Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Still Waters Run Deep... getting personal with Mayim Bialik


Mayim Bialik
I am sure most of you remember reading my fabulous interview on fellow Jewish homeschooling mama, Mayim Bialik. I just want to mention that aside for the fact that her children are homeschooled,  she has a B.S. in Neuroscience and Hebrew and Jewish Studies and a Ph.D. in Neuroscience. Mayim is also the author of the fantastic book, Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way. Oh, and in her 'spare' time, she writes a weekly blog for for the Jewish parenting site Kveller.com and I may have forgotten to mention that she was nominated for an Emmy for her work on the hilarious TV show The Big Bang Theory.

Another thing you should know about Mayim is that she is also extremely human. She is smart, she is down to earth and she deals with her life's challenges with such integrity that I thought it would be a real treat to have her share some of her wisdom and experiences with us.

Mayim graciously agreed to do an interview on the current events of her personal life. She was vulnerable, she was open and she was so honest. I was moved by many of the things she said and I am sure you will all walk away from this interview with at least one thing that hits home.

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An Interview with Mayim Bialik

Q: We all go through our own set of challenges in life. Right now, you are going through a divorce from your husband of 9 years. You also homeschool your 2 children, ages 4 and 7. Surely they have questions. What is your approach when your kids ask? Are you open with them and share with them exactly what is going on? Are you vague? And do you have any specific reason for the approach you have with your kids when filling them in?

At the ages of 4 and 7, the questions are very limited. Our younger son is only recently fluent verbally so as we were told to expect, questions from the 7-year-old mainly revolve around how, if at all, his daily life will change with the changes going on. It was suggested to us by the child specialist we spoke to, and using the book "The Truth About Children and Divorce" by Robert Emery, that it is age appropriate and normal for children to be "egocentric" and that you don't need to speak to them at a level they're not ready to operate at simply because you understand things at a more sophisticated level. In general, in all arenas of parenting, I never lie but I may choose to keep certain things private and age appropriate since children can be easily overwhelmed by too much information and too much sophisticated information, especially emotionally speaking. Since I am not an expert in child development or family therapy, we have relied heavily on support from professionals who deal with this, as well as friends who have gone through it and the aforementioned book.


Q: You clearly seem very level headed and things seem very civil between you and your soon to be ex- but surely there are times when things might seem overwhelming and all you want to do is be by yourself. But being a working actor as well as a homeschooling attachment parent, alone time is hard to come by. How do you deal with those difficult moments when your little guys need your attention but your mind is simply not there?

Being alone is always something that's been important to me and becoming a parent can be a real scary challenge to those of us who value alone time. Part of our decision to not use outside help for child care has gotten me accustomed to learning to simply be there for my kids. It's hard not being able to run away and sometimes I want to, but at those times, I do what one of my mentors who has older kids has told me to do: be gentle on myself, eliminate superfluous commitments, order in dinner or serve leftovers (I've been known to feed my sons canned vegetarian beans and corn for dinner, which they love!), and go to sleep when the kids do so that sleep deprivation doesn't add to my desire to run away!


Q: As women, we are very emotional and hormonal creatures and personal challenges can often bring us to tears (guilty as charged). Kids don't quite know what to do when they see their mommy cry or feel sad/down. Have you been sad or cried in front of your kids, and is there anything you say or do to help them deal with it?

I have "lost it" in front of my kids and they have certainly seen me cry. What I've been told is that it's important to not pretend you're fine when it's clear that you're not because even very young children know when your words don't match your affect. It's also important to communicate that, although you are upset/sad/frustrated, you will be okay and that you can handle what's going on. Sometimes I'll tell my boys that I need a mommy time-out so that I can compose myself, rather than make them feel in any way responsible for making me feel better. My older son in particular is very empathetic and sensitive and both of my boys like to give me a kiss when they see I'm upset. I make sure to use this as my wake-up call to thank them for the kiss and try and move on so that they don't continue to feel responsible for making me feel better.


Q: You and Mike obviously are working things out very civilly  but whether you are married, divorced, getting divorced or a single parent, we all have arguments with our significant other. Are there any methods of communication that you use with Mike to get through difficult conversations/arguments when the kids are present?

It's very important to know when to stop communicating almost more than it's important to know to continue communicating. I think it's important to not have extended emotionally difficult conversations in front of children and I also think it's important to model civility in arguments, never name call, and let children hear you use phrases such as, "I'm really upset right now and it's hard for me to think straight. I'd like to discuss this later. I appreciate you respecting that." 

Q: Finally, do you have any specific words of encouragement and/or advice for other homeschooling moms/attachment style parents who are going through their own set of challenges- be it a divorce, an illness, financial issues etc. who are with their kids for extended amounts of time during the day and need to "be on and be present" with their kids without the 'luxury' of being able to fall apart?

My suggestions would be the ones I've been given, which I mentioned above: go easy on yourself, know that no parent is perfect, there is no parent who never gets upset, yells when they don't intend to, or acts selfishly when they ought to act selflessly. Children are resilient but they're also incredibly fragile. The tension and balance of their existence depends on our ability to manage it for them and for ourselves as well. I'm told that if we are okay, our children will be okay too. It's not fun going through a divorce, but I try to be guided by honesty, compassion, and always looking towards the big picture and wanting the best for my children as the children of a divorced couple.


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Thank you Mayim.
Wishing you all a wonderful week~
Always,


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