Delve into the transformative power of storytelling across the spectrum of parenthood, identity, and navigating life’s challenges.

Joining me is award-winning journalist, speaker, and the author of Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power, L’Oreal Thompson Payton.

L’Oreal sheds light on the often-overlooked struggles faced by black women navigating infertility, and the importance of representation in storytelling. From grappling with postpartum depression and anxiety to challenging societal norms surrounding motherhood, L’Oreal offers valuable insights into embracing imperfection and finding strength in authenticity.

L’Oreal (00:00):

Even before you give birth, there’s the idealized version of this and what it should look like and how things will play out. And then anything that’s not that is automatically deemed less than.

Dr. Sarah (00:17):

The power of storytelling and the meaning that we make of our own narrative and the experiences of others is so important for helping us to feel seen, heard, validated, and understood. My guest today is L’Oreal Thompson Payton. L’Oreal is an award-winning journalist, author, and speaker and her debut book, Stop Waiting for Perfect: Step Out of Your Comfort Zone and Into Your Power empowers and encourages people to embrace their full potential and live life boldly. Together we’ll unravel the layers of L’Oreal’s personal and professional journey around pregnancy, early parenting, and a deeply personal exploration of infertility challenges. A topic often shrouded in silence. L’Oreal is not only writing her own story, but also weaving a tapestry of connection and support for black and brown women experiencing similar challenges. So join us today as we explore the intersection of identity, representation and the transformative power of storytelling.


Do you find yourself questioning whether you’re doing this whole parenting thing right, second guessing yourself, losing sleep and falling prey to mom guilt. As a clinical psychologist, I have seen so many of the parents I work with deal with these challenges, and as a mom of two, I’ve lived them from time to time myself. But here’s the thing, when you know what to focus on and what to give yourself permission to ignore, it can make parenting feel a whole lot easier. That’s why I created a workshop specifically for new and expecting parents to help you learn these exact things so you can genuinely feel confident in parenthood right from the start. I’ll teach you what I like to call my confidence recipe and equip you with tools and strategies you could put into practice right away to challenge that self-doubt, to put an end to your panic-Googling, and finally find the ease and enjoyment in early parenthood. I believe all new parents should have access to the information and support they need to help them during this messy, chaotic, and often stressful time. So this masterclass is completely free. Just go to drsarahbren.com/confidentparenting to sign up for one of these masterclasses. That’s drsarahbren.com/confidentparenting. Or just grab the link in the episode description on whatever platform you’re streaming this episode. So don’t wait. Secure your free spot and get that boost of support, guidance and science backed strategies that can transform your parenting experience.


Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical and mom of two. 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 so you can tune out the noise and tune into your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.


Hello. Today we have L’Oreal Thompson Peyton with us. I’m thrilled for this conversation. Thank you so much for being here today. ,

L’Oreal (03:38):

Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited.

Dr. Sarah (03:40):

Yeah, so tell us a little bit about some of the things that you do in terms of the book that you wrote and also the work that you’re a writer, you’re write amazing things, and you’re working right now also for a parenting columnist, and I want to just, can you tell us a little bit about this work that you’ve been doing for the last couple of years?

L’Oreal (04:01):

Yeah, all the things, right? It all kind of boils down to storytelling. So I’m a journalist by trade, been doing that in various newsrooms, magazines, news newspapers, online for the last 16 years or so. Most recently I was the full-time health and wellness reporter at Fortune Magazine and recently left that to return to full-time freelance writing and still in that health, lifestyle and wellness genre. I am parenting columnist for Yahoo, so every other week giving advice to parents in those earlier years of parenting, author of my first book last year came out Stop Waiting For Perfect, and I have a children’s book coming out next year about Amanda Gorman working on some other projects as well. So I write, I speak I podcast, I have a weekly newsletter, whatever, there’s words involved. That’s where I find myself, I feel like.

Dr. Sarah (05:02):

I love that and I think that there’s a lot of space right now for parents to seek out good storytelling because I think we’re all sick of just having people tell us what to do and really want to be engaged in a kind of deeper way, and I think that is a lot of what you’ve been working to do for parents.

L’Oreal (05:25):

Oh yeah. I mean it is almost kind of selfish in nature. I feel like, especially with some of the stories for Yahoo and respectful, especially in the pregnancy and early parenting part of it, writing the stories that I needed or that I wish I had read when I was going through different stages, especially even trying to conceive with infertility and it’s much more widespread and granted, people are talking about it a lot more now, I feel like, than just even a few years ago when we were starting our journey, but even then, it was still and continues to be honestly a very white space. I didn’t see a lot of black women there, even in the clinic, and you’d look around, there weren’t any other black couples or black babies on the little success boards, and so it just takes what’s already this very isolating experience that you’re going through and kind of compounds it when you look around and there’s no one who looks like you or you don’t see stories that reflect yours because even I think culturally there’s been some stigma around fertility treatments and things like that, of that nature.


Yeah, the story that I wrote for Self about, I think it was like eight lessons I’ve learned from four failed IVF cycles continues to be the story that I get the most dms and emails about, and I can imagine what the trajectory was that led someone there. It’s like, okay, they’re first or second, third, fourth, whatever, failed cycle. You’re up at two, three o’clock in the morning googling and just trying to find some other stories that you can relate to, and they find mine and they read it. Then they look me up and they go on Instagram and they see my daughter and they’re like, oh my gosh, you didn’t give up. You kept going. And that gives me hope, and that to me as a writer, as a journalist, as an author, all of these things, that’s the reason, that’s the goal, that’s why I do what I do, is to help other people, especially other black women and girls feel less alone in the experiences that they’re going through.

Dr. Sarah (07:31):

I think that’s so beautiful and it is really profound, this idea of how do we see ourselves represented in the stories that we hear? And I think, again, we can get a lot of data. We can read a lot of information, we can go find, go to doctor’s websites and see all the stats or the processes, but to hear a human being tell the story and do it in a way that doesn’t sugarcoat, it doesn’t only paint this pollyannish view of it or doesn’t just solely focus on the negative either, but a good story. There’s a journey. There’s some sort of climbing a mountain, there’s some sort of thing that you have to do and get through, but then there’s the summit down, you make it and then you process it, you integrate, you make sense of what you’ve just been through. And I think when we can see ourselves in other people’s stories that do that, that take us on that journey, it’s a very cathartic thing to be able to move through that trajectory with someone else.

L’Oreal (08:45):

Oh yeah. I mean when I even started writing, because I mean I’ve been a writer forever, did a lot of personal essays in my early freelancing journey of Hello Giggles, but a lot of it had to do with me and things that I was going through or things that were happening to me solely. And when this started happening, when we got the infertility diagnosis, and I remember asking my husband, I was like, do you feel comfortable? Can I write about this? Would you, because I want to of course honor and respect his wishes as well. And he was like, I think you kind of have to, and not in a you owe anyone your story or your trauma or what you’re going through and recognizing I have a gift, and honestly, I feel like a responsibility as a writer and a small-ish platform, but a platform nonetheless to tell these stories, to write the stories that I needed, that I wanted to read.


And it was important to me to bring my readers, my subscribers, my followers along with us in the journey. It could be very easy to wait until all is said and done or even not say anything about it at all, right? It’s not like we walk around with a scarlet letter of being like, I’m infertile so no one would ever know if I didn’t say anything and I could very well just pop up on Instagram with the pregnancy announcement and never let anyone know, but that would be very inauthentic or dise to me. And the core values that I hold dearly as a writer, that authenticity, that transparency and that vulnerability in almost real time. I process, of course in my journal and in therapy before things make their way to my newsletter or an article that I’m writing and eventually a book that I want to write on the experience as well, but also is like, I don’t know how this journey is going to turn out.


I don’t know if and when we’re going to get to the positive pregnancy test, and it’s important for me to share along the way because that’s all social media is, right? It’s this highlight reel and you just see after the Happily Ever After, and it was like, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. And there was a lot of community in that as well. People that reached out to me that I reached out to as well, I think first and foremost of Regina Townsend of Broken Brown Egg, who specifically created this community for black and brown women going through infertility because I didn’t see those spaces or the spaces that I were in. I didn’t see, like I mentioned before, the people who looked like me. And so it was very, I’m absolutely glad I did it. I wouldn’t do anything differently, and I’m really grateful that the stories that I’ve written about it thus far have really resonated with people.

Dr. Sarah (11:31):

And you make a really good point, which is that for you to be able to authentically show up and share your story, there is a personal processing that happens and storytelling happens in all these repetitive forms. First, we have to tell the story to ourselves and make sense of it, and then we can share the story in whatever format want to, whether it’s I just write it in my journal or I share it with a friend, or I put it out for other people to read about in the public. And there’s some real bravery that comes from that ladder part, the putting it out into the world. And it’s like you don’t do that. I think to be self-serving, right? That’s not the greatest place to go to be self-serving because you’re going to receive a lot of stuff that you don’t want to receive that doesn’t fit that. But I think that the doing it because it helps other people is the part that’s very brave, and I think it is very hard to be exposed like that. To do it for yourself isn’t really enough to do it for others. Maybe that’ll get me to do that, to show up in that way. So I think that that’s really cool.

L’Oreal (12:51):

Well, thanks. I mean, that’s the reason I became a journalist in the first place. I very vividly remember growing up seventh, eighth grade reading Teen People, YM 17 write all these now like defunct magazines, but it was the late nineties, early two thousands. It was Britney Spears, it was Christina Aguilera, and I don’t look like them, and yet I consumed devoured these magazines every month. They were delivered to my house, rush up to my bedroom, close the door, read them cover to cover in one sitting, and didn’t see myself reflected in those pages. It’s before Black Girl Magic was a hashtag before Black Lives Matter was a movement. Beyonce wasn’t Beyonce, she was still in Destiny’s Child, Michelle Obama wasn’t First Lady yet, so, but they didn’t get the same mainstream media treatment as the Britney’s and the Christina’s. And that felt for me, as someone who really loved these magazines and loved writing, felt really not good.


It just was not, it felt very isolating and just, yeah, I was like, I don’t want any other girl to feel like this. I remember in seventh grade, and I remember vividly praying to God to make me white so I would be beautiful. I want it to look like Britney Spears. That ain’t ever happening. And I was just like, I don’t want any other black girl to feel that way. When I got to high school, I’ve always loved writing. There’s a picture of me when I’m about three years old writing with my sister. She was a baby. She wasn’t writing, but she was sitting next to me and I have this notebook in my lap. And so storytelling has always been very integral part of my life and how I processed the world and my thoughts and my feelings. And when I got to high school, I was like, I want to be editor in chief of a team magazine.


That was the way that I knew to best implement that change, be the change that you want to see, and understood that I have this gift of writing. And then when I was editor of my student newspaper editor in chief and writing different columns on body image and confidence and things like that, and seeing how, and I went to an all girl Catholic school, but it was just getting the feedback from my classmates about how my words resonated with them, how it helped them feel less alone. And I was like, oh, there might be something here to the writing, both that it helps me very cathartic for me in that first kind of level, but then in the sharing and how it can help others really help me realize my purpose.

Dr. Sarah (15:28):

That’s amazing. And it’s really profound too. I’m assuming by the time you’re, what, 17 this? When did you start to have these conscious, very direct thoughts of it went from this, I am a kid reading these magazines, this sort of probably maybe it was super conscious, but maybe it was even more like a secondary or a unconscious pre-conscious awareness. This doesn’t feel good to being, not only does this not feel good, I’m super consciously aware this doesn’t feel good, but I recognize that it has detrimental impacts on everyone around me. I’m not the only one feeling this way, which is I think a way of feeling connected through paint. When did you notice that become much more consciously aware of developmentally? I’m just curious.

L’Oreal (16:19):

Yeah, I mean, I remember even going into high school, I had three goals in eighth grade going into high schools. I want to be editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. I want to be a varsity cheerleader and I want to be in a musical. Two out of three ended up happening. I can’t sing to save my life, so I was never in a musical. I auditioned though. I tried. I put myself out there and got rejected, but I knew leaving eighth grade, going into high school, I wanted to do journalism. I just knew earlier on that I wanted to be a writer. I mean, granted when I was four or five and you asked me, what do you want to be when you grow up? I was like, Janet Jackson’s backup dancer and a doctor and an astronaut because Apollo 13 had come out and I was like, oh, this is great.


And when you’re that young, you think anything is possible and you try to do all three of those things at the same time. And later realized that math and science not my strong suit, so let’s stick to the writing. And even at six, I’d written this book about dinosaurs and outer space. And so it was just always a writer. Didn’t know career wise how to make a living doing that because all you ever hear about artists, the starving artists, everything like that. So it was just like, I don’t know how to make that work. And then started learning about journalism in middle school, obviously because of the magazines. And when I got to high school, I was like, all right, I’m joining the newspaper staff because all the shows that you watch too, they have newspaper yearbook and things like that. But I couldn’t join until junior year because of my school’s rules.


And I was just kind like, all right, I guess I’ll wait, which was annoying. But yeah, so I feel like early, late middle school, early high school, this idea, but I don’t think I realized that there were other black girls who felt the same way, honestly until college, because my high school, I was one of two black girls in my class. Social media doesn’t exist. And so when I get to college, yeah, that was fall 2004. Facebook had just come out. It was just for other college students. But I remember in a pre-orientation group that I did meeting this other awkward black girl from the eastern shore in Maryland, and I’m like, where have you been my whole life? There’s other black girls who like NSYNC too. I didn’t know because I mean, AOL chat rooms can only take you so far. And even then you don’t know if you’re talking to a real person like another teenage girl or some creeper in Indiana.


I don’t know. Not to knock on anyone listening from Indiana, that was just the first state to come to mind. But yeah, I don’t think it was until college, honestly, that I realized, oh, there’s more of us. It’s not just me. And also there’s not just one way to be black. I mean, I think I always knew that, but my middle school and elementary school were predominantly black. It was in Baltimore City proper. I lived in the suburbs and a mostly white neighborhood. Actually, I think my parents were the first black family to move into our neighborhood and just got teased constantly for talking white for liking NSYNC and Backstreet Boys and everyone else liked Tupac and Biggie and got bullied for that. I skipped a grade I didn’t quite fit in, and there was this stereotype of what it means or looks like to be black. And it wasn’t until college when I met the other black kids that went to private school and also lived in the suburbs that I was like, oh, it’s not just me. And that sense of community was really important.

Dr. Sarah (19:59):

And it’s so interesting because in the absence of the physical community, there has to be some sort of representational community. When we were growing up, naming timeline orientation marks that I’m very much resonating with, I think we’re the almost exact same age.

L’Oreal (20:20):

Elder Millennials unite.

Dr. Sarah (20:23):

But we didn’t have, you’d go on AOL chats, you don’t see any faces, you don’t see people. We were even a little bit too young for MySpace space where there was real imagery around who is the community that I’m a part of in this way? And now you look on social media and it’s so funny. I have obviously a lot of beef with social media because I’m a mental health professional and I see what it’s doing to our adults and our youth, and it’s not great. But I also recognize that there’s a piece of it that is really important and community building and connection building and allows people to see themselves, literally see other people who are like them, whether it’s that they look like them or they share some other quality or experience that helps them to feel more connected and less alone. And so there is something there that’s kind of magical. And it sounds like you found that, and obviously in your college experience, you found that in real human form, but also in writing, creating stories that show representation in a larger way, that there is, you’re building community, you’re helping people feel like we can share a story and then you don’t feel as alone, which is very important, I imagine, for your own mental health, but for the people who you connected with too.

L’Oreal (21:57):

Oh yes, absolutely. I, and I think in that way it is a little bit self-serving for me to be like, okay, I needed these stories. And not that it’s too late for me, but I remember very recently actually writing a story for Respectful that talked about how to ask for help as a new mom, something that sounds so elementary is really hard for the people, the type a’s like me, the perfectionist, the people who deal with anxiety, who like me also had postpartum depression and these other things. Something that’s seemingly simple as ask for help. Yeah, that sounds great, but how do I do it? And in my interviews with these experts, I’m very in, you remember, you might recall too, from our conversation for the Valentine’s Day piece with Yahoo, I’m like, what is the script? What do I say? And giving people those tools to help them navigate, especially, I mean, postpartum is forever, but those first few early months I did not enjoy.


They weren’t very good for me. And I can look back now and be like, ah, yes, there were a lot of things happening and postpartum depression, anxiety being top of it, PTSD from infertility, just hormones and all of these things. But it’s like, what did I need? What would’ve helped me through this? And if I’m able to do that in a piece of writing, I mean, yes, I’m human and just like everyone else would love the awards and the accolades and all the attention and everything like that. And what is most meaningful for me are the dms that I get are the comments on the stories. And someone who been like, this helped me through a hard time. This helped me realize that I’m not alone. Thank you for writing this. It’s impacted me in that way. So I try to, for myself as well, very easy thanks to social media to see what else is doing and compare your career and the trajectory and everything like that. But what I try to keep in mind, okay, I’m like, it’s the impact. It’s the impact that I’m having most important and that it can help somebody else in some other way. And writing is just the way that I know best to do that.

Dr. Sarah (24:05):

And so what your parenting columnist for Yahoo, you’ve done lots of writing. You also imagine being in that role get a peek into a lot of the fears and challenges that parents are writing to you about or that your editors are identifying and being like, we need to do a story on this. What are you hearing? Tell us the inside scoop that parents are struggling with. What’s on your docket of articles that you’re like, we got to cover all of this.

L’Oreal (24:41):

There was what immediately comes to mind? I remember one from a new mom who was feeling a lot of guilt and shame for not instantly bonding with her baby. And I was like, yes, that. And I opened up for the first time in my response about how I similarly did not, it wasn’t this instantaneous Instagram perfect golden hour. Oh my gosh. So in love that everyone tells you it will be that everyone depicts again, there’s social media, you scroll through and everyone’s just like, oh my gosh, love at first sight. First of all, it was a C-section and I didn’t even get to hold her. She was rushed to NICU because she had trouble breathing right after she was born. So already that idea of, okay, you have this vaginal birth and then the skin to skin time, which everyone talks about being so important and obviously has its benefits, but it’s like already even before you give birth, there’s the idealized version of this and what it should look like and how things will play out.


And then anything that’s not, that is automatically deemed less than. So c-section, for example, mine was scheduled because I had surgery many, many years ago to have almost 20 fibroids removed. And so there was already that incision. I knew after that surgery, whenever I did give birth that it was going to be via C-section. And I’m like, okay, it is what it is. But that doesn’t make me even less of a mom because I didn’t push, I wasn’t in labor for 20 hours. No, but it’s immediately already with that having to reject this notion of what motherhood looks like, and then that idea that you’ll push out or get cut out this tiny human and just fall in love with them. You just met this person, they’re just meeting you. And it’s like all of that pressure. And I remember distinctly texting one of my mom friends a month or so afterward and being like, I don’t know.


I feel like I’m not feeling what I’m supposed to be feeling. And then I think there was, for me, this heightened level of guilt and shame because of our IVF journey, a very public IVF journey then that I should be grateful for every waking moment that I’m spending with this child. And that’s also robbing me of my full humanity and experience. You can be both grateful and also admit that you’re struggling, and this is hard. My friend was like, well, yeah, this makes sense right now. She’s just a little tiny blob who can’t even really respond to you or react or do anything. Then once she gets a little bit older and you get that first smile and the laugh, and then there’s still some more of that reciprocity, then the bonding may feel more natural and may take place, but it takes time. And I think that’s something that we don’t say out loud enough.


And so when you are in that postpartum fog, you’re just like, oh, here’s supposed to be feeling these feelings. I should feel this way. And I think anytime that we’re like, oh, I should, that’s automatically a red flag of don’t should yourself. It’s just not serving anybody. But giving new parents, new moms in particular, permission not to feel these things that they quote think they should be feeling just really resonated with me because I’m like, this is something I needed to read when I was three, four months postpartum to know that you’re not alone, and also it doesn’t make you a bad mom. I think that’s something that I know I was and still slightly fearful of. I know I can know now or say I know that I’m not a bad mom, but there was a lot of that anxiety, especially early on where, okay, if I don’t do this, if I don’t do that, then I’m a bad mom. What are other people going to think? And that internal dialogue, those intrusive thoughts, all of that can really mess with you and make you feel like something is wrong with you when it’s not. It’s perfectly normal. The bonding doesn’t need to happen overnight. It takes time. Any other relationship that we have. So that one was really personal for me.

Dr. Sarah (29:06):

And it really highlights going back to this idea of the power of stories, the stories that we tell ourselves, the stories that we hear other people say, the stories that we don’t hear people say are so powerful. When we have feelings of shame or guilt or embarrassment around something that occurs, it’s really common and understandable to want to just go and hide that. Why do kids lie? Because they feel bad that they did something and they want to hide it. It’s driven by shame and us not telling our story, that’s not lying, but it’s hiding it to protect ourselves from feeling shame. And when we do that, no one else hears the story. And so all these people, all these mothers who are experiencing the exact same thing and would find so much relief in knowing that, oh yeah, you’re having trouble bonding with your baby to start too.


Me too. It’s not as hard or it’s not as easy as I thought it was going to be. It didn’t happen instantly for women to share these stories, to take it out of the shadow and the shame and into this light and openness, which maybe that means we have to confront our own feelings about it and process them so that we can do this, but to really be able to say, this is my story, and one, sharing it makes sense of it better, but also in sharing it with other people, we can get feedback from them, but they can also see themselves in our stories. That’s one thought I had that I thought is so important about what you were sharing, but also even the stories that we don’t even think twice about the little tiny, where our words are so powerful, even just calling a vaginal delivery, a natural birth and a C-section, not natural or unnatural birth.


It’s a vaginal or a cesarean delivery. It’s just the word natural delivery or the implication that a natural delivery is without medication. That one is more or less natural than the other. And I think those words are really powerful and can really get into our collective unconscious psyche around what’s an appropriate and good birth experience and what is shameful and what is something that we hide that makes us less than in some way. And I think the antidote to that is to talk about it, put it out in the light, and the more people are like, that was my experience too. The more we’re just changing the complete dialogue around birth, which is so important.

L’Oreal (31:57):

Oh, yeah, that’s a whole other that. And then breastfeeding and all the things, all the sleep training, there’s so many unspoken and spoken rules and judgment and just shame and finger pointing all, that’s why I really don’t engage at all with Facebook mom groups. I mean, occasionally I’ll dip into check for a dentist recommendation or something along those lines, but I just don’t, I can’t because it’s too much. It’s too much, it’s too loud. And I find my people, I get professional input when needed, but I can’t myself to go down that rabbit hole because there’s just a lot of negativity. There’s some good, but I feel like 90% of it is negativity.

Dr. Sarah (32:48):

And that’s the thing. We need to have access to community. We also need to have a lot of boundaries around where we’re finding that community. And I don’t know, there’s something about what happens online where there seems to be a lack of a filtering process for people sometimes where they just share a lot more than they ever would if you were sitting across a table from someone in real life. And so that’s something to reflect on perhaps. But I’m wondering too, talking about the rules of parenting and how we get them from lots of places. We get them from very legitimate sources that still need to be checked and questioned. We get them from not so legitimate sources of chat rooms and comment sections, which we can, again, we want to be mindful of where we’re getting our info, but we do get even really quality information can often be super conflicting and contradictory. And so I’m just curious, what are some of the sort of conflicting rules that you notice coming through when you’re writing about parenting that we could sort of challenge a little bit?

L’Oreal (34:04):

Oh, that’s a good question. It’s interesting, and I’ll point back to our conversation. It’s not controversial or it could be depending on people’s take on it, but talking about Valentine’s Day crafts or insert any holiday sort of situation, there’s the Pinterest moms who go all out and spend hours doing that. And as you were saying, if that’s your jam, that’s great. If it’s not, that’s okay too. But I think we have to stop a pitting moms against each other. We’re all just trying to, well, I guess I can’t speak for everyone, but most of us are just trying to raise healthy, happy kids and people. Yeah, it’s kind of like a don’t yuck someone else’s yum. If you enjoy that, that’s great. That’s not for me, and that’s okay too. But I don’t need to try to make myself into someone that I’m not never going to be the crafty mom, and that’s okay.


And it also doesn’t make me a bad mom. And I think that’s something where early on I did kind of internalize because of society, social media, and you don’t love your kid if you don’t make homemade. No, I do. And I also work 40 plus hours a week, and I am writing books and doing all these other things, and she’s two. So if she gets older and that’s important to her, then I will figure that out. But I think just the judgment we can leave behind and just, I forget where I was going with that. But yeah, just not being so judgy isn’t controversial. I feel like that should go without saying. But I mean, there is certainly the judgment that does exist. And I’d like to think assume positive intent. Everyone is trying their best. I had another one actually, a column on whether to use leashes or not with kids.


I think growing up we saw it and it was just like this, oh no, why would you do that? And now are I interviewed a pediatrician and someone else, two different experts, and not necessarily conflicting because of course liability wise can’t really say this is a safe or it’s not. But also realizing that there are some circumstances where that might make a parent feel safer in having their child on a leash than not in busy places. And airports, if you have a runner, a child is prone to running off. If you have a child with special needs who may want to keep close by, but also still give them some autonomy and free range as well. So everything isn’t as cut and dry as black and white as I think sometimes we make it out to be. There is nuance that exists. There are gray areas, but I try to, everyone I like to think is doing their best or trying their best, doing their best with what’s available to them.


And that just goes back to again, the not judging. Although I will admit the other article that I wrote recently about the bathroom, I keep saying bathroom, bad word, bathroom challenge on TikTok where parents are allowing their toddlers, preschoolers to use curse words in the bathroom, nowhere else in the house. We can all laugh at it online or whatever, but it’s also sending mixed messages to the kids about what’s appropriate, what’s not, and okay, you’re laughing and it seems to be funny, but you’re telling me that I can’t do it. I can curse in the bathroom, but not the living room or at school. And so yeah, the expert that I talked about that had really good feedback as well on how to, it’s inevitable. Kids are going to curse. They’re going to hear you. They’re going to pick up words, and it happens. And here’s how to discourage rather than filming them and putting in on social media can have the opposite effect and kind of encourage them to do that.

Dr. Sarah (38:07):

That’s really interesting. So I’d never heard of that until you mentioned it and the bad word bathroom challenge. But it’s so interesting because a lot of things, and this is again, social media complicates it because this to me, and I don’t know the nuance of this challenge necessarily, but when I’m picking up the idea behind giving kids a place like a container for them to try on and experiment things, that playing around with that to me makes a lot of sense. But as soon as you interrupt that process by layering on this other piece of this sort of voyeuristic, I’m going to film you and put it on the internet, or even just showing your kids, other kids being kind of, for lack of a better word, objectified on the internet in that way, having their kind of messy moments filmed and then shared, and now we are looking at some child’s messy moment online and judging it or making laughing or finding entertainment in it.


You have now completely removed the original idea and you’ve distorted it in a way that kind of ruins any good that’s going to come out of it. It makes me think of like, oh God, it’s Jimmy Kimmel that does the, oh, I hate this so much. It makes me literally cry. I remember I was postpartum when I was watching this and I started crying in the kitchen watching it, but he encourages parents to pretend they ate their kids Halloween candy and then tell them and film it. And you see these kids’ reactions when they think their parents have taken their candy and eaten it and are laughing and the pain in their, I mean, I know it’s playful, but the part of me that empathizes with children just can’t tolerate it at all. And I don’t know, I have a lot of trouble with a lot of the Instagram content that messes with kids, the egg cracking the egg on the head video.


I think people who do it genuinely are not trying to hurt their kids at all. I think they think it’s light and funny, but they’re looking at it from their adult lens of humor and their adult lens of how to compartmentalize, things like that. Whereas when you are looking at it from the child’s lens, they don’t understand the world of social media. They don’t really understand what’s on the other side of that camera. All they know is someone is doing something to me that I wasn’t expecting and then laughing at me. And the people that are doing it are my most trusted people. And I think, again, I’m always trying to hold nuance. I think that the people who do that with their kids are not trying to hurt their kids. And I think it’s important to reflect on the possibility that you might be and maybe shift that.

L’Oreal (41:06):

Yeah, I mean, they’re tiny humans. They have big feelings. I have big feelings. I also have the vocabulary to articulate that, and they don’t always, and very mindful that I will, I won’t never say never, but a, I am not that active on TikTok anyway because I don’t get it. I mean, I like watching it, but who has the time? Three hours to a 32nd clip? Not me. So I watch, but I don’t really post. But also, I don’t want to post my daughter on that particular platform because it’s just people post the most innocuous thing and someone will immediate, you’ll get 30 comments in a row judging you like, oh, you shouldn’t do your next. And then just like, whoa, that is too much. And I don’t even know these people, at least with Instagram, I know most of them. They’re people that I know either in real life or we have some kind of connection online. But for complete strangers, just like, yeah, the virality capability or ability to go viral is a little scary to me.

Dr. Sarah (42:17):

And if you put your kid on there, and I think it’s becoming more and more charged now in terms of what risk we’re seeing. But we are getting into a whole other range of things I did not anticipate, but the whole idea of chaing or whatever, parents sharing a lot of their children’s lives on the internet, and now with AI and the ability for your images to be taken and changed, there’s this whole new layer of risk I think that parents aren’t really fully aware of. And again, like you were saying, I am always looking at the good intent behind something, a big giver of the benefit of the doubt. But a lot of times with the best of intentions, harm can still be done. And then it’s like, I don’t know. I think it’s always a little bit better to be cautious when it comes to posting things about your kids online than have to undo something. It’s really hard to undo internet stuff.

L’Oreal (43:20):

Oh, yeah, out there. The internet is forever. I mean, it’s like journalism rule 1 0 1. If you don’t want it posted on the front page of the New York Times, don’t type tweet, text it. You never know.

Dr. Sarah (43:32):

Yes. My partner Emily at our group practice, Emily Upshur, she’s on here a lot. She does. We do a weekly Thursday episode called Beyond the Sessions, and she comes on with another one of our psychologist mom friends, Rebecca Hershberg, and we answer listener questions and just talk about it from a little bit more of a like, okay, we’re a bunch of moms and we’re psychologists, and we are going to try to figure stuff out in real time. But Emily always has the most amazing rule for teaching kids. And frankly, it’s true for grownups too, but teaching kids who are navigating getting their first phone or navigating texting or social media for whenever they’re ready to, the rule that she always teaches parents to teach their kids is the principal rule. And it’s literally, if you do not want your principal to read this on the loudspeaker at school, then don’t write it in a text or online. That’s the barometer, right? Yeah. The principal reading it over the loudspeaker should be the question you’re filtering yourself through, how would I feel if this got read on the loudspeaker at my high school or wherever?

L’Oreal (44:47):

That’s a good one. I like that.

Dr. Sarah (44:50):

And I think if we all use that, we would be deleting a lot of what before it would press post a lot would get written and then maybe deleted or edited.

L’Oreal (45:00):

Oh yeah.

Dr. Sarah (45:02):

Which is probably not a bad thing if we edited our stuff before it went posted.

L’Oreal (45:09):

Still on Twitter, I refuse to call it X. I know it’s a sinking ship at this point, but that’s where all the writers are. So I hang up black Twitter especially is hilarious. And so I’m like, you will have to pry this out of my hands. But someone tweeted the other day was just like, we should all really know less about each other. And I’m like, yeah, yeah. And at the same time, Twitter is where I met the other black girls who like n Sync growing up in this. Again, where were you when I was in high school? And I felt so alone. So it has its pros and cons, kind of like everything in moderation. I feel strongly that a lot of good can come from it. A lot of the infertility groups that I found online and we’re able to participate in support groups and postpartum especially, and there’s always, there is an ugly side to it as well. And so it’s just trying to, and it’s also, I mean, some people I know don’t have it social media at all, and that’s great as a journalist, as an author, as someone, content creator, I don’t really like that phrase, but whatever. I am not an influencer, but somewhere in between. Also part of the job, also part of how I find opportunities, building platforms to sell the books. And because audience size matters as well, especially in nonfiction. So it’s like a necessary evil. I just try to be mindful of consumption and yeah.

Dr. Sarah (46:43):

Yeah. I think it’s interesting too to think about the fact that the people who are creating content, writing content, developing ideas and sharing them on the internet, some of them don’t actually consume that much. So who was I talking to? I was talking to Emily Cherkin, who is, she’s been on the podcast before, but it’s a book called The Screen Time Solution that just came out. So we were talking about this idea that people, she was saying how people in tech don’t let their kids use social media and they have some sort of inside knowledge on how this tech is developed and choose to not let their kids have access to it. They’re the ones that are putting their kids in forest schools. It’s like sometimes you have to remember, we receive and consume a lot of content and then believe that the people who are creating that content are consuming just as much as us. But a lot of times the people who are creating the content are actually, it’s part of their business. It’s like they go on for X amount of time a day to do their job, and then they sign off. And I’m sure there’s a lot of people who create content that are also deeply entrenched in consuming it as well. But I make a lot of Instagram content and I’m always trying to be off of Instagram. I don’t do it in real time. I have times of the day through my week where I write out ideas and then I put them into a video and then I schedule them to go out online. I’m not, I’m trying very hard to be on it as little as I can. It’s not good for my mental health. And I feel super torn too, like I’m creating content that then people consume. And I think consuming a lot of content isn’t good for people’s mental health. So am I participating in that problem? And so I’m always sort of really mindful of how do I create information for parents that leaves them feeling empowered, gives them information, pushes them to go back to their inner knowing and off of social media while still having a job that people are interested in knowing about. So it is super conflicting. I don’t have a good way of wrapping my head around it either. I feel conflicted about it.


I mean, I feel like we could spend hours talking about the pros and the cons of social media, but I think ultimately what I’m hearing is how we do something matters more than what we do and finding that intentionality and that purpose and that the ability to okay it, I’m going to do this. So how do I do it in a way that fosters community rather than perpetuates isolation or people feeling like they’re not welcome.

L’Oreal (49:39):

And I think exactly what you said earlier about trusting that inner knowing, and I’ve written in other articles that I’ve done before because I think especially as a new mom, for me, an anxious mom, the default is to crowdsource, to ask everyone else their opinion. You get conflicting opinions on social media, all of the, I shouldn’t say all, but there’s a lot of the mom experts who are a little shady in their advice or you’re doing this wrong and you should always be gentle parenting and take time to and do all of it. That’s not entirely realistic. And there is so much wisdom in your intuition, in your inner knowing, but you have to tune out all of the noise in order to hear that. And social media is very noisy. Even your other mom friends, the group chats can be very noisy. Your parents and in-laws and other people’s opinions can be very noisy and something, I’m grateful that my husband has always supported me and trust me, he’s like, what’s right?


You are her mom. Trust yourself. But that’s something I think, especially as a woman in society, we’re told not to trust ourselves. We have doctors even that don’t believe our own pain and things like that. And so it was very hard for me to trust that inner voice and wisdom, and now I’m like, oh, she feels hot. I think it might be a fever we should take, and more trusting of myself and taking these actions where before would almost be overwhelmed with the options, not knowing what step to take and just kind of second guessing myself a lot too, and now being more confident in the parenting, what of course comes with time, but also learning to trust yourself as well.

Dr. Sarah (51:32):

It’s funny that you say that. I have a course, literally a course called The Authentic Parent: Finding Your Confidence in Your Child’s First Year. And I always thought to myself, I am literally writing this curriculum for parents to find their inner knowing. That is the whole point of this course. It’s like to walk parents through the first year of parenthood or really their child’s first year, whether whichever number child this is, but it’s like zero to one. But the goal of, frankly, all my courses are to give parents foundational knowledge and then teach them how to go inward to find the answers, versus just giving them all these scripts and telling them exactly what to do. Because one, like you said, that doesn’t work all the time. And so it’s like then we feel less confident because we tried something someone told us to do and it didn’t work, which makes us think usually like, Ooh, I’m doing it wrong, or There’s something wrong with my kid.


Versus being able to say, no, I’ve got this foundational framework of how attachment relationships work and how child development happens sequentially, what I should be looking for. And then I have frameworks that I can use to practice something without there being one right way to do it, which I think is so important. And it’s like how do I create content and courses for parents that don’t make them more dependent on me for information, but to help them feel more like, okay, I’ve got this. I can do this on my own, and I’m not alone. Someone is sitting here saying it makes sense that this is a question you have. I think that’s always the tightrope. I always feel like I’m walking in working with parents.

L’Oreal (53:23):

Yeah, I can imagine. And I just applaud anyone who is in that space. I mean, it is hard, it’s nuanced, it’s layered. There’s so much to consider. And yeah, I mean, I’ve been grateful. I actually switched to therapist about a year after she was born just because I was like, well, I thought I should be past postpartum depression. As I mentioned earlier, postpartum doesn’t expire. There’s no set time limit. It is forever. And just knowing that I needed something different from my therapist that she wasn’t able to provide. I needed someone who really specialized in postpartum depression and anxiety and also understood infertility and IVF and all that goes into that because it does require this. It was, I’m say, emotionally mode. It was a lot to explain all the acronyms and the state and and then before we’re through half of the session, and I haven’t even gotten to the meat of it and everything. And so I’m really grateful that I did in that instance, trust my intuition of that this isn’t no longer serving me. It’s time to switch the courage to find someone else. And thankfully who was in network and also a black woman that I feel like is very rare. And so I am grateful for that. But there’s just, we hold so much wisdom and knowing already and learning to trust that as a new mom, a new parent is a practice and something that I’m still working on.

Dr. Sarah (55:02):

Yeah. No, I love that. That’s such an important example of an interplay between using your own trust in your knowledge and trust in your sense of intuition and your awareness to go find support from another. Because we can’t do this all by ourselves. We’re not living on an island, and we don’t need to be, but to find the right person to help you with the thing, but you can’t go find the right person unless you yourself trust your ability to know what you need. And it’s like that dance between, I have to know I have to be sort of the internal compass, but then I can use that to direct myself and orient myself towards the help that will get me exactly where I want to go. And I think that’s a really, really good example of that. Thank you so much for coming on. This is really fun talking with you. I am really excited about the work that you’re doing and the books that you’re writing. And so if people want to read your book that you have or your kid’s book, where can they connect with you or can they find your writing?

L’Oreal (56:05):

Yeah, everything is at ltinthecity.com. My books Stop Waiting for Perfects is available wherever books and audio books are sold. It’s narrated by me. That was a fun time on social media, primarily Instagram and Twitter @ltinthecity as well.

Dr. Sarah (56:21):

Awesome. Well, I’m sure people are going to be clicking on those links that we’ll put in the show notes in the show description. Thank you.

Speaker 3 (56:29):

Thank you. This was fun.

Dr. Sarah (56:36):

Thanks so much for joining us in this conversation. You just heard me mention The Authentic Parent, my virtual course for new and expecting parents, and I wanted to share a bit more about it. I had so many first time parents coming to me telling me they felt overwhelmed, isolated and emotional as they processed the reality of being a new parent, and that there was so much support in the pregnancy and those first few weeks home, and then it just felt as though they had fallen off of a proverbial support cliff. I also had a lot of second time parents coming to me recognizing that they had learned from their first experience being a parent, and we’re now looking for more support to help them approach parenthood a little differently this time around. And so I created The Authentic Parent, which is a self-paced course with six comprehensive videos and corresponding workbooks that offer really foundational insights into your child’s development, the parent-child relationship, and how to understand the root cause of various parenting challenges so you can respond with confidence and a customized plan during that first year and throughout your entire parenting journey.

(57:45):The Authentic Parent isn’t just another program that tells you what to do, what to say, and what to believe. It is a foundational framework that teaches you the fundamentals of how a child’s brain relationships and personality develop, as well as the psychology of parenthood. So you can make informed and educated choices tailored to your own unique child. To learn more about the authentic parent, go to drsarahbren.com/tap, that’s drsarahbren.com/tap, or just grab the link right from the episode notes wherever you’re streaming this podcast. I’d love to help guide you on your journey of learning to feel calm, confident, and grounded in parenthood. So thanks again for listening and don’t be a stranger.

190. The power of stories in parenthood: Representation, identity, social media, and the “rules” of parenthood with L’Oreal Thompson Payton