Podcast

Sacrificing all we have and who we are in our pursuit of being a perfect parent has become a badge of honor in our society. But this isn’t a healthy or sustainable model. 

Joining me today is journalist, community-builder and Not Safe For Mom Group founder, Alexis Barad-Cutler. The pandemic exposed how many of the systems in our society are broken, especially for parents. If you’re feeling fed up, angry, and burnt out there is a way to channel that energy into something positive by asking yourself, how can I play a role in changing this? Alexis will offer some potential solutions for ways we can help ourselves on a personal and societal level.

Alexis (00:00):

Like, I know you wanna know that you’re not the only mom who is going through this. I think that we can go beyond despondency, anger, rage, because we have other humans that we can reach out to for support and healing.

Dr. Sarah (00:20):

Have you been following the digital platform Not Safe For Mom Group? It is an incredible space free of judgment, where moms actually talk about the things we’re all thinking, but maybe we don’t feel like we can say out loud anywhere else. One of the things I love about this platform is that it is so relatable. It doesn’t romanticize parenthood, and yet it doesn’t catastrophize it either. It just provides a real, honest and raw look at what it is to be a parent today. And all of those same adjectives, real honest, and raw can definitely be used to describe the conversation I had with Not Safe For Mom Group’s founder, Alexis Barad-Cutler. Alexis is a journalist, community builder and moderator whose work explores intimate truths behind the motherhood experience. Most recently she co-founded Chamber of Mothers, a collective movement to focus America’s priorities on mother’s rights. And we’ll talk a bit about the big waves they’re making inside this episode. So here is my conversation with Alexis.

Dr. Sarah (01:27):

Do you sometimes feel that while you love parenthood, it’s also overwhelming, messy, confusing, and not always exactly what you thought it would be? Do you wish that you could stop worrying if you’re doing it right and just feel confident trusting yourself? Let me clue you into one of the best kept secrets that I’ve discovered through my own clinical practice and my years as a mother. When you understand the basics of child development, psychology, and neurobiology, you are able to work with your child’s brain and rather than fight against it. You develop a true sense of confidence and you feel in control knowing that you’re prepared to navigate whatever challenge parenthood might throw your way. And that is exactly why I created The Authentic Parent: Finding your confidence in your child’s first year. Whether you are a brand new parent or maybe you’re thinking about how to approach a second or third child with a different set of skills, this six week course will arm you with all the knowledge you need to feel grounded and confident in your parenting journey. Enrollment is limited so make sure to sign up for the waitlist now. Go to my website, drsarahbren.com/tap to sign up and learn more. Let’s increase your confidence and help you create a strong parent-child relationship to use as your parenting compass. Don’t miss your chance to take part in The Authentic Parent and learn to confidently move through parenthood during your child’s first year.

Dr. Sarah (03:07):

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 (03:40):

Hi, I’m so thrilled to welcome Alexis Barad-Cutler to the podcast today. Thank you so much for being here.

Alexis (03:48):

I am thrilled to be here. Thank you for having me. And it’s really nice to see your face in real life.

Dr. Sarah (03:53):

I know. I know because we know each other audio only.

Alexis (03:57):

We are internet, we are audio friends.

Dr. Sarah (04:00):

I know. It’s like, that’s a weird thing to be in 2021, but yeah, I feel like that’s like walkie talks from like.

Dr. Sarah (04:07):

It’s analog. Yeah. It’s very analog. So to clarify, to loop people in, we met on Clubhouse. Back in that brief moment of clubhouse excitement.

Alexis (04:20):

It was really an exciting time where like some new platform came along and we’re like, this is it. This is the new Instagram, the new Twitter, the new TikTok. It’s gonna take over. We’re all gonna make money this way. Sitting on our couches and drinking wine talking.

Dr. Sarah (04:38):

That was my favorite part about it. I was like, I am in my pajamas talking to moms. This is the best! My kids are sleeping. It was like the after hours life.

Alexis (04:49):

It was really fun.

Dr. Sarah (04:51):

Yeah.

Alexis (04:52):

For second.

Dr. Sarah (04:53):

But it was for a second, but you know what? It was like an important second. It like had to happen. I needed it. I feel like we all found like this, like if anyone doesn’t know what Clubhouse is, it was like, it’s this sort of new platform that kind of had a moment. And then it kind of, I don’t know, it’s still around and people definitely use it. But I think there was like this weird little sort of perfect storm where it got a lot of publicity, people really joined. And then all the moms went on it and we were like all the moms in like the media and, you know, sharing parenting resources, professions kind of coalesced for like a hot second. And like to give some color, Alexis runs this amazing group called Not Safe For Mom Group. And it’s, it’s a platform where basically she tells the stories and helps give voice to people who who’ve have a really intense story that’s literally not safe for mom’s groups, like taboo stuff and, you know, dark stuff and scary stuff and really amazing stuff. But it’s powerful. And so, you know, I was really drawn to what you were doing on Clubhouse, cuz we were just talking about like real stuff in these like rooms and in our pajamas drinking wine after our kids went to bed and it was like, I looked forward to just like shooting the shit with you guys. And then, and like that’s how we connected. Like we, I don’t know how else we would’ve ever, maybe we still would have.

Alexis (06:20):

I’m sure we would’ve crossed paths because we know so many of the same people. But I think that the reason why so many mothers were drawn to Clubhouse was because we were especially isolated at the time. And this was towards, I don’t wanna say the end of the pandemic, but it was before things started lifting.

Dr. Sarah (06:42):

Yeah. First wave.

Alexis (06:44):

Yeah. And as things started lifting for some people, mothers still maintained that same quarantine feeling a really long time. And many of whom are still in that same purgatory because of their young, you know, the young people that they look after who are still extremely vulnerable. And that feeling has really never gone away. And Clubhouse was a really nice opportunity to feel connected in real time. That you were able to like talk to strangers, like live. And then also be heard at the same time because we also want our voices heard. So it was just this really nice real life meetup.That gained traction. And then people lost interest because they all went back to work in an office. And so, you know, got that feedback, not mothers, but other people. And so there’s probably like a bunch of still like very active moms on Clubhouse. But it, I think it kind of died down after that.

Dr. Sarah (07:52):

Yeah. And like business people, I don’t know. It seems to be a big marketing, the people who do like sales and stuff. I feel like they’re still on there.

Alexis (08:00):

Yeah. It’s just not as hot as it was.

Dr. Sarah (08:03):

Yeah. I’m not, I don’t know. It had, it was a moment. And that was, that was what it was and it was a good one. And I feel like my favorite thing about it has been the, like the interesting relationships that I was able to kind of cultivate with, you know, individuals like you, you who are doing really interesting things that, and now like we’re having a podcast episode because we connected on that platform and now have a relationship that I’m, and I know the stuff that you’re doing, like I know about it and I love it. So I wanted to, that’s really why I wanted to invite you on today was to talk and share, not only do you have amazing insights from the Not Safe For Mom Group platform, but you’ve also created the Chamber of Mothers, which I don’t know if you wanna talk a little bit about that, but I think it’s all kind of interrelated, all the stuff, the topics we’re having on Clubhouse, the stuff that you do with Not Safe For Mom Group and the Chamber of Mothers, it’s all, like the themes, the common threads there is empowering women giving them a voice.

Alexis (09:05):

Yeah. you know, I’ve been really lucky in my work, in the motherhood space to meet some very powerhouse women. And some of the women that I have connected with over the years have become my closest friends and a few of those women and I got together and we got really mad. I think a lot of great things come from women getting really mad. When we heard that paid leave was at risk of being pushed out of the Build Back Better Bill. And we got together and we said, well, you know, we wanna make some noise. What if we formed something that was modeled after you know, the, that was modeled after one of the biggest lobbying groups in the US. And we called it the chamber of mothers instead of the chamber of commerce. And and then we said like, let’s get, let’s try to get a million women involved, a million everyday women, mothers, and see if we can make them feel like every single person here could be an activist and use their voices and feel like they can be deputized to help in this effort. We’re not just gonna like post on social media. We’re gonna actually take action and action can look like a lot of different things. And we, and then we were able to connect with like 30 other women in the motherhood space who were like, yes, we wanna join. And they became founding mothers in the Chamber of Mothers. And and so the goal is to be a coalition that is supporting existing advocacy groups who have been doing this work for a really long time, like Paid Leave For America, Paid Leave US. And we’re working really closely with these groups who have you know, ears to the white house ears to the ground with, you know, what’s happening with senators and they keep us apprised of what’s going on. And then what we’re able to do is kind of be like the rogue renegade people out on the street saying whatever those groups can’t really say. Which is very in line with what I do every day in Not Safe For Mom Group, which is saying the things you can’t say out loud. So we can be like a little bit more naughty and be like, we’re looking at you.

Dr. Sarah (11:50):

It’s like the Lincoln Project, but…

Alexis (11:53):

Yeah. We’re like, we’re not gonna take this anymore. We’re sick and tired, you know? And we can, we can cause a scene and yeah. And it’s been really powerful because we know we’ve heard from these groups that what we’ve done has worked. We weren’t able to save paid leave yet. But, we know that, that our voices were heard by the white house, by the senators. They saw the effect that this, you know, social media uprising took and they heard the call that so many women put in to their senators. And it made headlines and they’re like, oh, okay. Like we don’t wanna piss off moms. Like we need mom vote.

Dr. Sarah (12:45):

Everybody should remember, nobody wants to off their mom.

Alexis (12:51):

And we said, basically like we gave birth to you, you know. We can get you, we can push you out too. Yes. So I think that, that those messages were really, really strong. And and it’s been a, it’s been a wild ride. And, you know, my side of it is not the politics side. We have some really phenomenal women who are much better at speaking to the the legal, the politics. I mean, that’s why I love working with a team. But I I’m really, I like to being the wordsmith and the creative and the brandingand getting sort of the emotional hook of things. So I really loved being a part of this and helping give birth to it. And I really hope that we can make a difference in 2022, cause ugh, didn’t happen yet. It didn’t happen yet.

Dr. Sarah (13:50):

And I’m curious your take on like, first of all, why this movement was so important. Cause it, and it still is, but why this didn’t, this came at a specific time for a specific reason. I think that, you know, and I’ve, we’ve had a couple other episodes on the podcast where we’ve talked specifically about how COVID impacted mothers and parents in general, as a population in a unique, profound way. There were many groups that were profoundly impacted by COVID and parents are one of them because of their, just their vulnerability from like a stress model. There’s something in psychology called the stress diathesis model, which is basically that like a stressor is the thing that pushes something over the edge that was already there. But it’s the stressor that actually creates the presentation of the issue of the pathology of the depression or the anxiety or whatever you have it. So like parents were already in this stress pressure cooker before COVID because our country in general doesn’t do the best job supporting parents pandemic completely aside. And then when you put a pandemic and you layer that on top of it, it’s like you can’t, it collapses what was already brittle and fragile. And I think that’s why parents and mothers, especially, I mean, you look at the, and I’d be very curious, your take on like why and how moms in the workforce were affected so intensely by COVID in a way that, that, you know, men were not, fathers were not. But parents in general, like the systems that we rely on childcare any type of health access that wasn’t like, non-urgent like kids not getting vaccinated. Like there’s just so many things that we relied on that kind of crumbled. Community, like being a village, all that stuff.

Alexis (15:53):

Yeah. I mean, there’s so much there. The system already was not working and then COVID, I think brought all of that to the surface in a way that we couldn’t ignore anymore. And I think you know, when we talk about paid leave and and things like build back better, we’re not just talking about parents, we’re talking about all kinds of caregiving and what the pandemic did was it highlighted how important caregiving is in general. And care for people in our family who are sick people in our family who are immunocompromised people with disabilities, with chronic illnesses, the elderly you know, this wasn’t just about moms. Although of course we really care about moms and, but we have vulnerable folks in our society who need care and who our system constantly fails. We have people who don’t have access to many, many things like healthcare, black and brown folks who have always been let down by the system. I mean, access to basic educational needs. That was the first to go, right? You know, when we went virtual, it was the more well off areas of the city in New York, the kids were fine. They had internet, right. You know, they had laptops. And then there were kids that literally had nothing. No internet.

Dr. Sarah (17:33):

Not only did they not have the actual technology that they needed, but they didn’t have the sort of support from adults. Because the adults had to go and be frontline workers or go help in ways that they couldn’t supervise their kids or were taxed and were working. I mean, everybody was taxed and working from home and doing everything they could. But there as a unique population of under supported kids,

Alexis (18:02):

Underserved, under supported. It was like an intersection of every failure possible.

Dr. Sarah (18:09):

Yes. But from a psychological perspective. I think those kids are going to have some of the biggest fallout from this, from a mental health lens, like from an attachment, from a self development lens. Like, because in order to sort of develop healthy self-esteem and a healthy sense of self you need to have healthy relationships with adults in your life. And it, this is not very, very clear here. This is not because their parents didn’t want to, or couldn’t give them that. It was because, because of the pandemic and the situation that was sort of forced upon these families, the parents were not able to, despite I’m sure a tremendous desire to be able to support these kids in this zoom education and this virtual education. Kids we’re like left all by themselves in many families to kind of figure this out on their own and they didn’t, they couldn’t. And so they didn’t go to school, they didn’t have any support. They were very isolated. That’s not healthy. And it’s damaging. It’s really scary for a lot of these kids to go through that.

Alexis (19:17):

So I was like, it was a really rough time for moms and I, that’s an understatement, but you know, I was listening. I receive stories. What I do on Not Safe For Mom Group is I allow, folks are able to write to us, me and I have a small team of mostly stay-at-home moms, working moms. And they’re working between like breastfeeding, changing diapers, bringing kids to doctor’s appointments. And then they squeeze in like a 30 minutes here and there. And that’s team mom group is what we call ourselves. And but at the time during the pandemic, I, it was just me and one other person. And I was receiving hundreds of messages a day and it would be like, so I’m being forced to go to work. And my kids in virtual school, and I basically have like, you know, the baby monitor on them so I can watch them. And they’re not like even like old enough to be left alone, but the mom didn’t have a choice. She had to go to work because her employer didn’t really give two shits that she had a kid who was home. You know, there were, there were women being forced to make impossible choices, especially in the beginning before, like everyone went home and they had to do everything at once, which is impossible. And employers didn’t care that you had to take care of multiple children and look over their schoolwork. And there was no system in place yet. Like there was no, how are we doing virtual school? Everyone was just flying by the seat of their pants. And teachers didn’t know how to do virtual school. This was a learning as we go kind of thing. Kids had never done zoom before. And mothers were going insane and breaking down and were, I mean, it was like panic attack after panic attack. How am I gonna do this? And this is before we knew what we were in for.

Dr. Sarah (21:37):

Yeah. I remember because it was because there was this huge layer of fear wrapped over all of this that you’re describing too, because I think if this were to happen now, the same issues would still arise. Like parents would have to refigure out how am I gonna be in two or three places at once? And it would be very, very stressful, but I don’t think we’d be as scared as we were in those early months of, you know, when school first shut down at the end of that school that first school year where no, nobody knew what they were doing. Nobody knew what was going on. It was chaos. It was terrifying. People were really scared of this unknown virus. Like we didn’t have any information. So that also layered on a tremendous amount of like just panic and anxiety and to add to all of these like logistical stressors.

Alexis (22:28):

And on top of that, because of the inequity that has always been around forever between men and women salary wise, right. Women always make, what is it like 85 cents to the dollar, something around I’m not, I don’t have that perfect, but. It was most often the men who stayed, like their job took priority. You were asking, why is it that women ended up losing? Like we lost so much of the female workforce. Um they ended up being the ones, you know, they would try to hold on to their jobs for as long as possible and do both care taking teaching their children and their full-time jobs. But then it just became an impossible battle to uphold both. And the person who made more income for the family was the one who ended up doing the job thing. And then the one who didn’t took over all of the household and teaching responsibilities and their job took either a back seat or like they had to do theirs at night or work around the hours of children. And then like eventually their, they got let go. So I mean, it was, it was this like slow burn just demotion of women out of the workforce and and I watched it happen in real time via the stories that people were sending me and it was demoralizing.

Dr. Sarah (24:15):

Yeah. What was, can you remember like a story that you received that like really touched you in a, in a way that…

Alexis (24:23):

Oh, I can’t. I mean, I really can’t say exactly one, but what I know is that I actually, I became really depressed. And I had to take a break. I was doing okay, you know, for a while. And then and then I had to call my psychiatrist and be like, something’s wrong with me? I, whatever we’re on right now is not doing enough. And I think it was the weight of these stories. And I was just carrying it in my body. I couldn’t, I was, I felt everything that, that I was hearing. And I was just so sad all the time. Even just thinking about it now really makes me, feel a lot.

Dr. Sarah (25:18):

It’s, I mean, it’s, I’m so sorry that you experienced that because it’s to hold all of that pain to be sort of the vessel that everyone kind of pours it into. I mean, one, thank you for even being willing to do something like that. Cuz I think it really mattered and does still matter to people that there’s a place for that. But there is secondary trauma involved in that bearing witness to trauma is traumatizing. And you can get, you can even get like PTSD from not being the, the direct object of trauma, but being what we call sort of secondary trauma. So, you know, first responders, frontline workers, you know, the health professions during COVID, a lot of them have developed PTSD symptoms. Not because they ever got COVID, but because, or, you know, went through, they bear witness to trauma. So profoundly every day that they receive, they, start to develop trauma symptoms. Um and so it’s not surprising that if you’re constantly holding all of this for other people and bearing witness to this pain and this trauma, that you too yourself could become traumatized.

Alexis (26:31):

Yeah. Yeah. That makes, that makes a lot of sense, but I, I just felt like, well, I’m so lucky, right? Like I’m, I have a job that I love to do and there’s no one breathing down my back and you know, my husband’s job is not being threatened and my kids they’re impossible, but they’re still like functioning. Okay. we can walk to the park, you know, it just, I felt extremely lucky. And so the least that I could do was offer my heart, you know, and my ear. So I felt like it was, I don’t know my job to take it on. But then I wasn’t a good leader for a while because I just wasn’t strong. So, I had to figure out a way to create some kind of buffer.

Dr. Sarah (27:28):

Yeah. But I think what you’re describing can be so easily paralleled by motherhood, right? Like, you know, obviously it’s different parenting your children is hopefully not traumatizing. Right. But the, but, but this idea of like, I have to show up, this is my job. I have to be here. I have to hold this space. If I don’t, nobody will. There’s a lot of pressure riding on this and I can’t let up. So I feel, and I judge myself for even thinking, can I take a break? How do I take a break? I’m a terrible mother. If I’m thinking those things. Right. So we put this pressure on ourselves. Society puts pressure on us to, to say like, hold this line. Don’t let go. Everything’s riding on this. And in a way it is. But in a way it’s also okay to say, I need to take space. I need to take care of myself. I need to make sure I have a, like you said, a buffer. I need to, you know, make sure that I’m getting my basic needs met before I can really hold this up for everybody else. And sometimes we do need to say, I need help. I can’t do this by myself. And I think every mother can probably relate to that too.

Alexis (28:40):

That’s really, that is such a good point. That is exactly it. That is, that is, that is the feeling to a T.

Dr. Sarah (28:50):

If an anyone has not checked out, Not Safe For Mom Group, like you need to, because I feel like it’s so validating to hear these stories. And I don’t know if you wanna talk about this on the podcast, but you mentioned that you were starting your own podcast to take this sort of long form.

Alexis (29:09):

Yeah. so I was, and we were talking about this a little bit before we went live, but I started, I decided I wanted to start a podcast because I, as much as I love telling the stories on Instagram, I find it, it’s not as satisfying because you don’t really get the full story. You get like a snippet of someone’s story. And I was kind of longing for the full picture. I wanna see a human being, you know, I wanna know what they were experiencing before they became a mom. And, you know, did you always know you wanted to be a mother? And what, I don’t know, what was your childhood like? And everyone has everyone. I feel, this is my theory. It’s like, we can, we all walk through life thinking of ourselves as like the protagonist in a movie. And if I asked you like, what’s your big story? You’d be like, oh my God, I have a story for you. Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. And and not everyone knows how to tell their, but I’m really good at getting people’s stories out, cuz I’m a writer. And I also love talking to people and asking them a million questions but you know, of course some stories are more juicy than others. And the ones that we don’t talk about are the, because we’re ashamed to tell them. And mother’s stories are the ones that are most often in the dark because there’s so much stigma surrounding them. So what we see instead are beautiful mothers and put together mothers and boss moms, and we hear about how do you lose weight and how do you succeed and how do you become powerful? You know, how do you have a confident child? How do you raise a great family? And of course, like, those are all wonderful goals, but along the way, there are pitfalls. And we need to hear about some of those pitfalls, because that helps us feel like, okay, so maybe she looks like she’s got it all. But like maybe she doesn’t always have it all. And that makes me feel more connected to her because she’s human. And I always felt like the people I made friends with as a mom were like the ones that I’d be sitting next to at the park. And I’d be like, I don’t know if I can do this for like another hour. And they’d be like, holy shit, me too. And that would be my friend. Right. And of course we’d have moments where be like, isn’t this the best thing ever, don’t you just love it. But like, you’d also need to connect over the struggle. And if I met a mom who was like, oh my God little Jimmy is just like the most perfect, precious blossom. I’d be like, Nope. Not gonna be on my friend. Nope. You know?

Dr. Sarah (32:10):

And there’s your buffer, there’s your buffer.

Alexis (32:14):

Yeah. so I’m really excited. I put a call out and so anyone listening, I definitely I’m accepting submissions. And we’ll tell you how at at some point in this episode, but I put a call out for stories and I am, oh my God. I’m like up until one in the morning, reading these submissions. They’re so good because people have such good stories they wanna tell, and they can tell them anonymously on this podcast. So it’ll be, it’ll be really cool.

Dr. Sarah (32:41):

I think that’s so amazing. Cause I think obviously it’s going to be fun and interesting and compelling to listen to. Like, I for sure will be listening to this podcast. Like it feels like, like, you know, you wanna hear these things you wanna know you’re not alone, but also I think it’s not just sensationalizing, you know, mom’s pain, you know, it’s not, it’s not like schadenfreude or voyeurism, it’s like, oh God, I feel so seen. Even if it’s not your story, everyone’s story is gonna be totally different. But the fact that there is voice to these messy, raw, real experiences that aren’t just sort of Pollyannaish and whitewashed that say like, okay, yes, of course we all love our kids. And we’re grateful that we’re parents. And also there are moments that are like really hard and messy and ugly and scary. And I think giving voice to that, pulling back that curtain is really powerful for other women to know they’re not alone, even if it’s not the same story. Just the fact that there is a story.

Alexis (33:53):

I think that parts of every story has something that like resonates and and unfortunately, so many of these stories though, have to do with power dynamics in marriage. And there’s a lot of like affairs and psychological abuse. And I’m not surprised at all because when people write in to Not Safe For Mom Group, and I’ve said this before, the topic that comes up the most is my partner, my partner, my husband, my partner, my husband. It’s like, that’s what people write in about. It’s not like, I’m worried about my baby. I’m worried about my kid. Like when you ask a mom, what do you really wanna talk about? What’s the secret thing. It’s her relationship with her partner?

Dr. Sarah (34:56):

Interesting. I wonder if that’s also, because there’s like this double, we talked about like shame being something that makes us not wanna talk about things and making motherhood beautiful makes us feel like we’re supposed to love every moment of it. But there’s like a double layer of shame and we don’t talk about our relationships. We don’t talk about, you know, you don’t talk badly about what’s happening in the bedroom. You don’t talk about these things with anybody else. Like, so there’s like double shame.

Alexis (35:22):

Yeah. And I also wonder if we now, as a culture have put so much energy into the raising of our children, you know, attachment parenting, helicopter, parenting, you know, whatever it is,

Dr. Sarah (35:39):

Tiger mom parenting

Alexis (35:41):

Tiger moms, all these dumb names. But that we’re so focused on the kid that we’ve like kind of lost focus on our relationships. I even said to my husband the other day, I was like, I just realized something. I am so full of, like, my energy is taken in helping our son regulate his emotions right now that I have zero tolerance for helping you regulate yours.

Dr. Sarah (36:19):

Wow. That’s such a powerful thing to say to somebody else.

Alexis (36:23):

And it was hurtful too. It was kind of like, I can’t, I don’t have time for any of your bullshit. Right? Like our job and a relationship is to like help somebody be there for somebody nurture somebody, not do it for them, but like, you know, be a springboard, a sounding board, like you can be nurturing to your partner balance them out when they need you. And I was basically saying, you’ll get nothing from me because I am busy doing this for our child. And it’s the truth. It’s just really, I am consumed right now. But like, is there a world in which I can take a little bit off of focusing on the kid and give it to my partner?

Dr. Sarah (37:16):

I mean, I hope so.

Alexis (37:18):

I hope so, but I think that there’s kind of this other martyrdom that we have as mothers right now and our culture, which is give everything to the kid. And even if it means sacrificing your marriage, it’s almost like valiant that we give everything. And if he doesn’t then like, fuck him. You know what I mean?

Dr. Sarah (37:40):

Yeah. But, and sacrificing ourselves. I think it’s like, there’s so much collateral damage in that way of showing up in parenthood. And it’s not sustainable because if you don’t take care of your relationship, if you don’t take care of your relationship with yourself in the long run, that’s not gonna serve your child either. Because you’ll become a bit empty and then when your kid really needs you to help them regulate their emotions, you’re going to say, I don’t have anything left for you. I gave it all to it’s like The Giving Tree. Have you ever read that book? I hate that book so much? I mean, I love Shel Silverstein, but that book, oh, it’s such a terrible message.

Alexis (38:20):

I like loved that book as a kid.

Dr. Sarah (38:22):

Me too.

Dr. Sarah (38:23):

It resonated so much with me. And I think I carried the message with me my entire life and felt like I was supposed to also be the giving tree.

Dr. Sarah (38:35):

It’s interesting. I’d be super curious to think, to hear, oh, I just had this idea if like you polled people from our generation who like grew up with that book and you polled males and females and which character they identified with and which person they sort of internalized in that story. And I bet you, you will find that the girls identified with the giving tree because that, and it’s not just the book. It’s everything that we’ve been through in our lives that tell us, you’re the giving tree, you’re the giving tree. Where is that stump? I wanna see that stump, like it’s we have to stop that messaging. It comes from so many places. It’s not just one source and we’ve internalized it for generations. I mean, this is intergenerational transmission of a traumatic message.

Alexis (39:26):

Ooh, that is a good question. That would be a great psychological study.

Dr. Sarah (39:31):

Yeah. I don’t know how much funding it would get.

Alexis (39:35):

The Giving Tree fund.

Dr. Sarah (39:37):

Yeah. okay. So, but I want to sort of this, you know, I think this was very moving to talk to you about this stuff. I also can see how this episode could leave people feeling angry, scared, hopeless. And I really wanna, I want to tie it up a little bit for people and be like, oh, okay. Yes. We talked about some stuff today that can enrage us and it should frankly, enrage us. If you feel enraged right now, I’m glad I love you, but I’m glad. But I think one of the ways that we can like an antidote to that feeling of, I don’t want this to be impotent rage. Like I want it to feel like directed rage. Like what can parents do? What can mothers do? What can fathers do? What can anybody do to feel like, okay, there are things that have to get changed. How can I play a role in changing that?

Alexis (40:32):

I mean, there’s a couple things. I mean, one of, my biggest belief is in talking I think having a conversation is the beginning and we don’t have enough of them. So that’s why my goal is to start hard conversations that you didn’t think you could have because you thought that they were maybe too dangerous or like people might judge you, but I find that once you start having the hard conversation, maybe if you’re the first person to speak and say the hard thing, more people will also come forward with hard thing, and then you connect over that and it makes you feel lighter. Because then you realize you’re sharing in the hard things and you can support one another through it.

Dr. Sarah (41:34):

Yeah. And I think talking, like, I think, you know, you’re on Instagram, you have a big platform I’m on Instagram. I have a very small platform, but we’ve got these platforms. Right. And we’re talking to people and I think it’s really important to remember that, like, you do not have to have a platform to have a conversation. Like when we’re talking about having a conversation, I mean, like to your friend, to your sister, to your neighbor. I remember this is sort of different, but almost exactly the same. I had this really profound experience. It was my first year of grad school. It was probably the first month of grad school. And I was walking to the subway with one of my classmates and I was like, oh, where are you going? He was like, I’m gonna go to my therapist now. And that was the first time. And this is, I’m a clinical psychology graduate student in New York City. And that was the first time someone said to my face, they were on their way to therapy. And like, I was like, that’s amazing. I’m in therapy. I’ve never told anybody that. And I’m literally in the profession of helping people through therapy. And there was this like realization, it was like this light bulb moment for me, like, wow, I hold shame. And I’m perpetuating that shame by not saying in conversation, in casual conversation. Oh, you know, when I was talking to my therapist about this or, oh yeah. I’m on my way to therapy, I’ll catch you up after. Like, just dropping that truth casually in conversation and how it changed everything for me in that moment, it was just a very random subway conversation. Like, oh, where are you going to next? And I’m glad it happened exactly when it did right at that beginning of my work of becoming a clinical psychologist. Because I think that de-stigmatizing talking to a therapist or having any reason whatsoever to pursue mental wellness should be talked about. And so, but it’s similar to that. Like you can drop it in conversation. Like, Ugh. You know what? My kid cried all night last night and I slept. I didn’t go in. I was too tired. Right. That’s true. I’ve done that.

Alexis (43:37):

Oh yeah. For sure.

Dr. Sarah (43:40):

And we need to just say it.

Alexis (43:43):

Right. And I also think that forming groups is important. Like for example, nobody talks about having kids with special needs at my school. And so everyone’s in the dark about what to do about it. So like you’re all starting, you recreate the wheel each time for each kid. Like what’s, where do you go for speech? Anyone know where to go for OT? What’s an IEP. And, and every individual has information once they go it and then nobody shares it cause there’s no like group that’s talking about it. And this could be for any topic that’s stigmatized. But if you said to one another, like, does anybody wanna do a group about going through being the parent of a kid with special needs, like at our school? You’d have like 50 hands go up. And you could just like meet virtually on a zoom or like in real life at a park and feel like, Ugh, I feel so seen right now. I thought I was the only one.

Dr. Sarah (44:50):

Yes. And if anyone who’s listening is a part of a mom’s group like that, will you please reach out to me cuz I want to, I would love to do an episode with people who are in some type of group that share that information. Because I do think that would be really helpful for other parents to hear because I mean, I get, I mean, obviously I’m in that particular realm of professional work where I’m working with families of children who are special needs or have learning disabilities or who have behavioral plans, all that stuff. But there, yeah. Like you said, everyone comes to me and they’re like, well, wait, what’s all this stuff I need to know. And there needs to be more like centralization of this information.

Alexis (45:33):

Or moms who are going through divorce. I have several, right now I’m putting together a list, just an email list to share with all the moms in NSFMG , like moms who are going through divorce, who are divorced, who are solo moms. Like, because they just wanna know each other, like, and I’m just gonna like send it out and be like, Hey, guys do something with this list. But like, I know you wanna know that you’re not the only mom who is going through this. Like, you wanna know that there’s a group and you can bounce things off one another. Like, what do I do if I’m going through like a really shitty divorce? What if like, what do I do if there’s like a terrible custody situation, you know, you need information from people. So I think that we can go beyond despondency, anger, rage, because we have other humans that we can reach out to for support and healing. And I think that’s a really important thing. Now, in terms of politics, in terms of like, what do we do if we’re really pissed off about things like women’s reproductive rights rights in the workplace. I think joining something like the Chamber of Mothers is a great place to start. You go to www.chamberofmothers.com you sign up and we will find a place for you to actually get involved in our group and align you with an action point that really suits your unique gifts. So if you’re like a graphic designer, we’re gonna help align you with an advocacy group or an organization or something within our chamber that could really use a graphic designers, you know, gifts.. So we’re here to really use people in a way, so that you feel like you’re actually doing something right. Cause we don’t wanna just sit here and be mad. We wanna take action.

Dr. Sarah (47:29):

Yeah. Right. And I think there’s something very different from like signing a petition to being assigned a project. Like that feels like, yes, sign petitions do that. But that, it takes, so it doesn’t give us that sense of satisfaction. I think that like accomplishing something tangible does. And like, but I mean I speak myself. I don’t know how to get involved. And if I wanted to do a project, I wouldn’t know where to start. So like, I’m excited about this idea of you being like, well, we’ll assign you something that you can do. And it can be as bigger or as little as you are able to give. But like then I get something that I can actually, it’s like, I wanna do the work, but I need someone to do, to give me the work to do. Cuz otherwise it feels impenetrable.

Alexis (48:14):

Yep. We also have direct links to how to email your senators, how to call them what to say. You know, this week we were really making a big push to, we had a direct line to every, you know, call your Senator and say, we absolutely need paid leave in the Build Back Better bill. Now this is urgent. It has to happen. Now it has to happen before the end of the year. And we showed you how to actually like leave a voicemail, gave you know, the words to say. And you know, if you follow chamber of mothers on Instagram, you’ll find tips like that and we’ll also connect you to other advocacy groups with action points. And it’s a, it’s a great place to start. If you want to be an advocate for moms and and moms rights and feel like you’re doing something.

Dr. Sarah (49:09):

That’s amazing. Well, we’ll link all of this in the show notes too, so people can very easily access all of these resources.

Alexis (49:17):

Thank you.

Dr. Sarah (49:18):

Um oh, thank you so much for coming on. This was such an interesting and you know, powerful conversation. I felt a lot during it.

Alexis (49:29):

Me too. Thank you for making me feel that way.

Dr. Sarah (49:33):

Thanks for showing up that way. All right. Well I’m sure we’ll be hearing more about the work that you’re doing. So let’s stay in touch.

Alexis (49:44):

Yes, absolutely. It’s so nice to see you.

Dr. Sarah (49:46):

Yes, you too.

Dr. Sarah (49:54):

What a powerful and honest interview. I loved speaking with Alexis and I can’t wait to check out her podcast when it drops. As we spoke about in this episode, the power of community to help us feel seen and validated and connected is such a pivotal part of surviving parenthood. The early stages of life with your new baby can be a really isolating time. And on top of that, we have a pandemic in the mix causing people to feel an even deeper sense of anxiety, loneliness, and burnout. But you don’t have to do this alone. There are many places you can turn to for support. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or just like you wanna be a bit more grounded and informed, I encourage you to check out my virtual course, The Authentic Parent: Finding your confidence in your child’s first year.

Dr. Sarah (50:40):In it, I’ll walk you through the fundamentals of psychology, neurobiology and child development and help you actually integrate this new knowledge into your own unique family. This course is different from a traditional mom’s group, which generally splits parents into a very narrow margin based on their child’s exact age. In The Authentic Parent, each small group cohort is made up of no more than 12 families, all in different stages of this early parenthood journey – from expecting parents, to fourth trimester parents, parents to budding toddlers or second or third time parents who perhaps wanna do things a little differently this time around. Highly informed by the Montessori mixed age classroom principal, the group coaching calls included in this course create a space for more seasoned parents to share their own experiences and Wisdom, allowing them to grow confident by helping guide others. And parents earlier in their journey are able to learn from the experience of their peers and get a deeper understanding of what they can expect, all while I serve as a moderator, grounding the conversations in psychologically sound and research-backed information. So if you’d like to take part in this, plus get lifetime access to six weeks of informational video modules, workbooks, reading lists, and an exclusive non-Facebook community to help you prepare for everything you need for your first year of parenthood and beyond, go to drsarahbren.com/tap that’s drsarahbren.com/tap and add your name to the waitlist for the course beginning this February. Thanks for listening. And don’t be a stranger.


Want to get more from Dr. Sarah Bren? 

Follow Dr. Sarah on Instagram

Click here to join the weekly newsletter 

And check out her website for more free parenting resources

34. The pressures of motherhood in our society: And how we can come together to feel less alone

download the free pdf ⟶

PARENT SMARTER, NOT HARDER

Keeping the peace at home in times of stress or tension.

17 Neuropsychology Strategies to Parent Smarter Not Harder:
How to Use Brain Science to Maximize Efficiency and Prevent Burnout While Working From Home with Kids During a Pandemic

Menu

ABout