Updated: Apr 5

Welcome to Momfidence. It's my hope that you'll find rest, refreshment, new skills and a better sense of how wonderful YOU are by spending time here.

There is so much beauty and power in motherhood. From the moment we bring a child into our lives, through labor or the rigors of adoption, we become EVERYTHING to someone, and we grow every day in strength and wisdom from all the exertion and perseverance of motherhood.

We can easily feel so depleted, and so racked with self-doubt. That’s why I want to spend the next several episodes going over the 10 Momfidence principles to help you have a stronger sense of the beautiful, powerful woman you are.

Principle number one is: I make affection my number one job.

Now that can sound a little strange. There are so many jobs to do in motherhood. But affection, when put in primary place, can change everything for the better and make all the other jobs easier.

There are a lot of scriptures that can help us understand the importance of a mother's love and affection, and the way God models that for us. One of my favorites is Isaiah 49: 15, “Can a mother forget her infant or be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even if she forget, I will never forget you."

Another of my favorites is first Corinthians 13:13 "and now these three remain faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."

This is the first principle because there's no earthly thing more powerful than a mother's love and affection. We are there to reflect God's love to our children. It's consistent presence can help to form and support a child in becoming a secure, loving, emotionally intelligent, moral, happy adult. If you want to read more about the science behind this, The Science of |Parenting by Margot Sunderland is a great resource, as well as the books I wrote with my husband, Parenting Your Kids with Grace and Parenting Your Tweens and Teens with Grace, that more thoroughly cover many topics I cover on Momfidence. But we're not going to talk about the science so much right now. I want this to be a place for you to get the confidence boost that you need in your life as a mom.

So what does affection have to do with that?

Well, in all honesty, it's your superpower!

You have the power to light up your child's heart and brain when you are affectionate with them. When you hug them, or you cuddle your tired, cranky, or sad child, you exercise your ability to reset their whole nervous system. That's amazing! In those moments, when you feel like the world is telling you that you are unimportant, or the moments when you feel tired and weak and run down, you still have that superpower.

Not only that, but the affection you share with your child will actually help you reset your physical and emotional health as well. Those moments of affection and connection are like charging your batteries. Sure. Sometimes we can let those really hard feelings drive us to frustration or anger. It happens to everyone. But if we can remember our superpower we can choose to pull our child into a hug before trying to fix the behavior. We can choose to lay down for a nap with that over-tired toddler that's driving us crazy, letting us both reset and change our moods. We can choose to sit on the couch with an arm around our grouchy teen to help them calm down and only then work through their feelings and help them problem solve.

We will be amazed at how we're able to transform even really difficult situations through our motherly affection. What our affection can do for our children’s wellbeing (and our own) is beyond what most of us realize. When we share moments of affection with our kids, our levels of oxytocin, often called the love hormone, actually rise.The benefits of oxytocin are a greater sense of love and wellbeing, and often a decrease in feelings of anxiety and depression.

We all crave affection, not because we're needy or broken, but because we're created to function optimally when we receive healthy, appropriate affection. So when we create a pause from all the toil and intensity of our lives, and create an oasis of affection for our children and ourselves we are accessing and exercising our superpower. In moments we change the brain chemistry of both our child and ourselves for the good. Once we begin to change that, we then have more ready access to all the virtues and graces that help us to make improvements in our attitudes and relationships, as well as the atmosphere of our home, and the wellbeing of our families.

Often we're tempted to hold back affection until everyone behaves well (including us) or until we feel affectionate. If that's the case, we are rarely going to be as affectionate as we need to be. Instead, we need to prioritize and practice affection, as we would any skill that we want to develop.

Start by practicing habits, such as beginning every day with some form of affection. Spending a few minutes holding your child after you wake them, while you talk about how their night was and make plans for the day. Those moments can mean so much and change the start of the day into something far more positive than an alarm bell and saying, “You're going to be late for the bus!!!"

We all do better when we jump-start our brain with those moments of affection at the start of our day, and then continuing to look for moments throughout the day to add in more: a hug or a hair tussle, maybe with accompanying words of affirmation acknowledging something good about our child or their behavior, perhaps a deep calming hug with some deep breathing together if your child or you are feeling overwhelmed, cuddling up on the couch to share a book together. This works at any age by the way.There are wonderful stories for all ages out there. I know of people who have read to their children right through high school and college, and it's become a real moment of connection for them.There's a story of one dad who promised to read to his child every day untill she graduated college.When she went away to college they would get together at night over the phone and he would read her a chapter of a book, and they'd have a little time to talk to each other. She made it through college so well because she knew she could count on her dad and that wonderful tradition that let her experience his affection even far away at college.

Also, remember to give that big hug when you get back together at the end of the day. Remember to say how much you missed them and love them. Research by the Harvard school of public health says that only 6% of children get the affection they need to function optimally. That's a very small percent. We all want to help our children to be their best and we want to be our best. More affection is an easy and very rewarding way to encourage that.

Now, if affection doesn't come easily to you, don't just avoid it by thinking that's just the way you are or that's just how you were raised. Both science and Catholic theology teach us that we are made for, and thrive with, appropriate affection and connection.

By practicing small intentional acts of appropriate affection every day we wire our brain to become more affectionate, and we function better physically, spiritually and emotionally. So moms, don't be afraid to tap into that God given super power, and do things to strengthen it every day, just as you would, if you were training to lift weights, or run a marathon, or do anything else that was really important to you. You and your children will be happier, healthier, and more connected if you do, and you will feel a whole lot better about the mom you are.

Give it a try and let us know how you're doing on Momfidence on Facebook and Momfidenceofficial on Instagram.

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  • Lisa Popcak

What overwhelms or scares you in your mothering?

Is it sleep deprivation and all that comes with it?

Is it the angry child?

Is it the lack of good parental role models in your own childhood?

Is it your concerns about the future?

Some or all of the above?

Mothering can bring up so many fears for so many reasons, unique to each one of us. But we each experience them. They often manifest themselves as unsolicited internal messages that cause some anxiety, sap our energy, cause us to doubt ourselves.

For me, those messages would often summarize themselves into one phrase that would pop into my mind when I felt overwhelmed… “I can’t.” When those moments in life would loom up at me and weaken me, seemingly out of nowhere, I would feel, more than hear, “I can’t.”

“I can’t get all this laundry finished and still have time to be the present mother I want to be.”

“I can’t handle my children’s overwhelming feelings and my own right now.”

“I can’t balance everything I need to balance.”

“I can’t multitask for one more minute.”

“I can’t handle an incredibly stressful circumstance.”

I could share so many more examples. Perhaps you have a different but similar repetitive message that plays in your head in moments of overwhelm, doubt, challenge, or fear.

If you do, you are not alone. It’s my experience that we all have some message that repeats and depletes us.

For years I thought I had two choices in dealing with this message. The first was to push through and just do what I could. This wasn’t an entirely bad choice. I often accomplished the things that I was facing, but I often felt exhausted and self-critical afterward. I know if this had been the best way, I would have felt successful, accomplished, and more connected to myself and God. The second choice was just to let my feelings escalate into a state of complete overwhelm, which left me emotionally depleted and having to climb further out of the emotional hole before I could deal with the things I had to deal with - because none of it goes away just because I freak out about it.

I try to take some time alone every day with God. During that time, I use part of that time to bring any frustrations I’m experiencing to God and ask Him to give me a listening heart for His guidance. Then one day in my prayer time, I finally realized that I’ve been misinterpreting this “I can’t” message all along. I had been interpreting it as a self-critical, depleting message, so it disempowered and frustrated me. I now realized that those words should be perceived as an invitation from God inviting me to allow Him more intimately into the nitty-gritty of my life. There is an element of truth in that “I can’t” message. I cannot do anything on my own. Recognizing this is freeing. For example, I can’t breathe on my own, nor can I make my heart beat. I cannot have a creative thought on my own. I cannot perfectly enact my plan for my day nor my will for my children’s lives. It is God who has the power and the plan. I can choose to cooperate with it or not. He put me here to know Him, love Him, experience His love, and share it with my family through everything I do. I experience more peace and success when I pause to acknowledge His loving presence in my life and His desire to help me all the time. I experience Him more when I stop trying to impress Him and just ask Him to help me with all I have to do.

Every mom has the experience of watching her child take on something not yet within their capabilities. We stand there watching, wishing they would accept our help as they just try harder and harder until they burst into tears of frustration. This is so similar to my “I can’t” moments. God is right there waiting to help and comfort me. But like an intense child, I chose to block him out, or at least hold Him at arms distance. But if I instead read the “I can’t” message as an invitation, I can choose to take a pause, a deep breath, and pray, “You’re right Lord, I can’t. I need you. Help me, please. Give me the grace I need so you can show me the next small thing I need to do. Open me to your help, and your help through others. Calm me down and let me hear your merciful, loving voice instead. Give me your guidance.”

When I do this, I open the way for Him to accomplish good things, big and small. For example, when I ask for His help with the overwhelm the pile of laundry is causing me, I may get the grace to ask my family for help instead of powering through frustrated and alone, or I might see a way to fit it into tomorrow’s schedule, after first getting a desperately needed night’s sleep.

I can also do this when my struggle involves others. For example, I can ask God for the grace to take a moment to pray with my children for clarity in a situation they are struggling with, rather than just push my ideas on them. I can choose to pray silently before a meeting that God would direct all the minds involved to the best outcome. In any situation, pausing to invite God in (especially if I do it before the situation becomes stressful) always yields more empowered and peaceful results than when I try to handle it by myself.

I believe my experience is something that may resonate with many moms. That is why I am sharing it here. Instilled in each of us is an invitation to co-create our lives with God, the Great Creator. By letting Him into each moment of our lives, we can overcome those depleting voices, as He replaces them with His grace, peace, and power one moment at a time. No moment is too big or small for Him to care about. He wants to love, support, and help us in every moment because He loves us. He’s just waiting to be asked. So now I work hard to make it a practice to invite Him into my day and throughout each day, especially if that depleting message starts to creep back in, and I’m always startled and grateful at how lovingly He shows up.

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  • Lisa Popcak

Hello moms. It’s been a minute since I’ve landed here to share with you, but not for lack of trying. I’d create a post or podcast, and then the next moment, everything in the world would change. I don’t have to enumerate the changes here. We’ve all been living through global and deeply personal ones. Those constant changes left me struggling to say anything that would be relevant to everyone. Each person's experiences this many months have been so unique and constantly varying that I felt my thoughts might not serve enough of you. So I rarely shared them.

One common experience we did share, however, is that most of us, at some point, have felt stripped down to our studs. Almost none of us could rely on the “same old, same old” that usually gave us a sense of rhythm and support to our days. The constant changes and uncertainties had us doing the best we could with whatever the circumstances brought our way.

I too had to find my equilibrium each moment of each day, and attend to all the challenges of the constant flux between responding to change, as well as the impotence of the holding patterns we are all living in so many ways.

Yet as I access the situation, I realize some things didn’t change, and by sharing them here, I’m hoping they may resonate with you in a way that brings a bit of peace.

The first is God. He is unchanging and steadfast. The storms of this world can cloud my vision at times, but He is still present. He is always loving us, available to us, and working for our good. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Sometimes we are being called to look harder to find Him or understand His directions, but He and His unending love are present.

Also unchanging for me, and most moms, is my love for my family. That love causes me to look beyond my reactions and instead intentionally prioritize what is needed to keep each of my loved ones as healthy - spiritually, mentally, and physically- as possible in the midst of whatever we are dealing with in the moment. As circumstances change from day to day, each family member's needs and reactions (fear, worry, hope, frustration, excitement, impatience, anger, etc.) change with them. Having to live with that can rock a mom’s world! I’ve learned to ask myself, “What can I do to keep this person as stable as possible and feeling as loved as possible in each of these areas?”. This practice gives me sound structure through all the continually changing situations. I can look at the tantruming child, the lonely, frustrated teenager, the worried young adult and ask myself (or ask them) what this person needs to feel loved, and a bit physically, spiritually, or mentally better, right now.

But to be honest, I, like many of us, don’t always feel up to the challenges. We’re all trying to cope with our own emotions and needs, unending list of tasks, and then, because we’re moms, we have to deal with everyone else’s too! It’s hard. Sometimes it is very, very hard. Sometimes we don’t feel up to it all, and certainly not all on our own. When I feel that way, I remind myself to go to that ever-present, unchanging God and pour out my heart as honestly and totally as I can. Then, I ask Him to give me whatever virtues I need to do the next thing He’s asking me to do through the needs of the family He’s given me.

Do I need more kindness, a more nurturing spirit? Do I need more bravery for the next right thing? Would a better sense of humor serve well at the moment? Of course, the most essential virtue to ask for is wisdom. These virtues can only come from God,

and I have to ask for them and the strength to exercise them bit by bit, moment by moment.

I also ask Him for the grace to say I’m sorry to Him and my family members when I fall short if I’ve let fear, and all it brings with it, overtake my strength and conviction to love the way my children and husband need to be loved. Pride can make that hard to do sometimes. But if I keep talking to God about it -even if it’s just grumbling to God about the situation or person- He always works with me and shows me what I can do differently to make the situation better. Then he graces me with the virtue of humility, which frees me to take the next steps He needs me to take.

I cannot parent my children or love my spouse well on my own, and they are not my own to love. They are His, and I’m called to be His hands and feet and heart in their lives and to love them with His love.

Whether it’s the little day-by-day struggles of being a mom or the huge life-altering ones, I want you to know that it is ok to not be enough. Only God can be enough. We just have to keep inviting God in, ask Him to give us whatever we need to take the next small step He and our family need us to take, then take that small step. Repeat.

My heart is with you as you take the next small step you need to take, to love your people well.

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