A Conversation Around Community: Catherine O'Brien Interviews Dr. Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes
One of the most common issues moms bring up to me is that it’s so hard to find their mom tribe. Whether it’s online or in real life, it’s hard to figure out where we fit in or find that place where we can feel supported and not judged for our choices, fears and struggles.
And yet, I really think it’s one of the most important things for all moms to have in place--that circle of friends who get it, who can lift us up when we’re down or just let us cry without offering advice or criticism. I say this all the time, but truly, we weren’t meant to do this parenting thing alone. We need community--period. Even the most independent, most confident or most introverted mom needs a circle of mom friends.
But, why is it so hard to find these mom friends? And how do we succeed in finding them?
I had an amazing chat last week with Dr. Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes about this very thing. She has created her own online community that breaks from the usual judgy stereotypes. I’ve been blown away by the culture and personality of the group, which is so honest, open, nonjudgmental and safe.
It’s no surprise that her group has grown so quickly and organically. Women are really aching for that kind of connection.
So, I hopped on a Facebook Live video chat with her to find out what inspired her to create such a group and what she thinks the magic sauce is in creating a supportive mom community.
Watch the Interview:
Shareable Quotables from this interview:
Mentioned in this Interview:
Book: Lactivism: How Feminists and Fundamentalists, Hippies and Yuppies, and Physicians and Politicians Made Breastfeeding Big Business and Bad Policy by Courtney Jung
Dr. Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes' Facebook group, Mummy Voices
Dr. Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes' blog, EatingHerYoung.com
Catherine: 00:01 Hey there, it's Catherine at happywithbaby.com and I'm so excited because Dr. Jacqueline Schoemaker Holmes is going to be joining me today and we're going to be talking about mom communities. And I know that is a struggle for a lot of the moms that I talk to in my practice here in Sacramento and that I see in other Facebook groups and stuff. She's created an amazing community. I'm going to make, see if she's joined us yet. I know she's created a wonderful community. It's called Mummy Voices. So m-u-m-m-y voices. It's a Facebook group that I am fortunate enough to be a part of and she posts great content on her blog called Eating Her Young, which she doesn't really eat her young but it's, it's her how she's been surviving her motherhood journey. So I'm looking forward to having her here and there she is. So I'm going to add her and hopefully it goes better than other times, but we'll see. I've been known to like have my phone drop and stuff too. So let's see. It says adding. So hope all is well and I'm not kinda crooked here, so any minute...still adding, I love technology and the challenges of it. So.
Catherine: 01:40 Alright. So this thing, what happened?
Catherine: 01:49 Let's see, I'll try again. Working. All right. I guess that's what happens when you go live is you just have to deal with all of the unknowns and I will be editing this and putting it on my blog, so--There you are! It worked, I'm so excited!
Jacqueline: 02:17 I just don't have any idea what I'm doing. It's not you, it's me.
Catherine: 02:17 Oh, okay.
Jacqueline: 02:25 Let me, I thought I had something in place that was going to work but of course it's not. So yeah, maybe I'll just hold my phone the whole time. That was kind of casual. Casual, super casual. Just like hair look good. If I have any on my teeth be no I can't. I don't notice. So yeah, I think it'll be good. So the fun part about this interview is that Jackie and I have never actually spoken in person before. So this is totally random live and it should be lots of fun.
Jacqueline: 03:04 Yeah, it's going to be. Oh my goodness. I'm so wobbly. Is that awful?
Catherine: 03:09 Do you have like something to put it up against to hold it?
Jacqueline: 03:13 For sure. Okay. Let me just. Okay, just a second. Just a second. I'm going to create a tower of stuff here and it's gonna be. It's gonna be wonderful. It's going to be really good.
Catherine: 03:27 Well, isn't that what motherhood is all about though? It's like you're always constantly kinda rolling with the. Oh no, it's perfect. We--You just kind of roll with the punches and
Jacqueline: 03:40 I'm distracted by my hair and lipstick. I'm just going to look at myself the whole time.
Catherine: 03:45 So tell us, tell us about you. I did a little intro about you have some amazing you put out some great memes and some wonderful blogs. And tell us about how you got here. How are you doing this?
Jacqueline: 03:58 Well, I so appreciate being here and I so appreciate you featuring me and allowing me to talk about myself, which is probably one of my favorite things to do. I'm not gonna lie. Um, but to be honest, um, this place that I'm in now is very different place than I was in three years ago. So three years ago, my daughter was born and um, I had this beautiful pregnancy and I had this, you know, just perfection, like I was, you know, doing yoga way into the, you know, everything was going to be perfect. Right. And then six and a half weeks in, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, which I was so thankful for because from the moment of birth and really the birth process, um, everything was like a steep decline. Right? And that's not what you're expecting. Um, and so it took me the last few years, not gonna lie three years, um, to dig myself out of that.
Jacqueline: 05:06 And a really huge part of that for me was finding my voice as a mother, finding my identity as a mother and I'm sharing that experience with others. It's, it's funny because I used to write a lot for myself, but um, especially when I was younger, it was very cathartic. I was an angsty teen, you know, and uh, so, you know, um, so writing, it always been my outlet, but I didn't need to share it with people. Right. Um, but for some reason, um, it was like telling this truth publicly, um, that was a huge, huge breakthrough for me and it was really, really healing and it took away a lot of that, um, just guilt and shame that I had, um, and, and the really conflicted feelings I had about being a mother and it just put them out there. And um, and humor has always been my saving grace as well. Right? It just, it gets me through everything. So, um, so the writing and the humor and um, it just all came together and um, I think that answers your question.
Catherine: 06:19 Yeah. So, you know, I hear that from a lot of mom's like, well first there's that shame and guilt and they don't want to say anything because somehow, you know, if we have these negative thoughts or feelings about being a mother, then we're not, we're a bad mother or we shouldn't have been a mother or whatever comes up in our head. And so then, you know, I hear the story, like when I finally told somebody and I realized I wasn't alone and other people had the same--similar stories. What, how did you, what, what made you decide or what was kind of the catalyst have you start talking about it? Because I think it's, it's important that we're talking about it because I mean, it's hap--it happens a lot, like we, motherhood isn't just wonderful all the time for anyone, you know. And I think the more real where we are real, we are about it, the better and more support we can give each other. So how, what made you do it and how'd you do it and what would you suggest?
Jacqueline: 07:15 I just don't, I really appreciate these questions so much because it just really, it sort of helps me not only think through my process but also, you know, reflect on, you know, how far I've come. So this is really, really helpful for me as well. So thank you. Which you do very well. Plug for you.
Catherine: 07:15 You are wonderful.
Jacqueline: 07:41 I like to think so. I will every week. Do you have time in your schedule?Because I'll do it. Be careful what you wish for. Okay. So what was I saying? Okay. So, it's funny because, um, you know, there's this correlation that's been sort of demonstrated between women who, um, who struggled significantly with, with breast feeding and postpartum depression. Now, nothing has been sort of causally linked to get in the research. But, um, but I remember reading, um, I remember reading something about a woman who had, um, who had taken her life. She had postpartum depression and she took her life and her husband was blaming the stress that she had, um, you know, that was associated with breastfeeding and I know that breastfeeding and the pressure that I put my on myself to breastfeed and, and the sort of culture of breastfeeding that exists in the, in contemporary sort of motherhood practices really made me just, you know, fall deeper, much deeper into that, um, into that depressive state.
Jacqueline: 09:06 And um, and so I read the story and then I, and then somehow I stumbled upon, and I can't remember her name right now. Um, but she wrote the book, Lactivism--Jung, Dr. Jung is her name. And, um, and it was like I read my experience, she wrote my experience. And I was just like, oh my God, thank God. Do you know what I mean? Like, this was the first sort of, it was the first sort of, um, time I felt understood. Oh my God, if I start cry this interview, Oh my God. But it's probably gonna happen. But, um, I haven't felt unsafe.
Jacqueline: 09:51 I bet you can I give you a practice? Um, okay. So, uh, it's, you know, the first time I felt understood is the first time, as you have articulated, I didn't feel, I didn't feel alone in my experience and I didn't feel like it was all my fault, you know what I mean? Like, like, you know, my, you know, not, it wasn't about, you know, how my body had failed me. It wasn't about how I failed as a mother, wasn't about how I was inadequate and that it was never meant to be a mother because I'm not the nurturing type. It wasn't a bit of all these stories that I was telling myself. And um, and so I've never done this before, but I wrote her an email like, like a serious, giddy fan girl note. Do you know what I mean, where I was just like, "Oh my God, your, this is incredible. Thank you for writing my story. You have no idea." Um, and then there was something about that writing that email and then her response and then I heard something on CBC, uh, which is, you know, um, radio like NPR here, um, and uh, they wanted to collect stories about, um, about sort of a moment in your, in your life. And then from there it was like, I just, I just burst open. Like I just wanted to tell my story. I just, you know, there's something profoundly transformational about seeing your story written on a page or seeing you're seeing your thought expressed in a meme or a reading your experience written in a blog post. And I just, it just opened the flood gates for me.
Catherine: 11:31 Wow, that's great. Um, yeah, and there's so much. I feel like there's so much pressure. We have all these pressures as moms that we're supposed to do things a certain way, you know, breastfeeding being one of them and you know, you're supposed to parent a certain way or like all these things we like tell ourselves and so if we're not meeting that, then somehow we're doing it wrong and it's. So there's nothing more validating than hearing someone say, like, "yeah, like it's not your fault" or it's like, you know, there are different ways to do things or um, you know, there's, everything doesn't work for everybody and every family. So.
Jacqueline: 12:12 Yeah. And we're, we're all individual women. We all have these individual backstories and we all have unique bodies and we all have unique birth stories and we all have unique children and you know, this idea that there is some panacea that works for all women. It's just so infuriating.
Catherine: 12:12 Yeah, yeah.
Jacqueline: 12:34 Yeah. And I, and I think for me the biggest struggle was I just didn't have, you know, a mother role model. Like my mother is wonderful and fantastic and beautiful and gorgeous and everything the way that she supported me. But I don't, I'm not a reflect, like I'm not a replica of her. I'm not a, you know, he have different interests and you know, she loves children. She taught elementary school for 35 years, you know, that would drive me over the edge. You know what I mean? Like at--
Catherine: 13:11 What works for her doesn't work for you.
Jacqueline: 13:12 Yeah, exactly. And so I just didn't have, I didn't have this woman who was who I am and so I thought. And so I thought--so my biggest, you know, issue was, I'm not reflected anywhere so I'm not an appropriate mother but I'm not okay. Right. Do you know what I mean? The real struggle with, with trying to find an identity as a mother and trying to find a voice as a mother and you know, I think a lot of us, even as women we struggle to find her own voice and we struggle with the pressures and the judgments and the intense scrutiny of others. Right. And so when you put it into a whole package and you throw a baby at a woman and then you're just like sink or swim, you know, like--
Catherine: 14:02 Here, learn about this new person and not know any idea what you're doing and just, yeah, you should be really good at it. It's natural. It's natural.
Jacqueline: 14:12 Oh my God. The whole natural thing. Oh my God. Yeah. I joke about my natural childbirth. It's like, oh my God, why didn't I realize that I take a Tylenol for a headache? I probably should've just taken the epidural. Do you know what I mean? Like if you take Advil, you know, you might be the type of person that wants an epidural, you know. Not across the board. But there's, there's not even Tylenol waiting for you at the end, really. Do you know I mean? When she was like have a natural birth though, it's not always a good idea. I'm all over the place. I'm sorry about that.
Catherine: 14:48 That's OK. I mean I think a lot of moms are. I feel like, I feel like you really made a good point there. And something I hear a lot in my office is about like. And I think it's that reflection, like my mom was this kind of mom. Either I'm fearful that I'll be like her, like if it was a negative experience or I'm fearful, I'm not like her and she was this wonderful mother. And so if I'm not doing what she did, then I'm not doing the right thing, you know. So it's like, if we're not our moms, we are moms like it's bad, you know? So it's a challenging--I think it's really hard to figure out who we are going to be as a mom and then we might, you know, our partner might have their perspective of what a mom should be in there. Maybe their mom was a stay at home mom and doing all these things and "What, you want to go back to work? And it's not supposed to--that's not how my mom did it. So it's not the right thing." Or are kids getting the best of like, you know, it can be a lot of questioning from all different places, which can be really hard. And um, yeah, I think we put a lot of pressure on ourselves that things have to be a certain way. Yeah.
Jacqueline: 15:51 Yeah. And that we have to be a certain way. Right.
Catherine: 15:57 So tell me about--so you have this amazing Facebook group. How did you get that going? Like how, what made you decide to do that?
Jacqueline: 16:02 Well, um, so first of all, you know, I'd like to go back to go back to my postpartum depression days and I have, I have this wonderful friend, Amy, and we became friends in the yoga class because obviously I was the best pregnant woman ever because I was doing yoga. Only time I've done yoga is when I was pregnant. Like we just, we just like a loser. These naive women, we think that yoga is going to like, I don't even know what I mean. Like I didn't even. Anyway, let's not even talk about my story, but the point is I did not use one move from my, um, from my yoga, my prenatal yoga class. Maybe maybe happy baby only because you know, you need to hold your legs up like that to get a baby out, you know, if you're laying on your back. Anyway,
Catherine: 16:59 Is that what they called it? I don't remember them having names, but it's been a long time since I did it, so.
Jacqueline: 16:59 You're like, "Yoga? [inaudible, crosstalk]
Catherine: 17:06 Oh, okay.
Jacqueline: 17:09 Basically just playing on your bag, holding your feet up in the air. It's just. Yeah, I love that joke. It would have landed better had you known the name. So, um, when you have to explain your joke, it's not funny. So
Catherine: 17:24 Somebody's gonna get it though.
Jacqueline: 17:26 Well, somebody. Somebody thinks that's hilarious. Um, so, um, so Amy was wonderful. She had a baby four months before me--
Catherine: 17:39 See, someone did post "Happy Baby. Laugh out loud." Oh and my business is Happy with baby. Maybe that's why it needs to be called Happy With Baby pose or something. Hi Jackie. Another Jackie.
Jacqueline: 17:52 Hi, Jackie. You rock. Mostly because you have the same name as me, so now we're best friends. That's all right. Okay. So, um, so Amy, uh, you know, she knew that I was struggling. Um, and uh, she invited me to this group of moms that she was part of and I told myself as a naive pregnant woman that I was never going to be a part of a mommy group, right? Because there's a lot of things that we denigrate, particularly me as a, as a gender scholar and a feminist and, you know, a critical feminist sociologist, you know, I have these ideas about, um, about the world and about who I am and about what I reject and it's taken a lot of soul searching to realize that a lot of what I reject is, um, is what it means to be a mother. And I think some of that's really positive and some of it is not so positive. Right? But, um, I remember I sort of relented and I went to these, um, to these mommy group sessions because I was like, well, what else do you do with a baby? Like, it's just the, the, the, that just like groundhog day of, of, you know, feeding. And I just thought I was going to go out of my mind. Well, I was going out of my mind. Let's be, let's be clear, but, um, but, um, I remember, I remember I was just still so stuck in this "before me", you know, this "before" version of myself and, and so I remember telling Amy who had graciously, right, invited me into this like, you know, group of, of women to this village, to the community that, um, that I found it boring because I'm a jerk. I was like, oh, that's boring. Um, and those women actually ended up just like saving the shred of sanity that I had. Like, they became my people. We still have a group on Facebook and I guess I guess it kind of grew from, from that real life experience where I was like, oh my God, you know, women need a village and I don't care how cliche that is. Um, it's just the truth and, and, and it really needs to be actualized and I don't care if it's online, if it's in, you know, whatever, wherever it is, right? But we need that space and we need to be by and for mothers and we needed to be nonjudgmental and supportive.
Catherine: 20:33 Yes.
Jacqueline: 20:35 Because so many of these spaces, right, like the nursing groups and that this and that, that they're so judgmental and everybody has the best way and I couldn't, I couldn't tolerate those groups, like I couldn't be in them like it was, it was really detrimental to my mental health to be in these spaces where, where you know, people who already feel so fragile and vulnerable and raw are getting advice thrown at them, you know, "you're doing this wrong" thrown at them, you know, it's just, it's too much.
Catherine: 21:16 Yeah. Yeah. And so how do you keep yours? It's like I run a facebook group. It's very small because I, it started off as just like an in person meetup group for the very same reason that you mentioned. It's like I was fortunate enough to join a moms group after my son was born and connected with a few moms that we still occasionally get together now that our, our kids are nine years old. I'm not nearly as often and I think it's been a while and I kind of miss them, but like, how do you--So then I was like, that was the thing, it was like--and I talked to so many moms that can't find their people, they can't find their tribe of, of who to, you know, connect with like they've tried different groups and they feel like they don't belong or they feel like they're being judged because they're not, maybe they're not breastfeeding or maybe they're not having--baby wearing or you know, whatever it is that they're feeling, they're not doing it enough and maybe it's not even always like what's being told to them, but somehow it's perception that they have to, like, they're feeling like they're not doing it right, like other other people. So what, like how, how do you keep yours not judgmental and like how do you like, do you encourage other people to connect with other moms and stuff?
Jacqueline: 22:35 Yeah, I think it's such a great question and I think, you know, there's something honestly like very magical about Mummy Voices because it's like women who are in the group, they get it. Do you know what I mean? Like they just get it and I, and I wonder if it's because they kind of self-select in. You know, many people are people that um, that I know and then those people invite people they know and, you know, sort of snowballs like that. But, but to be honest, I think that these women just get it. Like they just get that it's a space where it's not always easy not to sort of give your opinion or, or give your advice. But what we have this really sort of special practice where it's like if somebody wants advice, they will ask for it. They will say, "this is what I'm struggling with, you know, can I have the advice?", rather than-- And it's just supportive. It's just, it's just, um, you know, I, I think I'm going to take a little bit of credit here because yeah, I really, my uh, I've really put myself out there in an honest way. Do you know what I mean? Like I, I, I have on my blog, I, I just sort of like, I was in a space about a year ago, over a year ago, when I started the blog where I really just needed to like rip myself open and just get it all out, you know what I mean? I was angry, I was raw, I was shameful. I was all of these things and I just, I just had to rip it out, you know? And so I think that, um, I think that all of that kind of, you know, that's how people most often talk about my writing, that it's raw and um, and so I think that that bleeds into the group using some graphic terminology here.
Jacqueline: 24:30 But, but truly I think it does. I think it seeps in because it's just like we don't need any more bullshit in our lives. Our lives are hard enough or difficult enough, right? No matter how many children that you're raising your, you're juggling all of these things, you're stressed. It's like, why? Why can't we have a refuge? Why can't we have a refuge where we're raw and vulnerable and that there in these beautiful women who are going to encircle us, right, when we ask for help and say, how can we help? What can we do? This has worked for me, you know, that's what we're looking for. We're looking for authenticity. We're looking for, for authenticity and we're looking for community and, and we're tired of the bullshit discourses of motherhood, you know?
Catherine: 25:24 Yeah. And I think it's like we need that validation too like, right, like it's like I don't have to be doing it the way you do to validate like it's hard, whatever, you know, it's hard or it's, you know, you're having challenges and it doesn't mean that you're doing it wrong. It's just, you know, it's just difficult at times. So--
Jacqueline: 25:43 Yes. And the fact that women don't even get a chance to say it's difficult sometimes because of the circumstances of their life, as you said, maybe expectations, internal, external, whatever it is. Right? Some women don't even get the space to say, "This is hard. This sucks. I'm not enjoying myself. I'm not enjoying every minute." Right. Which is so annoying, right? To be told when you're just struggling to keep your head above water. You know, I'm, you know, we talk a lot about body issues and relationship issues, all of those things, right? Because they're there.
Catherine: 26:19 It's all of its impact.
Jacqueline: 26:24 Let me [inaudible] Right. Like, it all, it's all together. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Catherine: 26:27 Uh, and I think it's like, I feel like what happened sometimes are what all have moms tell me and I don't know, p here, that's like, if they say like, if I'm, if I complain or if I say something, then someone will tell me how I, it's because I'm doing it wrong. Like I can't just say, you know, like, Oh, you know, at night we're having difficulties--sleep, you know, sleep is an issue. And it's like, oh, well you're doing it wrong because you're co-sleeping or you're doing it wrong because the baby is--
Jacqueline: 26:27 You're not co-sleeping!
Catherine: 26:58 Can I just be like, help me figure it out the way I want to do it. And I think I always try to tell people. There's not one right way and I have two kids now and I can totally vouch for this because what I thought was right with one kid is totally different with the other one. And we had to re- figure things out and now balance the two of them, you know, so there's not one right way to do it. It's like figuring out what works for your family and your children as individuals too. Which could be, I want to say a bad word show, you know, like,
Jacqueline: 26:58 Do it! You can totally say a shit show.
Catherine: 27:38 It's a shit show sometimes when it's like, oh my gosh, why is it, you know, I mean, you don't know what you're doing until you try it out, right?
Jacqueline: 27:46 No, absolutely. And I think, um, and I think to your point, um, first of all, you should never have more than one child. Like I'm just, if we're giving out advice.
Catherine: 28:02 Yeah, right. I know. Or, you can't just have one child, that's the wrong [crosstalk] You're ruining your child by having only one. What a terrible person you are.
Jacqueline: 28:14 I know, she's going to be a monster. it's fine, it's fine. Um, but uh, but yeah, I just think, I think yeah, it's really, really, really, really hard and to just get advice at every turn is just obnoxious, you know.
Catherine: 28:35 Or like, even if I--like I felt like this team has come up if I'm in the process of writing a blog about this, but this theme has come up this week, but several clients about the unsolicited advice from family members where it's like, oh well you really should try it this way. Or we did it like this and feeling like they already don't know what they're doing and then they have their in-laws or maybe even their own mother or somebody telling them like step, they're doing it wrong. So feeling like, oh my gosh, like I can't take this, you know? And being like I, I mean I'm totally sensitive to that too. Even though I can say like, well you don't have to take it on and you can just remind them. But it's like, it's hard to not.
Jacqueline: 29:14 No, I know. [crosstalk] I know sometimes entering family scenarios, you're just like, "so what's going to, what am I going to get triggered by today? Like what's going to happen where I'm just like, oh my God, I keep thinking about that. But, but that's the thing like I think, I think that we need to acknowledge the vulnerability and, and like the vulnerability that having children--this space, how vulnerable it is having children period. I don't care what. I don't care what age they are. Do you know what I'm saying?
Catherine: 29:14 Or what age you are as a mother.
Jacqueline: 29:53 Yes. Right, exactly. And then the thing is, I think that that's why I think, you know, I have this whole sort of issue around, you know, the self-sacrificial mother, this, this, um, this idea that she always puts her children first and all this kind of stuff. Like I just, you know, it just, it makes me nuts because it's like women, mothers have to have a really, really strong sense of themselves because, because motherhood makes us fundamentally insecure, you know, it, it, it, it rips the, the ground out from under us. And then we're supposed to grin and bear all of these scenarios that we have to walk through that are, you know, sort of a landmined with judgment and opinion. And advice and you know, I really think that it's important that we sort of get our house in order to, you know, what I mean, like in intimate, in terms of who we are as parents. Like as soon as I started embracing that, um,
Jacqueline: 31:03 like the way that I do things and, and I started brushing comments off with humor and I could just function again in the world. You know what I'm saying? Um, because I remember, I remember when my daughter was quite young and she'd been throwing up everywhere, you know, you don't, you have a, you know, an infant and they vomit all over you for like an entire day and you're just like, I just want to murder something, you know what I mean? Like not my child, of course, you know, don't put them in the oven. That's rule number one. Um, but, uh, but you're just so you're sort of like beside yourself. And then I got out of the house the next day or something because you know, my, she was a bit better and my mother was able to look after her and I was in a group of women and I said, you know, one of them knew my child had been sick and, and uh, and I sort of explained that it had been a total puke fest and you know, whatever nightmare. And this says to me in the group, she says, it's so hard to be away from your children when they're sick. And I was like, "What? No, I couldn't wait to get away from her."
Jacqueline: 32:12 Like I'm just like, what are you talking about? You know? And so I had, you know, so I kind of had that reaction. I was like, it's so hard to be with them, you know? And then she was like utterly disgusted with me. Do you know what I mean? Because I get like vocalized this, this truth, you know, granted may not have been her truth. Know what I mean? Like I'm not, I'm not saying that my truth speaks for everyone's truth. I'm just saying it's almost like there are so many unspoken truths about motherhood, like how awful it is a lot of the times, some of the time, you know, a percentage of the time that it's like, people just shut you down, you know, and I remember my counselor telling me at the time, like, basically you're going to have to thicken your skin if you were going to say blatant truths about motherhood because people don't like it. They don't like it.
Catherine: 33:11 Why can't it be, why can't we have our own truths? Like why does my truth have to be your truth? Like, you know.
Jacqueline: 33:18 Exactly. And that goes. And that goes back to Mummy Voices. It's like what? What a beautiful community. Yeah. Because these women, except that your truth doesn't have to be their truth, that your way doesn't have to be their way.
Catherine: 33:33 And it doesn't because you do it that way. Doesn't make me less of a mom because I don't do it that way. Which I think happens sometimes. And then that's why we get defensive and it's like, "oh you, you leave your child when they're ill or you're glad to be away?"
Jacqueline: 33:49 Yes, yes, yes. And, and I think again, it goes back to that pressure. It goes back to the pressure of the performance of motherhood. We have to perform motherhood in very particular ways in order to be acceptable. Do you know what I'm saying? In order to be acceptable mothers, you have to do certain things and say certain things. It's really fundamentally tied to being an acceptable woman. Do you know what I mean? Like in order to be proper woman who's properly feminine, you have to be and do particular things. You can't be too sexual, you can't have too much fun. You can't, you know, like there's, there's all these things, right. And so they're fundamentally tied together, right. There are, there are very similar scripts for mothers, you know, except they're more restrictive and they're more suffocating.
Catherine: 34:40 Yes. You know, it's interesting. So I teach this workshop, I cofacilitate with my husband. I'm like surviving that first year, your relationship that first year and the further I get from having new babies because we're at five and nine years out, there's been times where he's like, you can't say certain things. I'll tell my husband cause I'm like, Oh, you know, about breastfeeding or about different things I'll be like, "Monitor what you say, like I don't want--" you know. And now I'm like, yeah, I don't care anymore. Because like, I know, like I know more of the truth. I'm more comfortable with it. But like in the beginning it was like, oh, I don't want them to think a certain way that I think a certain way, you know? And it does happen. Like I monitor myself. Well I'm a therapist, right? So there's certain things I monitor in the office, but you know, I monitor myself a lot like on social media or whatever, like, you know. Definitely around breastfeeding, definitely around just all sorts of different things like that. Because you know, this fear and I think the more comfortable I get, the more, the easier it is to do it because I know what's important. I know it's what's helpful for the clients that I work with and stuff like that. But it's really hard. It's why can't we just have our opinions about things and not be like a big deal about it. Like different opinions, different views, make the world go around and makes, you know, makes our children and makes their lives and it's all like, I think it's good, right? Like that's how we get things done is having different perspectives and different views on things. But somehow I feel like with motherhood we're supposed to all be doing it the same way or that feeling that pressure.
Jacqueline: 36:16 And based on contradictory advice as well. Do you know what I'm saying? [crosstalk] One study will contradict another. And there are a lot of really, um, there were a lot of really powerful, um, discourses, right, about motherhood. Like, you know, um, basically you're like a monster if you don't breastfeed, there's like, do you know [inaudible] There's certain things like if you don't do things by the recommendations, then you're, you know, whatever, uh, or if you do, you're not natural enough for something, you know what I mean? You know, competing discourses that are very, very powerful. And I think women become very attached to them. They become very like emotionally attached to them and self-identified with them. Do you know what I'm saying? And then school, it's like an attack on one's personality, one's once fundamental, you know, values and things like that. Um, because I know that people, like, for example, I don't talk about my, my breastfeeding experience very much because people can't sort of tolerate, um, they just can't tolerate it.
Jacqueline: 37:22 It's like, it's like there's only one way. Do you know what I mean? And, and I think that what's interesting is that women are trying to guard themselves against, by having this self-identification and by, by aligning their values so closely with one particular kind of parenting. They're really trying to guard themselves against that insecurity that they feel that we all feel as mothers. And what they don't realize is that they're perpetuating it for other mothers because they don't know, they do know, but maybe they put to the back of their mind how much it hurts another person to have their experience, you know, denigrated or judged or whatever it is when really fundamentally and at the very ground level, we're all just doing our best.
Catherine: 38:13 Well, we never know what the full story is behind why a mother is not breastfeeding. I knew her mother who apparently didn't have any milk ducks, right? So she could not, could not physically breastfeed her child. Like she did not produce the milk. Right. And she would still get, people would still give her grief about that or like why somebody doesn't have another child. Like, and people make comments and stuff like that. And it's like a, maybe they don't want to. Maybe they can't. Maybe like all these things. It's like, why are we, you know, why do we do that to each other? How do we stop? Tell us how to stop Jackie. Tell us how to stop doing that.
Jacqueline: 38:53 Because I have all the answers in the world. But no, I really do. I do have one answer for that and it's something that I think that Mummy Voices as a community, as a village, as a group of beautiful women who just want to support each other. It's speak your truth, right? It's, it's be honest be honest with other women. Do you know what I mean? If you open up, other women will say, "Oh my God, thank you for saying that." So be the example. Be The leader from among your group of friends. Be honest, authentic, open, raw, vulnerable, whatever you need to be. Because what I think we don't all understand is that trying to fit into these perfect idealized versions of motherhood of what a mother is, is really, really damaging us as, as women, as friends, as a community, as a sisterhood. I really believe that.
Catherine: 39:57 Yeah. And what I've found, and tell me if you've experienced the same thing in the mom groups, either I've been in personally or even have hosted professionally, is that every time my mom says shares an experience, there's always another mom that says, "Oh my gosh, I went through something similar" or "I felt that same way." I've never had somebody sit there and everyone's like, "Oh God, you're unique. That's never happened to me." Like that doesn't happen. Like we all, you know, like probably feeling we've had, our experience we've had is so similar to what somebody else's feeling and it's so validating to have that and you know, so be the one, speak up because somebody else is going to be like, "oh my gosh, yes, I've, I felt that way too." Or "I went through that too."
Jacqueline: 40:43 You're never going to get a room of blank stares that are just like really like, you know. While women have not had the exact same experiences as you, there is always a bridge. We need to build those bridges. We do not want to put walls to other women and to other women's experiences.
Catherine: 40:59 Yes. Yes. So I know, I know we're coming up close to an hour, I don't want to take too much of your time, but--like 20 till or whatever, or a little after, like 19 til.
Jacqueline: 40:59 I could do this all night, just so you know.
Catherine: 41:14 And I think people would love to hear us talk all night too. But tell me like, what would you suggest to a mom that's struggling to find her tribe of moms or to connect with other moms in her community? What would you, do you have suggestions for her?
Jacqueline: 41:32 I, I do. I mean, so I'm going to sort of shamelessly plug Mommy Voices because I think um, it's just a wonderful space and I think that um, you know, all I know that all women are welcome and um, anyone who self identifies as a mother and all that kind of thing. So certainly if, if you need a place to come, if you want a place to come than then Mummy Voices is there for you. There's. And there's lots, right? It's not just Mummy Voices. There are, there are a lot. I think that Mummy Voices is a very unique community and it's full of compassionate women, but you will find that in other spaces, right. Um, so experiment, maybe join a number of things. Maybe you're really into breastfeeding. Maybe you're really into baby wearing. Maybe you're really struggling with an anxious child, right, like find those online and uh, an, an offline spaces where you can go.
Jacqueline: 42:28 Um, I think that, I think that sometimes, you know, we even if we're struggling with something, we sort of tell ourselves, say we're struggling with an anxious child or something like that. We tell ourselves, oh, well, but I'm a good enough parent to handle this so I don't need to go to a peer support group for people with anxious children because that's for people who have like nutty children and I don't want to go there. You know what I mean? Like I think sometimes we self select out of things because we want to be perceived and we want to perceive ourselves as really good parents. And so, um, I guess my advice there would just be take advantage of, um, you know, take advantage of, of those community resources. Um, there are always things like around here we have, you know, a baby groups where you can just go. I didn't really like those. I found them full of anxious new mothers, which I was one of. And so it just kind of made [crosstalk] made me weirder, you know, [crosstalk] more anxious is what I mean, but I'm just joking.
Jacqueline: 43:32 But I loved the library program and so I went to li-- because I felt comfortable there. I was like this, I feel comfortable. A library have always felt comfortable. I know, so go where you feel comfortable and you will find community there as well. Right? Um, but you know, even if you're in the playground, right? Even if you take your child to the park, just try to connect with another mother, you know, be real and just, you know, be open and uh, you know, the right people will walk through your open door, you know. Some will little sort of think that you're a weirdo and maybe a crazy person and you talk, you come to the park to talk to everybody and whatever. Maybe you do, that's your business. Um, but um, but you know, you will make those connections with the right people. So yeah, and--
Catherine: 44:29 Like, you know, keep putting yourself out there, right? Because I think no two groups are created or are the same and so I think it's like trying new things until you can, like you find you find your, the right fit for you, which can take a while. So I think it's like it can, getting encouragement to keep going and I think it can be especially hard. Like I'm definitely more introverted so it's hard. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, I have to go to this new place. I don't know anybody. And I think that's where it's like having a baby has totally changed me. Like oh I just started talking to random people like in line at the grocery store, whatever, because I was like desperate to like talk to people, but you know, so now I can start conversations easier. Like I host my own group, like all those things that I probably would not have done previously. But I think it's like keep putting yourself out there and trying and you know, and get encouragement from other people, other moms like ask for help, ask for support from your partner too. It's like I have, you know, I had a client that her husband would like call her and remind her to go before group because he wanted her to get that support. So if you need that, you, that you need that extra push, like ask for it and get that.
Jacqueline: 45:38 Yes. And it just realize that you don't have to do it all alone. Even, you know, like the throes of postpartum depression. And I wouldn't let people, you know, fold my towels when they, you know what I mean? Like I was just like, it's like I think sometimes we, we feel like we have to be in so much control so that we don't fall apart, you know, and, and let it take it from someone who has lost it all, lost every thing she's ever known. Every shred of her sense of self. Right. Take it from me, you, you can come back, you can do it and you don't need to do it on your own because without other people, I wouldn't be here right now. Right?
Catherine: 45:38 Yeah. We need other people.
Jacqueline: 46:32 We do, we do. It does not make you a bad mother to say I need help and I can't do everything on my own.
Catherine: 46:43 It makes you a strong mother to ask for help. We all need it. We need it at some point or another. So.
Jacqueline: 46:51 Absolutely. Absolutely.
Catherine: 46:54 Well thank you for being here. Do you have like last--You have so much wisdom to share, so I can't wait to come up with some little me in our conversation, but do you have any, like, last parting, like wisdom or thoughts that you want to share before we end?
Jacqueline: 47:12 Um, I don't know. Um, I guess just, I just, I have to say that I love what you're doing. I think it's so important. I, I love that you are focused on this really sort of difficult time and the transition and all that kind of thing. I think I really would have benefited from, from knowing that someone like you was out there and so, um, please keep doing what you're doing. No, my pleasure. And thank you so much for having me on. And um, I hope we can do this again really soon because it was so fun.
Catherine: 47:54 It was, and I think we could come up with a lot more to talk about. So yeah, that's great. I could go on and on about motherhood.
Jacqueline: 48:03 Listen, I could go on and on, believe me. Um, but yeah, just just thank you and thank you for allowing me to express how much I, um, I get out of this, out of this community and out of this village. Um, and um, yeah. Right.
Catherine: 48:21 And so I think it's like, I mean, I think that's a good, perfect thing is like if you don't have one, like create your own community, right?
Jacqueline: 48:28 That is, yes, yes, yes, yes. If you don't see yourself reflected elsewhere, then take the lead, then be the leader.
Catherine: 48:38 Well thank you so much. I hope you have a wonderful rest of your evening. I know it's later there than it is here.
Jacqueline: 48:44 We're going in and out.
Catherine: 48:45 I'll look forward to talking with you soon. Okay, Bye Jackie.
Jacqueline: 48:53 Bye.
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