For all the moms drowning in the “stress-pool of life”

Part 1 of an interview with Debora M. Coty,
Author of Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms

With her own offbeat brand of wit and near-wisdom, popular inspirational humorist Debora M. Coty addresses heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Whether moms are struggling with stress related to attitude, time-management, guilt trips, patience, or something in between, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms (Shiloh Run Press, an imprint of Barbour Publishing) will deliver a much-needed smile and equip you with simple-to-implement tips for attaining the peace we all crave—the peace that passes all understanding.

Q: Your book, Too Blessed to be Stressed, has been very popular since its release seven years ago. Why was now the time to write an edition especially for moms?

During my travels as a women’s event speaker since Too Blessed to be Stressed came out, I’ve encountered many, many women who’ve expressed frustration with specific stressors common to the ‘hood (motherhood).

Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms is me throwing a life preserver to mothers of all ages who feel like they’re drowning in the stress-pool of life. This life preserver really and truly helps a woman keep her head above water; it’s made of empathy, good reasons to laugh out loud and lots of encouragement.

My books aren’t written for the have-it-all-together, but for the scattered and tattered, scarred and scared. My hope is that this little book will help my mom-sisters recover their joy.

Q: What are some of the tips you offer for melting angst when you—not the kids—need a time out and an attitude adjustment?

When the jeans on your attitude are inflicting a wedgie, you need to unbutton. Adjust. Loosen your uptight. Satan’s best tool is to burn us out and make us flimsy, one dimensional Flat Stanleys when we could be Robust Robertas.             When the devil’s got that anxiety noose around your neck and he’s rocking the stool, try some of these anst-melting tips:

·         Jive with the beat. Neuroscience studies have found that when people listen to their favorite music, they often experience a dopamine-induced high similar to that caused by eating chocolate or having sex.

·         Become your own manager. Just say no. People — even well-meaning, God-fearing, good-hearted people — will drain your time and energies because they’re clueless about the stress you’re under and simply see you as fresh meat to help promote their causes. Good causes, sure. But unless you draw the line, the pressure will never let up. It’s up to you to manage the limited energy Papa God has allotted you. Discern what’s worth your precious time.

·         Protect your mind. We all know media news is 90 percent negative — death, destruction, evil. Horror makes good headlines, so limit your exposure to once daily. Now I’m not saying play ostrich and bury your head in the sand; I’m encouraging you to live out loud Philippians 4:8 (MSG): “You’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.”

·         Unplug. Farm the kids out and schedule a He-and-Me Retreat: three hours, once a month, just you, your Creator, and your Bible and journal, somewhere quiet and secluded. I know it sounds impossible, but it really isn’t if you view refilling your empty spiritual tank as important as it truly is.

·         Make fun. Do something fun at least once a week. Schedule it and look forward to it all week. It can be with or without the family, but the point is it must be as stress-free as possible and something that you enjoy. Key word here: enjoy. You need to recover your joy. Joy is one of the first casualties of stress; rescuing joy rescues you.

Q: You outline four basic parenting styles. Are all styles prone to stress or do some types struggle more than others?

Stress is no respecter of parenting styles; it’s an equal opportunity black plague. There are, however, inherent stressors related to the level of parental input involved in each of the four basic parenting styles identified by behavior scientists (I’ve added my own animal analogies to make them easier to remember):

1.       Polar Bears (psychologists call this style “Authoritative”)

Daddy Polar Bear is outta there after a one-night stand, leaving Mama Bear on her own to care for the blind, toothless, totally helpless newborns. Cubs stay by Mama Bear’s side for up to two years, receiving strict but nurturing motherly attention and lots of bear hugs before lumbering off on their own.

Humans following the Polar Bear technique generally have high expectations of their kids. There are household rules and enforced consequences for disobedience. Good behavior is expected and rewarded. Lines of communication between kid and parent are open, with lots of give-and-take. Parents explain the reasons for their expectation and the child is raised to understand that she can speak to her parents without fear of harsh judgment or reprimand.

2.       Harp Seals (“Neglectful”)

Ma Harp Seal is a dedicated parent for the first 12 days of her offspring’s life, then she pumps a flipper in the air, barks, “Okay, I’m done!” She leaves her baby stranded on the ice, where he learns to swim and hunt for food on his own. Or not. Thirty percent of harp seal pups die during their first year.

The human Harp Seal version of parenting produces children with a poor trust foundation because the parents take little interest in what’s happening in the child’s life and therefore don’t meet the child’s emotional, spiritual, and sometimes even physical needs. These children often have a hard time forming relationships with other people and struggle with abandonment issues.

3.       Black Eagles (“Permissive”)

Mom Black Eagle covers the basics, making sure her babies are fed and housed, but that’s about all. She avoids confrontation and lacks the backbone to make and enforce rules in her own nest. She refuses to intervene in squabbles among her offspring and often just watches as her babies fight to the death.

Mom Black Eagle’s human counterpart has difficulty setting limits for her children; she often compromises rules to avoid conflict. She may resort to bribery to entice her children to cooperate and would rather be her child’s friend than parent. The child often ends up as insecure, undisciplined and self-centered, with poor social skills and a lack of motivation to improve.

4.       Orangutans (“Authoritarian” or “Obsessive”)

Big Mama, the original “helicopter mother,” obstinately hovers over her offspring, supervising every move they make. She nurses them up to 7 years (fostering the longest dependency of any animal on earth). After they’re weaned, female offspring stick with Big Mama for ten years before seeking independence. Even then, they visit Big Mama frequently.

The hairy Big Mama (orangutan) is often more nurturing and compassionate than the traditional “Authoritarian” hover-mom model. Although both lean toward obsession, the human version tends to coldly rely on punishment to enforce obedience to a list of strict rules based on a black and white perspective. The child is given limited (if any) choices and is frequently controlled by the can’t-touch-this reason, “Because I said so.”

Of course, rarely do we fit completely into one single parenting style; we usually combine characteristics of several. It’s important that we become aware of our own parenting styles so that when we blow it, we can perform effective emotional damage control with our children.

Q: What encouragement do you have for moms who are in the trenches, convinced they are doing it all wrong?

I’ll share the response I gave to my teenage daughter when she claimed she’d probably be in therapy for years due to my mothering: “Well, it’s your job to be a better mother than you had. It was my job and my mother’s and her mother’s before her. Keep all the good stuff and improve on the bad. One day in the future, maybe one of our descendants will get it right.”

Listen, sister-mom, we don’t have to wallow in shame over our mothering mistakes. Every single one of us makes ‘em. Some hide them better than others, but we all fail at times. And it’s okay. Really, it is. Papa God created us as imperfect, stumbling, what-was-I-thinking humans, knowing we’d be raising offspring just as flawed as we are.

The good news is that our heavenly Father loves us to pieces anyway and wants us to look to Him as the only example of a perfect parent.

Q: There are questions included at the end of each chapter. Can Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms be used in a group setting as a Bible study?

Absolutely! Navigating the ‘Hood questions at the end of each chapter are designed not only for personal growth, but also for facilitating discussion in small groups to help women build relationships vertically (with Papa God) and horizontally (with each other).