Or You Could Have Sex

Our local Kidville recently offered Saturday morning “kids camp”. What this means is, for a handful of Saturdays in the winter (the most difficult times to occupy your children), you can drop them off from 9-12 (three whole hours!). They can run, jump, zipline, play instruments, do arts and crafts and have snack. Someone else will even change their diapers.

I do not have to stay. I do not have to stay.

I can do whatever I want instead.

The poster promoting the kids camp looks like this:

parent coach

What Will You Do With All That Time?

Kids camp is helpful! You can shop, have brunch, run errands or take a break. I appreciate those ideas because it’s hard to even THINK of what I could do with three extra hours. There is so much to do! There’s laundry, cooking…thank you cards, gifts to wrap, gifts to open, clothes to organize and give away. Three whole hours — is it even enough?

Or at least that’s the way we’ve been trained to think. We’ve been conditioned, as hard-working moms to just keep that business going during the down time. Like a neurotic chipmonk.

But do you know what I saw when I saw the sign? This:



Not “Great! I can get that mani pedi I’ve been waiting for.”

Not “Fairway here I come!”

I wasn’t thinking about painting the bathroom, fixing the toilet or shopping for a new dryer (though I need to do all of those things).

I was thinking: 3 uninterrupted hours on a Saturday morning. What did I used to do with that time? Oh that’s right: I USED TO HAVE SEX.

When I let my husband know that I’d be sending our children to kids camp on Saturday, can you guess what he said? “Great! I have a dentist appointment I’ve been trying to book.” Dads too, have been programmed to be productive during down time.

And can you guess how I responded? Say it with me: “Sure! Or we could have sex.”

sex helps relationships

Parents Like Sex Too!

He never made it to the dentist.

Parents of toddlers: If you want to be happier, have a better relationship, fill your body with endorphins, or just plain feel like yourself again…

When you have enough time to plan for it, have sex. It’s low-calorie, organic, feels damn good, and it’s what got you in this mess in the first place. Enjoy.

The Key to Change? Turn Off to Turn On

A nutritionist, a lactation consultant and a life coach were chatting at a holiday party. They were lamenting their clients’ biggest challenge: the ability to focus.

The nutritionist said that she was going to stop offering home visits for her clients, because the clients couldn’t focus when she was with them in their homes. “I just see them looking past me, nodding, and I know they aren’t hearing a word I say. They just can’t focus.”

The lactation consultant shared how bad she felt that she had to ask her clients to come into her office with babies just one or two months old. “But if I go to their house, a 90-minute consultation becomes a 3-hour endeavor! They just can’t focus.”

The life coach (me) shared that although she coaches clients via Skype and on the phone, it’s becoming harder to do so. “Ten years ago, I’d ask them to sit in a quiet room, with paper and a pad, away from media. And they would do it. Now, they tell me they’re doing it, but I can hear them checking email, going online, and answering the door while they’re in the middle of a session. I can just feel it when they check out. Which is wild to me — because after all, this is their time for themselves.”

We three agreed that although we are in a culture of time poverty, much of it seems to be self-inflicted. Can you step away from media for an hour? Of course you can. Focus is the key to change. And we agreed that when their clients get a chance to step away, take a quiet moment from themselves and be present, the health effects are tangible.

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

Marina Abramovic, Performance Artist

We sighed and walked over to the bar to get a glass of wine, where we met a yoga instructor. We explained our frustration, and she told us about a NPR story she was listening to recently about an artist (Marina Abramovic) who was asking all patrons to “check in” for half an hour before they could engage in her latest performance. She requires the audience to remove all devices (including watches), and wear noise canceling headsets for half an hour before a pianist performs the Goldberg Variations (by memory). This brings the audience and the artists into a collective present, from which they are better prepared to engage with the music.

(If you’re interested in attending, the performance is continuing through tomorrow, December 19, at The Armory in NYC.)

Turning off to turn in, and ultimately on is the very baseline of coaching. In fact, I had one client who preferred to work on the phone (versus in person) because she found that while speaking to me in person, she would say certain things to elicit a response from me — a positive look or a smile. She was less true to herself and her own thoughts in the social setting of my office.

When coaching clients, I am not imparting wisdom, or sharing information they need to retain. I am asking you to clear your space, and clear your head to allow yourself to think.

It is amazing how difficult that can be to just clear the space (and trust me, I get it — there’s a lot of comfort in “doing” — just ask anyone trying to meditate for the first time).

Life coach

Be present.

But clearing the space, or turning off to turn on is a most important thing. Without it, you’ll be stuck in the rut of your current thoughts, unable to move up, out, and ultimately on.

One of the best part of being a coach is giving someone else your complete and total focus — meditating on another, if you will. It’s why my husband likes to watch sports; he can get completely engrossed in something inconsequential (my words), and relax.

And yes, cell phones and ubiquitous availability are at the heart of this problem. But there’s another way; and this article offers 9 good reasons to turn off your smart phone.

Just a couple helpful reminders from me, Marina, and Inc. magazine in this togetherness time of year.

4 Powerful Words Change Family Dynamics

For those of you who think the most powerful words  are “I love you,” try again.

It starts with “I love you”, right? After that, maybe there’s an “I do”, after which you adopt a fish or a frog or a fuzzy something or other. Then maybe you create some new people. Sure, “I love you” kicks it off.  It’s a powerful phrase, but…

There are more powerful words.

After you’ve created a family, have begun nesting, and yet — that familiar gender (or role) inequity that you promised would never happen to you happens…

There are more powerful words.

When there is one adult that goes out, and one adult that stays with the children, or better yet two adults that go out, and yet one adult that fields the lion’s share of the childcare responsibilities (the one who manages doctors appointments and birthdays…)

There are more powerful words.

The four most powerful words you can utter to your partner, after you’ve added new lives, a lack of sleep, and unprecedented responsibilities to your world, the four most family dynamic-altering words you can say as soon as you walk through the door are: “How can I help?”
Relationship Coaching - Allison Task

Think on that for a second.

It’s become a bit of a mantra in my house. I have three children under three, as well as a teenage stepdaughter, who has teenage stepdaughter needs. After I had my third child (in 18 months), it didn’t take long  before I was tired of hearing what everyone else needed (or anticipating the needs of those who couldn’t speak). What I needed was someone to help me.

And so I asked my husband and stepdaughter, if, when they walked through the door, the first question they could ask was “How can I help?

After all, our house was as together as a house with three under three can be. Which goes to say, not very together.

As soon as they started using the mantra (and following up on the request that was made), that pile of dishes in the sink, that dirty diaper that needed to be changed, that hungry child who wanted a snack —  suddenly, those TO-DOs are crossed off my list, and as if the question asker had waved a magic wand.

And who is that magician? That person solving my problems, meeting my needs, reading my mind (ok, they asked the question and I told them what needed doing, but that’s really not as important as they fact that they are now doing what needs to be done) My husband. My stepdaughter. Any adult who walks into my house and says: “How can I help?”

By asking the question, I, the caretaker of the moment, gets rid of the task I want to do least. Can you imagine? Someone walking through the door, asking what needs to be done and then doing it? On a regular basis?

elephant family dynamicsCan we collectively breathe a sigh of relief?

It’s the greatest phrase since I love you, and I say greater, because the I love you is implied. And to it is added “we’re in this together”, “this is our family”, “I got your back” and “thank you, for managing our home while I was at work/the gym/out with friends”.

Give it a try. And please let me know how it goes with your family.

The Christmas Transition for Jews

Jewish ChristmasWe were so earnest. It was a sunny Black Friday, and my husband and I were excited to take our children to the zoo. No malls for us, no sir! Out in the world, faces to the sun, we’d open Turtle Back Zoo and be the first ones through the door!

We were still buzzing from our Thanksgiving. We had the ultimate invitation, from our walking-distance neighbor who happened to be my chef instructor at the culinary school I attended. The food was fabulous, and so were the guests down to the 5-, 6- and 7-year- olds who treated my 1- and 2-year-old children just right.

We met new people, played soccer with the kids in the backyard, drank wine and whiskey and watched football.

It was a glorious American day.

Something I’ve always loved about Thanksgiving is that there are no gifts, we just spend time together and eat. The religion is patriotism. There is no consumerism but there is consumption. Everyone is included; doors are open. And you know that at a million other tables across the country, the exact same thing is happening. We are together, separately.

At the zoo, it was clear that changes had been made. They were preparing for their annual “Holiday Light Spectacular”, so I was looking forward to snowflakes and animals aglow. I was not ready for what was there. Santa was out in front in a big sleigh with reindeer. Red ribbons and Christmas trees were everywhere. And that’s all good, except for one thing.

We’re Jewish. Ever since I married a Jewish man, and especially now as I’m raising Jewish children — the period from Black Friday to Christmas puts a little pit in my stomach. My children didn’t know who Santa was, couldn’t recognize a Christmas tree, and were perplexed by all of it.

And I didn’t know what to say. I was ready for a snowflakes and snowmen, not Santa.

After feeling very included, we suddenly felt very left out. We don’t have a Christmas tree; we don’t have Santa stories. When I grew up, I was able to “visit” these things, as my mother came from a Protestant family (she converted to Judaism before she married my dad), and my family was always invited for Christmas. Though we didn’t go to church, we had stockings, opened presents, and understood this as a time when we were celebrating with my cousins.

Although we had a different holiday at our house, we could enjoy their holiday with them at their house. Just like you can celebrate someone’s birthday even though it isn’t your birthday. You can still be included in the fun.

If I were to put my transition coach hat on, here are some things I’d say to myself:

  • Sounds like the Christmas transition is tough for you since you don’t celebrate Christmas.
  • Sounds like you enjoyed being invited to someone’s house for Christmas as a kid.
  • Have you ever invited someone not Jewish over for a Chanukah?

Yes. Yes. And no. And the thought of inviting someone not Jewish over here to spin dreidels and eat latkes seems like…well, why would they want to do that? Would that be fun or would they think it’s weird? I’ve never done it and I’m not sure why.

I suppose the only way to find out is to do it. And here’s where coaching comes in again: if the idea feels good right away, and it’s simple enough to execute, than it’s probably worth trying, yes?

Instead of focusing on that thing I don’t have, I can share that thing I do have. Everyone wins.

I’ll report back in a couple weeks to see how the Chanukah proposition impacts the Christmas transition. Until then, let me know what you think of the idea.


When “It Will Work Out” Is Not Helpful

Fertility Advice - Family Coaching

How Many Are There?

I remember sitting at the office after my fourth IUI didn’t work. My colleague was showing me pictures of her beautiful 2 year old running on the beach. She had no idea what I was going through.

Except that she did. As I cooed over her beautiful child, she opened up about IVF. This had been her 3rd go, it was hell but it was all worth it.

I told her what I was doing and where I was. As I said the words, I could barely hold it together. “Don’t worry,” she said. “It will all work out as it’s meant to.”

Easy for her to say. She had the gorgeous daughter, waving to mama from the sand. Pictures like that are like nails on a chalk board to someone going through fertility treatments. I wanted to get the hell out of there, and then felt even more evil for resenting this mother and her sweet kid.

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t getting pregnant.

I didn’t deserve a kid.

I wouldn’t be good with kids.

I wouldn’t be a good mother.

Some really bad thing I did was coming back as karma.

This was my penance.

These are the thoughts I had when I wasn’t getting pregnant. Maybe you have them too. It’s okay to feel this way. It’s hard to explain the stress of fertility treatments to someone who isn’t in it.

But couldn’t she remember her own stress? She had done IVF 3 times? She had been through this, she was just like me. Didn’t she understand how awful it was for someone to say, “It’ll all work out as it’s meant to”?

First of all: “As it’s meant to?” That clearly means I’m not MEANT to have a child, doesn’t it? Because it sure ain’t working out now. It will all work out – like I’ll come around to the idea of being a barren old maid? Because that’s what it feels when you’re in it.

But when you have distance from the situation, does that change? I was recently speaking with a client who had navigated the fertility maze, and now was at home with her healthy 4-month-old baby girl. I asked her, “Knowing what you know now, would you have said to yourself when you were going through the fertility treatments?”

“I would have told myself to relax. It will work out as it’s meant to.”

The wisdom of hindsight. In the moment, it’s not what we want to hear. Well intentioned people see the possibility of a positive future; it just feels so far away when we’re sitting in a painful present.

Today, my client could see that she needed extra time to prepare herself for the baby. Today, she has the perspective to say the baby came at the exact right time.

When you’re sitting in the problem, you feel it more deeply than anything else. It’s hard to step out of the present and imagine the possibilities that the future can (and will) bring. When you are in it, you may feel excluded from the parenting joy that others have access to. You may get angry, frustrated and jealous. And then the guilt comes in.

Those who love you (including the future you), want to put a window in that wall, so that you can see possibilities. To see the good that can and will come from this.

But at the time, the positive people make you want to scream. Because they give you that hope – they see you with your baby. And after a D&C, a miscarriage, and a chemical pregnancy, it’s almost easier to believe in no baby then to gear up again and believe in the possibility of a viable pregnancy. Hope requires vulnerability.

The pain of longing for your unborn child is a most exquisite pain. Because in this wanting, you have joined the ranks of feral animals that give anything to protect their young. The energy that helps women pick up cars if they think their child is under it. The protective power of a momma bear separated from cub. You have become a mother. And something has come between you and your child.

And that strength, that deep maternal power and connectedness to your core will help you create the child you are meant to have. Because you have already become your powerful mother self. You have become a mother, and the child will arrive, I promise you.

Even though that’s the most painful thing you can hear. If you have the courage to believe it and find peace in it, then that whole labor thing will be a walk in the park.