It took a hip-hop class to make Amber Trueblood realize she had lost track of herself. The L.A. mom had brought two of her four young sons to the class and filmed them through the classroom window with her phone. Later, she showed the video to her husband.
“In it, you could see my reflection, and my face had the biggest, goofiest, giant smile on it the whole time,” says Trueblood. “I said, ‘I need to do more things that make me smile like that.’” And though she was 40 at the time, Trueblood found a dance class for herself. “I drove to Hollywood twice a week and danced with kids who were three decades younger than me, with their moms who were my age sitting outside on their phones. It was one of the best things I ever could have done for myself,” she says.
Trueblood had spent 10 years at home addressing the needs of her sons and putting hers on hold. “When you have a newborn, you have to do that. But as they get older, it’s healthy for us to slowly move that level of sacrifice down from 100 percent to 90 and to 80,” she says, noting that it can be tough for moms to make that shift.
A voracious reader with a master’s degree in family therapy, Trueblood set out to find tools that would help her pursue her own passions. Her journey and the tools are laid out in her new book, “Stretch Marks: A self-development tool for mothers who are being stretched in every direction.” Those tools address Trueblood’s five mom mindsets: ask, move, believe, elevate, radiate (AMBER).
To help you ask yourself what you really want, she suggests writing your own eulogy and listing all the accomplishments and qualities you want to be known for. To help you move in the right direction, she offers the concept of ”micro-goals” that are so tiny it would be embarrassing not to meet them. She also suggests ways to bring more of the things you love into your life, which helped her overcome resentment about the day-to-day tasks of running a household. “Adding things that I really did enjoy fueled me,” she says. “When I had other things that were bringing me joy, I wasn’t looking to feel joy from making chicken and broccoli.”
To help you believe in your dreams, Trueblood proposes ways to root out beliefs that are holding you back. To help you elevate your mindset so you’re better in control of your emotions, she talks about meditation and exercises for letting go of judgments and expectations. This section contains one of my favorite tips, that chewing a piece of gum is an easy way to trick your brain into a calmer state. If you’ve paused to chew on something, your brain realizes you aren’t being chased by a rhino and shifts out of fight-or-flight mode.
When you’ve worked your way through A, M, B and E, Trueblood advises you to radiate your good fortune outward by helping others – which is what she hopes to do for readers of her book. “My hope is that they find even just one or two nuggets of inspiration that help them make that kind of core shift that infuses all of their decisions going forward,” she says. To that end, several of the chapters end with mini homework assignments to help you try the tools right away.
The book also includes a meaty and practical section on parenting, a section devoted just to meditation and (perfect for busy women) its own cheat sheets that review the “juiciest tidbits!” And for her fellow voracious readers, Trueblood includes book recommendations tied to each section.
Trueblood’s warm, friendly and self-forgiving tone turns what could have been an overwhelming read into a pleasant chat. The text is broken into manageable sections and the exercises are simple and easy to tackle – even when the goals seem lofty.
Sound like a New Year’s project? It doesn’t have to be. “The new year is this arbitrary date,” Trueblood says. “We’re all dealing with challenges all the time. What do we do with that? Every day, we work a little bit to get better at the things that are important to us and important for our family, and that’s a constant.”
If we don’t get it done in January, we’ll keep working on it in February.