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“My emotional health always takes priority over anything else because if I’m not well, I won’t be able to take care of anyone or anything else.” Mom of two and former therapist Alyson Hempsey is full of incredible advice for the new mom, from balancing motherhood and work, to navigating mom guilt, to reparenting yourself. The owner of The Honest Peach, a life coaching resource for moms, reminds each of us to stay present and never forget our commitment to self care.
Alyson, tell us about you:
I am a mama of 2, former therapist and life coach for moms. I now own and run my business The Honest Peach, where I provide life coaching to moms through group programs and my newly launched online community, The Mamahood. Using my proprietary eMBRACe program, I’ve helped countless moms go from feeling anxious + overwhelmed to feeling confident + empowered in their motherhood journey.
What was the most unexpected part of your own motherhood journey?
The lack of control! As a perfectionist, being in control has always made me feel safe and comfortable. I didn’t realize how much I needed control until I became a mom. I spiraled at the lack of control I felt. Lack of control in my routine, over my emotions, and not to mention lack of control over a tiny, adorable human being with their own agenda. It was a huge factor in my postpartum mental health issues. Navigating those challenges ultimately led me to creating my eMBRACe model for working with moms.
What struggles have you encountered balancing work and motherhood? How do you navigate them?
I recently gave birth to our second child, and WOW…going back to work has rocked my world! I think the mental load is one of the hardest parts for me. I am now managing my own emotions, the emotions of the kids, general household tasks, and my workload. I have a really dedicated partner who does his share and I’m still overwhelmed a lot of the time. I often remind myself that I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
I don’t think there is such a thing as “balance” in motherhood, whether you work or not. It’s more about prioritizing your needs and being at peace with some things taking a back seat. (There is a term “radical acceptance” that I teach my clients that helps with this.) You can’t always give your all to work, the kids, the house, your relationship, exercising, your diet, etc. For example: right now my diet is iffy some days, I workout when I can (not as often as I would like), and sometimes we go to bed with the dishes still in the sink. It is what it is, and I know it won’t be this way forever. I will say - my emotional health always takes priority over anything else because if I’m not well, I won’t be able to take care of anyone or anything else.
Talk to us about “mom guilt.” Have you felt it? How have you worked through it?
We talk about mom guilt in the Mamahood community a lot. Many moms feel guilt whenever we are not physically with our children. But there's a difference between mom guilt and just feeling sad or nervous for not being with your kid. For example, I felt “guilty” when I was about to leave for a girls trip recently. But, guilt implies wrongdoing. Going on a girls trip and leaving my babies at home with their dad is not wrong. It's good! Recognizing that feeling guilt is a choice is really powerful.
Here are some other tips on how to navigate mom guilt:
How does Matrescence’s Mission to “mother the mother” resonate with you as a mom? In your career?
It resonates with me in every way! At The Honest Peach we say “a good mother sacrifices a lot for her children, but realizes the importance of prioritizing herself too, because happy mamas are the best mamas.” I help moms unlearn the narrative that in motherhood you must sacrifice everything in your life in order to be a good mom. It’s an outdated model rooted in patriarchal norms - not to mention it’s not good for the kids anyway! A lot of the work I do involves moms reparenting themselves while they parent their kids, so in a sense they truly do “mother” themselves.
What is the best thing you learned about parenting and who did you learn it from?
I read the book, “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman when I was pregnant with my first. It was really eye opening to realize that so much of what we attribute to being a good mom is actually determined by the culture you’re in. For example, formula feeding in France where the author is from is no big deal, whereas here we’re shamed for it. (Though this is slowly changing!) It made me realize, “Wow. I guess I can just create my own values around motherhood instead of ascribing to everyone else’s?”
Druckerman also mentioned a French child psychologist, Francoise Dolto, who stressed the importance of talking to children, even babies, like they understand what you’re saying. As a society we often treat kids like they don’t know anything, or like their autonomy isn’t important. I’ve given my kids respect in that way since birth because…we’re all humans right? It’s helped the idea of conscious parenting come really easily for me because it just makes logical sense. There are, of course, caveats to this when it comes to safety and things they don’t understand. But I try to give my kids as much autonomy as I can because I think every person deserves that regardless of age.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a mom, and how do you manage it?
Your own inner child is triggered AF by your kids. I help mamas navigate that, and I see a therapist myself!
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