🎶 Podcast Intro: Welcome to the pursuing uncomfortable podcast, where we give you the encouragement you need to lean into the uncomfortable stuff life puts in front of you, so you can love your life. If you are ready to overcome all the yuck that keeps you up at night, you're in the right place. I am your host, Melissa Ebken. Let's get going. 🎶
🎶 Episode Intro: Hello friend. Welcome back to the podcast today. I'm introducing you to Denise Drinkwalter. She spent 31 years in the educational system as a teacher, as a principal. And working with the most difficult and challenging situations. She is using her expertise to continue to support and help mothers as they face that empty-nest time in their lives. And she gives us so many insights today on those challenging times, how to communicate well with our children, and how to prepare ourselves for when they leave the nest. 🎶
Melissa Ebken 0:00
One quick note before we begin, do you have any title that you would like me to use? You? Doctor Drinkwalter or?
Denise Drinkwalter 0:09
No, I think Denise Drinkwalter, life coach is fine, whatever. It's all good.
Melissa Ebken 0:15
Denise Drinkwalter 0:18
Melissa Ebken 0:21
Are you okay? Are you alright?
Denise Drinkwalter 0:27
Yeah. You're frozen, though.
Melissa Ebken 0:32
Can you hear me? Well, the what we see here isn't isn't necessarily the actual output. The stuff is recorded locally on each of our browsers. So it'll be better than what we see here.
Denise Drinkwalter 0:44
Melissa Ebken 0:45
Denise Drinkwalter, welcome to the Pursuing Uncomfortable Podcast. I'm pleased you're able to join us today.
Denise Drinkwalter 0:54
It's an honor to be here. Thank you for having me.
Melissa Ebken 0:58
So tell us a little bit about yourself, your background, what it is you love to do and that you're passionate about.
Denise Drinkwalter 1:07
Absolutely. So I am a retired elementary school principal, I retired back in 2018. I don't believe it's been that long already. But it has been. And I had an incredible 31 career in education. I loved every minute of it. And I did everything from Classroom Teacher, K through 6. I also worked with EBD, which is emotional and behavior disordered students who had those complex needs. I did that for about 12 years. And then I went into administration after that, for about 13 years, I think it was, and retired out as a as a principal. And then when I was finished all of that. We have been blessed to have grandchildren in our lives. 5-10 minutes down the road. So two weeks after I was finished my retirement, I started childcare, five days, no, not five days, four days a week. So that was pretty incredible. And I knew there was more for me to do. And so I knew I needed to step in and do something more I just had that inner desire that happens inside of me. And it rolled into me supporting moms, who struggled with giving back to themselves is really how it's rolled into being what I do now, which is an empowerment life coach for moms. Primarily in midlife years as children leave, and they become empty nesters. That seems to be the time where we look in the mirror and go, Oh, no. Now what? So that's my passion, is supporting moms/parents in their next role and knowing that it's okay that their children are growing in to be independent adults. That's what we wanted all along. And now how do we find ourselves? Who are we? What is our passion? How do we stay in their lives without interfering is a big part of what I do as well?
Melissa Ebken 3:27
Wow, that's a lot. You have so much experience. And I'm so pleased that you're using that still in a new and fresh way to support moms. And we'll get into what that looks like. But before we do, I want to go back a little bit and talk about some of your experiences in education. The phrase, "you've seen it all," you know, we like to throw that around. But and we may think that until we see the next thing that we haven't seen before, right? So, yeah, as a mom of a student, you retired in 2018 you said, so that was before COVID. But I know so many of us are struggling with our children's emotional social skills and needs after this experience. And sometimes even before that, you know, I think we forget that we did have struggles and challenges before COVID. And now there may be a little more pronounced in some cases, maybe others not. But can you tell us a little bit more about what you as a principal and as an educator saw that was really successful in helping parent children in these difficult times?
Denise Drinkwalter 4:49
I would I would say the biggest thing that I think is imperative for all of us to know when we watch children is when they are going through difficult times as the adult, it's, I believe firmly in my heart that our job and responsibility is to try to understand what is happening so that we can put supports in place that matches where they are struggling. So instead of trying to stick a bandaid on, oh, go do this, go do that, go do this, right, just just let me help you do it, we need to understand why the struggles are happening, we need to get to the root. And they are the best ones to be able to share their voice as to what is going on inside of them, whether it be in their body and their mind, they can tell you, they can describe it for you, if you just allow them to do that. And when we give them a voice, then we give them an opportunity, a safe space to be able to say I'm not okay. And it's okay to be not okay. It's when we try to hide it and camouflage it and just Buck up, you can do this right? That it doesn't, it doesn't allow them to share what's really going on for them. And then that breaks down the communication, it breaks down an understanding and then it becomes it can become quite a push pull, right? And then everybody stresses out. So in order, every behavior, whether it's a an external behavior, whether children are exploding, let's say, or whether they're becoming introverted, a change in behavior is important to note. So what's normal for them? What's a normal capacity for them? What do you see them, if they're in an OK spot, if they're being them, you know, if they become loud, it's different for them, possibly, if they become introverted, it's different for them. So there's something underlying, and it's our job as the adult to see what is going on, not to analyze it just to get a deeper understanding so that we can give them support where they need; give them voice, so they feel supported and know they're supported, not just feel it has to be authentic. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 7:18
You know, I'm a big believer in sometimes kids have to make their own mistakes and find their own way. And as a parent, that's a fine line, to straddle there, with, you know, I have a son that's in middle school. And that's a hard age, you know, they're gonna make mistakes, they're gonna get in a little trouble. And, you know, they got to find that boundary. And that's not for me to decide or to fix for them. So how do I navigate that time? And discern, okay, now, what's the problem? I need to step in? Or no, they need to figure this out. That's such a gray area.
Denise Drinkwalter 7:56
It is. If you are noticing there is harm. If you notice that there is concern for their health and their welfare, not just in a moment, but like, you know, there's there's something really not right here, you must step in, there's no option, there's no choice, you must step in and figure, okay, we need to investigate this bigger. It's important, like I say, to have those lines of communication open specially for middle school. You're right, it's a hard time. You already know this, but I'm telling you. And so they tend to too close up, right? It's part of like, they're starting to find their way in their friends and who are their friends? And what does that look like? Plus social media is playing a integral part. And I'm not saying it's the healthiest part that it plays either. So there's pieces that have to be investigated to see that they are being okay, in the process of learning and growing. But if you see changes that are frightening you, if you see changes that are extreme for you, those are red flags, absolutely. Make sure that you step in and get some support. Ask around if you have a medical, you know, team that you can go to I know in our area, we've got teams, family teams, that have got psychologists and psychiatrists and, you know, different people in that team, and you can take your concerns to the team and they can pull it apart in a bigger, deeper way than we can as parents. So it's important to stay close enough and yet not hover. So the children are feeling like get away. Like I'm fine. Right? Yeah, it's it's a it's a process. It's a process. And it's part of the growth process. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 9:50
And that kind of leads into my next question, the hovering bit. You know, kids aren't well, some kids are naturally self starters and self motivators. Other kids may become that, but they have to learn that and have that discipline taught to them. How do we find that balance? What would you like parents to know about helping to help your kids find that balance so that you're not pushing them too hard. But you're also not backing up and giving them too much space to fail?
Denise Drinkwalter 10:23
Yeah, for sure. So I think it's important that you have, again, I'm coming back to the communication piece, because I think it's so key. And even though I say it, it's a more complex piece than we realize. So allowing opportunity for communication, which is open ended and goes both ways, right. So it's not always you asking questions, but it's also free flow conversation. How are you feeling about that? Putting the feeling or messages in there, asking them without it being a question? Do the open ended? So it's not a yes, no answer. It's more of a conversation starter. You know, what did you do today? Nothing. I mean, fine. Yeah. Right. What was the most challenging part your day today? Right, that allows them to say, what was the what was the best thing that happened in the week for you today? I'll tell you mine, right? Like, there are options. So you can do more open ended questions. And not all the time, when they were younger, you might have done it more consistent, like every night, what did you do? What do you have for homework? We have reading, right? When they're in middle school, they don't want to be talked to like that every single night. So you can do more weekly as an idea, right. And so you will also know, watch and pay attention to the cues they give you. Okay? So really tune in to how is their body language looking. And if you're not tuning into body language, I highly recommend you start investigating how to observe and really listen, and listen without trying to respond. But listen to understand; two very different listening strategies. So when we listen to respond, we're already thinking ahead, well, this is what I want, right? But when we listen to understand, we are providing an opportunity for them to share what is going on with them. So that provides another way that allows you to support them in a way that will not be intrusive, but it will also be from your heart and make making sure they know you still are an important part of their life as they're continuing to grow.
Melissa Ebken 12:53
Wise words, not just for kids, but for everyone. If we can give that gift of just listening, oh, my goodness, what a gift that would be. Yeah, yeah. One thing I did find, by accident, I didn't plan it. And I think sometimes the best things come just spontaneously, I have several opportunities to be in front of people in my community and to lead different things. And when he's there and present, not every time, but here and there. Afterwards, I'll say, oh, my gosh, I was so nervous, or I was so scared about this part. And he'll just look at me as like a really, you seemed fine. And that is such a powerful way for us to connect and say, Well, I'm glad it came across that way. But let me tell you what was going on inside. And we've had some really great conversations there. So I think finding that spot where you can share some of your challenges, but not all the time and not every challenge can be a way to engage at a deeper level for them to see that. Okay, it's not easy for everyone else either.
Denise Drinkwalter 14:08
Absolutely. Just showing them you're human, right. It's your mom, but you're still human. And so when you have situations, there's nothing wrong with saying that was a big one. I got through it. But boy, there were moments and like you say he's like, What? It's like yeah, I have I have butterflies too. Yeah, that's fair. And like you say, it's not opening up, okay. Now I have to like you're not telling them your life history. You're not telling them, you know, all the stuff that they don't need to know. It's not like they're your friends. They are your child. And so it's important for them to know that your humaneness is part of everyday life and it's very appropriate the way you did it. I love what you shared there because that's huge. Yeah, love it.
Melissa Ebken 14:56
Thank you. And then I went and cried in the shower for a while.
Denise Drinkwalter 15:02
And good for you. There's nothing wrong with that either. Right? Right. Sometimes releasing those emotions and letting them just come out is a great way to alchemize and move forward. Yeah, that's normal too.
Melissa Ebken 15:19
So tell us a little bit what you do for and with moms as their kids graduate and, move on.
Denise Drinkwalter 15:26
Sure. So I have a number of different things that I do do. But I would say that the signature program that I run is eight weeks, and it's called cut the cord, not the ties. And it, it has been a powerful program whereby we meet for an hour every week. And there's a topic every week that I cover, I've created a workbook, we get into everything, from parenting styles, to triggers to emotions, to understanding ourselves in ways we've never thought of before. We get into what we're touching on there with the act of listening, huge part of it, right. And so every week we talk, we do a different topic. And I've created it just just because I'm an educator, it's a scaffolding system. So we start at a basic level, and every week, we add a little bit more. And then people as we get through to like week, five, six, they're like, oh, my gosh, this makes so much sense. Because the pieces of the puzzle have start to come together. And then it's interesting, because it's a private community, each group that I have, so I've got this will be my seventh round this fall, I'm running one more. And it'll be my seventh time running it. And we have a private community whereby the people who are in that particular course, we videotape everything, we have it there for lifetime access, you can always go back there, people support one another in their journeys. We're all different experiences. But there's a common thing, which is, everybody's a mom, right? So there's always that commonality. And there's always something in there where everybody supports everybody. It's been such a such a powerful program, and I can't, I just my heart lights up every time I think of all of the graduates. I've had 19 people go through, and I've run it for about a year now. And maybe a little over a year now. And it's just been amazing to see what happens and how people's lives change because they know themselves in a brand new way and realize that the role of mom is one piece of who they are, but it doesn't determine who they are. It's not there all who, it's it's a role that we play. Like we play a role at work, we play a role at home, we play roles, but it doesn't define us. And so we start to dig into more and understand more about ourselves. So it's very, very, very all encompassing and life changing. Really.
Melissa Ebken 18:05
It sounds fancy. Yeah. So it seems so far away. But it's not. It's a handful of years away. What is something that you think we don't anticipate or overlook? That's such a shock to us when we get to that point in life.
Denise Drinkwalter 18:25
I've heard it say multiple times. And people say it's almost like they have to go through a grieving process. Because they're losing, even though they know they're not losing them. It's how it feels for people because they poured so much time, love and energy into raising these incredible kids. And then it's their turn to go out into the world. And yes, we plan for it. And yes, that's what we want. But boy, when it happens, it's like, ah, like this is really different. So it's not only them transitioning, it's us transitioning our role of mom because there's a lot of transition that has to happen. And we don't even realize the depth and width of that until these these physical changes happen where they leave the house right? We become that empty nest and then a lot of times I have people go and who are you because the spouse is the only one left and they're like I don't, what?
Melissa Ebken 19:29
We've met, right? You like look really familiar to me.
Denise Drinkwalter 19:33
I've seen you in the hall before.
Melissa Ebken 19:38
So what happens if the kids don't leave?
Denise Drinkwalter 19:44
It's a very interesting phenomenon too. Sometimes it's great for a while but then they there has been I've got different people who have taken the courses who've children have gone. Things have not worked out in their world and they've moved back in. So then it's like not only just the children, but it's grandchildren sometimes, too, right? So the house is all of a sudden, so I have moms who have that experience. And how do I do this without breaking down the relationship and making it go really bad? But how do I do this with them living under foot? Like this is a totally different ballgame, right? So there's a number of things that we need to talk about in terms of what is it that you want? As a person in your house? How does it have to be? Does there have to be a timeline for you? Is this going to be okay for them to be back in? What does it need to look like? Boundaries, right? All kinds of aspects that are individual for everybody in their own individual case, but because of the work that we do, you can weed through it with full support, and a new way of looking at it and you power yourself up in brand new ways. You become empowered through the work that I do. So you don't have to be, you know, the bouncing ball that gets batted around, you get to stand in your own and go, You know what, this is what I need, and this is why I need it. So this is what is going to have to happen. How can you share? How can you be a part of this plan? Right?
Melissa Ebken 21:27
Absolutely. And you know, I wish each one of us had someone who asked us, What do you want in life? So often we go through life, and we don't even consider that question. And that's such a fundamental question. And it really can shape our actions and our choices. And it makes us examine our values. And what's really important. What do you want?
Denise Drinkwalter 21:56
It's key. It's key. And because people have lived their lives, from the outside in, I teach them how to live from the inside out. And what a way to reverse your whole life trajectory. And it's never too late. Right? Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Melissa Ebken 22:20
Denise, how do our, how did these listeners get in touch with you?
Denise Drinkwalter 22:27
Quickest and easiest way, denisedrinkwalter.com. That's my website. So the course I was talking about, Cut the Cord, Not the Ties is listed in there. And other ways you can work with me, if you want to reach out, there's a discovery call. If you're not sure, there's a free 20 minute discovery call. We can connect and have a chat, see where you're at. See if there's an alignment with any of the options that I do have. Yeah,
Melissa Ebken 22:52
Perfect. And that link is in the show notes. So I encourage you to go to the show notes. Check out the link whether you have any intentions to pursue it or not, and see what she offers and see what might be possible for you. All right, any parting words?
Denise Drinkwalter 23:08
Thank you so much for having me as a guest today. And I think I'd love to leave everybody with this thought, which is one of my mantras that I created. I want everybody to try every single day to do something for you by you because of you.
Melissa Ebken 23:29
Beautiful thoughts. Thank you so much.
Denise Drinkwalter 23:32
🎶 Episode Outro: Thank you so much for tuning into today's episode. If this encouraged you, please consider subscribing to our show and leaving a rating and review so we can encourage even more people just like yourself. We drop a new episode every Wednesday so I hope you continue to drop in and be encouraged to lean into and overcome all the uncomfortable stuff life brings your way. 🎶