What is exactly is stress? Stress is a chemical reaction in response to a negative reaction. It’s your body telling you that it doesn’t want to get hurt. This isn’t always bad; it helps keep you safe. However, too much stress can get you stuck in a negative state of being. When people are over-stressed, they typically worry too much about silly things or become desensitized to problem areas in their lives.
What are symptoms of being too stressed?
Stress has many symptoms and here are a few: increased heart rate, feeling lousy, feeling overwhelmed, forgetting things, loss of focus, and high blood pressure. Being stressed is much worse for pregnant mothers because the baby feels everything that his or her mother feels.
How do I deal with stress?
A big part of dealing with stress is recognizing it so you can plan for before, during, and after the fact. Many people only recognize what stress made them do after-the-fact. When you feel like you’re overstressed, give yourself a moment. Realize you’re having a rough time and get a fresh start. There are many simple ways to help relieve stress: write in journals, take a walk, bathe, color, listen or sing to music, pamper yourself, use a stress ball or something similar, read, take a nap, make lists, or exercise. Be proactive. When you’re really engaged it’s hard to think about all the extra stuff. Crying may not be a bad thing because it makes you feel better afterwards. It’s easier to spiral than to stay at a bottom. Everybody’s life is different. Everything has different meanings to different people. Hold yourself accountable by doing activities with others, such as working out. Get to a place where you can even compromise. Somethings will come with time. Take care of yourself.
Mind full vs. Mindful
Mindfulness is doing actions with purpose. Your mind is sometimes so cluttered that you don’t realize what you’re doing and live life on autopilot. You’re too busy thinking about the next thing that you neglect what you’re doing in the now. Focus on your breathing two minutes a day. Clear your mind. Learn awareness, self-acceptance, and letting things go. Set apps with reminders to force you to pause throughout the day. Close your eyes and take very deep breaths. Be aware of the noises around you. Open your eyes and say five things you can see, five you can hear, five you can touch, and try to find five things to taste and smell. Be at peace. Accept things the way they are.
How to prevent stress
Find things that are important to you and make time. Say no to a new responsibility when you need to. Make sure to make yourself laugh every once in a while. Seek out that person who always puts a smile on your face or re-watch your favorite comedy. Intentionally build things into your day to brighten it up. Make your own day. Take long breaths—quickly count 1,2,3,4. Be aware of the right now and intentionally focus on what’s around you. If you need further help with your stress, many hospitals offer courses. A stress-free you is the best you!
For this blog I interviewed one of my friends, Alexis. She’s 25 and the mother of Lola, who’s almost three. Alexis recently finished her associate’s degree and is continuing her education. She’s one of the strongest people I know, and I couldn’t wait to get some of her insights on what it’s like to be a single mother.
What’s something you wish you would’ve known when becoming a mother?
Alexis wishes her father would’ve told her how hard it was to have a split family. She has one full brother, plus a sister from her father’s first marriage and another sister from a different relationship. Things never worked out with Lola’s father, but she remains in regular contact with him and Lola sees him often. However, it is so hard to make everyone happy. She’s trying to make it work, but there’s always something that doesn’t sit right.
What’s the best part about being a mother?
Alexis’s favorite moments are those quiet nights. Lola is always quick to announce her affection with an “I love you mom,” “Thank you mom,” or “You’re safe now.” “You can just tell by their look that you’re the greatest person in the world to them. Suddenly this gooey wet thing on your chest is the most important part of your life,” said Alexis. Unconditional love is an amazing thing. “You’re not doing half a bad job,” Alexis assures, “Always raise your child to be polite, helpful, and respectful.”
What are struggles you’ve faced as a single mother?
“Stability!” Alexis quickly responded, “Financial stability especially.” She’s currently looking for a new home for just her and Lola. She wants to be able to be the parent that she wants to be. She stated that even if you are living with someone rent-free, “pay rent” but put it into your child’s savings account. Additionally, when seasonal clothes go on sale, buy the next size up.
What advice would you give to single mothers?
“It’s okay,” Alexis said, “It’s okay if you have it together or if you don’t. If you have a baby you’re strong. You’re giving, caring and nurturing. You will be okay. Nothing will be as bad as you think. To Lola, I’m the best person. Don’t make your kid think it’s not okay. My parents sometimes didn’t have the best of times but that never stopped them from giving us a good life. Sky’s the limit. Never too late to go to school, even if you have two, four kids. Always resources out there.”
Proverbs 20:5: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
This week for group night we welcomed Karie Gerke. She is a licensed physical therapist who is certified in infant massage. We had an awesome time with her as she showed us how mothers can bond with their little ones as young as one month old. Since we have no babies with us at this time, we used dolls that she brought with her. Shawna got to use “Miranda,” a very lifelike doll.
The most important rule to follow when starting massages with a baby is to get his or her permission. Obviously young infants cannot yet speak but there are several physical cues to look for. These include giving nice eye contact, a smile, or simply a certain way that he or she turns their head. To turn massages or anything else into a routine, words and actions help the baby understand what is going to happen next. The baby should be in his or her alert stage but also calm. The massager should also be in a calm state and be ready to take her time. Babies can be massaged on a wide variety of surfaces, such as the floor, a table, a lap, or against a shoulder. Younger babies tend to feel more secure on the lap.
Even though it is an optional activity for caregivers to participate with their babies, infant massage has a wide range of benefits. Infants take a while to gain sensory awareness. With the help of massages, they gain a greater understanding of where their body parts are and how to use them. It sometimes takes a little bit of time for some babies to know they have feet! Massages can reduce stress and anxiety for the babies. It also helps to relieve tense muscles, especially if a baby spends a lot of time in one place such as a carrier or bouncy seat. The more a mother is in tune with her baby, the better she can determine if her baby is sick or has another ailment. Tummy strokes specifically help digestion for a fussy baby. Lastly, massages create a special bond between the mother and the baby. They are an excellent way for some one-on-one time and a fun activity.
Is spring finally here? Only God knows but now is a great time to shake off the dust from winter and pull up your sleeves. Here is a simple guide to get started:
Out with the old
Get rid of clutter. Sort items you don’t want into three piles: throw away, donate, and sell. Many possessions like toys and clothes can go a long way if donated. Money earned from selling other items can go towards a little pocket money or be donated to your favorite charity.
Having a hard time getting started? Start small. Do a drawer a day. Divide up tasks. Give yourself a reward for everything you check off your list.
Reorganize your wardrobe. While you’re shifting out your heavier clothes for your summer line, why not go through your wardrobe to get rid of articles you never wear anymore? If your closet looks appealing, you’ll look appealing!
Organize books and dishes so they are easier to find and look more presentable.
Top to bottom
Clean your residence from top to bottom! Clean light and ceiling fixtures. Fans can be dusted with long cleaning tools or get on top of a ladder and brush the dust into a pillowcase.
Don’t forget the walls; even though they are a flat, sheer surface dust still collects on them. Windows can be cleaned simply with a rag and soapy water. Other a good glass solution can be made with water, white vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and a few drops of peppermint extract. Use a squeegee to get that extra sparkle.
Lastly, buff your wood floors. A D.I.Y. solution can be made with olive oil, white vinegar, hot water, and a few drops of lemon essential oil. Tough tile stains can be removed with baking soda and water. Just make sure to use a non-abrasive scrubber so you won’t scratch your floors.
Here is a list of furniture and appliances to make sure you cover: dishwasher, countertops, cabinets, stove, refrigerator, sink and faucets, bathtub and shower, bedding and mattress, washing machine, silverware, bookshelves, patio furniture, couches, tables, chairs, and other upholstery.
Use salt and soda water to clean inside refrigerators. This is also an excellent time to go through your entire fridge and get rid of all expired food. Also when you’re finished don’t forget to place an open box baking soda in both your freezer and fridge. Move your fridge away from the wall and clean all the dust built up behind it. This way you can clean the condenser coil to keep your fridge fully functioning and reunite yourself with anything you or your cat have kicked behind it.
Even if blankets and pillows don’t need to be cleaned, air them out to get rid of any winter drab.
Finally, don’t forget to disinfect your cleaning tools like brooms, vacuums, and sponges.
Spring is a beautiful time. It’s the season where everything starts fresh. Why not get rid of the clutter in our hearts? Let bygones be bygones. Let go of old grudges and stressors. We are in the Easter season; Christ has washed away all our transgressions! Take this time to start anew and blossom like the beautiful human being that God created.
As I child, I understood the concept of respect but didn’t know the actual word for word meaning. I thought that everybody understood what respect meant but, since working at New Beginnings, I realize how wrong I was! Some of the mothers who come into New Beginnings, view respect as, “You aren’t giving me what I want, and therefore, you are not respecting me!” My favorite false idea of respect is “I will respect you as long as you respect me and do as I want.” The two play hand in hand. I then realized just how blessed I was to have the strong Christian upbringing that I had along with the guidance of my parents who taught me to respect others.
So, what is respect? In the dictionary it has a few different meanings but I found two that really seem to nail down the definition.
This is the love and respect we give the mothers who come to us looking for a new beginning. We strive to help them accomplish their goals and grow closer to God through His Word. We help teach them what God has to say about respect for not only others but for themselves. I quickly found out that not everybody grew up being respected by others and therefore don’t know how to respect themselves as an adult. Through daily instruction in God’s Word, we learn together the love that He has for us, and how He sent His Son to die for us. What a blessed message to share with the mothers and their little ones!
Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them.
– Luke 1:6
One other way your donation dollars create real, long-term change is by allowing mothers to go back to school. Mothers who get an education can get well-paying jobs to support themselves and their children. This ultimately stops the cycle of poverty and government assistance use. Many of our moms start off by working toward earning their GED which is necessary for college and most job opportunities. If they’ve already obtained a high school diploma, they’re able to start college right away to work toward a degree that will allow them to achieve self-sufficiency. Our moms have dreams like becoming an accountant, opening up their own non-profit, becoming a nurse, and more. By donating to New Beginnings, you empower our moms to work hard and make their dreams come true.
THANK YOU to everyone who has donated to or supported New Beginnings in some way. You are making a true difference in the lives of the mothers and babies who come into our program.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 (NIV)
Taleya Williamson is the Operations Manager at New Beginnings. She was born and raised in Puyallup, Washington and attended Evergreen Lutheran High School. Taleya recently graduated from Wisconsin Lutheran College with a Bachelors of Science in psychology with a minor in anthropology. In her free time, Taleya enjoys spending time with her husband, David.
There are many reasons why single mothers aren’t able to finish their high school and college degrees. Life is not easy, and life is especially not easy for someone who is trying to work and support a child singlehandedly. The mothers that come to our home have not had the easiest time making ends meet while raising kids on their own, so we applaud them for their strength, resilience and desire to make good lives for themselves and their children.
To live sustainably in Milwaukee, a mother needs to make at least $50,000 a year, and that is very unlikely without a college degree. We want our mothers to have a chance at a full life, so we help them get on their feet, so they can become the independent mothers that they desire to be.
Our system works well because our mothers are able to go to class and study while free daycare services are looking after their children, and they can still come home to a warm, supportive environment after their days of classes. Furthermore, when children grow up in families of higher education, they are more likely to seek out education in the future as well. This means that when we are educating single mothers who have lived in generational poverty, we are also doing our part to snuff out generational poverty in and of itself.
The important thing is to recognize that each mother is unique and brings her own set of skills. We want to help each mother further the skillset that she has so that she can go out into the world and live life to the full.
- Chloe Harbach
Ms. Harbach is a student from Wisconsin Lutheran College who is working with a team of students to put together public relations materials for New Beginnings – A Home for Mothers.
1. You Get to Choose What You Want to Do.
If there’s a word to describe the volunteer positions you can fill at New Beginnings, it’s variety. You can watch the home during times when regular staff isn’t there as a Home Assistant, help set up fundraisers as a Church Liaison, form a close personal relationship with a resident while also being a role model as a Mentor, help residents with their academic progress as a Tutor, lead educational programs as a Group Night Presenter, or help with different projects as a general volunteer.
God showed me that He had a higher plan for me and directed me to New Beginnings: A Home for Mothers. I have been here for a little over a month and have started parenting classes twice a week, have developed a healthier relationship with God (through church and devotion), and have signed up to attend school to complete my accounting degree starting this summer. Without the worries of having no roof over my head, I not only have been able to focus on my education goals, but also on my parenting skills, and my health as well. With no more self-doubt, I am very optimistic about our future!
Allesundrea (Shawna) joined the New Beginnings Family February 2018. She is expecting a baby boy in May. She plans on going to school and get her degree in accounting.
Many of our mothers, prior to coming to New Beginnings, did not have the opportunity, Christian encouragement, or resources to continue their education. One of the best books I have read is called A Framework for Understanding Poverty written by Ruby Payne. The author illustrates that poverty is often a result of a lack of resources, and that education can change the current prevalence of poverty. In fact, she goes on to say, "An education is key to getting out of, and staying out of, poverty." Education has the potential to break the cycle of poverty.
However, there is a caveat. More than 20 years of experience has shown us that mothers will often doubt their ability to continue their education because life events have eroded their self-confidence. As we know, self-doubt is a tough feeling to overcome, but by centering the focus on God's love for us, mothers learn that with Christ anything is possible.
We know that the educational attainment of a mother predicts the educational attainment of her child. For this reason, New Beginnings maintains an education fund in which we help mothers pay for the cost of tuition, school supplies, laptops, and transportation to school. Your gifts are life-changing for the mothers – they are finally given an opportunity to succeed with God by their side. To help your gift go further, the Siebert Foundation will match gifts given to education dollar for dollar.
Sharing the gift of education and Christ's love is key to breaking the cycle of poverty for mothers just like Kim, Meosha, and Letisha – even more than that, your gift breaks the cycle of poverty for generations to come. Will you prayerfully consider a gift today?
Thank you for supporting life-changing work. The mothers' accomplishments are a result of your gifts, and each mother is grateful for the opportunity to break their cycle of poverty.
Brianne Hansen is the Executive Director at New Beginnings. She grew up in Marshall, WI and graduated from Lakeside Lutheran High School. Brianne has a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology from UW-Milwaukee and is currently pursuing a Master’s in Industrial Organizational Psychology. In her free time, she enjoys singing, camping, spending time with her dog (Bella) and cats (Mufasa & Jasmine), and going on adventures with her husband, Daniel.