#119 Who is Mother?

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

Who is Mother?

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#118 When is a Mom Not a Mom??

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_119235895The dilemma for women who are mothers is about how much time and energy they will give to their children and how much they will keep for themselves.

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#117 Mom’s Night Out

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_96778486I wanted to comment on the discussions that have followed the recent movie Mom’s Night Out. I haven’t seen it but apparently the movie portrayed women who are stay at home moms as flaky, flighty, or not intelligent. I disagree with any movie, book or whatever that portrays people in stereotyped ways. That portrayal is certainly not an accurate description of the women I know who stay home with their children.

The question that comes to me is that of why we are still debating “women’s roles.” Why is there criticism of one side or another? It is not a debate that men encounter. That is, they don’t have to choose between having a job and being a dad. We assume that they will do both and one role does not preclude the other. They may have issues about how much time they spend with family versus time spent on a job but it isn’t viewed as a choice between one and the other.

I think it should be that simple for women as well. They are mothers and they work—either for money or as a volunteer. (Mothering is the most intensive volunteer work ever!!!) But why is it more complicated for women? First of all, women have only had a choice not to bear children for less than 100 years. Before that time the babies came—wanted or not. Once women had access to safe, convenient and legal birth control they could ostensibly make the decision not to have children. But that really hasn’t been choice either. There is enormous social pressure on women to have babies. If women choose not to have babies they are still regarded as aberrant.

Somehow it seems that women still don’t get to decide who they are. Men do because we still live in a male-dominated society. Oh yes, we do!! So we as women need to take charge of who we are and who we want to be. That means, as many of you out there have said, that we need to give one another the freedom and the support to make decisions about if and when and how we choose to be a mother.
Next week I’ll share some of my own struggles to make those difficult decisions way back in the 70s!!

Woman with birth control pills image available from Shutterstock.

#116 Abundant Living Nominees

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

I asked friends and family to nominate people they know or have known who live abundantly.shutterstock_188836877 I invited them to use my definition which I posted in blog #115 or they could use their own definition.

As the nominations are coming in I am discovering that most people are choosing someone they love–a spouse, a dear friend, a beloved care giver or family member. So what does that mean? Is it that abundant living is difficult to see unless we know someone very well? Or is it like beauty in the eye of the beholder? Is it about someone who has loved us well; who has given us their all as Maggie did for my family?

As I compare the nominees it is also clear that living abundantly is really not about wealth or “having it all.”  It isn’t about external things. We can imagine that celebrities are living abundantly because they have everything that money can buy. But we can’t really know that for sure unless we know their hearts.  It is therein that riches reside–in the the giving and receiving of love. It is about knowing well and being known in turn in a way that touches the deepest part of us.

So check out the nominees below and add your own. I would love to hear what others say about abundance and the abundant life. I will post more nominees next week.

Abundant Living Nominees:
My wife Jordan is one of the most abundant people I know. Her sense of adventure is unmatched. She has the uncanny ability to jump, believing that the net will appear… and it always does. She has huge dreams, and just chases them as if that’s what’s normal. But it’s not normal. It’s a mark of abundant living. She finds reasons to celebrate anything and everything, making every day of her life a significant event. When you’re around her, she makes you feel like the most important person in the room… in the world. She loves people to their core and I find that pretty rare. People who live abundantly make other people feel abundant. That’s Jordan.
I nominate my wife Emily. She is a hardworking Music Professor and Opera Singer and a mother of two active boys and a loving wife. She also volunteers in her church and in her community. She is passionate about the things she believes in and willing to help others anytime. She is a spiritual person and seeks for joy in her life.
Twinkly eyed Sally 80, trains volunteers, gathers children and grandchildren, fights for education, hikes, lifts weights and loves husband.

Maggie was far from rich, but she seemed satisfied with what she had. She could rejoice over a “new” yellow Easter dress and hat that she had bought at a second-hand store and enjoy the compliments from friends at church who told her how pretty she looked. Maggie was a woman of faith and active in her church. She was connected to a large and loving family. When one of her daughters died, young and unexpectedly, she took care of her granddaughter and then her great grand-daughter as a mother would. She would ride the Greyhound bus to faraway cities to visit cousins and relatives until she was well into her eighties. Maggie never lost her ability to be in the moment. She retained her zest for living until the end of her life. She loved Aaron, and she loved us. In return, we loved her unreservedly. We moved from Detroit after my year’s internship was completed, but we stayed in touch with Maggie. She had become a part of our family, and we visited her frequently with all of the children until her death.

Happy people image available from Shutterstock.

#115 Living Abundantly

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_173722598The See-saw parenting model honors the essence of every participant and has the potential to allow children to grow to maturity with that essence intact.

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#114 When Home Becomes a Holy Place

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_117090898Our model of commitment, connection, and balance would never survive without the recognition of the intangible aspect of human souls and the indefinable structure that is created when they are joined as a family.

Somewhere along the way, I came to understand that elusive nature and I caught a glimpse of the significance of the work I was doing. I recall one morning when Bob had taken our four boys out to give me a break. It felt heavenly to enjoy the peace and quiet in the house. I was sitting on the couch in the family room when a powerful impression came to me. It was a voice in my head, but it seemed to have much greater clarity than my own thoughts. “This is a holy place,” it said. “And you are doing holy work.” Parenting had in that moment become a calling for me. It brought home to me an essential truth—if we are to survive as parents with our sanity intact, we must glimpse the beauty, often unseen, that we are creating through our children. We must recognize something beyond the physical, the intellectual, even the emotional nature of rearing children.

It takes a leap of faith, no question, to see our children as equals or to imagine them as men and women of courage, valor and wisdom. It is exceedingly difficult to do so when they are squabbling, trashing the house, spilling their fourth glass of milk at a single meal or coming home late, failing to call or wrecking the family car. But that is exactly what it is—a leap of faith. In the example  I gave of the family that was moving without consulting their children at all,  the parents did not see their little girl beyond her physical stature or level of experience. Thus they were not able to consider the very significant perspective that she might have had about a family move. The second family was able to recognize the glorious but unseen spirit of the little girl who had much to contribute to this important decision.

In the worst of times it helps so much if we can see our children as spirit beings with magnificent potential.

Spotlight image available from Shutterstock.

#113 Achieving Balance in the Family

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_165104018The third element of our model, balance, is essential but difficult to achieve because it is also an action concept.

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#112 Being Physically and Emotionally Present

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_163058612If we want to be connected to our children in loving ways we need to spend time with them—a lot of time!

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#111 Making Love Real

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_187180841Connection, the second  principle of our parenting plan, is at the heart of  See Saw Parenting.

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#111 Parents versus Children in Real Time

By Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.

shutterstock_189011825Bob and I drove from Michigan to California with my son and his wife and their three children, ages 9, 6 and 2 1/2. Among our many adventures was the problem of choosing which bedrooms that each child was to occupy in their new home. My grandson chose the larger of the two available and began making elaborate plans about how to set it up. My grand-daughter and younger grandson were given the smaller bedroom and had to shrink their belongings from two bedrooms to one in their lovely but smaller new home.

My son, Matt, and his wife, Jordan spent hours deciding how to set up the rooms before they made a trip to Ikea to buy new beds and dressers. They finally concluded that they simply could not fit the furniture for two children into the smaller of the two bedrooms. So they called a family conference which included the two older children and me to tell them that they had decided they had to switch the bedrooms. (I was included because I had been helping unpack and set up rooms.) They told the children of their plans and Kaylor and Clementine “went ballistic.” Both children had already slept in the rooms and felt committed to their original choices. Kaylor made diagrams and began throwing around words like currency and fluency. He said they could save money (currency) and achieve better traffic flow (fluency) by keeping the initial arrangement. I could tell how invested the children were and I wanted their move to get off to a good start. So I asked for a conference alone with Mom and Dad. I explained that I thought the children were attached to their first choices and didn’t want to change—in part because the move itself required a lot of adjustment on their part.

Mom and Dad then had another conference. I knew that they were pretty convinced that the larger room had to be for the two younger children so I didn’t know how they would resolve the matter. After about another hour they called us back upstairs. They had pulled out a lot of the children’s belongings and set up the rooms as much as they could—Kaylor in the smaller room and Clementine and Sky in the larger room. The children were delighted to see their things and surprised to see how well they fit into the new rooms. They accepted the room change without any further argument.

Whew! It was a lengthy process but it worked. They could have ordered the children to accept the change—no questions asked. If they had I would have predicted some very grumpy children for the next while. They could have let the children decide and then had to work with a nearly impossible room arrangement. But they did something different. They listened to the children (and Grandma) and made accommodations that would help them feel at home in their new rooms. They also recognized the reality of the space limitations and came up with a plan that could satisfy everyone. Time-consuming? Yes. But it will save a lot of stress and conflict in the future!

Child looking under bed image available from Shutterstock.


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Recent Comments
  • Ellen Toronto, Ph.D.: Hi, Chad, I appreciate your comment. I agree that men suffer from stereotypes too. One of my...
  • Chad: I agree with your general point, but not with your assumption that men get to decide who they are compared to...
  • ellen toronto: Very well said. I will check out that reference. I think it is tricky with children. I maintain though...
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