The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

I’ve been thinking a lot about the many life lessons we hear every day. It seems like there’s a constant influx of well-intentioned advice given by others. Some of it gold, some not so much.

With that in mind, I’m excited to share with you the most impactful life lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. I hope they inspire you and lead to success in all aspects of your life.

  1. Dreams can and often do come true – and if you’re willing to work hard, you’ve significantly upped your chances of it happening.
  2. You can be anything you want, and you can do it anytime and anywhere you want.
  3. You’re amazing, but the world will never revolve around you.
  4. Living fearlessly doesn’t mean you live a life without fear. It means you’re 100% willing to do what you have to in order to conquer your fears.
  5. There is often a funny or lighter side to things, and it’s completely worth the effort to find it.
  6. Doing to others what you want done to you isn’t just a right way to live; it’s also a tried and true formula for inviting success and happiness into your life.
  7. The present is the only thing you can control, so be here now. Always.
  8. It really is the thought that counts. Show thoughtfulness at all times and in all things.
  9. Life’s not fair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be.
  10. There’s always someone who has it worse than you, but some days you might have it better than anyone in the world.
  11. Your real friends will reveal themselves over time, so don’t stress over that part of life.
  12. Money’s highest value comes from how it can prevent certain stresses and help bring about some of life’s most rewarding experiences. Aside from that, it means nothing.
  13. When you believe in magic, you see it everywhere. And when you don’t believe in it, well, it’s nowhere to be found.
  14. Folks might hear what you say, but they’ll definitely listen to what you do.
  15. Experiences will always be more meaningful than things, so plan your life accordingly.

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned when I was young enough to actually appreciate and apply them. The funny thing about wisdom, though, is that it’s often learned in retrospect, waaay after we need it. 

The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned. You know, people such as our kids. Hence, here are some of the most important lessons that I think are worth sharing with the younger folks in your life:

  1. Love is so much more than a pleasant feeling – it’s a daily choice.
  2. Money is nice to have and will solve some problems, but there are some problems it will never solve.
  3. Pleasing everyone is impossible, so don’t bother.
  4. There are times when you should really dive into things, but pacing yourself is often better for you than going full blast.
  5. Your physical and mental health are two of the most important things you have, so try to take very good care of them.
  6. You kind of already knew this, but this entire life experience is not all about you.
  7. It’s more than okay to not know everything all the time. 
  8. Your comfort zone is your enemy, so learn how to fight it.
  9. The early bird really does catch the worm, so be a step ahead of everyone else. 
  10. There is never a better time than right now. Never was, and never will be.
  11. A healthy work-life balance is the secret ingredient to having healthy relationships with your loved ones. 
  12. Life is seldom truly fair, but worry not: Justice eventually prevails. 
  13. There is perhaps nothing as freeing as the moment you genuinely forgive someone.
  14. Helping people who don’t ask for it is good for your soul, and will often come back to you. 
  15. Unless you have reason to do otherwise, choose action over inaction.

As you’ve likely noticed, way too many kids nowadays are overweight or obese. The good news is that a healthy and more active lifestyle can make a difference by helping maintain weight. Even better, it can also prevent health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Since kids tend to imitate their parents, it’s up to you to set the best possible example.

So what are some things you can do to ensure a healthier and happier lifestyle for you and your favorite folks? Here are just some of the ways by which everyone in your clan will be feeling better before you know it:

– Kick off each day with a healthy breakfast. Doing so refuels the body and gives you energy for the entire day.

– Eat a bunch more vegetables and fresh fruits. Your goal should be a total of 2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every single day.

– Eat more whole grains. Some things to chow down on include oats, brown rice, and whole-wheat pasta. Aim for at least 3 ounces of whole grains each day.

– Drink a ton of fluids. Water should always be your first option, but you can also settle for low-fat or nonfat milk, as well as low-calorie beverages.

– Move, move, move! I recommend getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity each day. And that’s just to start.

– Include physical activity in your daily routine. Walk as a family before or after meals. The more routine you make it, the better.

– Make playtime with your family fun. Be active by running around, shooting hoops, or playing tag.

– When you start planning your next fun vacation, be sure to include activities such as hiking or biking in your plans. Get out there and discover nature, and you and your family will enjoy your special time away more than ever before.

Keeping your entire family healthy and happy doesn’t have to be a constant struggle. By using the simple tips described above, you’ll be making some relatively small changes to your diet and lifestyle that’ll inevitably lead to the type of physical and mental health you and your loved ones deserve.

Many parents admit that they yell at their kids. Parents say they do this because they want their kids to listen, but they’re used to getting little to no cooperation. When threats, promises, and pleas don’t work, yelling can feel like the only option.

The reality? Yelling at kids doesn’t help them focus on what you’re saying or what you want them to do. The truth is that it has quite an opposite effect.

Kids seem to be able to naturally tune out yelling. They might grumble, yell back at you, or even laugh in response (yeah, I hate that too), but they aren’t soaking in your message. Even worse, frequent yelling often leads to a cycle of miscommunication and overall negative vibes. This unpleasant pattern sometimes feels impossible to break.

With all that in mind, here are 6 tried and true strategies you should use if you want to yell less and be listened to more:

Listen a bit more. As with pretty much every other behavior, your child will learn how to listen by following the example you set. If you consistently listen to your child when he or she speaks, they’ll be much more inclined to listen to you when you talk to them.

Speak in a whisper. Typically speaking, when our frustration level rises, so does our voice. When you lower your voice to a whisper, it’s exactly the opposite of what your kid expects to hear. This can lead to a pleasant sense of surprise. Not only that, but when you whisper, your kid has no choice but to lean in. They are literally closer to you. This will likely make them feel more obligated to listen.

Stop talking so much. We parents tend to talk too much. Kids can receive as many as 200 instructions each day. If that sounds like a lot, well, it is. And since kids typically retain a mere 25 percent of those directives, perhaps we need to be a bit more thoughtful regarding what we tell them to do.

Find out exactly why they’re not doing what you say. Some questions to consider include: Are you asking them to do something that’s too difficult? Are they struggling to do something because they’re tired? Think on these things before jumping to the conclusion that your kid is being purposely defiant or disrespectful. The answer might be more innocent than you think.

Change the mood by adding some fun to things. Sometimes it can feel as though you and your kid are engaged in a constant battle of wills. That’s why you should change the entire dynamic by lightening things up a bit. For example, if you’re frustrated by your kid taking his time getting ready for school, whip out a timer to see who can win a race to the door. The key is to use your imagination (and your wit) to encourage his cooperation. I’ve found that it works better than merely making demands.

Try to see things eye to eye (literally). Go ahead and get down on your child’s level and ask her to look directly at you while you both are speaking. This is a great way to make sure you have your child’s full attention and to teach them the type of good manners you want them to have.

When it comes to balancing career and motherhood, one of my main focus areas is doing everything while maintaining a healthy mental state. After all, mental health is the foundation to everything in our lives. It’s super important that we feel emotionally healthy for ourselves, our careers, and most important, our kids.

I am extremely blessed to have encountered so many kind, strong, and successful women so far in my adventures. Some of them moms, some not. The cool part is that we keep each other balanced, all the while checking in to make sure we are caring for our physical health and mental health. In short, these wonderful gals and I keep each other strong.

It is the wisdom from these relationships that inspires the tips I’m about to share with you. My hope is that these suggestions will help keep you the strong, mountain-moving mama you are. 

Set aside specific “me” time.

It sounds cliché, but real “me” time is necessary, and sometimes even a life-saver. Ask some friends or family members to occasionally watch the kids while you go do whatever it is that helps you relax. It sounds crazy, but sometimes a mere 45 minutes of legit “me” time can feel like an entire day at the spa.

Consistently give yourself one very important reminder.

If there’s one thing you need to remember on a daily basis, it’s this: You do NOT have to be everywhere and doing everything at all times. Perhaps some moms can do that, and cheers to them. But the rest of us simply don’t have the time or energy to be all things to all people at all times. Leave yourself a Post-It if need be so you can remind yourself that you really are doing your best – and that that is truly enough.

Use social media to your advantage.

Here’s an important one: Regulate your social media. I personally think it can benefit you to see other moms balancing being a working mother, but if you think it will just result in you comparing yourself to other women who you think are doing “more” than you, ditch the Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for a while. In other words, if a particular social media platform isn’t bringing you joy, you don’t need it.

Give yourself some quiet time.

I know. This sounds nearly impossible. But I promise you this: If you take even one minute in the morning to sit in silence, you will feel so much more relaxed as you kick off your day. Again, I promise it will help.

Make the most of your treasured friendships.

Hey! When was the last time you checked in with your closest friends? If it’s been a while, it’s time to change that. Even five minutes a day with a different friend is a wonderful way inspire you and remind your most cherished friends that they mean the world to you.

Thoroughly analyze your relationships.

I strongly suggest that you try to surround yourself with positive, non-judgmental people. If you need to distance yourself from certain friends or family members while you analyze who fits that criteria, that’s fine. Sadly, it’s sometimes the closest people in our lives who bring the most negativity. It’s more than okay to take a break from folks like that.

Stop comparing yourself with other moms.

Unless you’re doing it to inspire yourself, I recommend not comparing yourself with other moms. Everyone has their own path and everyone has certain struggles that you are unaware of. Be the best you you can possibly be, and everything will fall into place.

You’ve got this, Mom. You have all the tools necessary to maintain the type of mental health you want and need for you and your loved ones.

There are few worse feelings as a parent than watching your child’s self-worth fall like a ton of bricks. It can be downright soul-crushing.

And while you can’t stop your child from harshly judging how their abilities and bodies match up to others, there are a number of things you can do to provide support. Here are 7 proven ways to build up your kid’s self-esteem:

  • Encourage them to focus on the skills they have and then show them how to use those skills.
  • Help them set the type of reasonable emotional, intellectual, and social expectations that they can easily attain.
  • Listen, pay attention, and offer unconditional support that is fueled by your non-judgmental love.
  • Help them find additional sources of support, such as teachers, friends, or mentors.
  • Give them the chance to build their resilience by letting them fail on occasion.
  • Catch them in the act while they’re being (and doing) good – and then offer heartfelt words of appreciation and praise.
  • Be a positive role model by showing them what it means to have a healthy self-esteem.

Whatever your kid is going through affects you. By using the strategies above, you can ensure that they soon start feeling better about themselves and their place in the world.

As music moms, the last thing we need is extra work. We’ve already got our hands full. Sometimes, though, we inadvertently burden ourselves with more to do by refusing to be as efficient as possible. In short, we end up working harder, rather than working smarter.

The good news? Figuring out how to work smarter can be done. It just takes some practice. So if you want to save energy, increase your overall productivity, increase your motivation, and build up your self-esteem (and who doesn’t?), here are 5 tried and true ways to get the most out of your work with even less effort.

1. Work on one task at a time. Multi-tasking is simply overrated. Moving from one task to another actually causes you to waste time, as it takes your brain way too much time to switch tasks and refocus. Resist your overwhelming urge to multi-task.

2. Establish a manageable morning routine. By starting your morning the same way each day, you’ll gain the proper mindset for a positive and productive day. Whether it’s going for a jog to get your blood flowing or diving into a chapter of your favorite book to wake up your brain, there are benefits to kicking off each day the same way.

3. Shorten your to-do list as much as you can. Shorten your to-do list and allow yourself to focus on no more than five big tasks each day. These should be your most important tasks, and they should make you feel productive once you complete them.

4. Block off your calendar when you need to focus solely on work. Doing this will give you the time you need to complete all your work. It will also ensure that your day is free of unexpected distractions.

5. Measure your results – not the amount of time you’re working on them. Track everything you accomplish during each day. Being able to see specific things you’ve done during the day will help you feel a sense of accomplishment.

I’m not sure about you, but we’ve been listening to Christmas music for a few weeks already. That means it’s time we start watching Christmas movies. And since there are a crazy number of them, I have put together a list of my family’s favorites. I hope these classics bring you and your loved ones a ton of holiday cheer.

‘SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN’ (1970)

From the perspective of a mailman, this movie tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Santa-connected Christmas traditions came to be. He tells the tale of a small baby named Kris who was left on the doorstep of a certain Kringle family. The rest is Christmas history.

‘HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS!’ (1966)

The story might be familiar, but there’s nothing quite like this original animated movie. I think everyone, no matter their age or generation, needs to see.

‘HOME ALONE’ (1990)

After 8-year-old Kevin misbehaves the night before a family vacation to Paris, his mother has him sleep in the attic. When he’s accidentally left home alone by his family the following morning, he’s thrilled to have the house to himself. That changes, though, as before too long he must protect his house from a pair of dimwitted burglars.

‘RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER’ (1964)

Sam the Snowman narrates a tale of a charming young red-nosed reindeer who is continually rejected for being different. After teaming up with Hermey (the rare elf who wants to be a dentist), the pair look for a place that will accept them. They soon discover a whole island of misfit toys and ask Santa for help.

‘ELF’ (2003)

As a toddler, Buddy was inadvertently shipped to the North Pole. After being raised by Santa’s elves, the affable human/elf is on a mission to find his real dad, Walter Hobbs, in New York City. The problem? Walter is on the naughty list and isn’t even slightly interested in forming a relationship. Things go expectedly (and hilariously) downhill from there.

‘THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS’ (1993)

Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, has somehow become completely bored with the spookiest of holidays. Once he stumbles into Christmas Town, he becomes so infatuated with the idea of Christmas that he decides to make up his own version.

‘MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET’ (1947)

Kris Kringle steps in to replace a drunken Santa Claus in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade and people love him. Until, of course, he starts claiming to be the real deal. Once institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is, in fact, the real deal.

A CHRISTMAS STORY’ (1983)

Ralphie is an awkward young boy who unsuccessfully attempts to convince his parents, his teacher, and even Santa that he should receive a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Charmingly nostalgic and laugh-out-loud funny, this film is the perfect Christmas family flick.

‘THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL’ (1992)

This adaptation of A Christmas Carol features a set of beloved characters: the Muppets. This feature-length film also includes original songs, so be prepared for them to be stuck in your head all day.

‘THE SNOWMAN’ (1982)

No, Frosty is not the only snowman in town. This warm adventure follows a boy who builds a snowman that comes to life right after his family pet passes away. This one has very little dialogue and is only 26 minutes long, so it’s pretty much perfect for younger kids.

‘IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE’ (1946)

After George Bailey wishes that he had never been born, an angel appears to show him exactly how life would be without him. The rest is pure cinematic gold.

‘NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION’ (1989)

In this third edition of the National Lampoon series, the Griswold’s plan for a Christmas vacation quickly descends into a big old mess. This one’s worth watching solely for the big barrel of laughs it brings.

‘A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS’ (1965)

This classic will help teach your kids the true meaning of Christmas. Follow Charlie Brown and his lovable Peanuts gang who are quite bummed by the commercialization of Christmas. Their mission? To figure out a way to get to the holiday’s deeper meaning.

‘FROZEN’ (2013)

Yes, I do consider this a Christmas movie even though folks watch it year round. Anna and her pals try to save their home from the infinite winter caused by the queen, who just so happens to be her sister. It’s most definitely what I’d call a modern classic.

‘KLAUS’ (2019)

When postman Jesper is given an ultimatum to start a post office in the Arctic Circle in order to keep his share of his family’s fortune, he’s about ready to throw in the towel. After he meets Alva, however, the two build an unlikely bond with a mysterious carpenter who lives in a cabin full of handmade toys. Their goal? They must bring the holiday spirit to a cold and dreary town that desperately needs it.

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start developing an attitude of gratitude within your kids. If you’ve been looking for ways to do that, good news: There are some specific things you can do to make sure your kids knows exactly what it means to give thanks this coming Turkey Day. Here are four tried and true ways to raise a grateful child:

Become a living, breathing model of contentment. Simply put, lacking contentment will often lead to a lack of gratitude. When you’re content, you appreciate where you are and what you have, instead of continually wanting more. Demonstrate for your kid what it means to be happy with what you have at the moment. The younger your kids are when you start teaching them this vital lesson, the better.

Emphasize just how important relationships are. A number of studies reveal the close connection between meaningful relationships and a heightened sense of gratitude. Social interacting with individuals whom you genuinely care for is inherently good for increasing one’s gratitude. You can teach this to your kids by showing them exactly what healthy, positive relationships look like, both with family members and close friends.

Stop any and all forms of complaining. Believe it or not, but constantly complaining about every day events like lousy weather or brutally congested traffic just might be your worst habit. When we complain about these rather meaningless life events, we’re showing our kids how to complain about and become angry over the silliest things possible. Complaining is a toxic habit that can stunt a grateful approach to life, so do your best to remain mindful of what you say and when you say it.

Teach kids to reframe the negative situations they encounter. One of my favorite sayings is an old Norwegian phrase that goes, “There’s no bad weather, only poor clothing”. This is the perfect quote to give you and your kids an enhanced sense of perspective. Teaching gratitude to your kids will help them grow a more positive attitude towards life. They will also learn to thrive in difficult life situations. Help them learn how to do this by searching for the silver linings in even the worst situations.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Growing a grateful child is not an easy task, but you can do it. The four strategies described above will ensure that this Thanksgiving is a time of genuine gratitude, as well as the start of a truly content and happy future for you and your kids.

Screens, screens, and more screens. They’re everywhere! And while it’s important to show our kids some of their benefits, we also have to make sure we don’t allow screens to grab hold of their behavior.

Here are 5 ways to limit screen time and make sure you and child become significantly happier and healthier:

Consistently model how and when you want your kids to use screens. Kids are so much smarter than some folks give them credit for. Taking a “Do as I say, not as I do!” approach simply won’t cut it. As parents, we should set a good example by limiting our own screen time and using technology at the right times. Sneaking a peek at your phone at the dinner table totally sends the wrong message. Again, kids will do as we do, not as we say.

Get outside, explore, and play as much as possible. Sure, electronic games and certain TV shows can help develop your kids’ brains. But these screen-based activities can also overstimulate your kid’s little noggin. When kids get outside and play and explore Mother Nature, they get the opportunity to calmly engage their brain. The result is usually more relaxed kids who do better at home, at school, and in most other public settings. Sounds good, eh?

Read as many books as possible. I believe there’s something inherently healing about working your way through a good book. Encourage your kids to read more by giving them plenty of options. There are so many benefits to reading, including enhanced speech skills, improved reading comprehension, and superior critical thinking skills. I feel pretty darn safe in saying that we all want those things for our kids. Consistently diving into a book will help make that happen, so you know what to do.

Choose experiences over things. There are sooo many gadgets out there that our kids seem intent on getting. And like good parents, we often want to give them the things we think they want or even need. But the reality is that our kids don’t need more gadgets. They don’t need the latest and greatest phone, tablet, or television. Rather than hooking them up with these types of items, I think we should focus on giving them the gift of experience. Get out there and do stuff. See places. Meet new people. Your kid will be infinitely better off when you commit to giving them experiences instead of things. They’ll also have the type of lifelong memories that pieces of technology simply cannot provide.

Keep screens as far away from the bedroom as you can. Screens should be kept out of the bedroom at all times. Just like you, your kids need consistent, quality sleep to be their best selves. It’s simply impossible for them to get that type of sleep if there are screens in their bedroom. They don’t have the discipline to not use them – especially after you’ve gone to sleep. Remove the temptation by keeping all screens out of the bedroom. And remember: Ditch all electronics at least two hours before your kids turn in for the night.

I know that it seems like a monumental task to get your kid to cut down on their screen time. But by following the above tips, you can make it happen. There’s so much more out there than whatever’s bombarding your kid on a screen, so help them (and yourself) by giving them the tools they need to spend less time passively receiving technology and more time actively enjoying life.

Sometimes when we’re feeling low, we beat ourselves up even more by telling ourselves that we shouldn’t feel this way. I want to remind you that everyone feels negative about themselves at some point in life; the key is to avoid letting it eat you alive.

Instead, face the fact that you’re feeling bad about yourself. Then combat that feeling by focusing on the many successes you’ve had so far in life. If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that you’re a mom to at least one amazing kid who you’ve raised. I consider that cause enough for celebration.

However, if you’re still struggling to focus on anything positive about yourself, here are some tried and true strategies for increasing your confidence:

Take on a new hobby or learn a new skill. Nothing is as magical for your confidence as conquering a challenge, so why not dive into a new hobby and learn a new skill? If you can master it, you’ll have that amazing feeling that there’s nothing you can’t do if you really try. There are countless options out there, so find something new that’ll challenge you physically, emotionally, or spiritually.

Set (and stick with) small, attainable goals. Doing this will definitely help increase your confidence. As your confidence grows, you’ll soon find yourself setting (and then achieving) even larger goals. This will have the effect of boosting your confidence even more. It’s a rewarding cycle that starts with meeting those small, attainable goals you’ve set for yourself.

Focus on the thing that makes you unique. Being a mother is truly a privilege, but we all sometimes feel like we’ve lost our identity somewhere along this long and winding parenting journey. I recommend trying to reconnect with what makes you an individual. Celebrate who you are and what you do, and then seek out ways to further enhance your individuality.

Make time to talk with your kids. As you’ve noticed, I’m a huge fan of moms spending quality time with kids. Use this time to ask your kid questions. These conversations with your kid will confirm that you are indeed doing a wonderful job as a mother, and as a person, in general. An added benefit is that these chats will strengthen your mom-kid relationship. That’s a legit win-win in my book.

One of my favorite Beatles, George Harrison, really nailed it when talking about focusing on the present:

“It’s being here now that’s important. There’s no past and there’s no future. All there is ever, is the now. We can gain experience from the past, but we can’t relive it; and we can hope for the future, but we don’t know if there is one.” 

As a music mom, this advice is so important to hear – and follow. The thoughtful Beatle’s words are a timely reminder to be mindful and honor the present moment. Not only is it the right thing to do for those around us, but here are 5 ways in which living in the present greatly improves your mental health and general well-being:

You stop living life on autopilot. I hate when I feel as though I’m simply going through the motions in life. The cool part is that folks who embrace the present rarely go through the motions. Their existence is chock full of intentional living. The result is that they often experience days that are meaningful and fulfilling. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?

You realize that you are so much more than your thoughts. I know that for me, it’s all too easy for my thoughts to take complete control over my life. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to let those thoughts shape the way we see ourselves, the people around us, and the world at large.

When you focus on the present, all that self-harming judgment simply fades away. Rather than worrying nonstop about what you’ve said or done, you begin to fully understand and appreciate your thoughts.

You avoid the cycle of procrastination. Procrastination typically happens when we want things to be perfect, or we feel overwhelmed. I know for me, sometimes when the thought of completing a daunting project seems impossible, I avoid it altogether. Not good.

Being mindfully present helps you take things one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ve put a dent in that seemingly insurmountable task and you feel proud because of it.

A mindful approach to living helps create healthy boundaries. Being present lets you set time and energy boundaries. This frees you from wasting valuable time worrying about the past and future. All of us experience troubles at some point in life, but mindful people construct healthy boundaries that keep these negative things from ruining the here and now.

Embracing the present is so incredibly good for your psychological health. Learning how to live in the present does wonders for your psychological health. Psychology Today sums it up perfectly:

“Mindful people are happier, more exuberant, more empathetic, and more secure. They have higher self-esteem and are more accepting of their own weaknesses. Anchoring awareness in the here and now reduces depression, binge eating, and attention problems.”

Living in the present is often a challenge, but the mental and emotional benefits described above make it so worth it.