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Emma Santizo | The Balanced Mom Magazine

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by Emma Santizo, LCSW and Tara Farajian, LCSW

Here we are again and you are probably shopping for school supplies with your kids to get ready to start a new grade and/ or adjust to a new school. There are many transitions when kids go back to school such as, having new expectations from their new teacher(s) and meeting new friends.

However, they are not the only ones getting ready for these transitions. Mothers/parents everywhere are trying to prepare themselves for this new beginning as well.

So are you happy with back to school time and all that comes with it?

Here are some tips to help you and your family manage this time of the year:

  1. Talk to your kids to see how they feel about going back to school and if they have any concerns you want to address with them.
  2. Review with your family what you did last school year and what changes you would like to make in order for it to be more enjoyable for your child and the entire family.
  3. One or two weeks prior to your child going back to school, start setting their bedtime and wake- up routine.
  4. Have your child participate with getting their backpack ready for school and organizing specific places for their school items.
  5. Discuss your expectations of them and how that will affect what activi-
    ties they plan on participating in.
  6. Discuss and review your expectations of homework time with your kids.
  7. Discuss with them chores and your expectations of them on a daily and/or on a weekly basis.
  8. If your child is going to another school which makes it difficult for you to drop them off, start looking at your support system and see if you can coordinate with another parent to help with drop off and/or pick up.
  9. If you have more than one child and they need to use the computer to do their homework, schedule timesfor each child to use the computer.
  10. Remind your child that you love them unconditionally.

Here are a few tips for mothers to get ready for back to school time:

  1. Plan ahead by buying school materials and or clothes.
  2. Have your child pick their clothes out the night before.
  3. Discuss the school lunch menu with your child and see what days they would like home lunches.
  4. Prepare lunches the night before.
  5. Give your kids enough time to get ready for school by waking them up earlier than usual.
  6. Plan ahead and be mindful of your own schedule for that week and see what you can do to make your week less stressful. For example, gassing your car the day before, getting your brief case ready the night before, having your clothes ready the night before and maybe getting up a little early to sip on some hot coffee/tea before the kids get up.
  7. Be mindful of the voice you use when waking up the kids. Instead of yelling, be excited for them.
  8. When the kids are ready and in the car, give them a high five as a morning routine to acknowledge their help in getting ready for school.
  9. Make sure they know how much you love them every day.
  10. Make sure to treat yourself to a smoothie or something for planning ahead and making your transition back to school as smooth as possible.
  11. Enjoy!

Lastly, routine is so important to maintain a happy home so kids and parents know what is expected of them. Be involved and know what your child(ren) are learning by connecting with their teacher and helping them with homework.

Remember that schoolwork comes first before extracurricular activities and it is important not to over schedule children if they cannot get their tasks completed without losing sleep time. In addition, try to set limits in your home regarding watching television, computer, video games, cell phone usage, and other high tech gadgets. A common phrase is “square time”. Time that you allot on a daily or weekly basis as it relates to the use of electronic devices.

Finding balance as you prepare for this transition back to school is a daily event. Know what you are expecting of yourself and whether it is reasonable or even possible. Moms are always full-time moms. So, be aware of how much you are taking on and if it is too much. For example, if you want to volunteer in the classroom, but time does not permit, find another way to connect with your child and their learning. Knowing what you can and cannot do…and being ok with it is key. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support. It is necessary. When you feel more balanced, your family will too.

by Emma Santizo and Tara Farajian

While female leaders such as Huffington and Sandberg help shape the national conversation about “worklife balance,” a growing number of working mothers want to work full-time, according to a Pew Social Trends survey released last week. The report found that 37 percent of working mothers think working fulltime is ideal, up from 21 percent in 2007. Half of working moms would like to work part-time, and just 11 percent say they’d rather not work at all. (Women Juggle Work, Sleep, Parenting Differently Than Men Do (INFOGRAPHIC), Huff Post, Less Stress Lifestyle, March 21, 2013).

We find it fairly significant that 37% of moms, feel it is ideal to work full-time. So if it is working for these moms, what are their tricks to finding balance, especially when it comes to summer when the kids are out of school?

Summer time is fast approaching and many questions come to mind, such as what are we going to do for a vacation, what projects would we like to complete, and what are the kids going to do? Sometimes, just the thought of all the possibilities of summer can be overwhelming.

Transitions in Motherhood would like to share with you techniques that have helped many moms balance all the “biz”. One of these techniques is creating a mindful “to-do” list. This could be done at the end of the day, when the kids are asleep and you are lying in bed. Having a pad of paper on your nightstand where you can give yourself a moment to digest the day and look at what would help you tomorrow. After a busy day, many moms say it is hard to settle down and fall asleep. This is when the list runs through their minds of what needs to get done and didn’t get done. So instead of having the list continually running through your thoughts, release them on paper. Some moms choose to journal at this time too, but you have to see what works for you.

Once you have identified your “to-do” list, you can itemize them by importance by assigning a number. With the number 1 signifying most important and 5 least important. This helps prioritize and also can remind you that completing everything may not be realistic, especially if you start to create a list that goes over 5 items. This is not the time to list personal goals and hopes for lifetime achievements. This is the list of what you need at the store, clothes that may need washing… If it isn’t rated a 1 or 2 give yourself latitude to do it tomorrow. There is always tomorrow.

Another trick of the trade that moms share is knowing your limits. If signing up to volunteer at different events, kid’s activities, clubs, or organizations doesn’t fit into your life or feels overwhelming, DON’T DO IT. We were talking with some moms recently and they spoke about hiding from PTA meetings and feeling guilty for not volunteering in their child’s classroom.

At the end of the conversation one mom said, “What is most important to me is that my child feels loved.” That’s it! At the end of the day, when you are creating your list and deciding what needs to get done, check in with your core… your core values and see if it all aligns. Of course, paying bills, submitting your taxes, and washing dishes might not be a part of your core values necessarily, but know what can go on the back burner. And check in with yourself to see what’s working.

Finding balance is truly a daily activity. Depending on the season, weather, time of the month, what feels like balance one day may not the next. The same is for our children. Finding down time for everyone may need to be scheduled. I really like the way the Huffington Post identified the need for “Serendipity Space”.

When you’re caught up in the routine of everyday life, it’s easy to forget that you’re modeling for your kids’ how to structure their time. The time is planned, but what happens within the time is serendipitous. (Stress Less Parenting, Huffington Post, March 24, 2013).

“Serendipity Space” may occur at home or in the car in between activities. Taking time to sing your kids favorite songs in the car, have a snack, chat, or play tic-tac-toe. It’s planned, but only the time is…what happens within the time is serendipitous.

So what about the summer, right? Everything above can be applied all year round, but the summer is special or at least you want it to be. Another brilliant mom shared how she has a meeting with her family and discusses what everyone wants to do for the summer. This does not mean it will all happen, but it gets “buy in” and helps in planning. If you have certain options you would like to present, have those prepped for the meeting. If you know of certain summer camps/ classes that are within budget that your kids can choose from, you can present them. Have a calendar to reference during the meeting, so you can remind everyone of the time frame and perhaps certain commitments that may be non-negotiable. We hope this gives some more tricks to the trade of balancing.

Transitions in Motherhood recognizes that life is full of transitions and sometimes we may lose sight of what is really important in life and that is when depression or anxiety might set in. We provide a very nurturing environment where you can talk freely and openly. Feel free to check out our website at for more resources.

Emma and Tara are co-founders of Transitions in Motherhood, an organization dedicated in helping families, especially mothers, and their mental health.

Emma Santizo, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Emma here

Tara Farajian, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Tara here

Abundance of Motherhood

The following is a story of a mom who after having tried to become pregnant for several years found her family welcoming twin boys into the world this past October. She is well accomplished in her career and was returning back to work after her 12 weeks of maternity leave. She wanted to capture her feelings that she could later share with the twins in the following journal entry. This is a true sentiment of the wealth of a mother’s love and maintaining her wellness in the process.

This is not to say there weren’t trying moments, exhaustion, breastfeeding struggles and tears, but she knew when to access support. This mom joined two twin support groups and a local parent group that provided meals for the first two weeks of the babies’ lives. Local families generously donated clothes and baby items…to the point that they did not need to buy any clothes. She was able to access the grandparents, friends, and family to help in the beginning weeks and plan for future visits as well. Her wealth in support, strong partnership with her partner Theresa, and ability to ask for support when she needed it are a testament, which leads to this beautiful journal entry as she prepares to go back to work.

I’m desperate to capture this time—to commit to memory my first months of mothering, your first months of life. I take dozens of photos, videos to remember. But how do I capture this— the softness of your tiny hairs against my cheek, the sounds of your sleepy sighs, the way you gently lean into my kisses upon your forehead. How will I remember the feel of your cheeks on my lips, the weight of your body on my chest, heart to heart? I want to pause this moment and revisit it a hundred times. My heart is opening so wide—an ocean of love overtaking me. And I know there are thousands of moments like these to come. But I don’t want to forget your little squeaks and grunts, your crinkled nose, the first time you smiled at me. I want to stop time, have your little fingers remain wrapped around my pinky, your soft breath on my neck. This is the most beauty I’ve known. I’ve never been in love like this. I’ve never felt this full, this present.

I feared parenthood would close me in, stifle life. I could not have been more wrong. This is the most expansive thing I’ve ever done, the most wide open path, the greatest journey. I feel more love, more meaning, more possibility, excitement, hope, anticipation. In just two short months I have felt more, grown more, and loved more. I feel blessed, chosen, lucky, and grateful. I feel something sacred and magical. I am in awe of you both. I want to commit it to memory—the feel of your skin, the soft hairs on your back, your breath. I want to remember me and your mom sitting side by side in the love seat in the nursery, each of us holding one of you, giving you your last bottles of the night, tired but adoring. Together in the late night moment, loving you both, loving each other, pointing out to each other the tiny details of your faces, your movements, your sounds- discovering you together. It’s like falling in love again for the first time, with you and with each other. My life just got so much bigger—the love is overflowing, washing over me. And we are just at the beginning of this journey. There are so many moments to come, so many details to try and capture. I know I will fail to remember the way I want—I know it will slip by- through my fingers like sand. But I can only hope to remember the awe, the wonder, the sweetness of this time, and to be open to embrace all that is to come. To stop and breathe in the feelings and say thank you for this life—these blessings, these magical moments.

~Samantha Beach

Everyone’s journey through the many Transitions in Motherhood is so personal and individual. We thank this mom for sharing the wealth of her love and her ability to access the support she needed to lead to such a beautiful love letter. No one should feel alone in their parenting journey. If you are looking to connect with support, you can find it on our website at



Emma and Tara are co-founders of Transitions in Motherhood, an organization dedicated in helping families, especially mothers, and their mental health.

Emma Santizo, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Emma here

Tara Farajian, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Tara here

I open the door.
In comes the treasured guest.
In her hands are her gifts
the gift of time and far-seeing moments,
the gift of nourishment and wisdom,
the gift of caring and knowledge,
the gift of change and self.
She must have searched her soul for gifts as precious as these.

The holiday season is again upon us. When you ask your kids about the holidays they may automatically think of receiving gifts. So how do we teach the spirit of giving? For many of us parents, we start to think of how we can provide the gifts that meet our child’s expectations this year. We might even exceed our budgets to meet these expectations, which can leave us feeling overwhelmed.

If you feel some of these pressures and feel yourself drifting from the spirit of giving, we have a few suggestions for this season and throughout the year.

First, in honesty, it is developmentally appropriate for children and adolescents to be egocentric in their thinking. At the same time, at any age, children can give generously and genuinely. So, of course our children will tell us what they want for the holidays and asking for it is understandable. We all have needs and wants and having the ability to verbalize them is very important. The balancing act for your family is identifying what is reasonable to expect when it comes to material items. As parents, we have the ability to set the tone and limits of expectations this year. Just know that what your family decides may differ from other families and your children are very likely to make comparisons. However, knowing what feels right for your family is most important.

So what about giving? Can you think of a time that you gave something to someone and you could see how much it meant to that person? Those are great stories to share with your children. Also, reminding your children of a time when they made something just for you and how much that meant/means to you will help personalize the meaning of giving. A beautiful story to share with your children of any age is “The Gift of the Magi” by Henry O (pen name for William Sydney Porter), which was written back in 1906. This timeless classic talks about the act of giving through unselfish love. There is also, “The Giving Tree”, by Shel Silverstein, which brings up great points of conversation around giving and receiving. These are great ways to start conversations in your family.
Look at your own family and see if this is the case. Pay attention and observe how your children take care of their toys. Be mindful of how easily your children ask for things and expect to receive them. Do you find yourself giving in when your child throws a tantrum at the store just to spare yourself the embarrassment?There are many debates out there as to how today’s parents focus on how much they will spend on getting their kids the latest gadgets and/or toys even if it means increasing your debt or spending beyond your means. Many people complain that we are bringing up a generation of “Gimmies” or children with a strong sense of entitlement focused on getting instant gratification.

Transitions in Motherhood invites you to create new traditions about giving in your family this holiday season. You can focus on giving within your family and within your community. Here are a few ideas that you can implement that will help your children understand the concept of giving and giving back.

Within your family

1. At dinner, acknowledge an act of kindness that someone in the family shared that you identify as a gift to your family (opening the door, bringing in the groceries, etc.).

2. Create a little tree that you can place in your home where you can write down acts of kindness/giving and hang the writings on the tree to acknowledge these gifts.

3. Engage your family in recycling cans and bottles to purchase a family gift instead of buying individual gifts.

4. Completing a family project that benefits your family or home. Like the phrase “charity starts at home”. Such as cleaning your yard together, washing the family car, cleaning the garage, etc.

5. Share with your family the things you are grateful for (non-material).

Within your community

1. Ask your children if they see a need in the community that they can help with. The more the act is self-driven the better.

2. Have your children go through their toys and clothes and see what they are no longer using and have them donate some things to their nearest shelter. Reading a little bit about the local charity and what they do before you make your donation can help bring further understanding. Even writing a short note to go with the donation can help personalize the experience.

3. Have your children/family work together and clean a neighbor’s yard.

4. Bake cookies as a family and donate them to a local convalescent home.

5. Perform a dance or song at a convalescent home.

Taking time to reflect as a family on the experience can help put words and further understanding towards the many ways giving can look like.

Happy Holidays from Transitions in Motherhood, supporting you every step of the way.

Emma and Tara are co-founders of Transitions in Motherhood, an organization dedicated in helping families, especially mothers, and their mental health.

Emma Santizo, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Emma here

Tara Farajian, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Tara here

To adapt to the challenges of the recession, to create more flexible work schedules, and circumvent the limits of a male dominated corporate culture, women are starting businesses and becoming self-employed. Women-owned businesses are growing in numbers at twice the rate of all U.S. firms (23% vs. 9%), and the ranks of women business owners are increasing by 23% annually, 2.5 times faster than the growth of businesses in general. “Women Rising: Five Predictions for Women in the Workplace—2012” is from the upcoming book Society 3.0: How Technology Is Reshaping Education, Work, and Society, by Dr. Tracey Wilen- Daugenti (Lang, January 2012).

Today’s society is pushing more and more mothers to go into the work force and provide financially for their families. Mothers are reevaluating their abilities and how they translate into the workforce once they have transitioned into motherhood. More mothers are opting to creating their own businesses in order to get the flexibility they want to continue to be a part of their family’s daily activities. Dr. Wilen-Daugenti also states that, “Women now influence more than 25% of the U.S. GDP and hold nearly 48% of all jobs. Without women, the U.S. economy would be 25% smaller than it is today.” Now that does not calculate the kind benefits of moms who are “at home” where 70% manage the finances of their family and reduce household costs by being “at home”. Basically, as Beyoncé states, “Who runs the world? Girls!!”

So how do you know if you are ready to take on the entrepreneur leap? What are the tools that you need to start being your own boss? Erika Anderson, creator of Proteus, wrote an article for Forbes Magazine in March and identified “What it takes to Create Your Own Business – Really”.

Anderson identified that passion is the most important element in creating your business; finding what wakes you up in the morning and moves your spirit. When we decided to create Transitions in Motherhood we identified motherhood as our passion and supporting mothers and their families in their journey through motherhood. Yes, we wanted both motherhood and career, which is a balancing act. But when you think about it – what isn’t? Everything is a balancing act and finding what that means for you is extremely personal. Literature can go from one extreme to the other as to women working “outside the home”, but finding what makes you happy is something that can only come from within you. Know there will always be someone who has an opinion one way or the other of your choices, but only you who will be living them.

Transitions in Motherhood would like to identify one more element that can assist in supporting your process in considering the entrepreneurial world. We would like to add self-reflection. We believe that making that leap also requires faith in self, so taking time to reflect on your fears that could potentially become roadblocks down the road is very important. We all have fears, but being able to face them and move through them will strengthen you as an entrepreneur. Having clarity regarding your fears will keep you from making decisions based on them. When you have a business that you are passionate about you can feel very exposed at times. So when you face moments when things don’t turn out the way you planned, being able to learn and move through those moments will be key.

We sometimes hear moms share that they feel like they “should” stay home if they have the ability to, but struggle with wanting to go to work once they do. And moms who want to stay home, but are returning back to work. If you could create your idea, what would it be? If you could create your vision and find/ follow your passion, what would it be? Research shows that when mom is happy, so are the kiddos…and partner too.

So whatever you decide or have already decided we wish you all that you could dream of and know that Transitions in Motherhood is a support for you along the way.

Emma and Tara are co-founders of Transitions in Motherhood, an organization dedicated in helping families, especially mothers, and their mental health.

Emma Santizo, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Emma here

Tara Farajian, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Tara here

We are so fortunate in Southern California to have beautiful weather throughout the year and the natural beauty of mountain ranes to the ocean side surrounding us. All beautiful settings to fall in love in, but many times we can find ourselves in the busy pace of life asking… “where is the love?”

We want to share the work of Dr. Gary Chapman as a compass to finding the love that is there, but perhaps is not being translated into your “love language”. Dr. Gary Chapman is the author of a series of books all surrounding the topic of The 5 Love Languages®. He has also provided therapy for couples and families and found a common theme that kept surfacing. In simplicity, he found that how one person showed or expressed their love to another may not have translated correctly to their partner, child, family member. This loss in translation could leave one feeling unloved when in actuality they just were not speaking each other’s love language. Dr. Chapman identifies the following 5 Love Languages® to describe how one interprets love:

  • Acts of Service: Receiving help makes this person’s life easier which shows compassion and expression of love.
  • Words of Affirmation: Compliments, hearing “I love you” and why can send this person to the moon.
  • Quality Time: This person thrives on uninterrupted attention, and being made like she or he is the only one that matters.
  • Receiving Gifts: Receiving gifts shows this person she/he matters.
  • Physical Touch: This does not necessarily mean sex, but this person enjoys being touched in a loving manner.

Identifying which language(s) speak to you is only part of the equation. The other important piece is finding out what the love languages are for those around you. For example, if “Words of Affirmation” speaks to you but your partner is “Acts of Service,” how do you learn to communicate your love and also feel loved in return? Can you learn a new language?

You can assess your love language at Then you can ask those around you to do the same. You can do the following assessments for wives, husbands, singles, children, parents of teenagers, and languages of apology. You can do this with the whole family.

If you choose to do this with your family, have everyone give examples of how that love language looks for them. Don’t hesitate to ask for what you want. This is very important, so no misinterpretation happens and your needs are getting met. Please note there may be more than one love language that you may speak. Start with one and give ways to implement it. Check in and see if everyone is feeling the love.

When it comes to our children, it is so important that they feel the love. As we know, how a child interprets love during their formative years can help promote healthy self-esteem, self-confidence, and security. Learning your child’s love language can help fill their cup, so to speak. Dr. Chapman will also be releasing a children’s book soon on helping children
identify the different love languages. It is never too soon to have the discussion or observation of your little or not so little one(s).

In our practice we often see couples struggle while juggling the transitions in parenthood. Please use this tool to support each others needs. Take the time to refill each other’s cups. Cheers.

Emma and Tara are co-founders of Transitions in Motherhood, an organization dedicated in helping families, especially mothers, and their mental health.

Emma Santizo, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Emma here

Tara Farajian, LCSW

Transitions in Motherhood
Motherhood Balance
Read more about Tara here