, and online with all of you is that I am bolstered and surrounded by cohorts of people who invest huge amounts of time in improving the lives of others.

Engagement In Parenting, Work, And Self Care

Many of us feel deeply engaged in raising our children while also feeling wholly committed to improving our community as we slide into these years where we’re really ready. We have completed our education, we’re more senior in our roles at work, and we’re now trusted by others to contribute. In this privilege of simply being engaged in these ways we can sometimes over-focus on being productive, vigilant  and present in our work while also being loyal friends, parents and partners. We do this to the point that we earnestly de-prioritize ourselves. Some people can juggle all of these investments elegantly. Most of us are still a work in progress.

There’s a lot out there telling us how to do this being alive thing better; the self-help sections of the internet are pretty heavy up there in the clouds. I don’t hold a singular, gold nugget of data in my mind that says when we care for ourselves data proves our children are healthier, happier. But I know it like I know the hue of blue in the sky.

I like this Atlantic piece, The Internet Wants To Help You Take Care of Yourself and if you’re looking for content on self-care, check out these TED talks, too (if you haven’t yet seen Brown’s talk on the power of vulnerability cancel the rest of your day if need be to find the 20 minutes to watch it). When thinking about self-care I don’t just think about vitamin D and exercise, sleep and vegetables. I think about the foundations of our belonging and our connection to others. Amid all the people we’re supporting, all the work, all the love of our children and families and all of our activities, do we feel we belong? Is it possible amid all these people, these tasks and responsibilities, and all this love that we might feel a bit alone?

The first TED talk in that self-care list up there grabs my attention like an alarm when Guy Winch speaks on loneliness:

Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound, one that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us believe that those around us care much less than they actually do. It makes us really afraid to reach out because why set yourself up for rejection and heartache when your heart is already aching more than you can stand.

Of course one thing that seems to ALWAYS help when overwhelmed is sleep. I often say that I’m a better parent and simply more the person I want to be everywhere when I’ve prioritized sleep for myself and for my babies. Data shows we simply are more level and more positive in our perspectives when we’ve slept. We’re safer drivers, we’re more focused at work or school. We all hear this and we all know this on some level…..that caring for ourselves is the prerequisite to caring for others. We make less mistakes. But in the midst of all of our hectic sandwich generation schedules, it’s easy to pay lip service to self-care and continue to motor on, focusing on delivering care for others. And THIS: self-care can sound fluffy and self-centered. People throw around the word “deserve” a lot. As I get older I see self-care as elemental to a meaningful and connected life. And I certainly see it as a huge challenge. When babies come into our heart it’s hard make sense of all of the marriages we have (to our families, to our work and advocacy, and to ourselves). Read full post »

Moms, Benefit of Part-time Work, And Breastfeeding

pumpingA new study out confirms something that almost every working mom and dad already suspected — it can be a challenge to maintain breastfeeding goals when you return to work after only a few months with your newborn, especially when asked to return to working full time. The study out this week found that moms who worked about 1/2 time (19 hours or less) were able to continue breastfeeding similarly to those women who didn’t work.

Logical: the more hours a new mom works, the tougher it is for her to continue breast feeding. The amount of time we work may be more influential than the timing of our return to work. In this study, conducted in Australia, women who worked 19 or less hours in a week were much more likely to maintain breast feeding until their baby turned 6 months old, compared to moms who had returned to full-time employment. Additionally, women who work 19 hours or less only faced a 10% chance that they quit breast feeding altogether by the time their baby turned 6 months old. Your level of work place seniority will also affect your ability to continue breast feeding at 6 months, meaning those in managerial-type roles will have more success. Other factors that made it easier? Unsurprising it’s being older, higher education, better physical and mental health and being self-employed.

If we want moms to be successful with the recommended breastfeeding guidelines through infancy we should think on how we prime them for success. And how we support them.

It’s inconvenient but potentially important to acknowledge that it’s simply harder for moms to go back to the workforce, especially those who breastfeed, than it is for dads to newborns. In the first few months of life, the time it takes to nurse a baby is equivalent to a 8-9 hour work day for most women. Most babies will drain a breast in about 12-15 minutes if they are eager and actively feeding but babies often stay on the breast for up to 20 minutes or even 30 minutes at a time. Therefore, if you sit down, feed your baby on the right, feed you baby on the left, burp the baby and then change the inevitable diaper:  poof, one hour.  And, most newborns feed up to 8-10 times daily. 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1. Math is easy when you do it this way.  Breastfeeding alone is a full time job for the first few months. The time spent with a baby nursing diminishes as the months unfold but it can still be a significant number of hours spent every day.

The take home for me here is that we may be more successful, culturally, supporting moms to return to work during the 1st 6 months after a baby is born if we give them options for part-time work. Especially if breastfeeding past 6 months is a goal. Read full post »

Join In On The Seattle Mama Doc Podcast?

Always a work in progress here — trying to think on ways to share new data, expert advice & enjoy the journey of parenthood. I’m excited to announce we’re going to pilot a Seattle Mama Doc Podcast early next month. Since this blog’s inception in 2009 we’ve covered nearly 650 standard blog posts, vlogs, guest contributors, interviews and now I’m going to test out a podcast. I am a huge fan of crowd sourcing and co-design, so will you help create the look, feel and content of the podcast alongside me? I would love to know what topics you’re interested in, which you’re tired of hearing about, who you want me to interview and frankly, anything else you’d like to share.

My hope is to interview experts and researchers here at Children’s, parents, and patients when there’s interest in sharing the experience of raising children. We’ll include the smarts of friends and peers across the country working on preventing and preventing illness while raising children. We’ll highlight all the tips and tools we learn along the way, new evidence, expert opinion and ideas to feel better about our decisions while raising our children.

I’ve recorded 3 options for the introduction of my podcast (I’m well aware of kind of bootleg smartphone audio quality for these little demos — promise to record high quality content in studio for the actual podcast).

Which resonates and makes you want to tune in?

Tell me what to cover. And also, would you want to join me on the podcast? SAY SO, PLEASE!

Option #1

 

Option #2

 

Option #3

 

One Image Of Parenthood

Usually I arrive here to write and share things that might help. I mean, my hope as a mom and pediatrician is to elevate research, share vulnerability, toss out the irony in the isolation of ideas trapped in an ivory tower and bring in hope for more understanding. I’m usually here to share because I believe if we swap ideas through narrative we all move towards calm and confidence or knowledge and skill as parents, caregivers, adults, children, and partners.

But today I’m just here at my kitchen counter wanting to share an incredible image. Just wanting to make sure you’ve beheld it, too. I haven’t read a single word about the image and I will keep it that way. I don’t want others’ ideas or personal narratives or their agendas to taint what I see. And my hope here is to do the same for you.

All I can say is that for me the image is a triumphant, loud reminder of the immense privilege, the singular honor, and the wired intuition we hold when we get to parent a child. I mean life happens. In all its messy truths and horrific pains, mistakes and brilliant saves, and in our jubilant discoveries and the small gifts given every…single…day. But there was moment this past Saturday, captured by a lens, that explains so much about what and how we fear, what comes flying at all of us on Planet Earth, and what we can truly handle.

Enjoy this photo worthy of a long stare. I get lost in it.

2015 Mama Doc Greatest Hits

I’m not thrilled to close out 2015 — there were special parts of this year I’m a little desperate to hold onto. Not certain I always feel this way, but on this final day of the year it’s true: there’s a tiny bit of me bracing for the flip on that clock. I somehow skipped an end-of-the year 2014 “Greatest Hits” (most read blog posts) post last year and am eager to bring the tradition back to life (here’s 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013)! Of course, 2015 had highs and lows. For me it included all sorts of mid-life-forty-year-old-woman-type thoughts about life and parenting. There’s wild hyperbole in the middle — recognizing profound hand-clutched-to-chest privilege like good health, good friends, unique opportunity and the immutable joy it is to raise little children. Yet in the middle zone of life, these momentous realities are often chased by the overwhelming epiphany that life is uniquely precious and finite. So much to contribute and so much also to learn and so much we all want to witness with our children. Every single day.

Over the year I had significant learning about communicating about health. I did dozens of interviews regarding the measles outbreak that stemmed in Disney, I’ve experienced heart breaking and continued stun at ongoing gun violence, I had a painful goodbye to my beloved dog, Luna, I’ve witnessed great suffering with illness in those I love and those I’ve cared for, and my ever present work-life balance quandary and curiosity toils on. But 2015 also had me soaring with things like The Supreme Court Of The United States voting 5-4 in majority to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states, quiet snowstorms, hikes in the mountains and hours running on trails here in Washington. I was able to continue to spread public health messages on national news outlets like NBC Nightly News, Al Jazeera, The Washington Post, The Today Show & NPR, and USA Today. I traveled to Australia late in the summer for a speaking engagement with my delicious 9 year-old and discovered how much I want to go back. I was an invited speaker at the NFID Influenza News Conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. to explain the seasonal launch of influenza vaccinations and I got to see healthy and sick children and their families in clinic nearly every week. I continued to learn and grow and partner with like-minded groups working to improve public health and messaging in pediatrics/parenting like The American Academy of Pediatrics, The CDC, The Washington State Department of Health, The Washington Dental Service Foundation, a new start-up called Mother.ly, and continued our ongoing partnership here with Know Your OTCs. In addition to my trip to Australia, this year I was lucky enough to learn and contribute to conferences and health systems in Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Washington, Colorado, California, Washington, D.C., North Carolina, and Maryland. Read full post »

Parenting In 2015

My little love in the snow yesterday. Part of my #worklifebetter life hack!

My little love in the snow yesterday. Part of my #worklifebetter life hack!

Time capsule entry. Although I suppose every parent since creation felt that the time in which they were raising their children was somehow novel, I’m moved by our 21st-century digital connection to share a transparent take on being a mom and pediatrician today. It’s the end of 2015 and overwhelmingly, I think many of us are stretched thin. And although our children are more-than-ever-before extraordinary, somethings gotta give.

First things first, as a perhaps totally-exhausted-working-full-time-emotionally-laden-at-baseline mom trying to find center, I keep reaching for poetry from Mary Oliver. Here she sets me flying in a portion of her poem, Spring Azures:

Sometimes the great bones of my life feel so heavy,

and all the tricks my body knows–

the opposable thumbs, the kneecaps,

               and the mind clicking and clicking– 

                                                                                                                         don’t seem enough to carry me through this world

                                                                        and I think: how I would like

                                                                         to have wings–

                                                                         blue ones–

                                                                          ribbons of flame.

Oh, how our minds always seem to be clicking and clicking and clicking and clicking…and those blue wings, the ones of flames? Yes, please sign me up.

A friend, a few years ago referred to their spouse as having a “busy brain” and I’ve thought on it since. Don’t all parents? Or is that the 2015 talking?

The 2015 realities aren’t surprising to any of us: the earnest tether to a smartphone, the wild ease to immediately compress and access news from the entire globe, the immense pressure to have a career wed to the impressive surge in being asked to be wildly productive everywhere (at home, at work, at volunteering, at exercising, at being present). The heavy burden of being told to elegantly role-model (hello, parenthood), the urgency we feel to then perfect raising children, all the advice (!!) out there floating around and intentionally pushed our way in social networks. And then the never-ending stream of in-arm’s-reach science of what we know to be good for us (sleep, flossing, daily exercise, leafy greens, friendship, “balance”, a job with purpose, BPA-free) and what we know even more is bad for us (sleep deprivation, unemployment, stress, smoking, divorce, bad cholesterol, processed meat, sedentary days). I mean…. Read full post »

Bigger Peace: Let Fear Spur Presence

FullSizeRender (1)Friday afternoon the terrorist attacks around the world certainly took our collective breath away. The stunning, horrific realities and the wild insecurity we can feel when somewhere familiar becomes unsafe is a potent storyteller. There is something in this though, that we can really listen to.

Things tend to happen in slow motion after this kind of news, almost like they do in our memories during scary recollections of a car accident or a big fall, because when some beloved familiar place is deemed unsafe we can tingle with such scare it pushes us towards vitality. It’s awareness. In ways, the fear these familiarities provoke shrinks the world, changes the scope of what is at stake every single day for every single one of us, and connects us again to how similar we are. Sounds have been crisper under our feet since Friday, the breeze on our face more notable this weekend, and all of a sudden the moment we’re in takes on quite a significance. We can feel so alive and connected to each other in this fear.

We all know fear hones priorities, even momentarily, and reminds us of the sincere gift of a day with those we love. With the news Friday the every day constructed problems at work or in our personal lives dim as the monumental relevance of connection, friendship, family, and freedom again takes on new light. This is a cycle, of course. We cannot hold the intensity and fears of our insecurity in our hands ALL the time to drive presence. Most of us can’t be mindful every single moment either. We’d be muzzled and paralyzed if we let this tincture of storytelling in too much too soon too constantly…but there’s this: Read full post »