(51) You Are Enough with Dr. Claire

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In this episode, I am talking to someone we all need right now – a psychologist! Join me and Dr. Claire Nicogossian as we talk about all things mental health including the difference between responding to the pandemic and actual depression, how to cope with shadow emotions such as anger, what self-care is and isn’t, and the one thing she filed in the back of her brain as a therapist all these years. This is the honest, compassionate pep talk (and therapy) we all need to remind us that we are enough as we finish out one of the hardest years of our lives. 

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Brandy:            Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. In this episode, I am talking to someone we all need right now…a psychologist! And a lovely one that. I don’t know about you but holidays plus pandemic is a lot. Join me and Dr. Claire as we talk about all things mental health including the difference between responding to the pandemic and actual depression, how to cope with shadow emotions such as anger, what self-care is and isn’t, and the one thing she filed in the back of her brain as a therapist all these years. This is the honest, compassionate pep talk and therapy we all need to remind us that we are enough as we finish out one of the hardest years of our lives. On to the show —

Brandy:            Today on the podcast, I’m welcoming Dr. Claire Nicogossian who is a clinical psychologist, clinical assistant professor, and author of the book Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy, and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood. Yes! {laughter} Welcome to the podcast, Claire.

Claire:              {laughter} Thank you so much for having me. It’s really a pleasure to be here with you.

Brandy:            I cannot wait to pick your brain on so many things because there has been no better time for a message like yours than right now when we are smack dab in the middle of a pandemic that seems to have put nearly all of the childcare burden on mothers. I saw a post go by the other day on one of my mom’s groups online where a mom was posting about how she and her husband have Coronavirus, and she was feeling guilty for her kids having so much screen time because of it. If that’s not a sign of moms who have high expectations of themselves, I don’t know what is. You’re in a pandemic, you have a potentially deadly virus, your normal childcare and support systems are not the same if they’re there at all, and yet, you’re concerned about screen time. The thing is, I swear, I would feel the same way. It’s no judgment on this mom because it made me realize, “This is how modern motherhood is,” and I thought, “I would probably feel the same way.” Anyway, I’m looking forward to picking your brain about all of this stuff, but before we do, what is something that you think the listeners need to know about you?

Claire:              Oh, I love that. I’m a mom of four daughters. Even though I am an expert in mental health and well-being and have this lovely book, thank you for that great introduction, I’m still a human being, still a mom, and still really struggle with motherhood and managing myself and the kids and everything in between. That’s the one thing I just want to underscore as we start talking, Brandy, is that I’m a mom of four daughters. My youngest is 10. I have a 12-year-old and twin daughters who are 18, seniors.

Brandy:            Oh, wow.

Claire:              I really understand a lot of what your listeners are going through because I’m going through it myself.

Brandy:            Thank you. It’s so important, I think from my point of view, when you have somebody who’s an expert on something that you also know that they are a human being inside there. I feel like, for me, I will listen to what somebody has to say so much more if I know that they are struggling through — not that I need them to be struggling, but just that they don’t have an easy fix for everything. That’s where I kind of check out.

Claire:              Exactly. I think if there’s something that the world has really shown us is that we want authenticity.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              We want to be able to connect many deep ways. Things that were fillers don’t feel as meaningful for many people. I’m seeing that in private practice. I support a lot of clients. I think that’s the one part, too, that I would say to listeners is being a parent, being a mother is a journey. It’s not a one-time event. Yes, welcoming your child whether you’ve birthed your child or adopted your child or fostered your child, there’s always a beginning of that journey, but that’s the event. Motherhood is a journey, and we’re not meant to know all the answers or be 100% all the time or have these unrealistic expectations that, as you shared at the beginning, a mom feeling guilty because she has the Coronavirus and her child has screen time.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Claire:              I don’t judge her because here’s the thing. As a mom, I would be feeling exactly what she’s feeling. I would be like, “Oh, my goodness. What am I doing here? My four daughters need to be engaged. I need to be doing something with them like quality time.”

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              The psychologist in me would say, “Okay. If not now, when do you give yourself a break?”

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              “You have COVID. Let’s stop judging ourselves in a column: good, bad, successful, not being amazing, not being effective at all. Let’s stop judging ourselves, and let’s look at the whole person. Let’s look at the whole experience and the whole person. Your child is not going to suffer with more screen time if you’re ill and cannot attend to them.”

Brandy:            Right. That’s so true that we have these categories that we like to put ourselves into. I was even just thinking about this in terms of I have a thing that I write every year at the beginning of the year that’s the goals that I want to achieve for this year. I was laughing because I was thinking, “I’m going to go back and look at 2020 and see if I’ve achieved any of them because of the pandemic.”

Claire:              {laughter}

Brandy:            I was laughing as I was reading them like, “Nope. Nope. Nope.” There was a part of me that was starting to feel like, “Wow, I didn’t achieve any of my goals.” Then, I had to step back and be like, “Wait a minute. The building that I did towards these goals and the future of these goals existed, and that cannot just be thrown out.” I think that that’s similar to what you’re talking about. It especially hit me when you said, “The successful, unsuccessful.” It’s not a black and white column. There’s a lot of gray there.

Claire:              Exactly. That’s so well said. I think the way that I would reframe that is like, “Wow, what an incredible year. My intentions were on paper, and I was ready. The world gave me a curveball, so I had to pivot and readjust. I’ll look at those goals and see what I want to keep or what I want to readjust.” I think if we, as moms, can breathe into this flexibility that we don’t always have to have everything figured out, we can be flexible, understand that we’re thrown a lot of things that are out of our control, and we’re just doing the best we can.

Brandy:            Yes. Where do you think that comes from? Why are some people good at giving themselves a break, and why are other people not good at that? How can the people who aren’t good at it learn to be better at it?

Claire:              Wow. That’s a broad, broad question, and a good one. To break it down in simple terms — in terms of complex, we could write a whole book on that.

Brandy:            Yeah, exactly.

Claire:              From my experience as a mom and a psychologist, the perspective I can say is this: We want things to be “just so.” We get very connected to outcomes. We get very attached to what we want something to be. Who we are as we go through the process of raising a little human being, we grow and evolve just as much as our children do. It requires this circling back and looking at one’s self and imagining, “Is this something I would do again? What are the pain bodies or the wounds in my childhood? How does that inform me about who I am, how I run my home, how I show up in the world as a parent?”  I think we all make decisions about our mothering based on our own experiences.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              Brandy, I am not one to ever blame a parent, but I want to be informed by my experiences growing up in my family plus my clients’ experiences and growing up in theirs and be mindful of even my daughters’ experiences. Everyone has their own experience, and that’s okay. You take what you need, and you learn the lessons that you need to learn. For me, I see it much more compassionately that we’re not striving for perfection here. We’re striving to really nurture and raise our children as well as heal parts of ourselves that we didn’t even know needed to be healed which is something I talk a lot about in in my book, Mama, You Are Enough. I have felt and experienced motherhood opening up an opportunity to heal those parts of yourself you may have forgotten about, experiences you may not have wanted to remember, and it brings up a lot of emotions.

Brandy:            What you just said, I felt my shoulders just relax when you said that about the healing piece of motherhood. I think that piece surprises us because people don’t really talk about it. Before it can be healing, sometimes it’s painful. I think there’s that piece that people are dealing with. Another thing that you said about how we are parenting from our own experiences of being parented, or specifically being mothered, that some of our overdoing it — or that’s, I guess, just my take on some of our over parenting that we have going on in modern motherhood. A lot of us who grew up in the 70’s and the 80’s, you know, things were so different back then that a lot of us — it was benign neglect. It wasn’t malicious or that we were specifically abandoned, although I know that there are stories of that happening as well. I feel like we are course correcting, and we’re going way too far. The pendulum is swinging way the other way because we thought, “Oh, my gosh. My parents weren’t around,” or, “Somebody should have been around to help with these things or see this.” Instead of saying, “I’d like to do a little more of that with my child while also maintaining some of the freedom and autonomy my mother had,” we go, “I will be there for every moment. They will never feel a moment where they are not the center of my universe.” That sets not only us up for hardship but, I think, our kids as well.

Claire:              It’s so true. What happened in the 70’s and 80’s, when we look at the literature and the research on parenting and attachment theory, it’s really relatively new. The field of psychology relative to the modern era is pretty new. It’s a new science, and there’s research and a lot of studies that have gone on since then. In the 70’s and 80’s, we had something really interesting going on. We had, in the United States, a sociological experience where women were working. Women could get their first credit card, I think it was in the early 70’s, without her husband’s permission.

Brandy:            Thank you, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for that thing. Thank you!

Claire:              Thank you. Right. Amen to her.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              We’re still feeling the impact. My daughters will not know that. They can do that. That is removed from their experience. It was removed from my experience as well, but I am aware of that. We have that piece that women went back to work and started to have more agency over their bodies, their careers, and how they showed up at home, but you also had, in the 80’s, something else that was happening which is a lot of divorces. What I see in my practice when I work with parents, they come in with a lot of wounds from their childhood maybe because their parents were divorced or maybe because their family, like you described, someone wasn’t there navigating or available. What ends up happening is they overcorrect.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Claire:              When we overcorrect, we just do the opposite. At the end of the day, if we’re overcorrecting by always having that net for our children, we’re not teaching them the skills to be autonomous.

Brandy:            Exactly. Yes.

Claire:              That’s what I always hold in my heart. Who I am as a mother, 18/19 years ago, when I first became a mother to premature twins —

Brandy:            Oh, wow.

Claire:              Oh, my gosh. Right? I was a different person than I was when I welcomed my third daughter and my fourth daughter, and that’s okay. I grew with my girls. I grew as a mother. My husband, he’s grown as a father. We’re not meant to stay in one place. To go back to your point about the overcorrecting because I’m at this other place now where my twins are seniors, and they’re going through the college process.

Brandy:            Oh, wow. Right.

Claire:              Oh, my goodness. I have to tell you that it shifted a couple years ago for me where the wisdom of being a therapist to adolescent girls and college students for the past 20 years that I always like filed in the back of my brain, “Make sure your children can take care of themselves. Make sure they know how to balance a budget, make sure they know how to do their laundry, make sure they know how to take out the trash and prepare a meal and read a recipe and navigate a doctor’s appointment and go to the pharmacy and pick up a prescription.” These are things that we can bring into our children’s experience. Maybe the act of love is to have dinner for them on the table right or to pack their lunch, but really if all of our acts of love for our children are calling the guidance department, advocating for a better grade, cleaning up their room, doing all their laundry, or not having them invested in the maintenance of the home in terms of chores, we’re doing our kids a disservice.

Brandy:            You are preaching to the choir here. I totally believe the same thing. I’ve said this on the podcast before. “Is making breakfast for your 13-year-old son every morning an act of love, or is that a limitation or something that he’s not being taught how to do? He’s perfectly capable of it. It’s not a hard thing to put a bagel in a toaster and put cream cheese on it.” I think there’s a gray area for everybody, but this idea that’s such a profound part of it that I think we have to ask ourselves is, “When is this an act of love, and when is it an agreement about ourselves as parents that we are trying to meet that is from an old wound?” It’s almost like a lack of freedom like, “I can’t not do this because I don’t want my child to ever think that I’m not there for them,” or whatever the thing is. I think that that can be a tricky spot for people to figure out what’s an act of love and what is going and doing too much that you then have kids that when they grow up cannot do things for themselves and are not capable in this world?

Claire:              Exactly. I think that really is individualized for each person, each child, and each family.

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              I’m just thinking of my teenagers. They make their own breakfast. They make their own lunch.

Brandy:            What age did you have them do that?

Claire:              Here’s the thing. I don’t like complaining. {laughter} I think I had one of these days where I was like, “Oh, my gosh. If you don’t like the lunch, then how about this. I’ll buy a range of snacks, and you can do it on your own.”

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              I think it was around middle school that I started doing that, and here’s how I did this. We would have snacks ready to go, a piece of fruit, and then they can do their sandwich. They would assemble it. My kids have always done chores. They’ve always helped do something like take out the garbage, bring in the trash cans, unload the dishwasher, or help unpack the groceries.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              I would say probably everyone in my home starts with a chore definitely as soon as they can be kind of sturdy and walking. {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter} You’re like, “Once they can crawl, they are picking up pieces of dirt off the ground for me. Get them started early.”

Claire:              {laughter} So funny. Again, for my older two, they’re really great about packing things and being very mindful of their nutrition. My youngest would probably pack all pretzels and leftover Halloween candy.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Claire:              So, sometimes I have to supervise a little more and just know your kids. You want them to figure things out developmentally appropriate within their own individual self because that builds self-confidence. That builds a sense of self-efficacy in the world.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              Where they want to raise their hand, they want to help another student, or they want to use their voice in a discussion. It’s all about confidence building.

Brandy:            Yes. That’s how I feel about my parents in the sort of — gosh, I hate to call it neglectful because it was definitely not that, but more of that just sort of 70’s and 80’s parenting that had me doing a lot of things on my own at a very young age. As much as there can be some consequences to that, I love what it gave me in terms of my own confidence and what I had to figure out in the world. I was always excited to raise my hand, and I felt competent. I felt like I could do anything. I remember I went on a trip on a plane trip by myself which back then felt so huge. I had a layover, and I was alone. I must have been 10 or 11, and I was just like, “I know how to do this.” That’s where it’s tough because it’s like you want to give your kids all of that confidence and autonomy that that era gave you, but then you don’t want some of the negative consequences of that. That’s the thing is trying to find that place where it’s like you have just enough of the confidence building skills but not too much of the neglect that you get in that sweet spot. I don’t know that that exists.

Claire:              A lot of times parenting is making the choices that you feel most comfortable with in that moment with all the information. I think that’s important. I want to reframe what you were saying about how you would describe your parenting or the parenting experience you had. It really falls into the category — I’m using your words. I don’t know this to be true, but in terms, I’m taking your word for it of “neglectful” or “mild neglect” in the 70’s and 80’s. It also was very permissive. There wasn’t as much information for parents.

Brandy:            Exactly.

Claire:              I think that’s the one kind of confusing part about parenting right now. I was confused, too. With all of my education and information and knowledge, parenting is really confusing. How do you find this balance of trusting yourself, gaining wisdom, and also parenting through what’s developmentally appropriate for your child and for where you live?

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              If you live in the city, your child can probably walk down in the neighborhood to the store at a certain age. In more rural areas, that may not be developmentally appropriate. I think it’s also looking at where we are within our society and where we live in terms of what is developmentally acceptable as well.

Brandy:            Yes. Like you said, “All those things that we’re trying to pull together,” that to me ends up in the grasping at straws as like, “Well, what’s developmentally appropriate? What’s healthy for our area? What about my child’s specific personality?” It’s all of the mental calculus that we do that I feel like the parents of the 70’s and 80’s were just not even aware of or doing. My mom and I talk about this all the time, so it’s no sort of unspoken thing about how there was just not as much information about things. I was on a call the other day. I had this workshop that was for my book that was like a book club and a workshop, and my adorable mom signed up for it along with all these other women.

Claire:              Aww. I love it.

Brandy:            There was something from the book that somebody was talking about. There was a part where everything had gone to shit, and at this woman’s lowest moment, her son was like, “Can we go get Pokémon cards?” It just broke her down or whatever. My mom made this comment to the group that was just so hilarious and telling that was like, “Well, I guess had it been me, I probably just would have bought you the Pokémon cards.” The point in the book is that this mom is trying to figure out, in the lowest moments, if she goes and then gives into this buying a toy is this like she’s placating a really hard emotional moment that was for her son with buying a toy? Is that healthy to do that? The overthinking mind is really what it’s about. It was just so funny because my mom goes, “I probably just would have bought the toy. I think that’s just what I did with you with whatever happened.” I just started laughing. She goes, “I guess I just never questioned how that would affect you.” It’s so perfect. It was so validating to hear somebody from that generation basically say, “I never really thought about how my actions affected you,” when meanwhile, those of us parenting in this generation are like crippled with anxiety about what we’re doing and how it affects our children. It was such a funny but telling moment of the difference between the different eras.

Claire:              And it’s a brilliant moment because it really highlights that our experiences as a cohort have so many similarities, and different generational cohorts have different experiences.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              That was one of the main motivations for writing Mama, You Are Enough is there are so many books about how to take care of your child, what’s developmentally appropriate, what type of parenting style do you want to have. Brandy, I wanted to write a book that was just for moms. Let’s put us back on the map as moms, and let’s start within. The book is really written for moms who have children in the home and are in that active phase of parenting. The book is three chapters all about self-care and motherhood and a little cognitive behavioral therapy to kind of give you a framework. Then, the rest of the book is all about managing your emotional health. This concept that I felt strongly to write about which is our emotional health and the emotions we’re all feeling as moms but we’re not always talking about.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              I really reacted negatively to the word “positive emotion” “negative emotion.” I think, again, it goes back to what I said when we started talking. That’s a judgmental way of looking at the world. When it comes to feelings, let’s not judge our feelings. Let’s just observe them. I call those challenging emotions in motherhood “shadow emotions” because they cast a shadow on all those things that we all plan for: joy, happiness, connection, gratitude, appreciation, —

Brandy:            Autonomy {laughter}

Claire:              Autonomy {laughter, agreeing}, a sense of effectiveness, —

Brandy:            {laughter} Sleep.

Claire:              Sleep! The shadow emotions are sadness, anger, fear and anxiety, embarrassment, disgust, shame. So, there are five broad categories. Within it, it’s like really an emotional index of all those varying emotions from smaller ones to more intense ones. For example, if you were feeling sad, I’d ask you to go a little deeper. Let’s look at what’s beneath that sadness. Are you feeling hopeless? Are you feeling ineffective? Are you feeling lonely? Are you feeling guilty? You go to that chapter in the book, and you’d read 10 pages on that emotion and guilt. You’re going to learn strategies and skills and ways to put it into action right after reading it. That’s going to be so empowering for listeners as well as a little meditation at the end.

Brandy:            Oh, I love that. It’s like a choose your own adventure but choose your own emotion.

Claire:              {laughter}

Brandy:            “Oh, my God. I’m raging right now. Wait a minute. I have to get Dr. Claire’s book out and let me just scroll to the rage. Here’s what I do with that emotion.”

Claire:              Yes!

Brandy:            That’s so genius.

Claire:              Thank you.

Brandy:            It’s so accessible in the moment. You’re like, “I’ll just go to the page that’s labeled ‘Rage,’ and then it will tell me what to do.” I love it.

Claire:              Exactly. Thank you. Again, I think that’s the beauty of being a mother and a psychologist and an author. This book has been in my heart for years. There’s this great saying, “Write the book that you wish you had.”

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              I believe that’s a quote from Tony Morrison. This is the book I wish I had. This is the book that I may never meet some women, I may never have the privilege of sitting with them in the therapy hour, but this is what I want them to know and what I want to remind them about themselves. I feel so protective of mothers that we are so critical of ourselves. We are so perfectionistic. It was interesting — I will share this with you that, as you know as an author yourself, the journey of writing is not easy. The journey of publishing a book is not easy.

Brandy:            {laughter} Yes.

Claire:              I received a lot of rejections for this book. That really hit me hard because you know in your heart when you know something is meant to be in the world, and you know this message is meant to be out there.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              Someone said, “Wait until your kids are older. Your kids are so young. You’re gonna miss this. Why do you have this ambition?”

Brandy:            Groan. Groan.

Claire:              Thank you! You know what I said? I was like, “Seriously? You want me to write a book about parenting and about motherhood through the lens of nostalgia? No, thank you.”

Brandy:            The second you read one of these books, you’d know it. You feel it because you think, “These words could only be said by somebody who sleeps through the night and has for the past decade. This person has autonomy. This person does not have people interrupting them to every two seconds.” To me, it’s a distinct difference because the reality of things. I think it’s hard. We all come at it from our own angles, but I feel like that nostalgia angle is so beautiful. As I move closer to that, I see that it softens so many things, but it erases the actual experience in that moment of so many things. I’m so with you on what you’re saying here because if we write from that place, I think personally, we do a huge disservice to the people who are in it. They want something from a person who’s in it and who might have a piece or a nugget of wisdom for them and not the comfortable, having slept, eats meals sitting down person.

Claire:              100%. It’s an authenticity. It’s an authenticity of what is going on in your life in that moment. I am so grateful that I had the experience of writing this book when I was in the thick of motherhood.

Brandy:            {laughter} Yes.

Claire:              And it wasn’t easy. Now granted, I didn’t have newborns. I didn’t have a toddler, but when I was writing, I would — like for example, I’d write the sadness chapter, and I felt like I was in character. I was like, “Oh, dear goodness. This is dark. This is hard,” because I had to sit with those emotions. I had to sit with guilt. I had to sit with hopelessness. I had to sit with being ineffective, immerse myself for hours, and then coach myself like I would coach a client because I really wanted that authentic experience. I have to tell you, Brandy, the chapter I had the hardest time writing was “Anger.”

Brandy:            Oh, interesting.

Claire:              I’ll tell you why. I think there are many reasons why. That could be a whole other separate conversation.

Brandy:            Yes, right.

Claire:              I think we as mothers — I’m going to own the “I” as a mother, but also the collective “we.” I think there’ll be a lot of listeners nodding their head. What does that mean to be angry as a mother and also love your kids? Can those two things happen at the same time? The answer is yes.

Brandy:            Yes. Yes. Yes.

Claire:              Absolutely, yes. I think it’s hard to embrace the anger because it feels so scary sometimes.

Brandy:            Yes, absolutely. I think that we think, “I’m a terrible mother. I shouldn’t be angry. This is joyful. I wanted this. If I’m not enjoying it, do I not love my kids?” It’s interesting, you may find this to be true, too, in your work is that when I’m talking to a newish Mom, let’s say a mom of one who’s got maybe like a three or four-year-old, that has a profound idea to them. You can be angry and love your kids at the same time. Then, when I talk to more seasoned moms who’ve been around for a little bit longer, it’s like, “Oh, yeah. I know that.” It’s like we get initiated to knowing that. Something happens, and then we learn it. When you’re in those older stages, you’re like, “Well, of course, those two things can exist.” You kind of just take it for granted that that’s a thing that you know, but then you see this mom with a toddler who’s losing her mind. I had this happen on my last workshop. Somebody said to me, “There was something that you said to me, and I have never forgotten. I’m like, “What the hell did I say to you?” Then, they tell me the thing, and I’m like, “Oh, that was just in conversation.” It was like some little piece that they’d never heard anybody talk about before. Somebody said to me, “I remember when I met you, and I had my toddler. It was so hard.” You said to me, “Oh, having a toddler feels like parenting with a gun to your head a lot of the time.” That was just like an off-the-cuff thing. I’d known I felt that way for years about toddlerhood, and this woman was like, “Nobody had ever said that to me or validated that to me, and I will never forget it.” That for me was the beginning of being able to see the hardship in motherhood. I find it fascinating that we forget that the newcomers don’t know this stuff yet. What doesn’t seem profound to us anymore is life changing for them like it was for us.

Claire:              It’s so true. I think what we need to do is talk more about it for the new moms and for the moms that are struggling. We need to destigmatize our shadow emotions. We’re all having them. Let’s talk about it. Let’s work with it because no emotion is problematic. Emotions and feelings are simply pieces of information about our inner world, our outer world, how those two things are interacting, and what we need to do. If we can just look at it with compassion and curiosity and know that it’s going to come down, it’s going to come down the pike, that feeling of anger, that feeling of overwhelm, that feeling of guilt, that feeling of rage, then we can work with it. If we can identify it, we can work with it, but if we push it down, and we hide it, and we’re afraid to bring it out, it gets louder and louder and louder until we’re forced to pay attention to that emotion.

Brandy:            Right, and then we explode which is the question that’s always like, “Why do we let ourselves get to the point where we completely erupt? Why do we have to hit rock bottom in order to deal with our feelings?” I know there’s people who are more prone to that than others, but it’s like, “Why aren’t we tending to it, or what ways can we be tending to it along the way so that the eruption does not have to be so enormous and we don’t have to be brought to our knees?”

Claire:              Exactly. We start there: emotional literacy. We start with our emotions. Of course, our physical health, our sleep, our nutrition, our hydration, reducing alcohol, and moving our body every day are important foundational skills and activities to have that matches your environment with your children and your work and your other responsibilities. When you have that managed, you also have to manage your emotions. We cannot help our children navigate their emotions if we don’t have the roadmap to understand and navigate our own.

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              Let’s look at teaching ourselves the emotional literacy, the emotional experience of motherhood, and bringing in this awareness of your emotional world. Then, the beautiful thing is when we label an emotion, we can do something with that because a lot of us as mothers, and I’ve experienced this myself, we don’t pay attention to what’s going on in our world. We’re just doing, we’re productive, we’re giving, and we’re just trying to tackle the enormous responsibilities on our to-do list. Feeling pretty ineffective often.

Brandy:            Yes. Right.

Claire:              Maybe feeling resentful because we’re not getting enough support. Maybe people aren’t listening. Maybe people aren’t helping or doing their part. We start to feel a bunch of different emotions. Over time, if we’re not taking care of our emotional health, then what happens is we become very reactive. We don’t even have time to think because we snap. I have moments, Brandy, where I yell. I get upset. I lose my cool, but I know how to identify when that happens and to get back on track. It’s not as frequent, but there are times. I’m human. I’ve gotten upset. But then, I know when I get reactive, I need to pause for a minute and go back to the practice of understanding my emotions because when you do, you’re responsive. You can be responsive to your environment. You have more choices.

Brandy:            Yes. Oh, my gosh. Yes, about the choices. I think what you were saying about becoming so reactive, I kind of feel like every mom goes through this which is what I find so interesting about motherhood. There’s so much, and it’s so complicated. There are so many pieces that go into it, but I think motherhood gives us the — whether we want it or not — environment in which we now have to deal with emotions if we hadn’t dealt with them before because the pressure cooker of motherhood puts it so that I think so many of us get to that reactive place for the myriad of reasons. Then, we find ourselves needing to figure out how to deal with that. I can’t think of any mom I know that hasn’t been to that place and that hasn’t had to figure that out. I don’t think that there’s anybody that I know of, and I’ve worked with moms for over a decade where it’s just like, “Oh, it was all handleable. It was all tolerable. I had the skills I needed at all times for motherhood.” There’s always a brought to the knees, rock bottom place in which moms have had to find new tools and rebuild. I think that that’s one of the things that makes it such an initiatory experience.

Claire:              Mm hmm. Really beautifully said. It’s true. I think motherhood is very emotional, and 18+ years in, there are many moments I’m brought to my knees. There are many moments where I am crying myself to sleep.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Claire:              Thankfully, it’s not to the point where it’s debilitating, but the worry. I mean, right now parenting through a pandemic —

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              The worry for my daughters, the worry for the clients I support, the worry for the teenagers and the young kids and parents pushed to extremes in terms of their role and their demands and feeling so ineffective, and worrying about finances and stability. I get very overwhelmed sometimes.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              I know that a lot of your listeners and yourself, I’m sure you can relate to that.

Brandy:            Oh, yes. Right now is so bonkers. I feel like the rules no longer apply. I mean, not really because obviously we have to keep our heads together. I guess what I want to say is the expectations don’t apply during this time. I feel like it’s a survival mode sort of thing where you have to reregulate your expectations — and really by that, I mean lower them — in order to make this doable because the pressures that have been put on us right now and our kids are out of this world. Everybody’s sick of the word “unprecedented,” but it’s true. They are unprecedented. I think the fact that we all keep going in this moment and still find a way to show each other love and compassion and gentleness and still get a couple things done every day is like a miracle.

Claire:              I agree. I really agree. I think it’s about really looking at your values right now. If your values right now are to spend quality time with your child and that’s part of the guilt right now that you’re not, then something has to be reworked. You make it a goal of 15 minutes to have quality time with your child and put it in your calendar. {beeping in the background} Oh, my gosh.

Brandy:            Oh, no. Is that your fire alarm?

Claire:              It’s a fire alarm!

Brandy:            Are you okay though? Do you need to go check on anything?

Claire:              I’m fine. No, my husband’s cooking.

Brandy:            {laughter}

Claire:              Wow, that’s brilliant, Brandy. Wow.

Brandy:            This is amazing. I’m going to keep this in, or I’m going to consider keeping this in. Whenever there’s a background, like I love that your fire alarm just went off because your husband was cooking. This is amazing.

Claire:              {laughter} That’s awesome. I did not time that. What’s funny is today, knowing that we were going to be talking around dinner time, I made dinner around noon. I made a nice homemade soup.

Brandy:            Oh, yes.

Claire:              Oh, my gosh. It’s soup season. I love it.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              What’s so funny is that all of the kids were fed. Clearly, my husband didn’t eat the homemade chicken soup. He must have made something else.

Brandy:            He just outed himself like in the biggest way ever. {laughter} This is amazing.

Claire:              {laughter} I love it. He’s had to pick up more of the cooking lately because there’s no way with this pandemic and two people working. It’s like, “Step up. Do more.”

Brandy:            Right. But again, this is the thing is the expectations are so lowered that it’s like, “Well, he’s cooking, and it doesn’t matter that the fire alarm is going off.” It’s a compromise, right? At least it’s happening. {laughter}

Claire:              {laughter} It’s a total compromise.  It’s true. To go back to the point about parenting during the pandemic, I think what I was saying is about looking at your values that, Brandy, this is not the time for parents to do a couple things. Number one: have unrealistic perfectionistic standards. Not the time.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Claire:              Number two: it’s not the time to compare yourself to what other people, other moms, other families are doing. You have to do what is available and comfortable for yourself. Do not compare because your child needs you, not a perfect version of you, not your next-door neighbor, mom friend you. They need you. Remember that your child does not judge you the way you judge yourself.

Brandy:            That’s so needed.

Claire:              Right? So needed. The next thing is when it comes to emotional self-care, we just want to observe our emotions, and then decide what to do about it. There are days where it’s okay to say, “I feel really sad. I feel really frustrated. What can I do to take care of myself? If my child came to me and said, ‘I feel those things,’ what would I suggest? If my best friend came to me? If my mom came to me? If my neighbor came to me? What would I say to them?” Because often we hold ourselves with these high expectations that when we flip it and think, “What advice or what suggestion would we give to another person?” We kind of have the answer. Let’s use that for yourself. I think that’s really important as well. Also, there’s a lot of concern about heading into a second wave like a lot of different parts of the country and across the globe. Here’s what I want to remind listeners is that you’ve gotten through half of the pandemic or maybe more. You’ve gotten through. It’s not about trying to be perfect. It’s not about trying to do it better. We’re in survival mode. Remember that you have strengths. Use those strengths. Use the lessons from the past eight or nine months to inform you what you can do different today because that’s really all you can do.

Brandy:            Right. It reminds me of, like I was saying, that sheet that I have of things I want to achieve for 2020. At some point in March, I had scrawled on there “survive pandemic.” That was like in the very beginning where we were just like, “We don’t know what this is.”

Claire:               {laughter}

Brandy:            As I was reading it the other day, I was like, “You know what? I’ve accomplished one of these things.” I mean, also, “Not so fast, Brandy. 2020 isn’t over yet.” It seems to be bringing something gnarlier every month, but I feel like I have a pretty good feeling that maybe we’ll make it through 2020. Even just knowing that the course had to change and that if survival mode is where we are and yet we’re surviving, that is a win even though we’ve lost so much. The expectations that we had before, we just can’t have, but to know that even just still being here and surviving what we’ve survived is a pretty big deal even though I know for a lot of people it’s like, “Yeah, but what about all the other things?” It’s like, “Just for a moment, let’s look at this really big thing.”

Claire:              It’s so true. I love your perspective because there are people who’ve lost loved ones to COVID, people who’ve lost their jobs, people who’ve lost health insurance, food insecurity, and there are so many societal issues around it. I work with psychiatry and triple board fellows that are in the hospitals, and it’s hard for them. They are working very long shifts. All the frontline health care workers and people that are keeping our communities running are working hard. Our part is to do our part and be focused on our strengths and give to your community to the best that you can and to be kind and thoughtful. One person’s experience is not always the same for each person. We all have different experiences, but we have choices on how we’re going to show up and interact with each other.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              I think that’s really important as well because, to your point, we are getting through this, and some of us aren’t. There is some privilege and gift in being able to get up every day during a pandemic to the best of your ability and take care of your family and get through that day. I mean, it’s really amazing, isn’t it?

Brandy:            Yeah. Again, it’s like a miracle that it can happen because I think before the pandemic, a lot of people felt overwhelmed and stressed. It was like the universe was like, “Oh, yeah. You thought that was hard? Well, we’re gonna just put this other thing on top.” I was just thinking about having made it through some of the elections stuff and all of the stress there. It’s pretty remarkable all the things that we’ve had to shoulder and just deal with because our reserves are depleted. They were depleted months ago. They’re gone. The fumes and whatever refilling we can do, we’re doing, but then we keep being hit with bigger, different things. The fact that we all keep getting up and showing up, it almost brings me to tears. It’s beautiful, as human beings, that we keep showing up to this thing that we don’t know what the next day is going to bring. We’re all sliding in on fumes. I just I think it’s pretty amazing, and I think it’s helpful for us to take a minute and really congratulate ourselves for making it another day, another month, another week, and all those things.

Claire:              I think that’s beautiful. It gives me chills as you’re saying that because I share that as well.

Brandy:            Aww.

Claire:              What we’re really describing is resiliency. Resiliency is remembering that you can get through hard things, highlighting the fact that you already have gotten through hard things, and you’re creating an environment that’s not perfect for you or your children and your family, but you’re doing the best you can. You are a role model to them. What I’ve been saying sometimes in session when parents are talking about or moms are talking about their kids bickering and having sibling rivalry, I’m like, “Wow, the pandemic must be in the background a little bit.” That’s a normal thing, right? Developmentally, siblings fight. They argue they work it out.

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              There’s this strange juxtaposition of having to be aware of what’s going on and also still show up with those same responsibilities and highlighting your strengths and highlighting that moms were shouldering it and we’re getting through it.

Brandy:            Exactly.

Claire:              We’re going to get through this next phase only if you don’t burn your fumes by unrealistic standards, perfectionism, comparison. The one thing I do want to say, and I feel very strongly about this, is that, as a psychologist, people prevent or delay coming in to therapy or talking to their healthcare provider or doctor about symptoms that they’re experiencing. It’s so important to be aware. If you don’t feel like yourself, if you are having problems sleeping, problems eating, gaining weight, losing weight, if you feel hopeless, if you are drinking too much alcohol or using substances that are problematic, if you don’t feel like living, please reach out to a health care provider.

Brandy:            Almost everything you said except so that last point, I was like that pretty much sounds like everybody right now. How do you tell the difference — and this is my eternal question about postpartum depression too, which is like a whole other topic — but in this case and these symptoms, how does a person know what is just the pandemic making them feel these ways and what is actually they need help with something and need to seek help?

Claire:              That’s a great question. That was the second part that I am so glad you asked that I really want to address. It’s the frequency, intensity, and duration of your symptoms. What does that mean? When symptoms are disruptive that you’re not able to function, you’re not able to take care of your children, you’re not able to show up and go to work, you’re unable to focus, you are not sleeping, and that has gone on for up to two weeks, you need to you need to be evaluated.

Brandy:            But aren’t people in it for months? I feel like my friends that I talked to who are functional people are like, “I haven’t been motivated for months. It’s like so hard to get out of bed in the morning.”

Claire:              Well, here’s the thing.

Brandy:            Not saying they don’t need help. {laughter}

Claire:              {laughter} Yeah. But to your credit, though, how many of us really want to get out of bed? But somehow, we do.

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              That’s the difference. There are low grade, depressive episodes, and there are more on a continuum, like mood disorders. The vast majority of people will wait about a year and a half or a couple years and live with these symptoms. What I’m seeing as a health care provider, as a psychologist, is that the pandemic has created such chaos with their coping skills that those symptoms are now coming up like a geyser, and you can’t ignore them.

Brandy:            Yes.

Claire:              What I would say is, “Yes, of course, everyone has anxiety and emotional and psychological distress and stress from the pandemic, from the election, from the state of affairs in our society. A lot of people are impacted by that, but when you start not feeling like yourself, when you start numbing yourself with substances or doing risky things or starting to harm yourself — and it could be harm from not wanting to live to harm doing things that are reckless — that’s the time to get support and intervention,” because the idea that a person should suffer for a long period of time and then get help, I would like to see someone come in before they get to the point where they’re in crisis.

Brandy:            That goes back to our thought about, “How do we tend to ourselves so that we don’t have to hit rock bottom in order to receive support or to deal with what’s going on with us?” I think that this is in the same sort of vein with symptoms and needing some help in this way. You don’t have to run yourself almost into the ground before you do it.

Claire:              Exactly. If you’ve been in therapy before or you’ve put off your physical for a while and you just don’t feel like yourself — maybe you’re so tired, you’re drinking enormous amounts of caffeine, but then you can’t get to sleep, talk to your doctor, talk to a health care provider, maybe get back into therapy and say, “Listen, I don’t want to come weekly. I just want to come once a month just as a touch base or a check-in point.”

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              There are many flexible ways. It doesn’t have to be either/or. I think that’s important as we head into this second wave of the pandemic is, “Do not be afraid to self-advocate for yourself, and pay attention to those nuances that only you can know or someone who lives with you can know.”

Brandy:            Yes. This actually is a perfect segue before we end that I wanted to ask you about. This was like my biggest question for you. I heard you say earlier as you mentioned self-care, and I feel like my listeners are like, “Oh, no. She said self-care. What is Brandy gonna do?” Because they know that I have a love but mostly hate relationship with self-care or the term because I feel like it’s used as an excuse to not help mothers. If people just say, “Oh, don’t forget to self-care,” then they can walk away and not have to help moms. I feel like the trendiness of self-care actually hurts moms because it puts the work on us instead of changing systems that keep us overwhelmed and needing self-care. Then, we buy into it instead of taking inventory of how our home life might be majorly imbalanced. We just keep caretaking everyone else and then ourselves on top of it instead of expecting everyone in the house to caretake everyone else in it altogether. I feel like it’s this slimy, tricky thing that’s sold to moms, and so I’m curious, from your point of view, what do you think self-care is and isn’t?

Claire:              Oh, I think that’s a great question. I share your beliefs and values on that. As a psychologist, my focus is on the individual within the system. A sociologist is someone who’s going to be focused on the system. I am about empowering and advocating individuals and also understanding that our systems need to change.

Brandy:            Got it.

Claire:              That’s really important because I feel so strongly that this isn’t about telling a mom or a dad, “It’s all about you. It’s all on you.” No. No one lives inside your head but you. Only you know your thoughts. Only you know your emotions. People can maybe understand that based on your behavior or what you’re saying or interacting. For me, it starts within, in your heart, in your mind, in your body, in your feelings. No one can do that for you. What I think, Brandy, is that self-care is really about the everyday actions that put your needs and restores your energy to the best of your ability with what you have in your family structure with resources. I do not think that self-care is about self-pampering, self-indulgence, or distracting. Self-care for me is about actively looking at your thoughts, your shadow emotions, and what you’re going to do to take care of them. It’s also the skills, and there’s a lot in Mama, You Are Enough where I talk about self-advocacy for yourself where you’re where you’re going to have a conversation with the people around you. You’re going to say what you need, and you’re going to use your voice because I think what happens is women are built relationship wise. We are so invested in our relationship. It’s just part of who we are. We also have individual needs. We also have ambitions. We also have desires and goals. What’s interesting is if we don’t advocate for that, then people around us continue to expect us to keep moving sun, Earth, moon, stars, and somehow get everything done.

Brandy:            Yes. Yes!

Claire:              I will share with you, Brandy, what I start doing. I know you know this. It’s called the invisible workload of motherhood, the mental load. I do this all the time. What goes on in my life on top of my private practice, teaching, writing, and taking care of my four daughters — we don’t have any family nearby. We’ve created a beautiful community of a family, so I’m so grateful to that. Anytime I talk to a teacher about so and so’s missed assignment or something needs to happen at a doctor’s office or making an appointment, I will actually email my husband. I will just include him on the email because in a given day, he’s like, “Wow, you were doing a lot for the girls.” I’m like, “Exactly.” That was the invisible workload of motherhood.

Brandy:            So, you’re making it visible.

Claire:              Yes, making it visible. I do that not to be cheeky and obnoxious, but I’m telling you, by the time our night is done with the active parts of feeding the kids and doing whatever needs to be done with their activities and homework or whatever work we both need to do, I have no bandwidth to go through the list of what I’ve done. I just send it to him during the day.

Brandy:            Oh, my gosh. I love this so much because it’s true. {laughter}

Claire:              {laughter} Right?

Brandy:            At the end of the day, you’re like, “I don’t even have the energy to tell the person all the invisible things I did, but then they’ll never see it.” Then, if you CC them on everything, but then that means you have to make everything you’ve done an email, right? Is that what you do? If you have to make a doctor phone call, do you write an email that’s like, “Oh, here’s what the doctor said about XYZ?” How do you include that?

Claire:              Yeah. I’ll do that, or I’ll do a text. “Just talked to the pediatrician. Girls need their shot, need their forms, this vaccination, or whatever. I’ll send it. Like, “Oh, just got off the phone with whomever,” or if I’m sending something to a teacher because someone forgot an assignment or they need a college app done or whatever those details are, I’ll just text it to him.

Brandy:            Has he ever written back “unsubscribe?” {laughter}

Claire:              {laughter}

Brandy:            Have you gotten that yet?

Claire:              Not yet. No. The other part is that I am very vocal about framing what I do, not as a martyr, but because I want to. I’ve become very strong at saying, “Listen, I’m feeling resentful right now.”

Brandy:            Mm hmm.

Claire:              I rarely raise my voice in my home because I’m tuning into what’s going on and owning my feelings. Between my husband and I, as partners, I let them know like, “Hey, that was really frustrating,” or, “Thank you so much. I appreciate that.” During the pandemic, well we’re still in it but at the beginning, it was like, “Okay, let’s clean up. Let’s do the home project.” In my nervous, stressed out energy, I would clean a closet or reorganize the bathroom closet, and there was this one day over the summer where I said to the girls and my husband, “Everyone come huddle up. This is where things go. I have labels. This is where everything goes.” About three weeks later, there was this open spot in the bathroom, and my husband put the toilet paper roll where it didn’t belong. I was like, “You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s right there.”

Brandy:            {laughter}

Claire:              Again, this is gonna sound so passive aggressive, but it really wasn’t. I was like, “He didn’t hear me. This is my first thought, “He really didn’t hear me. He must have been like lights are on, but he didn’t hear me.” What I did is I took the toilet paper roll, and I put it in his closet on the top. {laughter}

Brandy:            {laughter} I love this. This is the level of petty I’m here for.

Claire:              It sounds so petty.

Brandy:            But it’s not. It’s a bigger thing. I totally hear you.

Claire:              He looked at me, and he’s like, “Why is there toilet paper in my closet?” I go, “Oh,” and really there was no anger. There was no sarcasm. “Oh, I figured you didn’t hear me when I reorganized that bathroom for two hours, so I knew if I put it in your closet, you’d remember where it really goes,” and he laughed. He’s like, “Okay, I won’t make that mistake again.” Because really, I think what we want, as mothers and as partners, is we want to be heard.

Brandy:            Yes. And valued.

Claire:              And valued.

Brandy:            When you talk about how you just spent all that time organizing and then somebody just puts the toilet paper wherever, even though I was laughing because it’s like petty, it’s really not because it’s like that message says, “Your work was pointless. I’m not going to respect your work.” That’s why I think it can be so hard because we get mad at those little things that are little, but they send a bigger message. One after another, it just adds up. Sorry, I cut you off, but I recently had an experience like that. I was like, “Oh, yes. I so hear you on that.”

Claire:              Right. I appreciate your experience, too, because I think it’s really universal. I think the other part, too, for me, it’s like, “Wait a minute. I’m investing.” I don’t want to use the word “spend” because that sounds a little more edgy, but I’m investing time to streamline and organize our family. When you don’t cooperate, I feel frustrated.

Brandy:            Yeah.

Claire:              When you don’t cooperate, what message does that send? Now, it could be one of my one of my kids too. What message does that send? “Mom? Oh, she can handle it. Oh, she’s used to that.”

Brandy:            Yes. Right.

Claire:              It ends up invalidating our value.

Brandy:            Yes! Yes! Yes!

Claire:              Again, like I said, I wouldn’t do that if I was in a passive aggressive state. I was in a playful state, and I put the toilet paper in the closet. I know that if I was in a passive aggressive, really angry state, that would have turned into an argument because it wouldn’t have been nice.

Brandy:            Yeah, and as you’re saying, too, about trying to regulate our emotions, if we can be there — which I don’t say this like I have this mastered or even dealing with it well at all {laughter} — but that’s one of the benefits of being regulated. Like you’re saying about some of the self-care stuff to get you there is that maybe some of these things can become more playful. By the way, your explanation of self-care and what it is and isn’t — you make me fall in love with the idea of self-care which is wild because I have such a such a hard relationship with it. Exactly what you said, I think all of those things are so important. It was really helpful for me to hear you talk about the difference, especially in your line of work, between what’s going on inside a person and then a social worker is somebody who deals with more of the systemic. That’s good to know that when some of those messages are coming from people who are working with clients, there’s a reason why because that’s really the only thing that they can affect is the person themselves. I love that you added the self-advocacy piece because I think the version that’s being sold right now — I think it’s changing a little bit, but the version of self-care that’s being sold right now is the one where it’s pampering which, again, I think is just a total way for others to avoid having to even deal with taking care of moms. To have this part of it that’s advocacy for oneself I think is really a big deal. A friend of mine and I, Cathy, who’s been on the podcast before who a lot of people know and love, we were talking the other day about the difference between self-care and self-love. We were talking about how in self-love that’s like, “What do I need to say in this moment? How do I need to ask for help?” I love that you put that part of it in the self-care bucket.

Claire:              Thank you.

Brandy:             Thank you for reframing my thought pattern about self-care and giving me something that actually feels authentic and good. That’s a big deal.

Claire:              Thank you. That’s such a joy. I’m so honored to be part of that shift for you because I think it is so important. That’s really cool. To your point about self-pampering, that’s not going to help you when your toddler’s having a tantrum. It’s not gonna help you but regulating your emotions will.

Brandy:            Exactly because a lot of the self-care stuff for people with little kids is that you can’t get self-care because you have to ask for help in order to get the space to self-care, but then is that technically self-care? It doesn’t exist the same for people with small kids.

Claire:              It’s so true. I think one of the biggest gifts that moms with young kids, like toddlers, babies, and kids that really only have an attention span autonomously for like 15-20 minutes before they want to be anywhere mom, is for their partners to step up and give them time. Also, for the mom to be okay that her partner standards don’t have to be just like hers, but if they’re competent and able to do so, go take some time because that’s skill building for your child, that’s skill building for your partner, and that is actually giving a gift to your family. Sometimes, you have to literally get away from the home, and that’s really hard during a pandemic. I work with a lot of moms, and I say, “Go up to the room. Go for a walk. Your child will be okay. Get some time. Do whatever you need to do to ground yourself.”

Brandy:            Right.

Claire:              Sometimes I’ll be really honest, and I will ask clients to bring their partners in, their spouses. It’s not a session to get anyone in trouble.

Brandy:            Of course, right.

Claire:              But sometimes, I see my role as a teacher and an advocate. I can work with the individual if I have the system in front of me. I love getting partners and spouses in because then I do really good work. A lot of times they need direction. People didn’t know because I think mothers put on such a stoic face.

Brandy:            That’s such a good point. Gosh, having the system in front of you. It’s like having both working parts of this technically nonprofit that these people are running together called parenthood. {laughter}

Claire:              {laughter} Brilliant. I love it. It’s so true.

Brandy:            Claire, I so appreciate your point of view on this. I’m so happy that we connected. I appreciate your time. You’re just like so lovely. I’m like, “Man, I need to become Claire’s client.” You are such a beautiful blend of the realness and being able to say and look at the hard things but also having like such a sweetheart, compassionate way of being. I so appreciate you. I’m curious, where can people find you and your book?

Claire:              First of all, you just like brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for that beautiful summary because it’s been a joy to talk with you. You can find Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy, and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood anywhere books are sold. Right now, I’m encouraging local indie bookstores, as well as the larger retail stores: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. For moms, my writing is at http://www.momswellbeing.com, and my social media handles are also @momswellbeing. I have a lot of great resources and information and blogs and podcasts and quizzes that are free for listeners to learn about, “Are you a burned out Mom,” “How is your emotional health,” and I’m going to give you skills and strategies and you have the option to sign up for my newsletter. I also have free resources on the website. If you go down to the book page, there are free downloadable resources such as a mother mood wheel of emotions that you can track your emotions and figure out what your main emotion is for the week, a wheel of self-care that goes through all the self-care dimensions we talked about earlier, and a chart on how to manage your anger.

Brandy:            Ah, wonderful. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate the work that you’re doing to support all the moms out there who don’t feel like they’re enough. I feel like in these times is a lot of us. Hopefully, from people like you, we are learning how to be softer and more gentle to ourselves, especially during a freaking pandemic.

Claire:              Well said. 100%. This is not the time to give ourselves a grade or evaluations.

Brandy:            Yes. What was that in college where you could do it for like no credit? You just got “NC” on your report card where it’s just like, “It doesn’t matter. You showed up. You’re good. You graduate.”

Claire:              Exactly. I can promise you this: the fact that mothers are worrying about how they’re doing says to me, “You’re doing really well.” Self-reflection is what we’re describing. I just want listeners and moms out there to just get through your day, love your family, highlight your strengths, and just know you’re going to get through this. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and take care of yourself.

Brandy:            I don’t know if it stood out for you, but as I relistened to this episode while editing it, the word “ineffective” kept pinging me when Dr. Claire would say it. I know so many of us feel ineffective because of the impossible choices we’ve had to make this year. I don’t really think we acknowledge just how wearing it can be to feel ineffective in parenting for a sustained amount of time. So, hopefully 2021 actually offers us some better choices. Also, I really want you all to know how revolutionary and needed Dr. Claire’s book is. For undisclosed reasons, I opened her book up this morning to the anger part, and I just want to read you a passage that was like, “Whoa.”

At the Heart of Anger:
Anger is a shadow emotion that can be threatening, scary, and uncontrollable. Of course, anger can be an emotion felt on its own, but usually before we feel anger, we’ve felt other feelings. Often beneath the surface of anger are many emotional reactions: exhaustion, fear, sadness, anxiety, worry, jealousy, loss, depression, embarrassment, disgust, rejection, and so many more feelings. Sometimes it’s easier to express anger than it is to share what’s really going on. Many of us mothers experience incredible exhaustion in motherhood making it feel overwhelming at times to practice self-care or identify what we’re stressed about because all we can think about is moving through our list of obligations in order to get to the end of our day so we can rest. So, we put off what we’re really feeling, pushing it down, ignoring it. Anger can seem easier than dealing with what’s going on beneath the surface when we are exhausted.

That part really spoke to me, and I think she’s right on about this because sometimes anger is the broad emotional brushstroke that we choose for things, and there’s so many other details going on below it, but we’re too tired to find out what those details are. Anger can feel like the first emotion that we choose. Even though there’s not a wrong or right emotion, the specificity of it can actually help us move towards changing something or some sort of action step or even just an acknowledgement and some sort of healing. This book is awesome. {laughter} I was going through it this morning, and I was looking to see what I wanted to include here at the end. Every time I would get sucked into something new and wonderful, and I just thought, “The way that she’s talking about motherhood is just so needed and so real.” I can’t recommend it enough. Lastly, I hope the close of 2020 is a smooth exit and that 2021 goes easy on us — like maybe this year could take some Pepto or something. I don’t know. As always, thanks for listening.

** As always, thank you to Scott Weigel and his band, Seahorse Moon, for providing me with that jaunty intro and outro music. You guy are awesome. Check ’em out on iTunes.