Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Recipe for PWB*

Of all of our five children, it was my daughter, Kelly, who prompted me to weigh in on the “Are You Mom Enough?” Time Magazine article.  And while I scanned my brain for the thousands of parenting memories, I was not immediately brought back to the time when she was a baby, as imaged here.  Instead I thought of the time when she was a 19-year-old college student in Chicago, who, with her sister, made me laugh so hard in a Chicago Target parking lot, I instantly regretted not doing my “Kegal-for-life” exercises.

My breath was suspended in the consuming laughter; tears streamed down my face, and my doubled-over body trembled for what seemed like 20 minutes.  And of course, my ridiculous body movement sent tsunamis of gasping laughter to my daughters, who, in turn, perpetuated the laughing cycle.  There is no research or scientific study that can quantify that extraordinary level of parental happiness.  Uncle Albert and Bert might have levitated to the ceiling while laughing in Mary Poppins, but it was me and my two daughters who had the last (read: best) laugh.

A few years ago, as a charter member of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA), I attended and presented as a coach at a round table at the First World Congress of Positive Psychology.  My newly-met colleagues were presenting their just-revealed scientific research, and evidenced-based findings on happiness, positive psychology and well-being.  It was state-of-the-art, brand new.  Just to meet and hear my new colleagues present for the first time was the Holy Grail for me.  After talking with Marty Seligman, the “Father/Grandfather” of Positive Psychology, I floated over to meet author/keynote of “The How of Happiness,” Sonja Lyubomirsky – who is soon releasing her groundbreaking research on parenting - as well as buying Todd Kashden’s book, “Curious.”

There was so much “PWB” (positive well-being) at that very first World Congress in Philadelphia that if the PWB energy were to be repurposed today into sustainable energy, we would right all of our social-economic-political woes; world peace would be the order of the day.  I felt the same giddiness and explosion of joy being a part of this exciting group as I had in that Lincoln Park Target parking lot with my two daughters.  And for my purpose in this newsletter, the “P” (positive) in PWB is transposed to a “P” for parenting.

And I had an epiphany: my philosophies, principles, and beliefs as a mother were really no different than those beliefs that I practice as a Positive Psychology Coach.  A recipe with overlapping properties of PWB for parenting or coaching might go like this:
  • 1 cup nurturing/unconditional love
  • ¾ cups believing in them
  • ½ cup showcasing their strengths
  • 1 cup listening
  • 1 cup suspension of judgment
  • 1 heaping cup laughter
  • 5 tbsp. accountability
  • Baste often with humility
  • Savor and cherish relationship forever
The unconditional love for a child is the essential ingredient.  For a coach-client relation, unconditional love translates into loving the work you do in life and the relationships that are cultivated and nurtured.

I know the Time article my daughter asked me to comment on was a corporate manipulated pot-stirrer, kind of a dirty marketing trick rolled out on Mother’s Day weekend, if you ask me.  Mothers the world over have self-anguished over being good enough; I’m certainly one of them.

After my Target parking lot memory, of which there were many, many, many other settings where the same giddy/laughter occurred, I did cycle through my memory neurons to the time Kelly was a jovial baby, a giggling toddler, an ear-to-ear-smiling 3rd grader, a cheering middle school Pom Pom squad member, and her Outward Bound teen experience where the adult guide wrote of the 17 young teens in the group: “Kelly was the backbone of our group.”

Just recalling the memory encompasses me with the joyous wellspring of pride.  I have huge PWB.

Todd Kashden writes:
In the end…what's in your life that is so poignant that your eyes well up from joy?  And when you have an amazing moment with your children, don't let it go.  Return to it when you're alone, and recall that moment for 10 seconds.  For 10 seconds, sit with it, close your eyes, and savor it.  Let it sink into your neural circuitry.
Whether we are parents or not, it is those coveted relationships that provide a ginormous library of new and archived resources upon which to draw.  To answer Time Magazine’s challenge - “Am I Mom Enough?” – I know that while my recipe may possible be flawed and have different variations for others, I will prepare it every single time with love and my best.  And as with my daughters and other family members: to engage, give, love, play, share, cry, and even wet my pants because of laughter…well, there is no greater purpose and reward.
Because for many of us, these moments are the building blocks of the most meaningful life we will ever get.
Agreed, Todd Kashden.

Be the best parent, coach, employee, client, co-worker, colleague, friend you can be, and smile as you jam your neural circuitry with tons of PWB.

Mindfully Yours,


*PWB=Parenting Well-Being

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