J: You're listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, episode number 47.
A: Stay away from your kids for a period of time, you know, you don't have to be with your kids 24/7 to be a good mom.
Intro: Welcome to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast, stories of vibrant women living happy lives. And now, your host, Jen Riday.
J: Hey there, Jen here, and welcome to Vibrant Happy Women; I'm so glad you're here, happy Monday. So the past week or so in the US has been a bit tricky politically with lots of division and hurt and upset feelings and frustration on both sides and I found the whole thing completely overwhelming. In fact, I've felt a little depressed being on Facebook. I was talking with a friend and she was surprised to learn that I had struggled with depression, not only this week, but throughout my entire life in fact, and she asked how I had done it; how I'm able to have 6 kids and a business and continue to be productive despite that. And I decided, you know, a lot of women have asked about this and have similar questions so I'm going to offer a free little workshop this Thursday at noon Central Time, right on my Facebook page, Dr. Jen Riday. You can search on Facebook for it, Dr. Jenn Riday, and that will be at noon central on Thursday. I think I'm going to title it ‘Strategies for coping with depression, worry, anxiety and other big feelings’. And so I'm excited, I'm going to share how I've coped with depression (it's a genetic thing that I've inherited) and also how I can get myself back to feeling the way I want to feel; the… the strategies I use, they helped me a ton. You know, having 6 kids, I really have to work hard to get myself into the mood I need. I'm not perfect, but I work hard on it and mostly I'm succeeding and I'm happy about that. So I'll be sharing those tips, again, Thursday at noon and I hope to see you there. Join me on my Facebook page, Dr. Jen Riday, at noon Central for that; it's free. And if you're unable to join us on Thursday live or you're listening to this podcast episode after the fact, I'll also make a replay available at jenriday.com/depression.
On our last episode, I spoke with Emily Cummins all about becoming her… lacing up your warrior boots and being your authentic best self. If you haven't listened to that, it was super inspiring; Emily's amazing, and you can find that at jenriday.com/46. On today's episode, I'll be talking with Anna Seewald. She shares how to slow down, take care of yourself so you can be a better mom. Anna lives an amazing life. She has very little time on the internet, she has 1 daughter and I was envious; as a mom of 6, I craved some of that, let me tell you. So jump in and listen to this episode and get some great tips on slowing down. We all need a little more of that balance; we crave it. Anna has some amazing things figured out and she's definitely living a vibrant and happy life, so let's jump in.
Today, I'll be talking with Anna Seewald and she's the founder of Authentic Parenting. She's a speaker, author, and a parent educator. She's a mom to a vibrant 8-year-old who doesn't approve of her fashion choices (sounds like my kids). With the strong passion for helping children, Anna dedicated her life to working with abused, neglected, orphaned, and institutionalized children and juvenile delinquents. After nearly 20 years, she realized that it's through helping parents that she can help children. Today, she is supporting parents around the world by moving from traditional ways of parenting into more peaceful conscious ways by making sense of their past life experiences, healing from trauma, building effective communication, practicing non-punitive discipline, and setting limits with love and kindness; that sounds like the dream parent. Welcome to the show, Anna.
J: Well, thank you; thank you, Jen.
J: So, Anna, we love to start off our show with a favorite quote from our guests, so what would you like to share with us today?
A: I have to say that I really love quotes and it's hard for me to choose one. May I share 2 or 3?
J: Yeah, please do.
A: Yes, so the first one… and these are actual, for me at this point in my life, so it's kind of hard to choose a favorite. The first one is, “At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by the spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” I really love this quote. And there is another one that is very actual that I really love at the moment, it's, “The past is never dead, it's not even past.”
J: Ooh. Okay, you have to explain that one. (Laughs)
A: Deep stuff, right?
A: Well, we always think that the past is gone, “Let's look forward,” right, “Let's focus in the present moment,” but, you know, the past defines who we are. We can't forget where we come from, you know, who we are. And especially in this context, it's the… in the context of parenting that I work with parents, we bring in all our unresolved issues, our traumas, all that attachment history comes into play. If we forget and move forward, we never look back, the past will crawl out, you know, it will haunt you in your present day. So we need to make sense of our life stories, resolve our unresolved issues, heal from our traumas in order to leave happy vibrant fulfilled lives.
J: Ooh, that's really great. So that makes me want to dive right into your low point because you mentioned the past, so we all have something that we carry forward with us, right? So share your low point.
A: Oh, I have been thinking about this since I was going to be a guest on your show. I thought and thought and thought, and honestly, I haven't had so many low points in my life, but the lowest point I'm going to share is, when I was 13… this was the biggest experience in my life and shaped who I am today as a human being, as a professional, and that's the trauma of my life basically; my first real traumatic experience. When I was 13, I experienced the severe earthquake. Well, I was born and raised in Armenia, and in 1988, a severe earthquake shook our country and the epicenter was in my hometown.
A: So my mother was 35 years old and she was killed in the earthquake.
A: All my classmates, my neighbors, my little cousin, 6 years old, was burned in his kindergarten; I mean, horrible, horrible stories. And as a 13-year-old, you know, you grow up overnight. I mean this is the Happy Vibrant Women podcast, I don't want to go…
A: … you know, too much into the tragedy and the trauma part. What I can say is, yes, it happened to me, but I know that people who were in my life at the time who survived, it was because of the community, it was because of the support, the emotional support that we gave to one another. We were able to grieve our loss, we were able to heal because we did have that social emotional support. Even though everybody was going through the same tragedy and everybody had losses, there is something powerful when everybody is suffering at the same time, but they're suffering very uniquely; it’s this interesting human experience. I mean, I learned so much from that experience. Growing up without the mother, obviously, I became the mom in the family, I took care of my dad and my brother. You know, meantime, I went to school, I graduated, but at the time, there were hard times in my country too. There was war, there was no electricity, there was no water, there was no food. So in my early life, I have witnessed so many things, sufferings, that I learned from that. I learned that human beings are very adaptable and resilient, and it is the human relationships, connections, that mattered the most. And life is unpredictable, you need to appreciate the beautiful moments that you have today and have a positive outlook towards life and just move forward, but honoring and remembering the past and making sense of those past experiences that, you know, shape who you are.
J: Wow, so your mom died and there's tragedy all around you, and your life totally changed, there's no running water or electricity. Wow, so how does a 13 year old recover or even move forward from something like that? Do you remember what that felt like?
A: Well, at first, they evacuated us to a different country, to a neighboring country, and we lived with those relatives. We had far relatives there who we never met or knew. I stayed with my brother and some of my cousins there for a year almost because I had to go to school. So that was another hardship; you know, being in a foreign country, forced to learn a foreign language, go to school, live with people you don't even know…
J: Oh my goodness.
A: … even though they were caring and supportive, you know, they provided food, but we felt… I mean, I remember I felt very lonely, isolated.
A: But we had one another; I had my grandma, my cousins with me. So it was this interesting dynamic, you know, from one hand, yes, I felt miserable, but on the other hand, I had the support of loving people who also were part of this tragedy.
J: So as a 13-year-old, I would imagine you had to… you said you had to kind of grow up overnight and develop that independence.
J: Well, in the beginning, you shared those quotes and shared how past traumas will… will carry them forward with us, have you seen evidence of how that trauma has affected you today?
A: Mm, yeah, what a good question; yes, definitely. Yes, it shows up in your parenting.
A: Definitely. As you know, when you become a parent, your child pushes your button and triggers you in ways that they have never been pushed or triggered.
A: And that's the focus of my work now with moms and with parents. You know, I focus on that because I know I've experienced it personally. I can share 1 little story very quickly just to highlight what I said. My daughter was probably 4 years old at the time, she would give me a hard time in the bathtub. She would resist going into the tub; you know how children are. But that was a strong trigger for me, you know? I'm a pretty good mom, pretty relaxed, you know, but that trigger was very strong. And knowing what I know about trauma and working with parents, I was puzzled I didn't have answers to that because it's in the unconscious, right; those triggers.
A: And one day… you know, I really struggled for about 2 years to find the answers and finally it came to me that… oh, again, going back to the earthquake story, when we first came to this household of these rich people who… you know, who took care of us for almost a year, they had bathrooms. First, you know, we were sleeping on the streets for a week or so before we were evacuated, so when we come to their home, we need to take a shower. And at that point, I have to say, I felt really helpless because that was the first time I realized that I'm alone and helpless in my life. And, you know, there was this incident in the bathroom, the lady of the household put me in the shower, hoping that I know how to handle the heat, the cold water, the hot water, but it was a completely different system than what I was used to and I was traumatized. Here I was alone in this bathroom, naked, as a teenager; you know, I guess that was the first time after the earthquake I realized that helplessness. And, you know, I was screaming, “Help! Help! Help!”
A: And no one was coming. So I guess that when my daughter was pushing my buttons in the bathroom, that was a strong trigger for me, until I connected the dots that, the same bathroom setting, the same heat, the same water sound has this connection to the past.
J: Hmm, wow. You have me thinking of the times that I am triggered by my own 6 children, and I'm going to spend some time now looking back and seeing what past connection might be there; what a powerful story.
A: Wow, you have 6 children; oh my goodness!
J: So let's move a little bit.
J: And there are people listening who are obviously thinking about their own triggers with their kids, the things that just frustrate them to no end; about each of their kids perhaps. So what advice would you give to anyone who is struggling with something like that?
A: Well, not every day frustration… not everything has a connection to your past.
A: Let's be clear that it has to be a really strong trigger that… that you are overwhelmed by
that, you are swept by something and you don't understand. You know, you get clouded thinking… it has to be a really, really strong trigger. Everyday frustrations are normal for parents.
J: Right, right.
A: You know, that's a whole nother story, but maybe talk to someone if you have a strong trigger. First of all, identify that trigger (like, in my case, it was the bathroom), and then talk to someone; a trusted person, a therapist, maybe a good friend, someone who will listen to your story. Put together this coherent story and bring the stuff from your unconsciousness to your consciousness and connect the dots. Perhaps you will be able to do that without the help of a professional, but if it's really strong and you see multiple triggers, maybe go to therapy. Journaling might help, you know, consistent writing in a notebook what's happening in your day to day life, it will give you some clues into your own awareness; into your psyche.
A: That's what I would say. But never lose your temper and yell at your kids and hurt them; you know, it's not their fault. Your children push your buttons, they are the triggers, but they are never the cause of how you feel.
J: Uh-huh, mm-hmm, yes. And what about for those who aren't exactly triggered, but are just having normal daily frustrations? What's some advice that would help us, you know, be more patient; which we all really crave?
A: Mm, well, I would say, de-stress, you know. Don't be so overwhelmed. Say no to things. Don't put so many things on your to-do list. Or even, don't keep a mental to-do list, write it down, dump it on the paper, make a list of priorities. Don't try to overwhelm yourself, try to carve out a little time for yourself. And, you know, self-care is important; we all know. Stay away from your kids for a period of time, you know, you don't have to be with your kids 24/7 to be a good mom. In fact, we need to be, you know, alone at times; solitude is a good thing for kids and for parents. So that's what I would say. And, you know, frustrations are part of normal life, and if you are easily triggered, you're yelling a lot, you’re low in patience, it means, you know, you need to de-stress; you need to do something to take care of yourself, to open up more room so you'll be ready again for new challenges until you fill up again. (Laughs)
J: Yes, that's exactly what I talked to women about as well. And I love what you just said, “You don't have to be with your kids 24/7 to be a good mom.” That ‘good mom syndrome’ is so real and then we pile expectation after expectation on ourselves and then wonder why we feel so overwhelmed. But, yeah, I'm with you, I kind of think ‘good mom’, for me, equals being vibrant and happy; put it as simple as that. And if I'm not feeling those ways, then I can cut back, just like you said; so that's excellent advice. Well, so, Anna, tell us something that you're really excited about today; how you're living a vibrant and happy life today.
A: Mm, well, I don't know. How am I living? I live a pretty simple life, honestly; what I just said. I have a pretty simple life. I have a small family. I love to keep in touch with friends and family members. I love to do things that inspire me. I love to play the piano, I compose music.
A: I like to take a walk. I like to spend time with my kid; that's pretty much it. And I love to do what I do, working with families and parents. And I try to keep my life very simple; I don't burden myself, I follow my own advice usually, if I'm good. I don't try to pile up many things, being many places, you know, take that extra volunteer job, I'm pretty mindful of that. I have a pretty slow lifestyle compared to many quote-unquote ‘busy people’.
A: Because that drives me crazy, and I appreciate the slowness. I take time for myself. I will speak about the habit you're going to ask me, I know about. Every morning, you know, I spent time by myself with a cup of coffee, reflecting, thinking, meditating just sitting there doing nothing for, you know, maybe 20, 30 minutes at times, just clearing my head, looking inwards, “Am I feeling sad? Why am I so sad?” And, you know, taking inventory of my emotions is a big, big part of my well-being, and that's what I teach to other parents as well.
J: That is huge. And I've been thinking about this lately, but I feel like sometimes that busyness that many women kind of pursue is kind of running away from this idea that they're not good enough, so if they keep doing more and adding more, maybe they'll finally feel like they're good enough. Can you speak to that? I mean, you seem really secure in yourself. Where… how did you get to that point?
A: In some ways, I am secure, in some ways, I do have my own, you know, sets of insecurities and lots of fears; you know, I have my own share. I don't know, I guess it's wisdom with age; I'm 42.
J: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
A: And I guess my life, you know, prepared me from early on because I had to grow up earlier than… you know, the life threw me into this situation, into the tragedy, I grew up faster than many of my peers perhaps.
J: Mm, that makes sense.
A: And I socialized with a lot of adults and I have a more mature outlook to life. I guess also from the life experience, material things don't have a meaning for me because we lost everything in one earthquake, just in a matter of seconds.
A: So I really cherish human connection, relationships, and experiences because I know how unpredictable life can be. So let's appreciate what we have today, enjoy one another, and live as full as we can. You know, I sit in my balcony at times for 30 minutes and look at the sunset and just absorb that goodness; that beautiful positive moment. So I'm not your regular person per se.
J: You're living the life we all crave. I always question why there's such a big disconnect between wanting what you're living and then actually doing it; so when we crack the code, it will be amazing. (Laughs)
A: Yeah. You know, it's you… you just need to choose; you just need to choose and listen to your heart…
A: … and say no to a lot of things, you know what I mean?
A: It's listen to your heart what your heart tells you in the moment.
A: It's not as hard. You know, we don't have to be busy, I don't have to do my daughter's birthday party, I didn't even give gifts to my daughter this Christmas; I forgot to buy her gift.
A: And, you know, it was the perfect Christmas! Let me tell… I didn't send out Christmas cards because I couldn't do it this year. If I had put that on my list, I would have been burned out; so I had to let some things go.
J: Mm, I love this. Well, you sound like you're living an ideal life; at least in my… the way I interpret it. But is there anything that you're currently struggling with that you still have to work on?
A: Yes. Well, it goes with the same theme, social media, Facebook, I've been struggling with that lately because, you know, it's a distraction. It's a huge distraction and it takes a lot of time, you become addicted; I had to battle with that. And, again, make a conscious choice, it was really hard; I even have a podcast episode on my show about my experience. I got rid of email on my phone, Facebook Messenger apps on my phone, and I don't depend on my phone anymore. I used to check email 100 times a day, respond right away, now I don't; so it makes me happier.
A: So I struggle with the same temptations that everybody else; believe me. But it's a… you know, you have to make the conscious effort and say no to things.
J: Well, so you run a business and so I'm so curious, how do you not worry to death that there's someone that really needs you?
A: Well, it's not going to be a life and death situation, right? They are going to need me, they can send me an email, I check my email every morning and at the end of the day. So…
J: Ah, so they’ll… you'll get to them. (Laughs)
A: Yes, I will get to them. It doesn't mean… and research actually suggests that, average office worker checks their email 1 times per hour.
J: Oh my goodness.
A: And email checking actually makes us less happy and stressful, yet we do that all the time, right? And I really got rid of those temptations and distractions; I'm trying, it's a battle.
J: Wow, I'm going to join you.
A: It's not easy, yes.
J: This is going to be amazing. (Laughs)
A: I go out to eat with my family, I don't bring my phone.
J: Mm, mm, I love it.
A: I leave it at home, you know, yeah.
J: Well, this has been really enlightening. I have a lot to think about myself; I'm sure listeners will love this as well. But let's jump into some of your favorite things, starting with a habit that contributes to your success.
A: I think the habit that I already mentioned is just having alone time, solitude in the morning. Every morning I wake up, I make myself a cup of coffee, I drink both coffee and tea so that's… that's the coffee. I sit in my favorite chair in the living room and I just sit there and do nothing for a specific amount of time; it could be 10 minutes, 15, 20. Even if I don't have that time in that morning, if I have to be somewhere at the conference or something, I still get up early just to have at least a few moments with myself. Because looking inwards, for me, has been the most powerful, empowering, important life lesson because no one can make me happy. I cannot expect my husband to make me happy; I am happy. I have to be happy on my own before I have fulfilling relationships with others. So no one makes me sad, no one makes me angry; I feel that way. So I befriended all my emotions and I really look inwards a lot. So I think when I suffered through the earthquake, I had a lot of alone time, also, that contributed to this.
A: Looking inwards and not being scared; not being scared with yourself, with your feelings, and really knowing who you are, I think that's the key to happiness.
J: Taking that time to really know yourself and know your emotions and choose your own happiness, that's empowering; excellent. And let's talk about a favorite easy meal that you eat regularly.
A: Well, I'm a vegetarian, my family isn't, so I cook a variety of things. The easiest thing I prepare is an omelet, any kind of omelet. Throw some vegetables and make an omelet; spinach, feta cheese, you know, with mushrooms or just I make one with scallions and parsley.
A: That's super easy and simple, yes.
J: Do you use an omelet pan or a special type of pan? Because when I make omelets, they always just look more like scrambled eggs. (Laughs)
A: No, I don't have a special pan, no; sometimes, mine looks like that too so it's fine good. (Laughs)
J: Oh, okay, good; whew. I'm imagining something amazing, yes.
A: No, no, trust me, I'm not your 5-star chef.
A: I’m just an average mom who can cook decent meals. And according to my daughter, only 5 things I make are really good.
J: That’s… that's about what I hear as well. What… and what's your favorite kitchen gadget, Anna?
A: My favorite kitchen gadget is my Cuisinart food processor, which can do many things. So I love it; I use it frequently.
J: Hmm, I have one of those as well; very great gadget. And a favorite book.
A: I struggle with this one too because I have many favorite books. I am a big fan of nonfiction, I read a lot of nonfiction books, but I'm going to choose a book that I loved as a kid, I loved as a young adult, I'm loving as an adult, and that's ‘The Little Prince’.
J: Mm, yes, good choice.
J: Oh, that’s a great one. And the best advice you've ever received.
A: The best advice I have ever received was probably from my husband and it's, “Don't sweat the small stuff,” and, “It's all small stuff.”
J: Ah, that's so true, “Don't sweat the small stuff,” and, “It's all small stuff,” ooh, that's great. Well, everyone, you can find links to Anna's favorite book and everything else we've been talking about by going to the show notes page at jenriday.com/47; 47. And now, Anna, your happiness formula; if you had to create a formula of 3 to 5 things that really contribute to your happiness, what would that include?
A: Mm, well, first and foremost, meaningful relationships, connections, attachments, friendships, you know, family; that's one category. Doing the things that make me fulfilled, expressing myself through art or doing something that I love, and perhaps taking care of myself because we are… you know, we need to take care of our body first and foremost to be healthy, to have good relationships, and to do the things that you love most.
J: Hmm, perfect. And finally, a challenge that you would give our listeners before we say goodbye.
A: A challenge I would give to our listeners, it would be for parents; I don't know how many people are parents, but sorry non-parents, perhaps you can do that too and apply to another aspect of your life. But I know a lot of moms don't give themselves enough credit for the hard work that they do. Parenting is an emotional job so I want parents to take a piece of paper today and reflect and write down 5 things, big or small (it could be very small or it could be really big), something that, in your eyes, in your own opinion, makes you a great parent. Be honest with yourself give; yourself credit. What are those things that you do or you have done or you are doing for your children that make you a great parent?
J: That is excellent advice. And… oh, before we go, Anna, has a free gift for everyone, it's called ‘15 powerful things to say to your kids every day’; it's a free guide that she has created and I'll have a link to that on our show notes page as well. It's… again, it's called ‘15 power things to say to your kids every day’; I can't wait to get my hands on that. So that will be at jenriday.com/47. Thanks for that great advice and for this wonderful show, Anna, we’re so glad you've been on the show.
A: Thank you, it's been the pleasure.
J: Take care.
I love how Anna spends 10 to 20 minutes alone first thing every morning. She's proactively taking charge of her happiness that way; and we all can do that. And you know what? When she's busy, I love that she gets up 10 to 20 minutes earlier to make that happen. I do this as well, and when I do, it makes all the difference in my day; so I hope you're making that time for yourself as well. Be sure to join me next week when I talk with Kimberly Johnson about physical intimacy and some of the attitudes we women have about that, especially after the birth of a child. Now, it's perfectly G-rated, yet it's informative and you're going to want to listen to that. Also, be sure to join me Thursday at 12:00 central time for that free class I'm offering, the free training, called ‘Strategies for coping with depression, worry, anxiety, and other big feelings’. It's perfect for anyone who has big feelings they're trying to work through or anyone who wants to feel a little happier and more vibrant about life. That's free, you can find that on my Facebook page Dr. Jen Riday; just search for Dr. Jen Riday. So I'll see you Thursday 12:00 Central Time, and if you can't make it live, there will be a replay at jenriday.com/depression. Make it a great week, take that alone time every morning, and I'll see you next time.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the Vibrant Happy Women podcast at www.jenriday.com.