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A Village of Fathers

I have a life coach. As a career & life coach, it behooves me to be coached, to practice what I preach.

My coach was a set up, and as a result, a coach was chosen for me that is probably unlike a coach I would have chosen for myself. He is a Black Christian man living in North Carolina.

And yet, he is a lot like me, a White Jewish woman in New Jersey.

We both have backgrounds in marketing and public speaking. We are both parents and have experience in step-families. He inspires me and digs deep to help me figure out what I’m good at and what I can contribute to my clients’ lives. He loves coaching.

He continues to focus on my work as a mother (even though I tell him it’s not relevant), and as a working mother, and the value of that work. Because he, as a working father of a young black man, the same age as the white men I’m raising, well…he respects mothering. Of all men. And respects the important role of a good mother in a man’s life.

Today, Tru sent me a video (as he likes to do) after our session. I had shared some frustration with him about something that happened recently, how I felt unsupported as a mother.

He shared this video with me, to demonstrates different ways in which communities support parents and children:

Did you cry as much as I did?

Wow. This Black Christian man and White Jewish mother have a lot in common. We want to increase the opportunities for children of all ages to grow strong through their challenges, feel support around them, and help them use their passion and potential to create a purpose.

And to make his point as to how important mothers are, Tru sent me a video on the power of fathers. And fathering. And family and villages. During every session, he tells me that stories from he heart are the most powerful. After watching this, I can only agree.

People Are Like Goldfish

My family and I went to a festival recently, and they had one of those games where participants can win goldfish. Of course this the prize both of my 3-year-olds wanted.

And, after carrying those fish around for 2 hours, carelessly tossed to the side when a kid was eating pizza, swimming away from the claws of a 3-year-old trying to “squish the fish”, they made it home to a place that had no bowl and no food.

These fish were exhausted, traumatized. And no, the pet store was not open after we finally put our children to sleep.

Our two fish were to live in a pitcher and go hungry. After all that. 🙁

At the pet store the next day I was reassured by the pet store staff that there was no point in giving festival fish a nice habitat, as they were bred to live short lives. They were just meant to be prizes, or feed other fish.

life coach

Fish or food?

Slightly more research yielded a different perspective — these festival fish, also called common goldfish or comets could grow up to 18 inches! Instead of keeping them in a pitcher as I had been, these giants-to-be deserved a filtered tank, and due to the intense amount of excrement they produced, no more than 2 fish to a 10 gallon tank at a minimum.

I splurged and went with a long 20 gallon tank for my fish (which cost less than $100), to see if this fish tale could possibly be true.

The fish remind me of my coaching clients. At some point, my clients were put in a tank that was the wrong size. They heard lots of shoulds and cant’s, and stepped away from something they wanted to do.

They come to me to fix a situation, something that is wrong that is nagging at them, whether it’s career, family life, or most frequently a combination of the two.

I believe in people. I believe that everyone has something that they can do to contribute to the world. Their superpower. Maybe it’s revolutionizing school lunches. Maybe it’s helping AIDS orphans in Africa and Thailand. Maybe it’s creating the most beautiful, high end bridal shop in New York City. Maybe it’s publishing a series of cookbooks, and the words and pictures to go with them.goldfish

People have skills and talents. Unique gifts. Last weekend I was at a wedding and met a woman who makes gorgeous jewelry out of flat polished stones that she finds on the beach. Another who makes large installations of wine cork art (some of her pieces have over 4000 corks!). Both are at the beginning of their artistic/entrepreneurial journeys; I can’t wait to see where these passions take them in 3 to 5 years.

These passionate people deserve big tanks so that they can grow to the full extent of their abilities.

I coach because I believe in people. I also believe people have an easier time stepping into their zone when they have an advocate who shares their vision and believes in their ability to accomplish it. The only thing that stands between a constipated superhero and a contribution to the world is partner that believes in them and holds them accountable to their vision

My work as a coach allows me to be the scaffolding as these superheroes are built.

And those goldfish? Well I’m happier to say that the experts were right. Comets grow fast! In just 3 months, my fish are thriving and have doubled in size, from under 1 inch to big, fat two inch goldfish (with incredible appetites).

Don’t be surprised if you come to visit me in my office and find a 50 gallon tank with just a few big fish in the next few years.

I believe in what happens when fish (and people) are put in the right environment.

life coach

Doing the Girl Thing

I have two impressive clients, one a lawyer and one a doctor. They are highly accomplished in their fields.

On the same day, each separately asked me the same question at one point during the session:

“Am I doing the girl thing?”

And I knew exactly what they meant. But, being a coach, my job is to ask more than answer and so I asked what they meant. Here’s what they said, more or less:

“You know, that thing where I have an idea, then totally kill it, or think that what I’m offering isn’t good enough, even though it’s more than enough. Or when I have success in something after working hard, then put myself down. You know, the girl thing.”

I do know. The girl thing.

In fact, yesterday I was sharing this very story with a friend. She just received a big promotion at work, and closed a new deal faster than any one ever has in the history of the 30-year company.

Then, she explained away her success as luck, not really a big deal, a long time coming, etc. As soon as she did it she realized, “Oh my god! I just did the girl thing!”

Yup. So I asked her what she could say instead. She came up with:

“Thank you! It’s a great client — I’m excited to start working with them.”

Perfect.

But the unspoken “girl thing” that too many of us understand is no longer working for me. And, as the mother of a daughter, it’s really not working for me. I want the same opportunities and possibilities for all my children, no matter the gender. Not 79 cents on the dollar for my “less valuable” daughter. I don’t want to see the world teach limitations into her core, as it has for me and my clients.

I want my 2-year-old daughter, who is pretty badass already, to not recognize “doing the girl thing” as what my doctor, lawyer, and business friend and I recognize too easily. Putting yourself down. Making excuses for your success. Apologizing for your creative ideas. Hearing yourself “you can’t” before you say “I can”.

Let’s redefine what “doing the girl thing” means. What if doing the girl thing meant that girls:

Celebrate, like Brandi Chastain

Lead, like Golda Meir

Act, like Margaret Thatcher

Help others, like Ina May Gaskin

Are Brave, like Malala

Are Strong, like the Williams Sisters

Create Justice, like Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Do What’s Right, like Eleanor Roosevelt

Blaze A New Path, like Hillary Clinton

Are Entrepreneurial, like Martha Stewart

Guide Others, like Harriet Tubman

Stands up for Your Rights, like Susan B Anthony

Care for Animals, like Jane Goodall

Teach, like Julia Child

Manage Money, like Janet Yellen

Rock, like Joan Jett

While writing this post, I got a call from a client who set a lofty goal for herself 3 months ago. Today, the dream became reality. She called to tell me about the interview that lead to the offer, and started by saying: “I’m not going to lie, and I hope this doesn’t appear arrogant, but I did a GREAT job. I knew I had it and I did. I could tell during our conversation. I just nailed it.”

When I asked her what she did in the interview that was so special, she said, “You know what? I just said what I believed and I acted like myself. I was totally honest. And it worked!”

That’s the 2016 version of doing the girl thing. Just finding that thing you’re great at and doing it. Being honestly and authentically you.

Why Modern Wives Withhold Sex

Newsflash! Wives are withholding sex.

I know, I know it’s a bit cliche. Before you were married, it was hot sex all over the place, then honeymoon sex, maybe some fun pregnancy sex, and then…SPLAT! kids. “Honey, we’ll wake them up”, “The baby is watching!”, “I don’t feel good about my body!” and everyone’s favorite: “I’m just soooo tired.” Wives aren’t faking headaches anymore, they’re just passing out.

But how is this different from the classic cliche of Lucy and Desi-style separate beds in the same room?

sex and relationship coaching

Modern Retro Marriage

Well, for one, we’ve undergone a pretty intense sexual revolution since then. Women are allowed to like sex, even supposed to like it. Women and men have friends who are just like Samantha Jones. Miley is twerking and the girls of Girls — every shape size and color, are having sex and lots of it. Taking sex advice from our universal Jewish grandmother, Dr. Ruth, now seems quaint and dare I say prudish? A quick walk down a NYC street in the summer shows as much skin as soft core porn in the 60s, and today’s moms are pissed off when their daughters are thrown out of school for short skirts and belly shirts. No, they’re not mad at their daughters wearing skimpy clothes; they’re mad at the schools are coming down on those girls.

Judith Warner, in Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxietyexplains the situation thusly, quoting one of the many modern married moms she interviewed for her book:

” ‘I can’t say these days our marriage is about love,’ says a working mother of two in New York. ‘It’s definitely not about romance.’ It’s like we run a small business together. We’re business partners.’ ”

Hot, it’s not. Martin continues with the following analysis:

“…then they talk about sex. About how, as more highly evolved females, they don’t need to have sex, don’t want to have sex, while their husbands, being men, well…”

sex and relationship coaching

Frustrated. And in need of an orgasm.

Eek. Sure, sex is fun, physical and gratifying, but what about that whole making love thing? What about the intimacy that comes with sex? Are we beyond that too?

What happens when a man submits to the lack of sex, and decides to watch porn on TubeVSex to compensate?

In the celebrated Primates of Park Avenue, Wednesday Martin said almost the same thing, that women were establishing their own single gender tribes, and have moved beyond sex — though they are not without physical gratification: there’s always Pilates and ultra marathons.

Not Having Sex Has Become A National Trend

Martin continues her analysis, “There was something sinister in the fact that the very same women who would tell me how wonderful their husbands were would, in the next breath, let me (and a roomful of avid listeners) in on the most awful humiliations of their mates’ private moments.” Talking about how pathetic their husbands were, masturbating in bed after these wives refused their advances, flowers and all. These wives enjoyed shaming their husbands behind their backs, in public.

Ouch.

But why is this happening? It’s actually pretty straightforward: wives are angry. Women are still doing the housework. Women are still the primary child caretaker. But wait — we started out equals; it wasn’t supposed to be this way.

One of Martin’s interviewees explains, “When my huband and I started dating, I made more money than he did. I had more status than he did. Then all of a sudden — whoosh! I went part time. I don’t think I’m ever getting it back. He now starts conversations with me with the words, ‘Here’s what I’d like you to do.’ I want to say, ‘You can shove it up your ass.’ ”

sex coaching

Doesn’t This Seem Like Fun?

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. We were peers. We were equals. The wives, have more advanced degrees. We traveled side by side, we had sex on top, underneath, all over the place. We made money, we had plans. We were peers in and out of the home.

And then we had children. And now the Mrs. is working, or not, but either way she’s setting up birthday parties, play dates, interviewing babysitters and au pairs, cleaning out the fridge, making or ordering dinner and organizing doctor appointments and immunizations.

She’s pissed. She may let you know it directly, or she may be passive aggressive about it. But the fact remains: you’re not getting any.

And given this tense situation, in a culture where raising children goes largely unsupported, especially in the first five years, wouldn’t both partners benefit from a couple orgasms, some intimacy and a hug?

You bet they would. Here are two ideas to address this situation that has worked with my clients:

  1. Masturbate. A lot. You know your husband is doing this, but are you? Ok, you might be mad and not want to have sex with him, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t enjoy the health benefits of an orgasm on a regular basis. You’ve earned this. Head to your favorite sex shop or go online. You can be mad at him, but don’t punish yourself.
  2. Remember Those Cheesy Cosmo Quizzes? Well, the self-help aisle has tons of similar ones for couples. The most popular amongst them is this: The 5 Love Languages. It’s quick, easy, and I promise you’ll learn something about your partner — and yourself — by the end.

In the end, remember: it’s not his fault, and it’s not your fault. American culture has given women opportunity, but not the support to back fill what’s traditionally been considered women’s work: raising children and tending the home. It’s not fair, it’s not right, but it’s not his fault. Talk to each other, love on each other (and yourself), and remember to fight the common enemy instead of one another.

And if you still feel stuck, you can always call me; it’s what I do, after all.

relationship coach

Come to Momma!

Deadbeat Moms & Ex-tortion

Growing up in the 80’s, I knew lots of kids from divorced families. They lived with mom, their dads remarried or lived somewhere else or both. Dads were tan. They were usually coming back from skiing in Aspen or sailing in the Caribbean.

None of my friends lived with their dads. If there was a divorce, mom ended up with the kids. Period.

And here we are in 2016. There’s a new divorce normal, and it isn’t shared parenting, it’s deadbeat moms. More than half the divorced families I know today were the result of moms walking out — not because they were abused, neglected, or mistreated in any way. They just wanted a different life. They wanted to pursue their art, or their modeling, or just have the experience of living on their own. http://www.fira.ca/article.php?id=150

They left their children with their soon to be ex-husbands and just walked out. Call it the new feminism, where feminism has been misinterpreted to mean “I can do whatever the hell I damn well please.”

Divorce Coach

So What Did The Dads Do?

They picked up the slack. They took care of the kids. They parented.

And when it came time for those men to face their soon to be ex-wives in court, it was as if there was a time warp in the courtroom: It was still the 80’s. The judges had a hard time believing that the children lived with the father, that the father still lived in the family home and did the bulk of the parenting.

divorce coachDeadbeat moms were becoming the new normal, but the laws, set up at a time when women couldn’t even get their own credit cards, financially favored the lesser earner, which was typically the wife, and made sense at the time.

Today in New Jersey, here’s how the law works: If the deadbeat mom and dad share the child equally, and the mom chooses not to work, the mom is entitled child support from dad.

That’s right, folks — in a situation where the child responsibilities are split equally, the lesser earner needs to be covered by the bigger earner. And if the mom chooses not to work, even though she has a couple advanced degrees and a history of 6-figure incomes, that’s fine. Dad has to pay child support.

So, if mom is the deadbeat sort, the kind that would walk out on her children in the first place, it’s in her best interest to not work, and fleece her ex-husband.

The Law Stands By Her on This.

I am a lover of men, and a lover of women. I love people who parent their kids and enjoy their work. I believe in the dignity of work, and that people feel better about themselves when they’ve found something to do with their skills and talents.

I however, cannot continue to stand by and watch the trend of deadbeat moms extorting their ex’s just because they can. Very few people stand up on behalf of high earning men these days, but that doesn’t mean they should continue to be exploited because of outdated laws.

My evidence is personal and anecdotal, but it’s a trend I’m seeing more of and it’s very real. The courts are biased and dads are afraid: one wrong step and they might have their children taken away. Better to appease the ex than stand up for what’s right.

Divorce is painful. However, it doesn’t have to be completely unfair for the individual who is gainfully employed, just because their ex chooses not to work.

The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is one: let’s not let this issue go unnoticed; let’s not let these dads who are trying to do the right thing continue to be punished. Is this a trend you’re seeing too?

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.