It takes a village, but what happens when it’s suddenly unsafe to be a part of that supportive village? Parents learned the hard way when COVID-19 hit and we were forced into isolation. Now, as we begin to see the other side of this tunnel, we’re allowed a unique opportunity to build back, ideally better than before.
Joining me today is Digital Content Director for Parents, Julia Dennison. Julia and I discuss the struggles we personally faced parenting during the pandemic, ways we can all adjust now that hybrid work situations are becoming our new normal and the importance of allocating time for guilt-free self-care into your routine. You’ll hopefully find this to be an empowering conversation and a show of solidarity that every parent, no matter who they are, is struggling to juggle it all.
You know what, I’m going to let my kid be on that zoom call. I’m not going to feel bad about it because I think sometimes trying to hide it all away can sometimes mean that, you know, your employer doesn’t see it. And you’re maybe not getting that, that support and flexibility that you might be able to get. If you’re just a little bit more open.
Dr. Sarah (00:23):
If you’ve been listening to the news at all these past couple weeks, I’m sure you have heard about the topic of paid family leave coming up a lot. And while politicians might be debating its merits, Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of federal paid family leave. And parents are really standing up and demanding that their needs be heard and addressed and it’s kind of amazing to see. It makes me think about the fact that it’s one of the silver linings of this pandemic is that it’s kind of allowed us an opportunity or maybe forced us to zoom out and then think about how we can rebuild, maybe better than before. And paid family leave is just one of the topics where parents are really coming together and making their voices heard to hopefully create some much needed change.
Dr. Sarah (01:05):
Joining me today to talk about ways that we can build back better, the importance of guilt-free self-care, juggling it all as a parent and just plain normalizing how hard it can be to be a parent, no matter who you are, is Digital Content Director for Parents, her name is Julia Dennison. Julia is a single co-parenting mom to a five-year-old daughter and is also the host of the amazing podcast, We Are Family. I really like just loved this conversation with Julia, because truly it was one of the most honest and raw conversations I have had as a parent on this podcast. It kind of felt like the conversation I might have with a girlfriend, sipping coffee, or maybe a glass of wine. And I’m really excited to share this conversation with you. So without any further ado here is Julia Dennison.
Dr. Sarah (01:53):
Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist 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.
Dr. Sarah (02:25):
Hi, I’m so excited to welcome Julia Dennison to our podcast today. Welcome!
Hi Sarah. I’m so happy to be here. This is so great. Love, always love chatting with you on Clubhouse and other places.
Dr. Sarah (02:37):
Yes. It’s so funny how, like, I mean, I’m not, I don’t go on it very much anymore, but like there was like this weird blip in time where like everyone converged and like the relationships that I formed on that in that like month of Clubhouse, like are amazing.
I know. I’ve been talking about this a lot with my Clubhouse friends and it was exactly the same for me. It was like this like small revolution of a few months on Clubhouse when I think we all needed it most because I feel like we were feeling especially isolated and then things started opening up again. And I haven’t been back on Clubhouse all that much, but yeah, still friends with all kinds of people from those couple of months on Clubhouse. So it was cool. It was a moment.
Dr. Sarah (03:14):
It was a moment. I’m glad I was there for the moment.
Dr. Sarah (03:18):
I feel like I usually miss those moments. I’m not like in the right place at the right time.
We were riding the zeitgeist, yes.
Dr. Sarah (03:24):
Yes. but one of the reasons why we connected, I think in that moment was because you, we were all kind of like in crisis mode parenting and, and also trying to help people put that into a context in our professional lives. But like personally, we were like, what is going on?
Oh my gosh. I know it was just, I think people just needed a platform to vent and to commiserate and to just feel seen and to feel like they weren’t the only ones going through this. So I feel like Clubhouse allowed, was that outlet for people to connect and feel less isolated as parents. And just kind of like get it all out there in a kind of a safe ish place. So yeah, it was needed. It felt very needed at the time. And probably in some ways still still needed, but I feel like those outlets are kind of coming up other places and potentially at least a little bit more in real life these days.
Dr. Sarah (04:19):
A hundred percent. And I feel so for people who don’t know, like, so when I talk about, I mean, I think when you’re kind of public facing professional facing work is about helping parents feel confident and calm and centered in parenting, but then you’re in this collective crisis where you as a human being, who’s also a parent is like understandably kind of rocked. It can be like, I think that’s why that was also such a great place for people who were like in both worlds, right? Like we’re moms,
Dr. Sarah (04:49):
But, we’re also helping moms. And so it’s like, how do you reconcile the chaos?
Oh my gosh. I know. And I feel like the most helpful thing I could do as the editor of parents.com and, you know, as a mom who works in the parenting space was just to be brutally honest. I’ve always felt this way, but especially during the pandemic , just being brutally honest about the highs and lows and the hardships that came with parenting during the pandemic, like very early on in the pandemic, I did a video series for Parents on YouTube. That was just me and my daughter. And I’m a single mom in lockdown, me trying to work full time and trying to juggle, I think she was three at the time. So a three-year-old and it was things like I was like giving her ice cream for breakfast. I was, you know, putting the iPad in front of her and doing these things. What I had people coming up to me afterwards being like, thank you for showing that, like, it’s okay to do things like give your kid ice cream or give your kid a screen and just to be able to cope and survive. And it’s like, you know, absolutely. I was, I am living it. So, so I get it, you know?
Dr. Sarah (05:55):
Yeah. Yeah. I’ve never done more self disclosure in my life as a therapist, as I did during the pandemic. Like if people aren’t familiar with therapy often, like, you know, I think we’ve all had that experience in therapy with a therapist who’s like kind of quiet, doesn’t like, it’s a little, one-sided that relationship. Like I tend not to share that much about my personal like life and experience in the therapy sessions. But like during COVID it was like, but we’re in it to like it’s happening to both of us. Like, and being kind of honest about the fact that like, yeah, no, my kid is definitely watching TV right now as we do this therapy session because I don’t have anybody to watch my kid. And that that’s allowed and it’s fine. And then I’m, you know, I’m a psychologist and I give my child screens and it’s okay.
I remember my therapist had to literally barricade, she had three, she has three kids and she had to barricade her door, I think with like chairs and pillows, just because like, I can imagine as a therapist, it’s like, you absolutely have to have that sacred space of the room to not be disturbed. And it’s like juggling with that in the pandemic. So yeah, absolutely. It’s been, everybody’s had their own journeys.
Dr. Sarah (07:07):
Yeah. But I think it brings up and it is, everyone’s had their own journeys, but there is this sort of collective quality to it that I think has also brought parents in a way, like kind of in solidarity together, more like, okay, this is the thing parents are struggling. We don’t have the support that we need actually structurally.
Absolutely not. Yeah. And then the importance of the village, like when we were really in lockdown at the very beginning before vaccines came out I wasn’t seeing my parents, you know, my daughter, wasn’t seeing her grandparents and as a single mom, I was just so desperate to be able to see them and to be able to have that support and really made me realize how important it is to have that extended support network. And I think that that continues. I know that also Clubhouse and my mom friends, like the text groups, the texting between me and my mom friends is just totally different than it was before the pandemic, because there’s just that like bonding, I think that’s happened because of it like this collective trauma. And also just this like impetus to really reach out to others and feel connected because we were so, so isolated.
But I think you bring up a great point because I think parenthood is really isolating from the beginning. And a lot of people would tell me that the pandemic really felt like maternity leave that feeling of maternity leave, where you’re alone in your home and with your baby often, and it’s new and it’s scary and it’s different. And I was like, yeah, actually there’s a lot of similarities there, but I think all throughout parenthood, it can feel very isolating if you’re not, if you’re not careful, especially when you look at Instagram and it’s very filtered and people look like they have kind of, they’re showing their perfect parenting lives through Instagram. I think the pandemic was an opportunity for everybody to just say F it, you know, like let’s just show what we’re really going through and be really, really real about it because that only helps each other when we do that.
Dr. Sarah (09:05):
Yeah. It normalizes it that we’re human beings, raising human beings and humanhood is messy, like just at its best.
Yeah, and I used to say like, let your kids, you know, when we were in full lockdown, watching our kids full-time and also trying to work full time, I was like, you know what, I’m going to let my kid be on that zoom call. Obviously I have no choice, but like, I’m not going to feel bad about it because, you know, I feel like it’s important for my work to see that I am, that I’m juggling it all, you know, and not to kind of hide it away because I think the more that you’re, you know, obviously I’m very lucky because I work for Parents. So I have a very sympathetic employer, but, and that’s not the case for everybody at all. But I think sometimes trying to hide it all away and, and cover up how much you’re trying to juggle can sometimes mean that, you know, your employer doesn’t see it and therefore you’re not having those conversations. And, you know, you’re maybe not getting that, that, that, that support and flexibility that you might be able to get if you’re just a little bit more open with your employer. But it’s difficult. It’s really difficult. And certainly it has been a really hard time to be a parent over the last year and a half.
Dr. Sarah (10:18):
Yeah. But I do think, I mean, you bring up a really interesting point, which that like the whole zoom work really pulled the veil back because people were for the first time maybe people who were like executive positions maybe outside of the season of parenthood or were never parents, or are parents, but you know, just aren’t really elbows deep in it because that’s just where they’re at. And so they they’re making the decisions. Those are the people who make the decisions for many people’s like work, work life balance. And the veil got pulled back and the curtain got pulled back and everybody in those zoom calls got to see, this is what it looks like. This is what it really looks like. You’re used to seeing me like, kind of all buttoned up in the meeting and, you know, in the city, but this is what it actually looks like when I’m trying to get out the door in the morning and I’m trying to like get to the train and I’m trying to, and I’m managing 50,000 things. You don’t see all that and now you see it and you can’t deny it. And it’s, kind of can wear it as a badge of honor, rather than this shameful secret that we like want to keep hidden.
Right. But I mean, I remember I had meetings where my daughter just, she did a thing where like, she’d be fine. And then I would turn on the zoom and she’d start screaming. And I think I had one meeting where she was literally screamed through the entire meeting and I had to mute myself and basically just say like, I have to reschedule this meeting. I’m really sorry. And you know, like, even though I work for a very sympathetic employer and I work for Parents, there’s still that feeling inside myself where I feel like there are only so many zoom calls I can feel like I’m messing up, not messing up, it’s not messing up. But like, you know, like where I feel like we’re not actually getting things done. And it’s like, I get this paranoia that there’s only a limited amount of empathy out there from, from employers.
And then, you know, you kind of like internalize that and you sort of think how many, and this is not true because my employer has always been incredibly, incredibly supportive. So this is an internal kind of like anxiety for myself, but it’s like, do I have a number of strikes before it starts to feel like, get it together, get it together. And I think there are different standards for moms versus dads, because obviously there always is. But I think on the flip side of it, my daughter’s dad he works, you know, he works for a bank and he is a dad and we co-parent 50/50. So, so he has, her would have her half the time. I would have her half the time. And we kept that throughout the pandemic. So he would be in lock down and trying to work full-time with her just him and her.
And I would too, but I had, I felt like I had a lot more sympathy because one, I work for Parents, but also I’m a mom and his, he said, he always just felt like his employer was like, you know, he just, and this again may be him internalizing it, but like, it did feel a little bit like there was like a limited amount of sympathy for him as a dad. Probably more limited, I think, than for me as a mom, because it’s like, there’s still this sort of like idea and mystery that like the D what do you wait? Where’s the childcare? What do you mean you’re watching it? And he’s like, well, I’m a single dad and it’s just me and her. And so…
Dr. Sarah (13:33):
Right. And embed in that, embedded in that message is where’s the mom, right?
Where’s the mom?
Dr. Sarah (13:38):
If your kid, when you’re a dad on a zoom call at work, and your kid is melting down, the elephant in the room, there is people wondering where’s that kid’s mom. And like that right there is in essence, like the systemic structural issues that we, not everybody is thinking that, but a lot of people probably are in that moment. And I think it’s, as a society, we have a lot of work to do to shift those sort of embedded narratives.
Yeah. Because I always think about that, that viral video, that BBC news presenter that was before the pandemic, where he was presenting and then his wife comes through and kind of like scoops the baby out and like out of the room and gets it, you know? And then we all kind of lived that moment. But the, but that was it right there. What we’re talking about is like, the dad was presenting for the news and then the mom was like horrified and it was her job to kind of like get the kid back. And I feel like it’s exactly that feeling. And we, you know, and you hear anecdotes about if there’s an office in the house, hold, then it’s often the dad during the pandemic, it was the dad who got the office and the ability to shut the door and work. And often the mom was there outside work in the dining room table or wherever else, where there was not a door.
And that happens so often. I think we, I think we even saw like official, like there was, we reported on it. And then also just like, anecdotally with all my friends, I spoke to, it happened all the time where it was like, if there’s an office, the dad was getting the office because, and it’s not random. I think it’s often because we are in a society where the dads are still earning more. And so when we saw all those hundreds of thousands, millions of women leaving the workforce during the pandemic, of course it was women. And of course it was the moms, but it wasn’t just because moms wanted to do the childcare necessarily. It’s because often the moms are the ones who were earning less than the dads in the household. So it makes financial sense, you know? So it’s like so many different factors play into it.
Dr. Sarah (15:45):
Yeah. And it’s much bigger than the nuclear family, right. It’s not just like, oh, you have a misogynistic husband who takes her office from you. It’s like, no, of course not like, it’s about, like you said, it’s like, sometimes these are really hard, but very real decisions that you make as a partnership saying, my job doesn’t pay as much as yours. And so it doesn’t make sense. We have to prioritize yours. And, but like, that’s not, that’s not the family’s fault. Right. That is, that’s a much bigger issue of how we see how we, I mean, we talked, I mean the wage gap and then the, and now it’s going to be even worse because the women who did take a pause because of the pandemic, the women who maybe wouldn’t have wanted to otherwise, but had to now they’re like two years out and it’s, and that’s going to make for, as these women do reenter the workforce, what is that going to mean for what level they’re entering back in when they’ve lost two years of progress, potentially like, I don’t know if you’re got an answer for that one, but like that seems scary.
No, that’s, what’s so hard. And we, we talk about that. A lot at Parents like that, that impossible decision when you’re looking at your finances and you realize that childcare is costing exactly the same as what you would earn, if you were in a, in a, in a job yourself, you know, and that is often a decision on top of the guilt, on top of everything else that moms feel that can help sway that can sometimes sway them to consider leaving the workforce. But I think it’s important to also consider all the benefits that even if you are going even if you are going to work and you’re earning just about what you’re paying in childcare, there is still a lot of benefits to doing that. You know, one, your career, your identity, as, as a person and as a human being, as an, as a, as a woman in a separate, from your identity as a mother, I think that’s really important.
But also there’s plenty of evidence to show that it’s really important for your kids to see you living your own and succeeding at work and having a career. And like so many, a lot of my mom friends felt this guilt because they were not only do they work, not only are they working moms, not only are they working moms with really long hours, but they were doing it at home. So their kids were kind of like, could see them, but couldn’t get the access to them because they were working. And they felt even guiltier for being a working mom with long, long hours. And I said, you know, like, listen, first of all, you’re putting a roof over their head and you’re just that you have to work. It’s not even a question two, but it’s good. It’s really good for those kids to, I think it’s been kind of cool that the kids get to, have got to see what we do a little bit more than they might have before the pandemic.
I mean, now my daughter, she has a laptop at school. She’s very excited about that because now she, she said to me the other day, she wants to, she’s like, I’m an author now. I have a laptop, you know, like, so it’s cute because she’s just so much, I mean, granted, she’s been growing up in the pandemic from three to five, so huge leaps and bounds, but,ubut she’s definitely much more aware. I think of what I do at the level of five-year-old can know, but like she sees me working and she knows that that’s what I do. And there’s, you know, just that much more of a concept of me working. And I think like, it’s, it’s really important for girls to see that. And also boys to see it, to normalize that and to see working parents and working moms, especially.
Dr. Sarah (19:10):
Yeah. And I mean, I couldn’t agree more. I think you know, I’m, I work, my kids know that I work, I try my best. I mean, they’re four and two and a half, so they don’t really totally understand what I do, but they do understand that I’m here and not here, which was a really hard thing in the pandemic for them to grasp. And I think even still that we were, you know, year and a half, almost two years in, it’s still very, very hard for them to understand this idea of like, mom’s here, but not here. Cause that’s a really abstract concept for a young kid to be able to conceptualize, you know, I think before the pandemic, we went away to work, they went away to school or a nanny came, you know, there was some very physical barrier boundary, like, and now when me working in the house, but not being accessible to them, that was hard. Especially like over this summer when they were really seeing it a lot.
Oh yeah. I’ve all the time I would be working at my well, my table and then my daughter would be at the couch and she just wanted me to like sit on the couch with her and like, just be with her. And like, that is so frustrating. There’s part of me that’s really looking forward to going back to the office, just to have that separation, that, that hard boundary between work and life, because that’s been kind of frustrating. I think like, I think it’s one big mushy, you know, gray area now. And I feel like, I feel like me and moms and parents in general are working longer hours because it’s so fluid now. And also just that like escaping it. And so, like, I also feel like I’m more likely to be working from my phone when I’m, you know, and I think it’s for me in an ideal world, I really like to put that, that boundary. And so that I put my phone down and I focus on my daughter when I have that daughter time. My mother-daughter time, and then I, you know, work and keep those separate and it’s just turned into this like complete, you know, mush.
Dr. Sarah (21:11):
It isn’t much. And I think that we were talking about guilt earlier and like, yes, okay. There’s this sort of natural in inevitable amount of guilt that just comes from separating from your kids to do your work right. And we can do mindset shifts and kind of work our way through that guilt and put a reasonable name on that. And we can kind of minimize that, but there that’s going to be there, but this, the mush guilt is a whole nother animal. Like it’s not the same thing. And it’s a real, it’s like a product, more of this sort of situation that we find ourselves in, in this like COVID slash post COVID world of like, you know, you’re working kind of from the minute you wake up until the minute you go to bed and it’s this fluid, a morphous presence in our life now versus previously where it was like, yes, sometimes we struggle with that work-life balance.
Dr. Sarah (22:04):
But really there was like, there is a container and inside that container is work. And when I leave that container, I can really separate it. And even if I’m, I’m, you know, struggling to kind of shift my head out of work mode, I’m not physically in work mode anymore. And when those boundaries went away, I think it, it led, it led to a very messy situation for parents. And I think without those boundaries, we have to make them, like, we have to have these sort of mental conscious moments after whenever the day is done. Whenever we decide that like, okay, you know, it doesn’t matter when it’s more just that it there’s a time that you mentally say I’m shutting this down and I’m going to actively, mindfully embody a different self state now. I’m going to turn off my work self and I’m gonna turn on my family self. And, and I’m gonna give myself permission to be fully present with my family because you only get a few hours.
Right. And then on top of that, it’s important to give yourself permission to have time for yourself too. And then that plays into the guilt as well, because I found a new little, I found a new little guilt opportunity that has happened since, Esme has started school. And that is that. So her bus picks her up kind of really early. It’s like 7:00 in the morning and 7:05. And then she she’s an afterschool care because of course I work until five 30 or so. And so she has, she has afterschool until about well, up until 6:00. And in theory because my, my work right now is kind of flexible. If I drop her off at the bus stop at 7:00 and I go straight into work, I could potentially clock off earlier and then go pick her up earlier. But it’s very, usually very fluid.
And often I get pulled into meetings and it’s hard to really clock off earlier. It just is, especially if there’s work happening at the same time, but in theory, I could do it. But I’ve discovered that this little timeframe between like 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM as like a little kind of like two hours that I can have to myself to like take my time over coffee. You know, maybe like read a little bit of a book and I’ve kind of loved it, but then I also feel like, oh, but that means that I’m picking her up later at aftercare. You know what I mean? And so then it’s like, oh, should I let go of that? But then I know if I let go of those two hours, I’m just going to have this fluid, mushy work, parenting mess up until bedtime. And I’m usually burnt out at the end of the day. So I’ve been kind of enjoying those two hours, but they feel like a guilty pleasure in a way. Because I’m literally thinking about hours that my daughter is still at afterschool care.
Dr. Sarah (25:01):
Yeah. But I wonder if like, even if in those moments, you’re like, okay, I have these two hours. They are here, right. From 7:00 to 9:00, I am actually off the clock for real. And if I take these two hours and I really relish in them and I give myself full permission to just fill myself up and like, have, I don’t care what you’re doing. Right. Like scrolling your phone for two hours, but just enjoy it. Then, you know, you are going to have so much more for her when you pick her up at aftercare.
That’s what I tell myself. I think that’s true. Absolutely. but yeah, it’s just this like mental arithmetic that happens with like the guilt.
Dr. Sarah (25:43):
It’s like categorizing your time. Is it going to be parenting time? Is it working time? Is it me time? Like,
Dr. Sarah (25:50):
But me time is the first to go always, always. And when we get it, we don’t really let ourselves have it. We take it, but we punish ourselves for taking it.
Or we do the thing, which is the, we stay up too late because you don’t want to go to sleep at night because that’s your time. And this is going to sleep is when you give it, you know, that’s when it turns into a pumpkin and you give it all up. So, you know, and I feel I’ve talked to, so it’s me all the time. And I talked to so many parents also where it’s just like, I’ll sit there, just like doing scrolling, you know? But like, I can’t even, don’t even really want to put myself to bed.
Dr. Sarah (26:26):
No. Because I’m hungry. Like for the nothing. The absence of stimulation or the absence of being needed, or the absence of being responsible, I can do something irresponsible, like two hours of my sleep on social media.
Dr. Sarah (26:44):
Which, God, I hate to admit, but I definitely do that.
Met too! And I’m sure that there’s like more constructive ways of doing it, but it’s like, almost like you just don’t even want to do those constructive, you know, it’s sometimes even hard to even like, do anything like that feels good. Cause you just want to be…
Dr. Sarah (26:57):
No, I want to be irresponsible. I want to be, I want to be like, and it’s not, it’s not like self sabotage yourself, like punishing either. It’s like, it has this hungry feel to me, at least I’m like, I just need more of this. I need more of this right now because that’s always a good sign to me that I’m not getting enough in the daytime.
That’s true. That’s true.
Dr. Sarah (27:24):
Like when I recalibrate and reassess my day and say, can I squeeze in 15 minutes in between like my sessions, you know, here and here to do nothing, to like, just do nothing. Like I’m not going to have a goal. I’m not going to have a, to do list. I’m just gonna, like, I need a break. When I do that, I scroll less at night time. I’m less hungry. If you can see my quote fingers for that.
Yes. That’s exactly why in a weird way, that two hours between 7:00 AM and 9:00 AM is so random. But I don’t mind. I think I’m like getting more from those than I would if I was just like, I’m able to go to bed earlier. And I feel like I’m able to kind of like have a little bit more of a healthier structure at the end of the day.
Dr. Sarah (28:09):
Front load it. Front load the me time. So you’re not so hungry for it at nighttime.
Right. Or maybe it’s like being more creative as a parent in terms of when that me-time is. And I think like that, you know, maybe it’s like blocking that hour out and your, your outlook calendar at work and like taking a lunch break and actually getting outside, or actually like sitting, or not even like sitting in front of Real Housewives and bingeing that for an hour in the middle of the day at work. Like I think like being a little creative about that, that, that time and not feeling like you only have to just like work, work, work, and then pick up your child and then crash. Right.
Dr. Sarah (28:38):
But also it makes me think of like, okay with our kids. Right. when we, or even just, you know, just humans in general, when we deprive deprive deprive, then we want to kind of like binge. And instead if I never let my kids have sugar, if I never, if I really restrict their sweets, then what happens every time they see candy, they want to go nuts on it. Whereas I’m saying like, we have candy, we have it every once in a while. It’s something that’s regular. It’s not special. It’s not exciting. It’s I mean, yeah, it’s fun and it’s tasty, but it’s nothing like it’s not charged, then they don’t go nuts on it. And I think the same thing is happening. I think I’m like, well, like thinking about this in real time, like when I’m going, when I have that like hungry, nighttime, I just want to like, just do nothing for like really long time.
Dr. Sarah (29:31):
I think I’m too hungry for it. And I think if we were less restrictive of regular me-time with no punishment, guilt, but just saying like I’m dosing this in an appropriate amount because it’s important for me to have. And then I don’t have that kind of like intense bingy, hungry, I got to like kind of veg out for and do things that are really kind of numbing. Whereas like, I think if I were able to have more regular breaks throughout the day, I might choose to do something like go for a walk or read a book.
Dr. Sarah (30:06):
But, I’m not going to do that at 10:30 at night.
No. Totally. I completely agree. That’s really interesting to think about. The food thing is really important for me too, I I really subscribe to, you know, obviously just in general with myself, the whole kind of healthy at any size movement and just like trying to be positive about food and try to, not positive, just neutral. And I try to kind of pass that onto my daughter as much as possible. And I think I get there, I have those like winning moments where she’ll like, she’ll kind of like, I’ll like, same exact thing. Like snacks and candy are always there. I try not to make them like this really cool and exciting thing. Just kind of that they’re there. But then when I see her reaching for things like she wants, like if she wants like fruit or like cherry tomatoes or something instead of candy, and that happens just because I don’t make candy that big of a deal. Of course she wants candy and snacks all the time too. But like that’s when I have those winning moments where I’m like, okay. She’s like right now I feel like broccoli. I’m like, yes, okay, getting somewhere
Dr. Sarah (31:09):
And we don’t, and like I’m, you know, don’t do a happy dance on the outside when they reach…
Exactly. Totally, totally neutral poker face.
Dr. Sarah (31:19):
Yeah. Cherry tomatoes. What a wonderful idea.
Good idea. Yeah. Totally.
Dr. Sarah (31:28):
But yeah, I think so there’s certainly the self-care piece. There’s certainly the challenging, the guilt, the being more mindful when we’re, when we’re giving ourselves permission to like have some type of separation, whether we’re at work again or not. But I think, you know, you brought up this idea like, okay, we are going back to work people are going back. And like, I do think it’s important as a collective society to start being more vocal about the things that, that would help us to have a better system so that, you know, I think one of the reasons parents were so vulnerable during this pandemic is because our system wasn’t great to begin with. And then when everything, all of the support systems, we did have crumbled during the pandemic, we were like totally out to sea. And now that those support systems are coming back online. You know, my kids have been in daycare and school you know, for a while now, so I have childcare, but I work for myself. So that’s a big difference, you know, I get to say like, well, their school’s closed tomorrow, so I’m not working and that’s okay. I’m not going to get fired. But like how I think we really do have to think about as a society, how we rethink what, like there’s all this hybrid talk of hybrid work, but that’s not the same thing as flexible work.
Correct. And I think it’s really important that employers consult with parents and with moms who are, you know, living it and what flexibility looks like to them. But I think that there is this golden opportunity to have those conversations. We’ve been able to at least, not everybody, but for the most part, I think many people have been able to prove over the last year and a half that they’ve been able to maintain their level of work, if not exceed, you know, for us, I mean, I work on a digital brand, so it’s digital and we can kind of work from anywhere, but we were very rooted in the office. But you know, we’ve seen our traffic go up, we’ve seen our, you know, all kinds of numbers go up. And I actually think that my team has been working even harder during the pandemic of that might be what’s contributing to it, but we’ve been able to kind of use the pandemic the last year and a half as proof that flexibility working from home does not, is not detrimental to our work and our work ethic.
And like we’ve, we’ve shown many people have been able to prove to their employer that that flexibility has been, or the ability to work from home has been absolutely fine if not better in some ways for the employer. Because I honestly think that people end up working longer hours as we’ve already talked about. So now we have this proof now it’s about communicating it to the employer and making sure that we use that to our advantage. This is our golden opportunity, I think, to have those conversations with our employers and to talk to our, our bosses about what flex, what would work for us in terms of flexibility in terms of being a parent. I think a lot of people have really enjoyed that ability to pick their kid up from school at a time that maybe they couldn’t do before. Maybe they had somebody else doing it. And so like talking to your boss about what, what that looks like to you and being vocal about it, I think is really important. And now is that time to do it, I think. And there might just be that chance that you might get that flexibility in a way that, and I think a year and a half ago, you might not have.
Dr. Sarah (34:46):
Yeah, no. I tell this to families that I work with all the time is like start to do an inventory, do an inventory of things that, that went away during COVID that you need back, right? The things that you realized, okay, without this I’m suffering or things are not working, and then also do an inventory of all the things that because of COVID have emerged that work better. Right? This is like, like you said, like I get to pick my kid up from school. And that works better for me. I get to be there for dinner that works better for me. And in whatever ways we can be creative to think about how we can constructively present these things to our employer or to, you know, look at the systems in our life and say, how do I keep, what’s been working better for my family? How do I ask for the return of the things that went away that I need? Like, like vacation time, nobody took vacation time in the pandemic because they’re all working from home. Like we need to make sure that we’re taking that time, like taking it back.
Yes. And I think, and as a result my employer and I think others did the rollover so that you could have like more vacation the next year, which is all well and good, but like, yes, you absolutely have to take that time and take those lunch breaks. You know, that’s the other thing is I think like people, the fluidity of work, like we’ve talked about people are not necessarily clocking off. They’re not necessarily taking those lunch breaks as much in a funny way. And I think that that is important too, you know.
Dr. Sarah (36:14):
Yes. So, yeah. So do that inventory, make a list, sit down with your partner, if you, if you’re, you know, or your co-parent and be like, these are the things that went away that I want back, these are the things that are here that I want to stay. And then like, you know, cross-reference as a family, as a, you know, whatever your unit looks like and make sure that, cause you’re, you know, if you’re co-parenting, you might find that the things that you and your co-parent need to do look different or look really similar. And so, or they need you to ask for something on, on sort of on their behalf because it affects the way that they co-parent and then go to your employer and say, I’m not asking for everything on this list. I just want you to understand and have a picture of what my world looks like now. Right. How can we make some of this happen? I don’t need it all. Like we can be flexible. We’re not going to go in with a list of demands and be like, fix it.
Dr. Sarah (37:08):
But to have to have that conversation.
I think it’s definitely a time to do it and like a great idea just to outline what actually is working for you.
Dr. Sarah (37:16):
Yeah. And, and I think it also like, it’s that thing, like we pulled the veil back, we pulled the curtain back. People saw, we have, like you said, this is a window of opportunity where like, it’s not, you’re not good. Like I think unfortunately previously it was kind of like you might fear. And I think that fear is based in some reality that you’d get an eye roll and someone being like, this is the job you signed up for like suck it up. And I don’t think that that’s an appropriate response anymore. I don’t think it was appropriate response back then. But I think now it’s like, you really have to be tone deaf to have that kind of a response to a parent coming to you saying, Hey, I want to be collaborative, but this is what I need.
Then there’s also a lot of evidence that shows that that parents and moms are, can be better employees, you know, in terms of like their ability to get things done. And, you know, we it’s because there is that boundary of having to go pick your child up. Often there’s studies to show that parents can be more productive for that reason. You know, moms can be more productive for that reason. So I think that there is absolutely value for employers to do whatever they can to keep parents in their workforce and that actually isn’t just them being nice, but that’s like, you know, parents make up really important parts of the workforce in America.
Dr. Sarah (38:35):
And we have a skillset that like is unparalleled. We can multitask.
Yeah. Even though multitasking is technically impossible, but for your brain to be in like two different, I mean, you know this more than I do, I’m sure. But like that idea of multitasking is something that I feel like people can’t really actually do.
Dr. Sarah (38:53):
It’s actually not a real thing. There is no, we cannot multitask, but…
But, that’s all the more reason why I think it’s good to set up those boundaries between like that feeling, everyone always talks about where it’s like, you don’t feel like you’re being a good enough employee and you don’t feel like you’re being a good, a good enough mother. And I think, I think that getting past that feeling comes with boundaries that you’ve spoken about really kind of being in your work as your work self and then as your parents self, and then as much as we can build back some of those boundaries, the better I think we’re going all feel.
Dr. Sarah (39:23):
Yeah, no, I actually totally take that back. What we bring to the table is not that we can multitask because you’re right. We can’t, what we can bring the tables that we’re really creative problem solvers..
Yes. We’re creative problem solvers and we’re efficient, very efficient.
Dr. Sarah (39:37):
Because we want to get home to our…
Yeah. We have to. Like, we have to clock off at a certain time. Cause we have to go and be at the school bus stop or we have to go to school. So, yeah. Absolutely.
Dr. Sarah (39:46):
And then we want them to go to bed so we can have that time to ourselves.
Yes. Oh my gosh. Please, yes.
Dr. Sarah (39:51):
We’re very motivated.
Come on, get it done, get it done, get it, get it.
Dr. Sarah (39:57):
Right. But this is, yeah. I think this is very, hopefully an empowering conversation to listen to because I think it one, it just normalizes the fact that this is not easy. It’s not supposed to be, it’s super messy that it’s not your fault that it’s messy. Like it’s not something that like you, as a singular human being are failing at it’s that this is really a product of a much more under supported population and system.
Oh yeah. I mean, it goes back to like Angles wrote the essay about the family, about how the nuclear family is like a construct of capitalism to be able to put all the onus on this little family, to be responsible for everything that society doesn’t have to do for them. You know? And I think it’s been never been more clear than during the pandemic that like there’s so much riding on our shoulders as as nuclear families that shouldn’t be there, childcare, you know, all these worries that we have need to be worries, that society is having that, you know, that the, that the government is helping to solve for us, I think.
Dr. Sarah (40:57):
Right. It would be nice if we weren’t the ones going to the employer with the list saying, this is what I need, but the employer coming to us and saying, Hey, how can I help you? That’s right. What do I, what can I do as a, you know, decision-maker in my company to shift things, to make it easier for you to do your job here, because I want you to here cause you are contributing and important part of this, you know, system. It would be nice if that was what was going on.
Dr. Sarah (41:26):
And I think it is more, I really do. I don’t, I think that there are, there’s more awareness.
Oh yeah. I think those conversations are absolutely not just once, one way from the employee to the employer, I’ve seen more and more of them from the employer to the employee. And I think to your point, it’s because a lot of employers had not even realized all that parents were juggling. Cause we kind of keep it under wraps, you know, or we had before. And we couldn’t really do that so much when zoom cameras are on.
Dr. Sarah (41:53):
Yep. God bless zoom. I don’t know about that, but
I know. Zoom burnout. I Know.
Dr. Sarah (42:04):
Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for being here. This is so wonderful. If people want to learn more about the work that you’re doing or the podcast that you’re hosting, We Are Family. Like, can you tell people a little bit about where they can find you?
Absolutely. Thank you, Sarah. So I, you can follow me on Instagram at Julia Dennison. And the podcast is called We Are Family that I host that’s all about celebrating the diversity of family life today. And we have all kinds of cool celebs coming on that. So we have Tan France. We have Rosario Dawson coming up. We have Padma Lakshmi, just all kinds of people opening up about, you know, we’re all parents going through it. And that’s what I think is that real like that sort of what brings us all together and all have these very similar experiences, no matter who we are on this earth as, as parents. So that’s, we are family and then you can follow Parents @parents on Instagram and you can see the work that we’re doing on parents.com.
Dr. Sarah (42:56):
That’s great. That’s great stuff. Thank you so much.
Ah, thanks so much for having me. This is so great. I love chatting with you, Sarah.
Dr. Sarah (43:03):
Me too. Have a great day.
Okay. Thank you.
Dr. Sarah (43:12):
As we begin transitioning out of all the restrictions of this pandemic era, we really want to be intentional about what we’re choosing to add back into our lives and what we’re consciously deciding to leave in the past. For instance, you may love that working from home allowed you to have dinner as a family together every night, or afforded you the opportunity to be there, to wave to your child as they got onto the bus in the morning, it’s important to try to find ways to hold on to these things, whatever they are for your family. However, the lack of support that came out of this pandemic was something that almost all parents felt. And now that it’s growing safer to bring on help, it’s okay to utilize that, whatever that means for your own unique family.
Dr. Sarah (43:55):I think this is such a crucial time to take an inventory of your own life and identify what you want to preserve and what you want to change. And if you want some help getting started, check out my free workbook, Building Back Better After COVID-19. It’s an interactive workbook aimed at helping you prioritize, cultivate and eliminate as you can curate your new post pandemic normal. It has tailored prompts and reflective exercises that are going to help you identify what’s been working and what hasn’t. So you can create a personalized roadmap and move forward with intention. You can download that along with many other free workbooks and parenting resources on my website, drsarahbren.com, that’s drsarahbren.com. Thank you so much for listening until next week, don’t be a stranger.
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