Parenting is a challenging task, and this week we have Carmel Ecker with us to discuss ways to minimise drama in our relationships, change our mindset, and modelling self-care for our children. If you want to feel more empowered as a parent, this interview will be super useful and fun to listen to or watch!
Carmel Ecker is a single parent empowerment coach, she is also the Managing Director of eWomenNetwork, Victoria British Columbia chapter. You can find more information about her work and programs at https://speaknowcoaching.com/
#1 – Introduction to Carmel Ecker; single parent empowerment coach and managing director of eWomenNetwork (00.03)
#2 – An image makeover on the idea of what it is to be a single parent; limitations of negative stereotypes (02.42)
#3 – Perspective; reframing your outlook before becoming a single parent, letting go of past expectations (06.57)
#4 – Dealing with guilt as a single parent; the importance of self-care for single parents (11.56)
#5 – Self-care cont. Modelling self-care to our children, demonstrating healthy behaviours (15.08)
#6 – Five elements of Carmel’s framework; mindset, creating a vision, motivation, creating habits, making a commitment (17.40)
#7 – Emotional contagion; consciously changing your mood in order to affect others around you positively (22.40)
#8 – How to minimise drama in interpersonal relationships; focusing on your own reactions, thoughts, feelings and positive decision-making (27.31)
Sze Wing: 00:03 Hi, everyone. Today I have a lovely guest with me, and today we’ve got Carmel Ecker. She’s all the way from British Colombia, in Canada. And she’s joining us today for this podcast, and I’m really happy to have a chat with her. So little, short introduction; Carmel is a single parent empowerment coach. She’s also the managing director for eWomenNetwork, Victoria, BC chapter. And that’s basically how we met online. There’s a lot of online meeting going on, since I’m based in Sydney, Australia. I’m really excited to interview her. And I’m certain that she’s going to share a lot of information that’s going to help a lot of single parents out there. I think one of the things I loved the most when I was looking up her work is that, you know, she talks about how to switch from a survival mode to be a thriving parent, which we all need; whether a single parent, double parent, or just a woman, you know, you want to you depart from that survival mode and really live a more thriving life. And it’s not easy, but there’s a lot of tools and guides out there. So hopefully today’s podcast interview will shed some light on that. I also love the fact that the work she’s doing is making people feel, you don’t have to do it all alone. You have mentors, you have people who have been there. And I think that support network is amazing and it’s really wonderful. So with a welcome to my podcast, Carmel.
Carmel: 01:40 Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Sze Wing: 01:44 Yeah, me too. So I guess first of all, I’m not a single parent, but I have friends; I have heard a lot of stories. I know it’s not easy, especially at the beginning you know, the change and everything. So I don’t have firsthand experience, but I do friends and people that I know. So your work is about empowering and coaching single parent to change that, when we talk about the survival mode thing, and also to defy the stereotypes, you know, almost like having image make over to be more empowered, to be happy to be successful. So it sounds really amazing, but for some people, it sounds almost too good to be true. So tell us a bit about your discovery journey and also, how do you encourage people to take the step and to believe that’s actually possible?
Carmel: 02:42 Yeah. Wow. Okay. That’s a big question. But really you know – and I love the word that you used there; image makeover because I think we really do need an image makeover for the idea of what it is to be a single parent. There are single parents that are struggling. There are single parents that are multi-millionaires you know, self-made multi-millionaires and so the same exists also in two parent families. What it really is, is that our circumstances are just, you know, the reality that we live in and they don’t necessarily have to define us, right? So the stereotype, the negative stereotypes that are out there about single parents can be really limiting, right? If we really believe that it’s true, that being a single parent is going to be hard and that we won’t have enough support, and that without a live-in partner you know, we’re going to struggle that there will be financial difficulties, when we have that mindset going into it, when we have that expectation, it’s like a, you know – may be cliche to say it -but it’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy. So I’m not saying that those things don’t exist, right? When I became a single parent nine years ago, I definitely had these moments of, ‘Oh my God, my world is changing. And I don’t know what this looks like. And it’s kind of scary. And I don’t know if I can do this on my own’. My son was one year old and I just thought like, ‘How do I do this?’, and you know, his dad has always been part of his life, so it’s not like he just disappeared. And yet, there’s this feeling of being alone, right? When I’ve got my son, it’s all up to me; all the finances, taking care of the childcare, I also plan out his extracurriculars and all of those things. Like, I plan everything and it can be a little bit overwhelming at first. And so really what we have to do in those situations is step back and say, okay, what really needs to happen here? And what do I really want for myself? And what are the actions that I need to take in order to get there? And don’t worry so much about the circumstances that you live in, because we’ve all got challenges in our lives. They’re just different. Right? So being a single parent is one aspect of your life; it’s not your whole life. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Sze Wing: 05:29 I was just listening to you. I felt I was already soothed for some reason. No, I really felt, it took me to a moment to be more present; that we all have problems, challenges, whether you are struggling financially or you’re a multimillionaire. Everybody has their own problems, but you’ve got to focus on one thing at a time. And where do you want to be; the next step, rather than all this other stuff. We can’t tackle everything at the same time. We just have to do one thing at a time. So what you said, it really pulls me back and saying, you know, be present and look at one thing at a time. And I really love what you just said at the beginning about, you know, everybody has problems, and being a single parent is challenging, especially at the beginning, when you say you don’t know what’s going to happen next. But you know, couples also have problems. So once we take this, you know, with a different lens, it made me get easier. I don’t know.
Carmel: 06:40 Yeah. Well, you know, I was talking with someone just the other day and we were talking about that single parent journey. And she said that it was actually easier after she became a single parent, because she could let go of the weight of the relationship that wasn’t working.
Sze Wing: 06:56 Right. Makes sense.
Carmel: 06:57 Right. And I mean, that’s a very specific situation, right. That was her experience. Not everybody’s going to have that same experience. But one of the things that she was pointing to, and that I agree with, is that your perspective is everything. So if you look at being a single parent as this terrible thing that’s happened to you; you didn’t plan it, you didn’t want it and your expectations of what life was going to bring you have been dashed, that’s a really negative place to come from. And so if you can reframe that, if you can step back from what you thought your life was going to look like and say, okay, this is now my reality, what do I want to do with this? What’s the future I want to create from here? Then you’re letting go of baggage of what your past expectations were and you can move forward from a new, more powerful place. And, you know, in my case, being a single parent been probably the best thing that ever happened to me. It was a massive shake up in my world. And it was what prodded me to make other really important changes in my life that have made me who I am today. And I am an infinitely better human than I was, you know, before I became a single parent. It was transition to go through, but on the other side, man, things are good.
Sze Wing: 08:26 And, you know, with growth, it’s always a little bit uncomfortable at the beginning. Like when I was growing up and also now my daughter, as we grow taller – I don’t know whether you had growing pain in the bones on your legs – I had a lot of, I’m not even tall, so where did that come from? I don’t know. But my calf, like my shin bone, I had a lot of growing pain and now my daughter is saying the same thing. But that’s what happens when you have to stretch and grow taller, especially when it happens in a quick, fast period of time. And I feel that the same – you know, it was not easy as you said at the beginning of the transition, but that’s helped you to grow, and I’m sure many people have the same experience. It’s almost like if you can do this, you can do anything.
Carmel: 09:15 Yes.
Sze Wing: 09:16 One of the hardest things for many people to go through, because it’s physical is emotional, it’s financial; it’s everything at once. And you have another human being to look after as well. So that just compounds the situation. But I also feel that lot of couples now when they are not together anymore, it’s quite obviously lot of drama in some, but there are a lot of people that are very civil; it’s just not working out or, you know, have different changes. Sometimes career also takes you to a different direction. Someone may move to New York and it’s not right for you, and it doesn’t feel like you want go and you know, it could be very civil as well. So there’s a stigma behind all that, but sometimes it’s not what it all seems. But then the perspective is everything.
Carmel: 10:03 Yeah. There’s a variety of reasons why people end up becoming single parents, and you touched on some of them. But you know, we need to change – you’re right. We need to change that perspective. It’s not that some horrible thing happened to us, and now we’re in this bad situation. It’s like, well, this is where my life has led me to. And what do I want to create from here? And that just having that openness really gives you space for creativity and making something magical, maybe even better than your life ever would’ve been within that partnership, or if you hadn’t had your kids, because not everybody comes to single parenting from a partnership sometimes, you know?
Sze Wing: 10:58 Right.
Carmel: 11:00 You just, yeah.
Sze Wing: 11:02 In any case, I think having a child is a huge lesson. It just makes you grow as a human being; it’s inevitable. So another thing I find really interesting to think about, it’s about when I become a mom and also a lot of people, not only you don’t put yourself first, likely you put yourself last.
Carmel: 11:28 Yes.
Sze Wing: 11:29 You make sure everybody has eaten, and then you are, ‘Oh my God, haven’t eaten the whole day’, because you pack lunchbox and you prepare everything, but then you completely forgot yourself. You are running around, you know, looking after everyone. So I think the self care piece is important, but then a lot of people feeling guilty for not putting themselves last.
Carmel: 11:51 Yeah.
Sze Wing: 11:51 So how do you deal with that, especially in single parenthood?
Carmel: 11:56 Yeah. Well, you know it really, and it really comes back to that idea of when you’re on an airplane they’re telling you to put the oxygen mask on. They always tell you to put your oxygen mask on first and then assist someone else. And the reason that they do that is because if you are not taken care of, if you’re not getting enough oxygen, if you’re not cared for then how are you going to help somebody else? And we need to really look at parenting that same way, or just life in general. That way, if I am not well taken care of, if I don’t take care of myself, how on earth am I going to be able to take care of my kids in the way that I want to, right? How can I be the parent that I want to be?
Carmel: 12:45 How can I be resilient if I just don’t have the energy, if I don’t get enough sleep, if I’m not eating properly, if I’m run down, if I’m overwhelmed? And burnout is a very real thing that can be experienced at work at home, whatever. If you hit a point of burnout, are you very much used to anybody else? I’m not. I, I hit a stress point and I’m like, okay, mommy’s going to go lie down for a few hours and that’s not ideal. So if you know, really self care is a preventative measure for making your life workable. And that’s really, all it comes down to is what’s workable for you. Self care has to be part of that. It’s not selfish, right? And I know people have heard this and it’s true; self care is not selfish; it is the greatest gift that you can give to the other people in your life. There’s a Jim Rone,recording that I listen to every now and then. And he talks about how an agreement, I think it was with his wife. I can’t remember. And he says, ‘Tell you what, I’ll take care of me for you, if you take care of you for me’.
Sze Wing: 14:11 That’s nice.
Carmel: 14:12 And isn’t that beautiful that we say, ‘I’m going to take care of myself. I’m not going to place that expectation on anybody else to meet my needs’. Right. That doesn’t mean that I can’t ask. That doesn’t mean that I can’t say, ‘Hey, I could really use your help with this, in order to meet a need that I have’, and then that person gets to decide whether they want to fulfil that or not. But it’s taking full responsibility for your life and your experience. And it is just the most empowering thing I think that anybody can do; single parent or not.
Sze Wing: 14:51 I love it. It’s so much more civil than the way I tell my husband; ‘If you don’t do this and if you don’t do that, I have to end up taking care of you, you are getting more work on my workload’. It’s it’s similar, but that’s so much nicer.
Carmel: 15:07 Yeah.
Sze Wing: 15:08 There’s no wonder why he called me ‘Dragon Lady’ when we first met. I don’t know why he’s still here, but hey. I want to say something about – the children tend to model us, because I know that if I look after myself say, you know, when I’m preparing food that is healthy or well nourishing, I talk it out when I’m doing it, to my kids, so they know what I’m doing. And I noticed that they really model things from us, like they would do things to copy us. Right. So I think it’s good to start early. So they have that sense of looking after themselves. And I thought it was really important. And I also looked at them doing bad things that they are copying from us.
Carmel: 15:52 Yes. You’ll know your habits. You’ll know what all your habits are by watching what your kids do.
Sze Wing: 15:57 I know my two-year-old is so funny. He can barely stand up and pull a draw, but he will use all his strength to open a draw and take out like – you know, my husband sometimes play video games. Oh God, I’m painting a really bad picture of him. So he, the kid will take out the headset and the game console and pretend to be daddy. And I was like, wow, they really copy everything we do. And my daughter copy like me eating healthy or breakfast. She would say, oh yeah, we should choose this option because it’s healthier; things like that. And I think that’s brilliant. And we’ve got to be careful, what we say and do. So I am definitely for self care in that case.
Carmel: 16:44 Yeah, absolutely. And that extends to everything. Like, what do you want to model for your children so that they lead an empowered life, right? So if we’re always talking about how life is so hard, and money’s tight – and I’m not saying we want to necessarily lie to our kids, you know, we want to make sure that we’re honest with them about what’s going on, but it’s how we frame it. That’s really important. So yeah, money’s tight, so we have some choices to make. Right. We can’t buy everything. So we need to decide what we want the most. So that’s a very different conversation than saying something like, ‘Oh honey, we just don’t have the money’.
Sze Wing: 17:23 Gosh. So much better.
Carmel: 17:26 Right. Yeah. So it’s being mindful of the language that you’re using towards yourself, towards others, about your situation. It really is so important.
Sze Wing: 17:40 I know you have this five step process of framework when you work with your clients. So can you tell us a little bit more about your five part framework?
Carmel: 17:53 Yes, absolutely. So there’s five parts, and they’re not necessarily like step-by-step; it’s not like an order. They’re all elements that come together that work together in order to help a person create what they really want. So the first one – I shouldn’t call it the first one – but one of them, is mindset, which is a little bit of what we’ve been talking about, really getting clear on what are the disempowering things that you’re saying to yourself and how do you want to shift that so that you’re actually having a different kind of conversation with yourself. The second one is creating a vision. A lot of people do not know what they really want for themselves. You know, I think as adults, sometimes we stop dreaming; we get caught up in grind of daily life.
Carmel: 18:49 And, you know, we maybe get caught up in the expectations – the social expectations of what we should do and we stop dreaming. And we really need to come back to that childlike part of ourselves that was so creative and thought that we could do anything because we can. We can really do anything that we want; it’s a matter of having the will to make it happen and the belief that you can as well. Right. So having a really clear vision for what you want for your future. Then the next part is motivation; identifying why you want what you want. And a lot of times people, you know, they’ll say, ‘I want to start a business’. ‘Why Do you want to start a business?’ ‘Well, because I want to be able to set my own schedule and stuff like that’.
Carmel: 19:42 Okay. But is that really the motivating reason for doing that? So it’s a matter of digging down deep, like five, six, maybe even seven layers to find out what is the thing that you, or what is the reason that you really want this thing? When I actually went to launch my first business I identified a few different reasons, and I dug down a bunch of levels. And what I discovered at the bottom was that, gosh, I don’t think I’m really living. And I want to live a life with no regrets. I want to roll into that grave with a martini in one hand – well, actually I don’t drink martinis, but maybe a margarita in one hand, you know, and all wrinkles and having, you worn my body out and being like, woohoo, what a ride. There’s actually a meme around that. And I just think, yeah, that’s, I want to really live my life to the absolute fullest and I don’t want to have any regrets. That’s my why ; not everybody’s going to have the same one, but it’s really figuring out like, what is that deep rooted why that makes you get up in the morning and go, ‘Okay, I’m going to go, I’m going to go kill it today. I’m going to be awesome. I’m going to do the hard things because it’s super important to me that I reach this goal’.
Carmel: 21:03 And then there’s creating your habits, right? Everything that we accomplish in life is created from daily habits. They don’t have to be big. A lot of times people have this idea that they have to do big – take big action in order to get to the goals that they have for themselves. And the reality is that most of our goals are met by taking daily actions. Right. If you are a single parent and you want to change your financial situation, or you want to let’s say try and find yourself a new partner, what are the daily actions that you need to take in order to make those things happen? In the case of, you know finding a new partner, it might be okay doing some of the inner work, right?
Carmel: 21:56 Figuring out what, what is it that I want in a relationship? You know, what are the beliefs that I have? You know, breaking all those things down, doing the work in order to get to that end goal. And then the final thing is actually making a commitment; not to anybody else, but to ourselves, which kind of comes back to what we were talking about earlier that we tend to put ourselves last. And when we put ourselves first, when we make the commitment to ourselves first, we get to those fun goals. And it creates so much more joy that we just fricking radiate it and we create so much of that for the other people in our lives. It’s not just us. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the concept of emotional contagion, but it’s really that when two people are together, one person can be, kind of, infected by the other person’s emotions; positive or negative. So one of the things that I try to make sure that I do is keep myself happy. So that every day my son is around a happy person.
Sze Wing: 23:08 It makes sense, total sense. And sometimes you may not be happy, happy, but just listening to you in the last half an hour, I know that you will look at it in a different perspective. Even though you have a horrible day, you will look at it, you try your best to have a better perspective to relate to your son.
Carmel: 23:29 Yeah. Well, and that’s a matter of grounding yourself in the moment instead of – you know, just taking that example of the terrible day. I mean I’ve certainly had some days where I was like, it’s going to be like, that is it? But if you look at each of those negative moments as just something that happened, and it doesn’t mean that the rest of your day is going to be terrible, you can notice them and then let them go and move forward. And you don’t have to pack a bag full of negative moments and cart them through your day, and then have that make a negative impact on other people,
Sze Wing: 24:13 You know, from just having this conversation, mad me realize or want to say that that’s why, like, we are coaches, and coaches work with coaches, and talk to coaches, because sometimes yes, when you have a good day or bad day, you may talk to a friend, but the conversation is a little bit different because coaches, not only you got the training and the interest in that field, but usually you become a coach because you share a certain perspective, or a character, and a way of talking about things. And I find that when you have a good or bad day, when you have a conversation with a coach, two things happen; one is that you either, you know, make each other accountable of whatever happened, or have a better perspective. It’s a very different conversation. A coaching conversation is very different than talking to a friend to complain about something. So I think that’s really valuable. And that’s really part of self care that you were talking about early on.
Carmel: 25:14 Yeah, absolutely
Sze Wing: 25:15 Because that changes things and really can deescalate things that could be burning in our life. And I want to talk to you about drama, because I figure that there will be a lot of drama in people’s life that you may be working with. So how do you help people when they say – you have a client say, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe he just did this, and he just said that’, or, ‘My mother-in-law, my mother just did this’, how do you help people to neutralize their drama?
Carmel: 25:44 Yeah. It really depends on what the drama is, but I find that the most helpful thing is to bring them back to what they have control over. And I have actually fostered a pretty positive relationship with my former husband. So, you know, things are pretty even keeled, but there was definitely a time when it wasn’t ideal, when we weren’t quite as friendly as we are now. And I really needed to stop worrying about what he was doing, what decisions he was making and say, what do I have actual control over, and focus on that. Because you can’t control what other people are going to do, but you can control how you react to it, how you feel about it, and then the action that you take following that. So I find that probably the most helpful thing, is to really focus on what you can do over focusing on what you have zero control over.
Sze Wing: 26:56 See that applies to, you know, even if you’re married to your husband, it’s kind of the same. You may have more opinion and influence over, but still don’t hope for the fact that you can control the action. The same with a coaching relationship; you, you wish your client to do the best, but you can’t control them. So we may just live with this model, that you can just figure out how you can react and control your emotion, rather than other people’s decisions.
Carmel: 27:31 Yeah. And I think one of the biggest benefits that I’ve ever experienced in my life was just from acknowledging that there are things in my life that I have no control over, and I get to choose how I react to those things. And just acknowledging that, I feel, gave me a lot of power. And so I try to share that as much as possible; that you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you to it. And it really does an amazing job of minimizing drama because you stop getting so upset. You know, you can get upset. You can say, ‘Hey, that was really unfair’, and dial it back. Let yourself feel it, and then dial it back and say, ‘Okay, yeah, that really wasn’t fair. What are my options?’ And then you don’t escalate it; you don’t keep ratcheting up the drama. One of the challenges of – you know, it’s wonderful to talk to other people about difficult things that are happening in your life – and like you said, you have to be very careful about who you talk to, because if you talk to one person, they may be like, ‘Yeah, that’s unfair. You should totally do this’, and they’ll actually rile you up to maybe do things, or try things, or say things that are not helpful for the situation, versus talking to some one who, you know, comes at it from a very neutral perspective and says, ‘Yeah, that is really unfair. How do you feel about it?’ You know, and asks curious questions and helps you helps bring down the level of emotion so that you can get to a point where you can think rationally and make positive decisions for yourself and everyone else who’s involved.
Sze Wing: 29:42 I mean, from this short conversation, I can hear how it will be really helpful to work with you, you know, maybe as a single parent, or not. Because a lot of things we talked about is a coaching conversation. It’s also just having someone that you can deal with, to offer you that neutral perspective, rather than help you to escalate all the things in life. So to wrap this up, tell us how can people find more information about you, and if they want to connect, what’s the best way?
Carmel: 30:14 Yeah. So the best way is probably – well, I’m on LinkedIn a lot. I actually really love – that’s where I post the most. I rhyme. My website is speaknowcoaching.com. And of course, they can always email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sze Wing: 30:36 Great. I will put your LinkedIn profile and the show notes, as well as your website, so it will make it easy for people to check your work. So thank you so much for today’s conversation. And I don’t know, I felt very relaxed and soothed, the way you talk, because you take pauses. Because I’m like AK 47 as people know, and I hardly take a breath sometimes. I really enjoyed talking with you today. So thank you so much for sharing the way you work with your clients and all your tips and experience as well. So, thank you.
Carmel: 31:14 Well, thank you for having me. This has been really, really lovely.