Millennial moms and dads have a lot of their plates. As the first generation to become parents in this advanced digital age, we’re especially hard-hit by the mom-guilt, constant comparisons, and access to an overwhelming (and unvetted) amount of information. Many of us were raised with punishments, sticker charts, and external rewards systems – so it’s no wonder we now find ourselves looking outward for validation.
In this episode, Marcella Kelson and I discuss ways millennial parents can turn inward, ways to build our confidence as parents, how to break cycles of generational trauma, and strategies for communicating our values to others (especially the baby boomers) in our lives.
What is good motherhood is so relative to the parent child dynamic. And yet we try to take these like overarching lessons from the internet or intuitive muscle has atrophied as a result of how much we’re taking from social comparison.
Dr. Sarah (00:24):
Millennials are often referred to as the in-between generation, straddling a period of massive technological advancements. Most remember a time from their own childhood, where they would go outside for hours to play, call their friends on a landline and thought pagers were all the rage. A childhood without the internet, without social media. When I first signed up for Facebook, you still needed to have a college email address. And also without the over-scheduling that has become the norm today, add one more first to this list. We’re also the first generation to become parents in this new digital age. And with that comes its own host of unanticipated consequences, some incredible advantages and many unique challenges in today’s episode. I’m so happy to be joined by Marcella Kelson. Marcella is a maternal wellness and parenting expert. She holds two master’s degrees in mental health and developmental psychology from New York University and University College of London.
Dr. Sarah (01:26):
And she focuses on empowering and supporting millennial mothers to navigate and enjoy parenthood, whether it’s clashing with our parents and other baby boomers over the way we plan to raise our children, doom scrolling through Instagram during our 3:00 AM feedings, or asking “am I doing this right?” The overarching theme seems to be a need for outward reassurance and a lack of tuning inward to let our instincts guide us to know what feels right. In this episode, Marcella and I will talk through actionable steps you can take to consciously tune out the constant barrage of noise that millennials are surrounded by and instead build intrinsic confidence in our parenting. So if you’re currently wearing your favorite pair of skinny jeans, still parting your hair on the side and Googling the definition of cheugey. I’m not kidding. I literally had to look up how to pronounce that word as I was recording this. So yeah, I’m definitely there. Sit back and enjoy this episode. I created it, especially for you.
Dr. Sarah (02:37):
I have a question for you. Have you read all the baby books and followed every parenting, social media account out there only to feel more confused now than when you started? Do you have a new baby and are finding that while, yes you love parenthood that it’s also exhausting and hard and not exactly what you had imagined it would be? Or do you simply wish there was a trusted resource you could turn to for learning everything you need for your baby’s first year of life, without having to spend hours searching for the advice that you need. I hear you, and I’ve heard so many other parents just like you express these same struggles, myself included.
Dr. Sarah (03:16):
And that is exactly why I created The Authentic Parent – a course about finding your confidence in your child’s first year. This is a virtual six week guided course. In it I break down the psychological principles of brain development, behavior, relationships, personality development, mental health, and resilience, to name a few things through a series of weekly videos that you can watch on your own time, workbooks that guide you through integrating these concepts into your own life, live weekly coaching sessions with me in an intimate group setting (the groups are capped at 12 families) as well as access to an exclusive non-Facebook community platform where you can chat independently with other members from your course and where you’ll learn everything you need to know for your first year of parenthood.
Dr. Sarah (04:05):
By the end of the course, you’ll understand the foundational framework of the psychological and neuro-biological development of your child so that you can calmly and confidently respond to any problem that arises, you can connect authentically with your child and truly enjoy parenting. And with our weekly coaching calls, you’ll receive personalized guidance on all of your parenting challenges from the week, as well as learn what other parents in your group are dealing with – getting you started to form your own tribe to share joy, support and lift you up when you need it most. Every kiddo is so different. And so I really understand the importance of everyone getting personalized attention. So I’m limiting each group to 12 families and with three possible time slots, that means this offer is only open to 36 families. So space is limited. Sign up now, so you don’t miss the chance to reserve your spot. You can go to my website, drsarahbren.com/TAP that’s drsarahbren.com/TAP. And add your email to the waitlist so you can tune out the noise and learn how to confidently tune into your child, allowing you both to relax, connect, and enjoy the journey.
Dr. Sarah (05:20):
Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. I’ve built a career dedicated to helping families find deep connections, build healthy relationships, repair attachment wounds, and raise kids who are healthy, secure, resilient, and kind in this podcast. I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights to help you understand the building blocks of children’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. So you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting, voice confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.
Dr. Sarah (06:09):
Hi, I’m so excited to have you, Marcella Kelson on our podcast. Can you tell us a little bit about who you are and how you got into this work.
Yeah. Thank you, thank you for having me first and foremost. You know, it’s so funny because this work has kind of been in my heart since I was, before I even got to college. I did an internship at a – actually early in freshman year of college, I did an internship at a child abuse center recovery center. And at that point, you know, I had been learning about the ways that that trauma, you know, is repeated within family dynamics. And I was always really interested in psychology, was really interested in family dynamics, but never really understood how important mental health was in terms of breaking trauma and breaking cycles. And so I don’t know what 19 years old, I started to really care about this idea of maternal mental health as a way of solving for future mental health and trauma issues.
So, so what I do now, you know, that’s, that’s how it all started, but, you know, fast forward to 2021 I’m a maternal wellness expert. I have a background in social work and a background in developmental psychology and I specialized in early childhood. And I work primarily with mothers on this identity shift that occurs around the parenting experience around the motherhood experience and all of the challenges that come with it – the identity loss, the, the cultural abandonment you know, the internal conflict, the, and obviously like the parenting issues that come, that arise you know, within that role. So…
Dr. Sarah (08:14):
Yeah. And it’s so interesting cause I think, I mean, I’m a big, big, huge fan of like maternal mental health and it’s a big part of the work that I do too. And I think a lot of what you’re describing is, it’s, these are age old issues, right? Like from, you know, from the beginning of time, women have had to bear this extraordinary gift and burden of being this intense provider for, of such a dependent being. But I also think, and like that brings up lots and lots of things, you know, perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and things like that. But then there’s this other piece that’s kind of more rooted in like now and our society and our culture and our generation, and also all the things that happen to exist or no longer exist in our world now that I think creates a unique challenge for parents in general and mothers, especially. What do you think about that?
Yeah, I think millennial parenting is usually the way that I, you know, I look at it, although of course there’s also gen X, but, you know, just speak generally. We’re dealing with like a very unique moment, where I think, you know, aside from COVID, which in and of itself is like a very, you know, unique experience in parenting. I think we’re dealing with, you know, the, the consequences of, of freedom in some senses, like women being empowered to work in ways that they’ve never been, you know, quote unquote empowered to work before. I also think we’re dealing with new pressure stemming from things like, social media. Like I think the most recent statistics suggest that 93% of moms utilize social media. Umut we’re not really educated in that tool.
Dr. Sarah (10:07):
Right. And so we’re not really sure how this impacts, you know, we’re getting some data that’s coming out of all this, but we don’t know the long-term impacts of the way that social media changes our experiences of parenting or experiences of identity. And so I think it’s a really difficult and like challenging moment to navigate as a parent and as a mother in particular.
Dr. Sarah (10:32):
Totally. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, it’s funny because I, my like personal journey with social media started out as a mom. Like I was, I was really not interested in social media that much before I had kids. And then I would like, I had nothing to do at like 3:00 AM while breastfeeding my kid. And so I would just start scrolling through Instagram and I was like, oh my God, there’s some really scary scarily bad stuff on here coming from what I know about child development and what I know about parenting and maternal mental health and being like, oh my God, wait a minute. This is…
Maternal clickbait is what I call it.
Dr. Sarah (11:09):
It’s like these really out of context and, you know, scary misguided little, like click baity images that I think actually shape our understanding of, of development of, you know, childhood development. I think it’s really scary.
Dr. Sarah (11:30):
Yeah. And it’s really literally why I started doing Instagram posts, which I would have if you asked me a couple of years ago, if I would ever go on Instagram and be posting things about what I do professionally, I’d been like, no, not that just so far off my radar. And then I was just like, actually, when COVID started and I was on it a lot more, and I was like, I can’t for one more minute, stand to not have a voice, like a counter voice out there. So I started doing it and, you know, it’s been an interesting experience for sure, but I think, you know, one of the things that I think about, cause I’m a millennial parent technically. And are you, so are you right?
Dr. Sarah (12:09):
Are we millennials? I don’t even know.
I think millennials, I think the cutoff is like ‘93 or ‘95. Yeah.
Dr. Sarah (12:16):
We’re older millennials, but yeah.
Dr. Sarah (12:17):
But I think like, I don’t know our parents, for example, there’s a big difference between our parents’ generation and the way they were certainly in some ways not supported as well as we are. And not, did not have access to the kind of information that we have now, but are also, were sort of spared at the same time, a lot of the sort of deluge of information. That’s not vetted that we are kind of having to constantly be sifting through at all moments of our lives, which can be just like deafening and like this heavy load that we’re always, yeah. I
Think one thing that comes up a lot in my, in my clients and my groups is this question of like, how do I know what’s right or wrong with my own child? And you know, you and I have talked endlessly about the question of like goodness of fit, right. And how this overarching idea of like, what is good motherhood is so relative to the, you know, the parent child dynamic and the family dynamic. And yet we try to take these like overarching, you know, lessons from the internet and we’re like, wait, why doesn’t this fit with my family? Or like, why, why doesn’t this, you know, why isn’t this coming naturally to me? And I think that we’re like kind of our muscle has atrophied our intuitive muscle has atrophied as a result of how much we’re taking from, you know, social comparison and from these anecdotal evidence and not actually like looking into our own experiences of what is right and wrong for our family, but differing out to these like random, you know, celebrities or influencers, which have like in and of themselves, I’m sure a lot of great data, but we can’t just like copy and paste somebody else’s experience into our family dynamic.
Dr. Sarah (14:17):
Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think that I, probably one of the most common questions that I get asked is similar to you when it comes to parenting is like, am I doing this right? And it doesn’t matter what it is. If it’s like how they’re responding to a child’s emotional response, how they’re supporting their peer development, whatever it is, it’s always like, am I doing this right? And when I hear that, my immediate thought is chances are this question is coming from a place of not trusting oneself as a parent. Like, you don’t know how to sort of sit in your own internal cues and that’s not a parent’s fault at all. We have been trained out of that from probably our own childhoods. Like it’s not even, like this goes back and you talk about breaking the cycle and you talk about intergenerational transmission of trauma, which is a topic I’m very interested in and inspired by, I guess, in the work that I do.
Dr. Sarah (15:12):
But like we take in what we learned as kids, the way our parents responded to us and we can’t help, but sort of repeat those patterns with our own children. And if we were constantly sort of praised and brought out of our internal drives and our intrinsic motivations and constantly given like sticker charts and rewards and punishments to get us to, to know what to do and how to do it, then we’re not really learning from the get-go. How does this feel to me? What am I, what is my body telling me? What is my internal cue telling me what are my emotions informing me about? We’re always looking kind of outside of our body for information. And I do think social media is a gigantic sticker chart, like at just a gigantic manifestation of rewards and punishments on this sort of like experiential level. It’s like, if someone likes what we’re doing, it’s good. If someone doesn’t like what we’re doing, it’s bad, in like the literal, you know, vanity metrics?
Oh, yeah. Oh, also like to your point about the over-reliance it’s like, it’s kind of like GPS, right? It’s like, I have a terrible sense of direction. And so I really relied very heavily on GPS to get me somewhere, but I recognize that in overly relying on GPS, if something were to happen where I, for whatever reason, couldn’t get it to work, I wouldn’t get to where I need to go. Right. And I think that that’s kind of that feeling is like, you start to panic when your parental GPS is not working. And you’re like, wait, I need all of these markers for my, why didn’t I get it, you know, wait, this person doesn’t use that wording with their child when their child doesn’t listen. That must mean that I am wrong. That must mean that I went the wrong direction. And I think that we need to have a better understanding of these concepts of goodness, of fit of, you know of our own parental, like parent-child dynamics in order to make sure that what we’re, how we’re intervening with our child or how we’re responding to our child is appropriate to our relative experiences. Right?
Dr. Sarah (17:22):
Yeah. I couldn’t, that is a hundred percent my same take on it. So how do we do that? Like how do we help parents go inward instead of like, yes, we’re all gonna rely on our GPS, right? We’re all gonna be watching social media, we’re all gonna be listening to what our friends do. We’re all gonna be checking in with our moms groups. There’s a level of like healthiness to that for sure.
Yeah and community. And you know, we don’t get a lot of… Yes, I agree that there was a healthy, there’s a healthy component to it.
Dr. Sarah (17:51):
Right. But then on the flip side, how do we recognize that as that’s a piece of this, but not the whole puzzle and how do we start to build up that intrinsic muscle that like intuitive muscle, that connection with our kids, that’s going to inform our parenting.
It’s you know, I think it’s, I think confidence, speaking of muscles, atrophying is an example of like, you know, okay. I’ll, I’ll tell you that when I work with a client one-on-one and they asked me a question, I’m like how this happened with my child yesterday, with my toddler yesterday. Like, what do you think, do you think that I should, in the, like in the future, should I say X, Y, or Z? And I really try to reorient the question to like, well, what, what would you love the outcome to be in this dynamic? Like what, what would you like this feeling, you know, the resulting feeling to be. And it’s usually something along the lines of, I want to feel connected or I want them to understand, or I want them to feel heard, but I also want them to, you know, hear my point.
And I think often when you reorient somebody, they have the answers, but they’re just afraid to acknowledge that they have the answers. And so I think that often when somebody is really engaging in that fear, I actually usually suggest that people stay off of social media or that they do unfollow whoever’s triggering them, or who’s giving what just like, almost like a cleanse to, to help you hear your own intuitive voice. But here’s the thing that I most recommend is an identity outside of parenting. And, and I know that’s, that’s kind of a surprising turn, but I think when we can like, wait, if you’re in a system where your parents, your experience of your own self as a parent is filled with like riddled with self doubt, but there is a place in the world where you are confident. I think it helps so much to engage in that place in the world, whether it’s work, whether it’s a hobby, whether it’s a community experience, whether it’s giving back, like if there’s something that gives you confidence, I always want somebody to spend more time in that head space, because I think it just translates more readily to the parenting experience rather than trying so hard to just create that confidence within parenting out of nowhere.
Dr. Sarah (20:19):
Yes. And I would even take that a step further and say, go to that place where you feel incredibly confident and try to internalize or integrate these self states, right? Like find that way to say to yourself, I’m competent when I’m in my work, my worker, self state. And then I’m aware that when I’m in my parenting self state, I’m kind of timid or frazzled, or I’m second guessing myself, or I’m just feeling really like easily frustrated or scared to kind of try to say, like, I’m me, I’m me in all of these places. And so if I can feel confident when I’m at work, that means that I have the capacity to feel confident as a parent too, because I am me, I meet in all these places and that’s like, I mean, in therapy, a huge part of my work with, my patients is that self integration, that kind of being less fragmented and fractured and having this more solid whole sense of self, that doesn’t move as much depending on which self state we’re in. It’s not as volatile. It’s more grounded.
Yes, absolutely. I also think, you know, because I have a, I know you also do some element of coaching, but because my practice is strictly coaching, we have a lot of these like very tangible ways of gauging how your inner, like inner dialogue looks and feels. So I often have people track their inner dialogue. What are they saying to themselves? How are they, you know, throughout the day, what are the different, you know, if your child doesn’t sleep, what are you telling yourself about yourself as a parent, right? Your ability to parent versus like, if you, you know, what happens if there’s a conflict at work or a new place where you feel confident, like how do you problem solve differently? And I think that keeping track of the health, right, of these thoughts is really enlightening for the person because they suddenly recognize, oh my gosh, like I, I just spend all day berating myself as a parent. You know, I spent all day looking at Instagram, honestly, Instagram and saying like, this influencer does 50 types of play. And this person, you know, travels everywhere with their child and doesn’t seem tired and you know, like all of these kind of unrealistic expectations that we then go and we make assumptions about our own parenting quality as a result of like, you know, very small amounts of information.
Dr. Sarah (22:50):
Yeah. I agree. I think any way we can turn down that noise.
Dr. Sarah (22:54):
I love the idea of doing sort of like an Instagram cleanse. Like that should be an action item at the end of this podcast. Like everyone should go and delete at least five accounts that does not make you feel powerful as a parent.
Or pause them, if you’re, if you’re afraid, if you’re afraid to let go, because you do sometimes get something positive out of it or help a lot of it, then you just, you come back later, you come back when you’re ready. But I think sometimes these things weigh more heavily than we realize. And only in letting go, do we realize how heavily they weighed the other action item I would say is definitely that internal, like keeping a track of, you know, writing down your thoughts about your parenting identity throughout a day, and just asking yourself, like, is this really aligned with how I want to feel?
Dr. Sarah (23:41):
Yeah. And even listening to like how, like the tone in which we speak to ourselves, like, I hear you when you’re saying like, and I do it too. I was just, before we started recording, I was telling about how my daughter is having this massive sleep regression and we are not sleeping and, you know, she’s crying and I can’t stop her from crying. And I am very mindful of how I speak to myself. You know, it’s not always the kindest. And so not just what we say, but how we say it and how our internal dialogue has to be just softer and kinder, similarly to how we always want to talk more softly and kindly, and with the benefit of the doubt to our children. We should talk to ourselves that same way if you’re practicing respectful parents.
Yeah. Yeah. Like this morning, I, my husband, my son has a, like a really big head. And it’s, he’s so cute, but he’s got a giant head and he always has. And and I struggle a lot, like taking shirts off of his head without like pulling or like, he’s actually really good about it, but every time I take his shirt off or take, you know, I always have this, I’ve noticed recently, I always say to myself, like, why are you so aggressive? He’s always going to remember you pulling at him. Like, he’s always going to remember how, how, like, uncareful, you know, when I put him in the car seat and I like his head accidentally hits the side of the car or like, it sounds horrible, but like really it happens all the time. I know. And I really beat myself up for those moments. And I have to constantly work to be like, this is like, this is just hard. And he knows, you know, he knows you love him and you have to, this is your own projection. And so I think we’re constantly identifying, like evaluating our own, you know, like the health of our inner dialogue and making sure that it’s healthy.
Dr. Sarah (25:42):
Yeah. Yes. I think that’s so true. I also think like another piece, if we’re going to tally up some takeaways for people. Another thing that I think about that I think is really important when it comes to sort of increasing our own confidence. So one is like, turn down the noise, but also turn up the volume of the important stuff. So how do you actually start to hear the part of you that is authentically attuned to your child? Because it’s there it’s, we are hardwired. It’s not something that you have to learn. It’s really already there. You just have to learn to hear it, take it in. Like, one of the things I always tell parents to do is to slow down and just for five, 10 minutes a day to watch your kid not like watch them, but I mean, observe like, look at them, don’t do anything.
Dr. Sarah (26:32):
Just find a quiet time when they’re doing their thing and just sit there and watch them do their thing for five minutes. And I think you start to notice amazing little things that they do, that you are coding right, their cues, right? So you start to see how they just begin to get a little frustrated as they can’t get something to work. And you start to watch, they’re really subtle cues of, I have this tiny, tiny 5% frustration mounting, and you start to get, you start to watch it increase before you need to jump in, you know, before we’re getting to like, I’m a hundred percent frustrated, but just, they may never get, like, it might be 5%, 10%, and then it drops. And just watching your kid go through that arc tells you so much, not just about your child, but about how you notice and can read your child. And that is confidence building.
Yeah. Yeah. I also think that giving yourself 10 minutes where you’re, what you do is not the focus, but like who your child is, is the focus. Right. And I think that that is a really, that’s a really helpful outcome of that, you know, goal as well, because I think we can do less actually most of the time. Right. And so I think that the other thing is that like, because we’re so educated because millennials are so educated and we tend to over educate ourselves in areas where we’re uncomfortable with like stillness, or we’re uncomfortable with a lack of control. And so much of parenting is relinquishing control. But I think what some people do instead of relinquishing control and saying this is happening, which is like my favorite, by the way, parenting mantra. Right. Because it implies that you have no control, which you usually, you know, don’t, especially in a tantrum or in those moments that are really, really, really triggering. I think the idea is that we can’t just apply, who has always worked to get us the best job to get us into the best college, to get us the best grades. Like we can’t apply that to parenting. And so many times we’re frustrated when we try to translate what has made other outcomes so successful into parenting. So much with parenting is just observing and adapting and understanding the child that is in front of you rather than taking this like ideology and being the most educated in it. Right.
Dr. Sarah (29:16):
And even if it’s not formal education, like not every millennial has this, you know, many do where college has become this thing that like is ubiquitous among our generation, but even not just like the school education that this obsession with education and being in control, I think it applies to everybody who’s parenting right now, even in communities where it’s not so much about formal schooling, as it is about what everyone is telling you to do, like how much pressure from your parents is coming into where the noise, right. What’s the noise, right? Our intolerance for stillness, which I think comes from an addiction to social media and smart devices, and which is a, you know, kind of this generation phenomenon, but then you also look at the need to sort of know everything. And that comes into play a lot when it comes to like a previous generation and how their influence either is desired or, you know, put upon us, or like if it’s culturally something that we feel like we’re not really able to say, no, I don’t want to do it the way you did it.
Dr. Sarah (30:32):
But I think, you know, I do think millennial parents can, for lots of different reasons feel at odds with other generations whom are part of, you know, who are part of our lives.
Yeah. Well, I think boomers, you know, I think boomers didn’t get the same. They didn’t have the same opportunities for career education, life outside of parenting. And so it became, so it’s such an integral, it’s such a huge part of that identity. You know, and I think it’s hard when you feel like your identity is not needed or not valued. And so I think that we’re talking about bigger issues, you know, beyond parenting styles. But I think that the way that it manifests is in one person thinks one is right, and look, you turned out okay. So I must be on to something. And, and then, you know, next, you know, millennials or gen X just saying, look, that’s great that we turned out okay. But like we have new data or we have new cultural expectations and we have new standards or we have whatever, new approaches. And, and how do you reconcile that? I think because it’s such an emotional conversation about value, like your personal value as a human, it’s just never going to be that simple conversation.
Dr. Sarah (31:56):
Yeah. And I think, you know, we started out this episode talking about your background in trauma, and we’ve talked about intergenerational transmission of trauma and that’s a big deal, but I also think you don’t have to have a traumatic childhood at all to have a lot of these intergenerational conflicts come up with parenting. And I think a lot of, you know, there’s capital T trauma, you know, some specific events that occurred that we can put our finger on that’s like that was a trauma, but then there’s these like lowercase t traumas that we talk about in psychology that are more like this subtle, pervasive…
Dr. Sarah (32:35):
…Indistinct. Yeah. Like it’s just kind of always there and it might not be at the intent of the parent, right. A parent can be misattuned to their child and their child can receive that as somewhat traumatizing.
Yeah. You know, one, I think a really good example of this is in the postpartum phase. So I think that I often try to tell myself that, you know, somebody that is not able to be available for you emotionally was not, did not have that emotion available to them. So, you know, I think in the postpartum phase, I think there’s a lot more conversation around, wow, this is really emotionally challenging in ways that we weren’t really prepared for maybe, or we really didn’t know that it was going to feel like depression and anxiety and fear and loneliness and isolation and burden and anger and you know, all the things that come up in the postpartum phase. And a lot of times what my clients say is, well, when I asked my boomer parent about their experience, they said that it was nothing like that for them, or they didn’t have any trouble at all. And this is true for like conception too. And you know, I think what’s really interesting is that I don’t think that there were a lot of emotional tools available for baby boomers. And I know there weren’t, there was just, there was just no, you know, there was no education around mental health. And so it’s really hard to offer something to a generation that was never offered to you because you don’t even have the experience of it to repeat. You only have the neglect to repeat.
Dr. Sarah (34:30):
And it’s not like no one in the baby boomer generation struggled in the postpartum period. It’s that there wasn’t a narrative. Nobody could create their own narrative about it because nobody was talking about it. No one was giving them a language for it. And so it just got either repressed or suppressed and then sort of forgotten and in a healthy way, right? Our body tries to heal these traumas by kind of making them fade away. And they, they don’t, they may not be this conscious crystallized memory anymore, but our body remembers it. And our, our nervous system remembers it. And so a parent, a boomer parent, for example, who maybe experienced some of their own postpartum mood disorders or postpartum difficulty or distress when they had a child, you, right. That you’re, now you, their child is having a baby and they don’t have a narrative, historical narrative of when I went through this, I experienced X, Y, and Z. And this is how I coped.
Dr. Sarah (35:32):
Right. But then you, as you are going through it, they are feeling their feelings about it, right? Their body is probably remembering, oh, wait, this doesn’t feel safe. Or this feels, this doesn’t feel good. And when we feel that way, we want to control. And so then you see some parents, some grandparents trying to control their own anxiety by giving lots of invites and intrusiveness. And again, this is, none of this is to say that anyone’s doing this on purpose to be a malicious person or to get in the way of their relationships.
They’re trying to connect.
Dr. Sarah (36:06):
Yeah. And they’re trying to regulate, they’re trying to feel safer. They’re saying something, my body is saying, stop this. Don’t let your child cry. This is very, very bad. And then they want to rush in and fix it or distract the baby or give them lots of like bouncy, bouncy, bouncy, smiley, smiley, smiley. And you’re sitting here being like, I’m trying to let my child learn to be in this feeling and that it’s okay. And I’m not rushing in, in a panic, but your parent might be actually panicked because their own trauma that’s not processed. And so it’s, you know, we all have to sort of process the traumas together and with empathy towards one another.
Yeah. But, you know, I guess that goes back to the question of like empathy is something that had to be really offered to you in order for you, you know, generally speaking, it’s something that in an ideal world, it’s, it’s shown to you and that’s how you can repeat it. But that’s not often the case. In fact, you know, had parents who were war victims, there is a very different, you know, emotional education. And so empathy was not really like empathy and, you know, survival, I guess or kind of sometimes conflicting ideals. Yeah. Yeah.
Dr. Sarah (37:22):
No, and I, but, but I think that is the essence of breaking the cycle.
Dr. Sarah (37:26):
Right? Breaking the cycle is showing empathy when it wasn’t shown to you, because you’ve done the work in your adult life to learn how to genuinely and authentically empathize with someone who may be hurting you by understanding that they’re not hurting you to hurt you, they’re hurting you because they’re hurting.
And that is, you know, going back to your question of like confidence, that’s a big thing in general is when somebody is questioning your parenting or when somebody is judging your parenting, or when somebody is scrutinizing to me, that always comes from is born out of their own insecurity or their own neglect or their own experience of being judged, scrutinized, you know, criticized. And I really try to relay that message because they don’t think people know this enough about, you know, how we repeat, you know how we repeat our experiences because if somebody is judging you, that’s really a reflection of their own fears and their own experiences and not your parenting.
Dr. Sarah (38:28):
Yes. I actually have a theory on this that I don’t know if there’s scientific evidence to back this up. So I always talk about this idea that we will like, do something that we saw our parents do. And we’re like, oh God, I’m being just like my mom, right? Like, this is what we’re talking about. We’re just repeating stuff that is just undigested stuff. But I actually think that it’s not our internalized mom that’s coming out in that moment. Like, oh, mom always did this and now I’m doing it too. I actually think it’s our inner child that’s saying to us in the moment – stop, this wasn’t safe when I was a kid and it’s not safe now, so don’t do this. So like when our child cries and we get flooded with panic or we’re, you know, our child’s having a tantrum or they’re, they’re expressing their anger at us, for example.
Dr. Sarah (39:19):
And we are triggered by that, in that moment. I think what’s triggering in that moment is not at what, what is being triggered in that moment is not our internalized parent that’s saying, you know, I taught you when you were little, that being angry at me is not an acceptable thing to do. And I don’t accept her anger and I’m shutting it down. I actually think the part of us that’s being triggered in that moment is our inner child. That’s saying, Hey, when we were kids and we got angry, this wasn’t safe. And so now I, the part of me that needs to protect you from me is coming out and saying your anger is not safe. Don’t show that to me. And I think that’s, that is the perpetuation of the trauma. It’s these traumatized inner children. So I don’t think it’s just, we repeat what our parents did unless we stop and think. It’s that the fear reactions that we house in our bodies from when we were kids get triggered by our children’s dysregulated affect. And we shut that down because we’re freaked out.
Yeah, absolutely. I think there’s so much truth to that. I think that what we know about how our experience of the world is shaped in early childhood in so many ways, of course, like through, you know, outstanding memories or outstanding experiences also shape our experiences of the world. But you know, so much of our, this is why I love early childhood and why I’m sure you love early childhood. It’s Like such a, it’s such an important moment in understanding that, you know, your concept of how the world functions and how people function in the world, which is why it’s, it’s such an important time for parents to feel that confidence and feel that intuitive, you know, connection, because there’s so much there just in that relationship that can provide so much of that context.
Dr. Sarah (41:16):
And it’s like, it’s like a fun house mirror where like you see the mirror through the mirror, through the mirror, through the mirror. Like early childhood. When we look at our children, we are kind of seeing a mirror of our childhood, which is a mirror of our parents’ childhood, which is a mirror. So that’s why I think the work that you do is so important because when parents are with their child in this early stage of life, there are parts of them that if they, if we don’t have support to really process and understand those parts of us and how our kids bring them out in us and feel support while our kids are bringing them out in us, we are going to feel less confident as parents we’re going to feel more triggered as parents. We’re going to feel more alone and overwhelmed because our experience isn’t always going to be so wonderful. And yet the world is telling us, we’re supposed to be like shouting our joy from the rooftops at every moment. And so I think, you know, having support mental health support, you know, real legitimate professional support, whether it’s coaching or therapy or mom’s group, you know, something where there is like an actual safe place with somebody guiding it, who really knows what they’re talking about to help people process this stuff. This is a really, really rich time. And that richness is not always positive. You know.
Yeah, that’s such a great point.
Dr. Sarah (42:44):
A lot of stuff comes up now.
A lot. And, and again, you know, that’s why I feel so passionately about changing the conversation around it, because I think otherwise people are, oh, it’s the newborn snuggles. And they love the smell and all they want to do. And it’s so complex and it’s messy and it’s scary and it’s very, you know, even your partner doesn’t necessarily understand. And so it’s so important to have community or have the ability to access you know, mental health services, community support. And, and that’s something that I, you know, obviously I’m very excited to talk about in general, but which is why I love having these conversations is because if somebody doesn’t have access to that support, then they might listen to something like this and realize that all of these things that they thought that they were alone and feeling they’re not.
Dr. Sarah (43:45):
Yeah. And if people are listening to this and they’re like, okay, I need help. And I want to talk to someone about this. Like, and you know what, obviously I’ll post some resources on our, on the show notes for like how to find a therapist or a coach, but, you know, how can people get in touch with you? How can people learn more about the work you’re doing and possibly work with you?
Yeah. So you know, I, I have a weekly newsletter, which is the fastest access
Dr. Sarah (44:09):
I love it! I’m subscribed to your weekly newsletter and I love it.
Oh, well I’m so grateful. It’s a three minute read. It tends to be, you know, kind of like how we were talking earlier in this conversation. It’s like, it’s deep stuff, but it’s actionable items that feel like you’re gaining some, some confidence through, you know, the execution of them. But also I can, you know, so that’s, that’s, it’s called Just One Thing. And it’s all about parenting and maternal mental health and the term wellness. And I can also be, you know, access through my website, marcellakelson.com. And in the fall, I will be launching some small groups. I will also be launching some courses on things like managing childcare and communicating and, you know, the thing, the taboo topics that we’re not really allowed to really think about as parents I’m going to be launching some of those. So that’s definitely something to stay tuned for. And I’ll send it to you as soon as it’s, as soon as it’s ready.
Dr. Sarah (45:06):
Amazing. Come back on the podcast. Let’s talk more about that stuff.
Dr. Sarah (45:10):
I love taboo topics.
Yes. Yes. It’s all about like the stuff you can’t Google, basically.
Dr. Sarah (45:16):
Yes. Or if you do you get some real conflicting information that gets you nowhere.
Yeah, exactly. So that’s the idea. And so, you know, and also you can follow me on Instagram, of course, going back to our original sin @Marcellakelson. I try to not post stuff that is really anxiety producing. It’s usually the idea is like, it’s a do less approach or it’s like, you’re already doing a lot approach. So yes, I strive for a safe space.
Dr. Sarah (45:47):
Yes. I was going to say earlier when I was talking about the action items, I want to amend it. I want you to like, do like stop following five people that stress you out and start following, like, be conscious about following people who curate their social space to be inclusive and kind and…
Dr. Sarah (46:04):
And you know, researched-backed and informed. And…
Dr. Sarah (46:09):
I think that’s so important. Like we, and on like one final rant about the Instagram world is that I feel, I don’t know if you’ve ever seen this, but I’ve seen this in a lot of my trauma patients where they’ll, you know, the algorithm produces more content based on what you stop and look at. And I find that a lot of my patients will stop and look at really like triggering things, because it’s almost like a freeze response. And then the algorithm starts to show them more of that. And more of that, more than that. So like one of the ways this is like a hack that I teach my patients to sort of break that is when you see something that triggers you, not only to just scroll past it as fast as you can, but then stop on a lot of things consciously stop and spend some, like, I time on things that bring you real, authentic joy and peace and make you feel good because it starts to kind of combat some of what the algorithm may be accidentally picking up, which is actually a trauma response as I want more of this, because we have to kind of combat that because I actually think there’s, I don’t know if anyone’s studying this, but the, I, there has to be a way that that algorithm can be really trauma traumatizing and re-traumatizing,
Yeah, there’s an amazing book by Adam Alter called Irresistible. And it talked a lot about these addictive you know, these addictive components, how it changes the way your brain functions, and it’s truly for anybody who’s really interested in the impact of this. It’s, it’s like a remarkably well-researched book, well written. And, and, you know, I agree, and not only do we want to look at Instagram that way, but we also, you know, what a great representation of how our minds and like how we take care of our minds, right? It’s to not fixate on those intrusive thoughts that are so scary as parents, and try to move past that, and then let them go as much as possible. And and really fixate on the, on the parts of our parenting experience that feel good and, you know, intuitively true and authentic for us. So I love that. I love that as a representation of like how we should actually experience like, you know, curate our own experiences of life, let alone social media.
Dr. Sarah (48:23):
Yes. Oh my God. That is like, so that’s like the perfect, you know, extrapolation of that. We should end on that beautiful, beautiful image. And so, okay. Thank you so much for coming. Please come back and talk to us again.
Thank you for having me. Anytime. I always love talking to you.
Dr. Sarah (48:39):
I know me too. Thank you so much.
Dr. Sarah (48:50):
Thanks for listening. There’s no time like the present to begin your journey of bolstering your own connection and confidence as a parent. And if you’re a millennial, chances are you’re on your phone right now. So I have a quick suggestion for you. Switch over to Instagram and just delete three to five accounts that make you feel bad about yourself. Maybe it’s the popular girl from high school, who seems to have a perfect family who you’re always comparing yourself to, or perhaps it’s the so-called expert who shames you and makes you feel guilty for the choices you make, whatever it is that makes you feel bad about yourself. They got to go! At least put them on mute for now, commit to one month without them in your feed, and then do a mental check-in after your social media cleanse. Let me know how it felt you can DM me or comment on the episode, post on Instagram to share your personal experience. Was it easier than you thought? Harder? Do you feel more relaxed at the end of your days? Or maybe simply just comment with a crying, laughing face to embrace the millennial in all of us.
Dr. Sarah (49:57):
If you’re currently pregnant, or if you have a little one in their first year at home, our discussions about identity shifts, you know, for yourself, with your partner and maybe now this new baby in the mix, it might’ve really struck a cord. If so, and if you’re interested in exploring this more along with learning everything you need to know for your child’s first year, check out my new course, The Authentic Parent, it’s a six week virtual course aimed at helping you find your confidence in parenting. So you can calmly and effectively respond to any problem that arises, connect authentically with your child, and truly enjoy parenting.
Along with video modules, interactive workbook, exercises, and access to an exclusive non-Facebook community, you’ll have weekly coaching sessions with me to work through whatever challenges in parenting you’re facing each week. In order to allow everyone to get personalized attention, I’ve gone ahead and capped each group session to only 12 families. And with only three time slots available space is quite limited. So make sure you add your name to the waitlist to receive early access, to sign up for the course, as soon as doors open.
Dr. Sarah (51:03):
Thanks for tuning in. Remember to subscribe, follow, like, and rate the podcast. And until next week, don’t be a stranger.
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