Motherhood Intended

Managing the Mental Load of Motherhood with Catherine O'Brien

February 23, 2024 Jacqueline Baird / Catherine O'Brien Season 3 Episode 57
Managing the Mental Load of Motherhood with Catherine O'Brien
Motherhood Intended
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Motherhood Intended
Managing the Mental Load of Motherhood with Catherine O'Brien
Feb 23, 2024 Season 3 Episode 57
Jacqueline Baird / Catherine O'Brien

In this episode, Jacqueline speaks on the gratitude perspective in motherhood and her intentions to create a gratitude journal geared towards women dealing with infertility. She further welcomes Catherine O'Brien, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a focus on the transition to parenthood. Catherine shares insights on sharing the mental load of parenting, relationship dynamics after having a child, and the importance of offloading the feelings of overwhelm for the sake of personal and marital health. She highlights a spreadsheet available on her website as a tool for managing the mental load. They both emphasize the importance of parents doing what works best for them and their family, and not pressuring themselves to adhere to societal expectations.

•  Join the Motherhood Intended Community
•  Follow @motherhood_intended on Instagram
•  Leave a review for the podcast
Apply to be a guest on the show
• Connect with Catherine O'Brien and grab her free organizer!

Struggling to conceive? Download this *free* Month-by-Month Roadmap to Your Fertility Success to help you stay calm and focused on your journey to baby.

This episode was made possible by the Opensoul app.
--> “What’s something good that happened with you today?” 

00:00 Introduction and Open Soul App Overview

00:56 Welcome to the Motherhood Intended Podcast

01:33 The Power of Gratitude in Motherhood

04:53 Creating a Gratitude Journal for Infertility Journey

06:37 Introducing Guest: Catherine O'Brien

07:55 Catherine's Personal Journey to Motherhood

19:03 The Mental Load of Motherhood

24:17 Balancing Family Responsibilities

24:38 The Challenges of Raising Young Children

24:59 The Importance of Teamwork in Parenting

25:27 The Mental Load of Parenthood

25:39 Planning and Scheduling as a Parent

26:17 The Evolution of Parenting as Children Grow

27:31 The Bittersweet Nature of Parenthood

28:18 The Importance of Individuality in Parenting

28:59 The Role of Support in Parenting

29:22 The Impact of Health Issues on Parenting

30:42 The Importance of Letting Go in Parenting

37:10 The Different Roles in a Family

39:04 The Journey of Writing a Parenting Book

41:18 The Importance of Community in Parenting

iMOM Podcast
If you need a mom friend right now, you’ve come to the right place. On iMOM.com we...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.


If you're interested in helping give the absolute greatest gift to deserving parents, learn more about becoming a surrogate (and earn up to $650 just for taking the first few simple steps!): share.conceiveabilities.com/hello12

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Jacqueline speaks on the gratitude perspective in motherhood and her intentions to create a gratitude journal geared towards women dealing with infertility. She further welcomes Catherine O'Brien, a licensed marriage and family therapist with a focus on the transition to parenthood. Catherine shares insights on sharing the mental load of parenting, relationship dynamics after having a child, and the importance of offloading the feelings of overwhelm for the sake of personal and marital health. She highlights a spreadsheet available on her website as a tool for managing the mental load. They both emphasize the importance of parents doing what works best for them and their family, and not pressuring themselves to adhere to societal expectations.

•  Join the Motherhood Intended Community
•  Follow @motherhood_intended on Instagram
•  Leave a review for the podcast
Apply to be a guest on the show
• Connect with Catherine O'Brien and grab her free organizer!

Struggling to conceive? Download this *free* Month-by-Month Roadmap to Your Fertility Success to help you stay calm and focused on your journey to baby.

This episode was made possible by the Opensoul app.
--> “What’s something good that happened with you today?” 

00:00 Introduction and Open Soul App Overview

00:56 Welcome to the Motherhood Intended Podcast

01:33 The Power of Gratitude in Motherhood

04:53 Creating a Gratitude Journal for Infertility Journey

06:37 Introducing Guest: Catherine O'Brien

07:55 Catherine's Personal Journey to Motherhood

19:03 The Mental Load of Motherhood

24:17 Balancing Family Responsibilities

24:38 The Challenges of Raising Young Children

24:59 The Importance of Teamwork in Parenting

25:27 The Mental Load of Parenthood

25:39 Planning and Scheduling as a Parent

26:17 The Evolution of Parenting as Children Grow

27:31 The Bittersweet Nature of Parenthood

28:18 The Importance of Individuality in Parenting

28:59 The Role of Support in Parenting

29:22 The Impact of Health Issues on Parenting

30:42 The Importance of Letting Go in Parenting

37:10 The Different Roles in a Family

39:04 The Journey of Writing a Parenting Book

41:18 The Importance of Community in Parenting

iMOM Podcast
If you need a mom friend right now, you’ve come to the right place. On iMOM.com we...

Listen on: Apple Podcasts   Spotify

Support the Show.


If you're interested in helping give the absolute greatest gift to deserving parents, learn more about becoming a surrogate (and earn up to $650 just for taking the first few simple steps!): share.conceiveabilities.com/hello12

This podcast is brought to you by Open Soul. As you know, motherhood intended is all about bringing you conversations that go beyond the highlight reels we all scroll on social media. In a world of appearance, curated feeds, and likes, everyone wants a space where they can be heard. This is why I'm excited to share the Open Soul app with you. In this space, everyone creates and everyone shares.

It's not about celebrities or influencers. Usual people have the same chance to be heard. Open Soul is changing the way we do social. It allows you to just open an app, ask a question, and receive audio answers from around the world. For example, you could record the question, where do you wanna travel to and why?

Then let the voices of others pour in, hear their experiences, connect on a deeper level, and open your ears to a world of possibilities. Open Soul, making the world more sincere. Download in your app store today and join the new social platform where every soul has a voice.  Are you tired of scrolling your feed only to see the highlight reel version of motherhood? If so, then you're in the right place.

Welcome to the Motherhood Intended podcast. I'm your host, Jacqueline Baird, and I'm a passionate mom here to support women like you in their unique journeys to and through motherhood. I have been through it all. We're gonna be talking about things like trying to conceive, infertility, IVF, surrogacy, mom life, and more. Time to get real about what it takes to be a mom and come together in the fact that things don't always go as planned. So here we go.  

Hey, friends. Jacqueline here. I hope you're having a great week. The last few days, I've been thinking about gratitude.

I've been reflecting on, you know, my journey to motherhood and even now through motherhood. And I was really just thinking about how all the different times where I have struggled or even been in a really great place. I've consistently found something to be grateful for. Even in my darkest of days, when I thought maybe I might never be a mom or the days that I was just really, really struggling with infertility,  I somehow always found something to be grateful for. Now, I'm not saying this to like brag or boast, but it had thinking that like, I don't know, maybe, maybe that was like a stress response for me or like a survival mode, something that I couldn't control.

Right. Something I felt like, okay, I can find something in this day, in this moment, in this year that I am grateful to have. Even when my body was failing me and I was struggling with grief and so anxious about the future and worried what was to come or not to come, I still led with a grateful heart. And I'm here to tell you that I've realized it's something that has become like a pretty common practice for me now. Again, I think it was like a defense mechanism at first, or maybe just like my way of surviving really hard times is just to like seek out what I'm enjoying in my life and seek out what I'm grateful for.

But it's become such a habit that it's really transformed my life. And with every step I take where I don't know where it's gonna lead, which is pretty much always, I consistently turn back to gratitude. It's been on my mind. So I just wanted to challenge you to think of something that you're grateful for today. You know, you woke up.

What is 1 person you thought of in your life that you are grateful to have? What is something that happened in your day that you're grateful for? And just jot it down. I know this sounds kind of like preachy or like a prompt that a therapist might say, but I really just think if you give it a try and make it a habit, that you will be amazed how it could change your life. I remember for 4 months every day, back and forth to the NICU, just watching my son fight for his life.

And I'll never forget the nurses telling my husband and I just how positive we were and how happy we seemed. And truthfully, part of it was, like I've mentioned before, I think was just ignorance is bliss. Like, we had nothing else to do but be hopeful. And given our history, we were just so happy that our son was actually here with us. But on the other end of it, again, I think part of our survival mode was just finding something to be grateful for always.

Grateful that we had the best care in the hospital. Grateful that we had family to support us. Grateful for every little milestone that Hunter hit in those a hundred and 20 days in the NICU. Even in your darkest moments, there's something to be grateful for. And I can tell you with complete honesty that it has gotten me this far in my motherhood journey and in my marriage.

And leading with a grateful heart has allowed me to take really big leaps of faith, even when I wasn't so sure. I just took the jump. And let me tell you, if you are coming at it with a grateful heart and you just go for it, it will work out somehow, some way. So of course in true form, my, this is how my brain works. I woke up thinking about how grateful I was and just reflecting on everything I'm grateful for.

And then I started thinking about creating a gratitude journal. Now this wouldn't be just a journal where you just jot down what you're grateful for. It would be specifically geared towards women who are navigating infertility. It had me thinking back to how days turned into months and months turned into years, and I still wasn't a mom. And through every treatment, every diagnosis, every failed transfer,  I just was losing myself piece by piece.

And as it, the journey went on, it was really, really hard to think of anything outside of trying to get pregnant and trying to become a mom, which in and of itself has you thinking about your body constantly and how it's failing you and your identity that you don't have, which makes you feel less than if you are not a mom. So I really want this journal that I create to be 1 that can guide women through their infertility journey, whether it's 2 months or 2 years or longer, and just keep you in practice of being grateful for certain things along the way. Because when you do that, it will help you stay grounded, remind you of all the amazing things that you have and all the amazing things that you are even without motherhood or being pregnant. And so then when that day comes for you, if it comes, I promise you will feel much more like yourself because there were years where I looked in the mirror and I was like, I don't even know who I am anymore outside of my fertility. And no 1 should have to feel that way.

So stay tuned. I'm open for any suggestions, but I have begun working on this gratitude journal and I can't wait till it's finished so I can share it with all of you. So on today's episode, I'm chatting with Catherine O'Brien. She's a licensed marriage and family therapist who knows that the first year of being a mother can be fraught with career, marriage, and identity issues. Her latest book, Happy with Baby, Essential Relationship Advice When Partners Become Parents, aims to arm new mothers with the skills they need to adjust their new life all while feeling powerful.

She has also been featured on The Unhelpful Guide to Motherhood and on It Starts with Attraction with Kimberly Beam Holmes. Catherine helps overwhelmed parents of all ages and stages to find joy, calm, and connection in their daily lives through workshops, live streams, and more. Like I said, she's a licensed marriage and family therapist with over 15 years of experience, a certified at Gottman educator, and is certified with postpartum support international. In today's episode, we're talking about how to share the mental load and reduce conflict with unshakable communication, collaboration, and connection. Take a listen. 

Hi, Catherine. Welcome to the Motherhood Intended podcast. I'm so excited to have you here with us today. I'm excited to be here with you, Jacqueline. I can pick your brain on a million topics.

We'll try and keep this focused, but I have so many questions for you. To start off, in your own words, tell us a little bit about yourself. Yes. I'm a marriage and family therapist. I am a mom of  2, and, uh, they're old.

I don't know. My my oldest is gonna be 15 this year, which is Oh, wow. So weird to say, and my youngest will be 11.  And I have been in the field of psychology  since I went to college. Like, I knew straight out of high school I wanted to major in psychology.

I don't know that I knew exactly what I wanted to do, but that was gonna be my focus, and it was. So, you know, I got my bachelor's, went back and got my master's when I realized I couldn't really do much with a bachelor's degree in psychology. So I've been in this field, like, basically my whole life, but it was after having our first child, so 15 years ago, where, like, I found my focus. Like, I was like, what did we get ourselves into? What just happened to my world?

And my husband and I had been together almost 5 years,  but we celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a 3 week old baby. Okay. And so, like, we got pregnant pretty quickly after Yeah. After we got, uh, married and not planned, of course, but, um,  luckily, you know, we did. I'd I'm like, I wonder what would have happened had we waited because I'm a little bit older.

I was, like, you know, in my early thirties. But Yeah. What a what a pleasant surprise. Yeah. Yeah.

So, like, it all you know, everything, I think, happens the way it's supposed to happen. And and I'm glad it did. But it rocked our world, and I thought, like, what happened  to our relationship? What happened to, like, how I did things? And this is hard.

And I I didn't know what I was doing as a mom because I didn't have that experience, but then I also felt like I didn't know how to, like, now communicate with this man that I loved. And so it was challenging. And, of course, then I'm like, well, how do I fix this? And, like, let me do these things. Let me get myself out there.

And, you know, I started going to, like, different mom groups and stuff and then just realizing, like, I'm not the only 1 having these struggles, but why was, like, no 1 told me that it was gonna be hard? Like, I just thought you have this, you know, beautiful baby and everything is wonderful and everything is easy. And Mhmm. I'm supposed to be enjoying every moment, and I don't even know what I like  Yeah. No 1 no 1 likes to tell you that part of it.

It's like, okay. Marriage, baby, and now we live happily ever after. You're like, oh, wait. World is turned upside down. I have no idea.

Yeah. Like, the first time my husband left, we had brought the baby home, and he had a meeting because he our son was, like, a week early, and people told us, like, oh, it's your first baby. They're gonna be late. You know? So we weren't we weren't ready for him to be early.

So the next day after we brought him home, he had to go back for a meeting before he took paternity leave. So he left me at home for, like, 3 hours. I say left me at home. And I, like, literally, like, sat in the rocking chair holding my baby, thinking, I hope he doesn't need I hope he doesn't need a diaper change. I'm like, as I really was like, I do not know what I'm doing.

And they just send you home with with this little human being that, like, is totally dependent on you. I mean, I we did the parenting classes, but Yeah. That doesn't prepare you for anything. No. I don't think anything, it really prepares you until you're just in it.

Yeah. Whether your pregnancy was a surprise or you've been trying and trying for years Yes. There's no amount that makes you Yeah. Ready. No.

No. Not at all. Yeah. Yeah. For sure.

Yeah. It's crazy. Yeah. I remember so my oldest son, he he's about to be 6, and he was born super premature. So he actually spent 4 months in the NICU and Oh, wow.

It was our first experience with being parents and Yeah. Which was crazy because we basically I mean, it was scary and terrifying and a lot and all the things. But at the very basic level, we had, like, the the silver lining of 4 months of kind of learning to be parents. You know, we had nurses teaching us how to feed him, and it was such a scary moment going home after 4 months. And I'm like, I should be ready because we've been waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and hoping he's healthy enough to go home, but we didn't feel ready.

And then, less than 2 years later, I had another son who was born full term, and I was, like, in shock that I was allowed to bring him home after, like, 2 or 3 days in the hospital. I was like,  that doesn't seem okay. I don't think everybody's like so I don't know what to do with this. And then I thought I knew what I was doing, but totally different experience. I mean, I had a baby who was fed like clockwork.

Like, had a great sleep sleep schedule based on, like, his stay at the NICU nurses and Right. Right. You know? And now I have this baby crying all the time, like, wanting to, you know, feed on demand and sleep, and it was just no 1 can prepare you. Even when it's your first second, it's always different, and it's Totally different. 

Yeah. Yeah. It really is. And it's like we're supposed to be, like, it's supposed to be great. Yeah.

Like, so blessed that this is happening. You know? I'm just, like, overwhelmed. And Yeah. You know, people forget about your partner as well.

You know? All eyes are Oh, yeah. And, you know, I didn't think about it at the time. But looking back both times with our boys, you know, I'm confident my husband was just overwhelmed as well and was also taking on the job of making sure I'm okay and, you know, you're recovering and all that stuff. So Yeah.

It's a lot. It is. So it's at that point that you were like, okay. Like, I'm not the only 1. Yeah.

Yeah. What I remember too. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

So I was like, okay. So I'm a marriage and family therapist. I should know how to communicate with my husband. Right? And and I think, you know, when we're exhausted, right, when your brain is, like, you're learning all these new things, learning about this new little human who doesn't really give you anything back.

Like, you know, the feedback is, like, crying or whatever. You know? Which could be a, you know, a handful of things. Yeah. Exactly.

Like, what does that cry mean? You're learning this new person, and they just, like, show up in your house and they are, like, demanding. Right? Yeah. Yeah.

That's a lot. Like, that's, like, taxing. That's, like, huge transition. Right? Like and I I think sometimes we forget about that, about how difficult that it is when you're having to learn so many new things.

Yeah. You know? And then I was, like, listening to other moms talk and stuff, and I was like, okay. Like, this is, like, a thing. I wish I I would've known this would be coming.

I wish I knew that I would feel, you know, so overwhelmed. I didn't realize I was gonna be so overwhelmed with all the tasks. I wish I knew I would be so tired in a way, you know, cramming for a college exam didn't prepare me more. Right. Yep.

That's like maybe you spend 1 or 2 days, you know, cramming and you're tired, but then this is, like, day after day after day. Like, a fatigue I had never experienced before in my Yeah. Love. You You know? See, that was such a good comparison because, yeah, when I think back to, like, prior to kids, there are definitely times in my life where I was like, wow.

That was a new endeavor I took on, or that was really challenging, or that college essay was really, really hard and I stayed up late and had no sleep and all these things, but there's nothing to prepare you for the level of tired of taking care of another human. And I feel like the kicker is too, it's like things are constantly changing. So you get past the first month and then the second month, and then all of a sudden 3 months, things are completely different. You had a routine, and now everything's changing again. So, yeah, that level of figured that out, and then you're like, oh, wait.

Now you're doing it. Yeah. What did you do? Right. Right.

Yeah. Oh my goodness. Yeah. No. So I was like, okay.

I wish I would've known Nancy. Like, I wish I would've realized what the transition would have been like and, like, how it impacted me, but then also how it was different for my husband and the challenges that he had and how they were similar in some ways, but there were different stressors that he had on him that I didn't. And then, um, navigating, like, those middle of the nights when we're both exhausted and, like, who's doing what. Right? Like, those were always our big blow up things. 

Yeah. Like, you're tired. You're normal. Move. Move.

Will he get the baby that's crying? Because Yeah. I want him to think I'm sleeping. Like a waiting game. Like, who's gonna move first?

I mean, I'm sure I'm going to need to feed the baby, but maybe I won't. Maybe he just needs a diaper change. I used to hate the question. Do you want to get him? Oh, gosh.

Yes. No. I do not want to dance. I do not want to do this. I'm running on no sleep.

So no. I'm guilty. No. Want to do it. It's like, no.

I don't want to do it. But then, no, that feeling like you're supposed to say, yes. I do. I want oh, yes. Please give me this other moment.

Like, because I because, you know, I was convinced I had just gotten him, and my husband was convinced he had just been up with him. You know? So it's like and we're just both exhausted on these levels. So, like like, learning, like, okay. How do we communicate through these times?

How to ask for support? Like, what support do we need? You know? And just realizing there's just not enough support out there for parents, if I'm being truly honest. I just don't think there's enough.

And then how do you create that for yourself? Like, you have to create your community of that. So it's like, how do you do that? And then how do you navigate family members? Like, oh, that's that can be a challenge.

Right? Like, some people have all this help, and it's sometimes difficult. So how do you create boundaries? How do you keep this united front with your partner, you know, in dealing with different people in your life? Yeah.

So many different relationships and personalities, and, obviously, everyone else is excited for you and Yeah. Wants to help you. And, um, well, well, I mean, everyone's situation is different, I should say. I mean, in ours, you know, we we had family around and and friends close to us, but it's overwhelming even if you have people. And then you're trying to navigate it, like you said, alongside your partner.

And I it always did help are you getting? You know? Yeah. Are they pushing back? You know?

I talk to my parents all the time, and it's like, the judgments they get or telling them that they're wrong or making you know, they are feeling guilty. Yeah. And I think, like, especially as a new parent, like  I mean, I have a 15 year old. I feel this with him too now. Right?

Like, at whatever stage you're at, you're, like, new at doing it, and so it rocks our confidence. Like, I don't I don't really know if I'm doing the right thing. Like, I'm hoping. Yeah. I'm praying that it's just right there.

Trying to do it. Yeah. I mean, it's a crapshoot here. I'm like, why don't we turn out to be a good human? You know?

Like, I read stuff. I I know things and, like, let's just hope. Fingers crossed. Right? And so it's, like, it rocks our confidence.

It's how do we make sure we have people in our lives that, like, keep us feeling good about it and not making us doubt ourselves. So I think that can be challenging when dealing with family or friends. You know? And then the other thing was, like, how do we keep the intimacy, the connection between ourselves? Because that when do you do that?

Like, when do you have time just together as you're, like, you know, learning this new person? You know? Totally. And I think too, like, you know, you mentioned that you had your son, you were newly married even though you'd been together, you know, newly married. I think that's the case for a lot of people.

You know, if you have a child and newly into your marriage, it's like, we're just trying to figure out this. Like, even though you had been together or maybe lived together before, it's still a new level of, like, oh, we're creating this life together. We're doing this together. Yeah. Then all of a sudden, a baby comes and literally turns your world upside down, and it's like, oh, be bright.

You're my husband. I'm a wife too. Like, I'm not just a mom. Yeah. Yeah.

Um, sorry about that. I've been in my And then I'm a I'm a person all of myself. You know, like, how do you keep all the different, like not lose any piece of you, right, in during that? Yeah. Yeah.

That's so so important. Um, the mental load of motherhood, especially when you're a new mom, what are some ways that you can kind of offload some of this overwhelm in a way that's that is supportive and makes you feel confident? You know, people are asking to help or if your husband's like, I don't I don't know. What do you want me to do? Or sharing whether it's the feeding or the, I don't even know, the sleep schedules.

Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I mean okay. I think there's a lot of different things. Right?

And I think it's, like, figuring out what's going to work. And I think it's, like, we do keep so much, like, in our heads. And and just I don't know. Quick side note. I was just talking to my husband the other day.

Right? I said, oh, our it was about an appointment for our youngest. And then he's like, oh, well, I didn't remember. I'm like, oh, I sent it to your calendar. He's like, well, I don't know other people's calendars, not mine.

I'm like, I know. I know other people's calendars. Like, I know on Friday, you have a lunch meeting to do x, y, and z with you know? And then the 2 people you're having it with. And he's like, oh, wow.

And I'm like, I I keep all that. Like Constantly on a loop in my brain. Yes. Whether I and I probably don't need to because it's also, like, on the calendar, so I don't need it in my head that I'm, like, constantly holding on to things. And, I mean, that's probably why he's better at trivia and I'm not because I'm holding on to, like, who's having a meeting Yes.

On Friday. No extra space for random facts. Like,  family business only. Yeah. But I think it it really is, like, what are the things that have to be done?

And I think it's also, like, us letting go of having to do it a certain way. Like Yeah. That's fair. I mean, I can be pretty particular. I always joke, like, I'm a recovering type a personality.

Mhmm. And sometimes that shines through a little brighter than other times, I unfortunately have to admit. Um, and so it's like, how do I let go of, like, letting my husband do things or letting other people do things for me? And, like, you know, if it's a matter of, like, okay. We keep a running list of these are the things that have to be done, you know, and what can I hand off?

Or, you know, I have a couple of, you know, different resources I'll go through with clients. Like, what are the things that you feel like you have to do that you wouldn't wanna give away? Right? Like or there's no way you could, like, if you're breastfeeding, you know, probably not able to hand that off to somebody else. Right?

Yeah. Unless you're also formula feeding or whatever. Yeah. What are some things that you can hand off that you don't have to do all the things? Like, you do have to fill the dishwasher.

Like, maybe there's a particular way you like to do it. But if right now the dishes just get in and they're not quite in the way you if you want them in a certain order, oh, well, at least it gets done. Or your towels get folded by somebody. It's like, okay. Like, I like them a certain way, but as long as they're folded and put away, like, who cares right now?

Eventually, you'll get back to doing things exactly the way you want. But if somehow it makes things easier that you don't have to do, like, let me someone else do the dishes, the laundry, like, vacuum your house or whatever it is. Like, what are some things that you can take off? Or for me, it was like, I used to think I had to always be the 1 that took my kids to all their appointments, which is harder. Like, my schedule is very you know, as a therapist in my own practice, like, it's harder for me to cancel regularly occurring clients whereas, you know, my husband has a job that he has, like, sick time or, you know, personal time.

Yeah. And he can oftentimes do that in an easier way than I can. And then letting go of being like, what does it say about me if my husband also does it? Like, I don't have to always be the 1, you know, to do this. And I I think for me, with the mental load, like, other people I talk to, it's like me letting go of things that I feel like I'm supposed to do because  of what I learned growing up or societal pressure or Yep.

What somebody else is gonna think of me if I'm not doing that. And it's like, no. It's really like this is a family. Right? And we all have to help each other out.

Even as our my kids have gotten older, like, there's things they do to help us out together. Like, it's not just us caring for them. We care for each other. You know? So it's like learning and teaching those things.

And so I think a part of the mental load is, like, I don't have to hold on to all those things. I can let them go. And and, you know, it's so now, like, for my husband and I, it becomes, like, a joke. Like, I'm like, he's like, oh, was that your mental load? You know?

Like, I'm just open up well, he's like, oh, your mental load. I'm like, yeah. Like, I need to hand some things off here. It doesn't matter me, like, telling him things. He's like, why is that something we have to do right now?

And so even, like, getting it out of my head makes sense. A different perspective being like, why is that weighing on you? Like, it's fine. Like, we really don't even need to handle that right now. Or, like, I'm thinking like, oh, it needs to be done this certain way.

And he's like, oh, well, why don't we just do that? And I'll be like, oh, yeah. That would be so much easier. But in my head, you know, I can't even, like, navigate that. So And like you said, when we've got so many things, like, in your head, it's hard to even see it another way because you're just overwhelmed with all the thoughts of everything with the family and all the different versions of yourself, you know, work Yeah.

Mom life, wife life, work life, all the things. So it's I can see how it would just to get it out of your head and kind of unload it a little bit would put things into a different perspective too. Right. Right. Now we do, like, regular check ins.

I think it was a little bit more formal in the beginning as we got used to doing it, but now it's like, okay. Every day, you know, we're checking in. And now, like, with our kid, we try to always eat dinner, you know, together, um, which can be hard, you know, with sports and stuff. But when we can do it and it's like, okay. What do you guys have on?

What's going on? Like and this 1, we encourage each other. Oh, you have a math test tomorrow. Like, okay. Like, good luck.

Do you need help? You know? Yeah. That sort of thing. I've got these, uh, you know, things I need to do.

Like, okay. Like, how are we gonna get this done? Can, you know, my husband help me? Can I help him do something? Like, you know, just those different things that come up.

And us having our check-in together has now become a little family check ins together. That's really cool. Who's doing it? Yeah. You know?

That sounds so helpful. I've that's been on my mind lately. My my kids are so young, but I'm, like, as we add a third and I mean, they're at 2 different schools right now. This is the first year, you know, my son's in kindergarten, one's in preschool. They both have, like, maybe 1 little activity they do plus Yeah.

You know, whatever appointments they have. And I'm like, this is only gonna get busier. They're not, like, in, like, sports or anything crazy like that yet. And now with a third, I'm like, we really need to all start working together. It's not sustainable.

And, you know, over the years my husband and I have gotten really good at at working together and he has a flexible job and that's helpful, um, but he also travels for work a lot. So and the days that, you know, he's gone, I just I know it's on me, and I schedule ahead, you know, reaching out to, like, family members or whoever if I need help. And then when he's home, he knows that I'm gonna need time to myself, like, to either just gather my thoughts and just have quiet or whatever. I see it on social media all the time. People talk about, you know, the invisible mental load that scary.

And so I think this is so important to talk about because it is it's like all these things going on in your head, and it doesn't have to be a solo journey. Well, I think that's, like, you know and I also encourage, like, this weekly calendar check-in. Right? So it's like, oh, my husband's gonna be away. Like, yes.

Now I can make sure I can I'm gonna need help. Right? Like, I've got these things happening. I'm gonna need to schedule extra support, you know, things like that. Being able to look at your calendar and see, like, oh, yeah.

Like, how do how do I make sure that I can simplify this for myself a little bit or or call in the troops, you know, to to back me up because I'm gonna need it. Yeah. And it's like if we're not doing that, then you know, because it doesn't, like, magically happen for most people. I mean, maybe some people, but for most people, it doesn't magically happen. Like, we've gotta put the time in.

Like, that's what I remember in in in conversations I've had with people, and they're like, oh, it'll get easier when the kids get older. And, like, it really doesn't because they just have more stuff. And if you're not finding a way to do it and it becomes, like, this habit, this, like, consistent thing that you do, then it's it really isn't gonna happen. It doesn't get easier. Now do I have more time with my husband while I'm on?

Because our kids are older. Yes. Because they'll, like, be at a friend's house or their friends will be here, but they're preoccupied. So it's like, you know, I can have more conversations where I'm not having to, like, watch what they're doing. But it it is limited in the sense of, like, our weekends tend to be full.

Like, December and January is our slow months, like Yeah. Because our kids aren't doing games or meetings or that kind of thing. And so it's kinda nice, but, um, I know next month is just ramping up again. And so it's like, okay. Like, let's see these these moments and enjoy this.

And then I tell myself, I'm like, I'm on, like, borrowed time here because Yeah. It's gonna time out, and then we'll have all the time together. Yeah. And I'm gonna miss these. Like, I know I will miss watching them.

Yeah. It's such a flip flop in motherhood. And people say this all the time, but you're, like, wanting time to slow down, but then also in certain seasons, you're like, okay. I'm over the 3 year old right now. We can just Yeah.

Just speed things up a bit. But so, like, bittersweet. I feel like sometimes we're told, like, oh, like, you should be so happy. And I'm like, I am happy, and I'm just, like, sad at the like, I think it's, like, uh, you're not or. Right?

Like, it's not or. It's always am. Like, I I am happy. I'm excited. Like, I love watching them grow up.

I love seeing them do things that they're excited about and succeed and find what they're passionate about. But I'm also sad because I know they're not gonna be here in my home forever. Right. But I like I like them. I think they're good little humans, you know, and they're fun and funny.

And I feel like I've grown as a human being their parent because it's actually it's like my boundaries and taught me to, like, step outside of my comfort zone, which is Yeah. You know, not always easy to do. No. It's not. But, like, you're right.

For any part of mother, it should not be like, oh, like, you just have to be grateful and happy all the time. Like, and feel everything at once. And it's definitely a journey that evolves you as a person. You know, they say, like, oh, motherhood will change you, and it does, but I you don't really know the magnitude until you're in it. And, you know, like you said, 1 of those things, I'm very type a as well, and learning to let things go or learning to let people do things different ways is definitely something that kinda cracked me in the face with motherhood because I I tried with my first and, you know, just given that he was a preemie too, I was just, like, over the top.

My my Oh, I'm sure. Personality was just, like, extra, but it wasn't sustainable. It wasn't I had burnout, and I felt lonely in the whole process. I was like, I need support. I need to let other people in.

For you personally, realizing that, was that something that you learned along the way? Was it going from 1 child to 2? When do you think you had that mental shift of, like, okay. I can't carry this mental load and all of this on my own? Oh, that's a good question.

When did I realize that?  Well okay. So I mean, so the getting a little more personal. So I had had some health issues. Like, I had pretty bad case of mono and had lingering, like, fatigue.

And so so I actually felt good during my first pregnancy because they're like, oh, well, you're getting all of him too. Like, right? That's making you feel better. But then after birth, after I had him a couple months in, I I was pretty sick. And so I needed I couldn't I couldn't do it.

Like, I couldn't do everything, and I needed my husband's help. And we needed, you know, help from family members and stuff. So, physically, I had to get I had to get help. Like, I because I couldn't do it. So I think that's probably what helped me the most.

And then with treatments, stuff like that, and, like, I was getting better, I was able to do more and then realizing, like, oh, wait. I don't have to do that. Like, I I remember a distinct time when I used to work on Saturday afternoons so that my husband could be home and watch our son. And I came home 1 day, and he was wearing this outfit. And the shirt was too small, and the the the pants were too short.

And I was like, oh my gosh. Like, I I had in the closet, the clothes are all lined out by, like, age, you know. So as he would get older, I would take out the smaller ones or whatever. But somehow, you found the smallest thing in his closet to put on him. And I was like, what are you doing?

And I'm, like, looking at him, like, kind of, like, horrified. Like, what what is he wearing? You know? I think the socks didn't even match, which I was like, you know, I always put the socks matching together. He's like, oh, we went to the park, and then we stopped in at this, like, open house on our way home.

I was like, you were out, like like, in public with Yeah. You let them help. And then I was just like I was so, like, ready to say something, but they were totally, like, giggling and, like, totally have this like, you could tell they have the greatest day, and I'm like, it doesn't matter why he's married. Like, it it doesn't who cares? Like, it's  you know?

You're kinda, like, forced to zoom out a little bit and being like, okay. Hold on. This is the priority isn't, like, what he's wearing, and that's what I'm gonna focus on other than, like, my husband is building this, like, amazing relationship with my child, which is what you want for your kids. Right? Like, you want them to have a good relationship with you guys.

So who cares? Yeah. So I think that was, like I had definitely had to step back a lot, but then You were kinda, like, pushed into it? Self focus on, like, the small things. And I noticed for myself is, like, I focus on small things when I'm tired, when I'm stressed out.

And so then I'm always like, oh, what's going on that I'm, like, focusing on this? Mhmm. I need to take a check of, like, what do I need? So it's like learning what are what are your things, what's going on, and how are you making sure that you take care of yourself. And and we do.

We have to do that as parents individually because, like you said, it's not sustainable not to. Yeah. And it doesn't benefit our kids. It doesn't benefit our kids for us to be stressed out and overworked and overwhelmed by, you know, parenting or work or whatever it is. So it's like, how do we make sure that we're taking care of ourselves and what it looks like for you is maybe different for me?

And, like, figuring out what that is so that you and your partner are both getting that time for yourselves. Yeah. Because I I mean, it doesn't benefit your marriage either. I just when you were saying that, I'm like, I never really pinpointed it, but I'm probably the same way. When I am, like, tired or stressed or overwhelmed, I really do focus on, like, the details of things.

You know, if I've had a hard day, my husband's loading the dishwasher, and I'm like, oh my god. I've told you 5 times that doesn't go in the dishwasher. Like, normally, I would just be like, oh god. I would never, like, get it. Wash it.

It's fine. Um, but everything kind of becomes hyper focused when you're, like, overwhelmed or tired or stressed. Yeah. Yeah. I like to point out, like, well, don't you think this is a quicker way?

Why are you going this way if we're, like, going somewhere? I'm like, it's  don't you think this would be a quick and he's like, yeah. What does it matter which direction I'm going? Like, yeah. You're right.

I'm not driving. I should be happy if it's gonna sit here in the passenger seat and not critique. Like, it's really hard to get to that point, though, at least for me to get to that point where I just don't say any like, for the sake of again, like, we're already overwhelmed as parents and for the sake of my marriage, like, why? Because there'll be times where I will make a comment or something and I'm like, was that necessary? Did was that helpful?

Yeah. Does it matter? We were having a great day and I just I feel like I'm adding to his stress now by, like, he's second guessing his choices and Yeah. It's Well and I think that's, like, good to remember. I think, like, we do that.

And I've had, you know, couples that I've seen where 1 partner will be like, yeah. I just don't wanna do anything because I'm constantly being questioned about what I'm doing. So then I'm gonna step back. Right? So then I'm not gonna help out as much because I feel like I'm not doing it right.

You know? So then it's like you're risking your partner being supportive because you're constantly critiquing. Now, I mean, of course, there's, like, safety in certain things. Right? And I I catch myself sometimes too, and then I'll be like, ugh.

I don't know why I said  said that. I didn't need to say that. Yeah. And I'm sorry. You know?

Like, that wasn't necessary. You know? That was more about me than about what you were doing. So Yeah. My apologies.

You know? And, like, how do you repair those things? Because it it does happen. Right? Like Yeah.

And I think if you can't, like, recognize it or, like, check-in with yourself and your partner, you know, it's just gonna build up, and then there's gonna be, like, this resentment. And like you said, especially when you have an a newborn baby and if it's your first child, you you do. You wanna give your spouse the confidence just like you're trying to be confident in what you're doing. Yeah. I've watched friends, you know, not really let their spouses help out or do certain things.

And now they have a 5 year old, and they don't have any help because their husband doesn't even know how to get them to school or whatever it is. Right. And I was kinda like you with my situation. Honestly, with both of my kids, I've just by default, because of my health, like, needed help. I was on Mhmm.

Bad breath for 8 days before our preemie, and then my husband was there he with me in in the NICU going back and forth. So he actually was, you know, given that confidence alongside me of, like, how to take care of him and prep for bringing him home. And then the very end of my second trimester for a whole month, I was in  kind of just thrown into the trenches. Uh, we had a 1 and a half year old at home, and he's going back and forth and working and trying to do all the things at once. And, you know, me type a, I was in the hospital, like, creating schedules and, like, delegating to my family members.

I'm like, okay. Give Josh 2 hours here. Who can fill this time slot so he can, like, sleep or do this? And it was it was a lot, but it ended up being this, like, really weird blessing because it helped us be such a team from the get go. And I don't think it would have, like, happened that way as new parents, um, just knowing myself based on my personality, you know?

But Yeah. You're kind of just thrown into it. But I think it's something to keep top of mind for, you know, new parents who maybe don't aren't in a certain situation like that where you're just going into parenthood and kind of making sure to let go of some things and Yeah. Well, because they're gonna do things differently. Like, no 1 no 1 is gonna do it just like you.

Right? And they're gonna do things differently. And that that's actually good for your child's brain development too, right, to have people doing things at a different way, whether it's, like, the way they change the diaper, way they, you know, get them dressed or feed them or whatever. Like, that's good for them. Like, you want that.

And so it's like, let them do it their way. Right? Like, let them figure it out. And and, you know, we all have our different learning curves of how, like, how we do that. And, honestly, I would think, like, I had a good way of doing something, and then I'd when I watched my husband do something, I'm like, oh, wow.

That's actually pretty good, or I like how he does that. You know? And so and then and vice versa. I know there was things he he learned by watching me or whatever, and so it makes it easier. Like, you need that.

You need to both be doing stuff, and your child needs the support from both of you. And I'd say it's like at least for me, it's become apparent as, like, your kids get a little bit older too. You know, with the baby, it's like, okay. Feed, change, sleep, you know, all of those things. It's a lot a little more mechanical.

But now, like, my my boys, you know, are almost 6 and 4, and I'm watching the way my husband will do certain things with them. Like, he has his role in this family, and I have mine. And, like, they were gonna roughhouse with dad and play a certain way with dad, and they know, like, mom's gonna be the 1 to work on a project with them or create slime or, like, something's you know, we just have different roles in the family. The second I was able to, like, let go and be like, okay. If you're riling them up, but they love it and this is how they bond with you, like, that's it.

It actually made me appreciate my husband so much more and know that I'm not alone and we're in this together, and we're both, like, bringing certain things to the table for our kids. So it it strengthens your marriage too. Yeah. Yeah. Totally.

Yeah. Absolutely. Yeah. My husband's so much better at playing than I am. Yeah.

Yeah. Oh my gosh. Yeah. My I'm like, okay. Do you wanna do a project?

I'm the 1 who reads to them every night. I'm the 1 who, you know, I let them cook with me and things like that. And I'm like, um,  I don't know. Playing action figures right now is just not for me. Yeah.

Exactly. And it doesn't have to be. Right? Because you're Yeah. And I've learned that too because I used to feel guilty.

I'm like, I don't I don't wanna play. Like, I don't I love my kid and I love watching them play, but I don't wanna I don't wanna play. That's not the mom I am. I don't know. Yeah.

Yeah. And, yeah, you don't have to be that mom. So That's us letting us be, like, like, who we are. Right? Like, our kids don't need us to be somebody different.

They need us to be who we are and what we feel good doing and finding the thing that we like to do. That's all you have to do. Wise words. I think that's very helpful, um, for anyone who's already a parent or anyone listening trying to grow their family or maybe, you know, they just welcomed a newborn home. It's it's important to just, you know, be the parent that you are and let go of, like, any kind of expectations you've created in your mind, especially with social media and and all of that.

Oh, yeah. Yeah. That's a whole another doesn't help us. No. It's not.

It's it doesn't. Yeah. I could talk about all this all day with you. I'm just so interested in your take on on motherhood and parenting and and marriage. You have a book.

It's called Happy with Baby. What kinda drove you to write a book? Was that something you always thought you'd do or kinda just happens? You know, it's funny. Like, I think I did like, when I was little, I was like, oh, I wanted to write a book, but did I think I'd be writing a parenting book?

No. I had, you know, been keeping in my head, like, this, like, oh, what? I wish I woulda known. And I was given this opportunity to teach a a class, an a new parent class, and I was like, oh, yeah. I have the perfect topic.

I I called it, like, Mine Yours R's relationship survival guide to baby's first year. And my husband actually had started teaching it with me. Um, so the book is basically based off this class that we taught for we've been teaching it now. How old is my son? He's 15.

I always have to, like, do the math. Mhmm. Um, like, almost 14 years. It'll be 14 years in October. So it's like it's based off a lot of that.

There's a lot of, like, stories in there, examples. Uh, my husband even has his own, like, take on certain things because I used to joke, like, I'd run into people several months later, and they'd be like, oh, yeah. I was at your class, and you guys said x, y, and z. And I'd be like, oh, that's something my husband said, like, off the cuff. You know?

Like, I would, like, do the research base, or his perspective was as a parent, you know, as a dad how to work together, and we would share our stuff. But I, you know, had the research based, um, information Yeah. Psychology. And it would be, like, some random thing that he said that they, like, stuck in their head. So I was like, you have to be part of this book, and you have to share your take on some of these things because, like, it's important.

Right? Like Yeah. I mean, I think it's important to know that we're not alone. And, you know, somebody did ask me, like, well, how do you write a book? Like, everybody's story is different.

I'm like, well, absolutely. There's no family that are the same. But the similarities that people see themselves in, I think, is, like, validating in that, you know, yeah, my situation is probably totally different than yours. But I bet you anything, there's, you know, 5 things right off the bat we could find that are similar, and that can be, like, so validating and be like, oh, okay. So it's not just me.

I'm not the only 1 that's, like, struggled with this and, you know, how we communicate or how we were able to transition to this or or that sort of thing. And so I think that can be so validating. So, yes, every story is different, but there are so many similarities, and people wanna feel like they aren't alone in it. I've been doing mom parenting groups for many years now, and and that's always a thing where it's, like, someone will share something and they're, like, feeling like they're the only 1. And then to hear someone, yeah.

No. Exactly. That had been there too. And they're just like, oh, thank goodness. Like, I thought I was the lone 1 out there, and it it's it's lonely.

Being a parent can be feel lonely, and there's so many different things that people go through with different situations,  you know, health things, learning, like, all sorts of different things that different families go through. And people are always looking for support and, like, I'm not alone in this. Someone else has been there, and maybe they have some wisdom to, like, share with me because to help me get through it. And so I think that's, like, you know, why I still do parenting groups. That's cool.

Yeah. I just think there's not enough support for parents. So it's, like, the more, the merrier. Yeah. And like we said, you know, it's ever changing with every season of being a parent and the ages of your children.

So there's always something that you probably wanna just validate with somebody else to be like, does your is your is your kid doing this? Are they struggling with this in school? Are they what's that? I mean, there's there's always something. And Yeah.

It can make you feel isolating. I think there's, like, a level of I don't know. At least we're, like, pride too. Like, you wanna feel like you're doing a good job and sometimes to admit some of the things, like, we just said, like, I don't wanna play with my kid. Is that a problem?

Like, is that Yes. Like, if somehow that makes you less than or, like, if your child is struggling with something, like, that doesn't make you a bad parent because your kid has a learning disability. There's, like, so many things out there or your child gets these ear infections. You know, like, that doesn't your level of parenting goodness is not based off of, like, what your kid is doing. You know?

There's so much I mean, we could talk probably for Yeah. Hours and hours. So that would be amazing. Yes. For sure.

Well, that is just such an amazing resource that you created. So along with the book and you do these parenting groups, and then you teach you still teach the class as well? Yeah. So we still teach the class. Yeah.

It's been a while. I love that 1. It's so fun to do. So That's amazing. This has been really insightful.

And, again, like you just said, I love feeling that I'm not alone. It's kind of the idea with our motherhood attendant podcast is just, you know, to kind of bring up different topics and let women know and and dads too that they're not alone in these experiences because there is something so validating about hearing from someone else that, like, oh, okay. Like, you went through that too. I'm not crazy. Yeah.

It's gonna be fine. There's people out there that can and help and I can talk to and all of the things. Like, it's just like normalizing  parenthood. You know? Yeah.

Exactly. I definitely wanna put people in touch with you. If you have workshops or things coming up, I'll keep the motherhood intended community informed about that. I'm sure there are so many people listening that would Yeah. Love to dive in.

What's the best way to connect with you? Everything's happy with baby. So Thank you. The website's happy with baby dot com. And I do have a a resource, a free download on my website, which is basically kind of that mental load thing.

It is a spreadsheet. And I'm not really a spreadsheet person, but after years and years of people like, hey. Do you have a list of, like, these are the tasks? So it's basically  a spreadsheet I created with the help of many, many clients and other parents that I've talked to and stuff like that. So it's a free download on my website if somebody just wants to take take a look at that.

It's a Google spreadsheet. So it's like you download it, and you make it your own. So it's like I have the basis of it. I have lots of, like, lists and stuff on there, but you can then create it to meet your family's needs. But if that helps you a little bit with the memo load, then I Yeah.

I hope it does. That's perfect. I'm going to download it right away because I'm still in this very, like, beginning of the year, January. Like, I need to revamp my life a little bit. And, you know, like I said, in a few months, we're welcoming a newborn and Yeah.

This sounds like a very helpful tool for me to get organized and get on the same page with my husband and kind of just adjust to now being a family of 5. So Yeah. Check it out and let me know what you think. I'm always open to feedback because I've updated it a lot over the years. But yeah.

So Happy with Baby is the website and then, um, you can find me on social media at happy with baby too. Perfect. Awesome. And I will link all that in the show notes to make it super simple for everybody to click and find you. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me.

This was so fun and insightful. And, um, I can't wait to dive in more. And honestly just the mental load, I'm like, okay. I'm gonna put that on my to do list today because to do list to unload some things. Yeah.

Because right now I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. Yes. I know. You gotta get those out of your head. Yes.

For sure. Well, thanks again, Catherine, and I'm sure we'll be in touch again soon. I hope so. Thank you. Yeah.

Bye. Bye.  Thanks for listening. I hope you found value in this episode. I'm always open to suggestions  podcast, whether that be topics that we cover or guest suggestions.

So please feel free to reach out. Tell me what you're liking about the podcast. Maybe tell me what you're not. I am always evolving this show and working hard to bring you the best content. So I love to hear from you.

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That's all I have for you today. I hope you enjoy your weekend, and you'll hear from me again next week.

(Cont.) Managing the Mental Load of Motherhood with Catherine O'Brien

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