When I listened to the TEDx talk in preparation for this conversation, I was moved to tears because my guest, Jacqueline Kerr, really brings to light what Mum burnout looks like. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how much is on her to do list.
Please note – there is discussion around suicidal ideation within this interview so please be mindful if this is right for you and check in with yourself, reaching out to others if required.
Within this discussion, Amy and Jacqueline explore:
- Standing in the position of being triggered by several experiences and situations which lead us to feeling that we are not being able to show gratitude and thank others.
- How our body can tell us that we need a new life, do things differently and the serious consequences that can happen if we push it down considerably.
- The systematic, cultural, societal and individual change that needs to happen in how much we ask of mothers.
- The conditions of burnout – including lack of reward, injustice, value conflicts, autonomy to name a few.
This episode reminds us that changes are going to need to come on all levels, from big cultural ones to small individual lenses. To watch the TEDx talk mentioned in this episode please visit https://youtu.be/9YY0gVnVPoQ which is a wonderful support to this conversation.
If you would like a deeper understanding of matresence and how we support women differently, Mama Rising facilitator training opens just once a year. For early offers and to join the 5 days to a motherhood revolution event before August, please jump the link below to join the wait list. https://mamarising.net/mama-rising-waitlist/
[00:00:00] Welcome to the Happy Mama Movement Podcast. I'm Amy Taylor-Kabbaz. I would like to start by acknowledging the Gadigal People of the Eora Nation, on which this podcast is recorded, as the traditional custodians of this land. And pay my respects to the elders past, present and emerging. And as this podcast is dedicated to the wisdom and knowledge of motherhood, I would like to acknowledge the mothers of this land, the elders, their wisdom, their knowing and my own elders and teachers.
[00:00:38] Welcome back Mamas.
[00:00:41] In preparation for today's interview, I watched the TED Talk by Dr. Jacqueline Kerr, who is my guest. I was tired. There was a lot going on. My kids had been sick, major projects for work and study had been due, I had pushed myself more than I usually do. After years and years of pushing myself too far and experiencing such extreme burnout, I rarely allow myself to get into a space where I feel like I'm running on an empty tank.
[00:01:20] It just happened to be the day that I watched this TEDx Talk, that the tank was pretty empty. And as I watched it, there were tears. Because today's guest, Dr. Jacqueline Kerr, really brings to light what mum burnout looks like. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how much is on her to do list. Mum burnout is the cultural, societal pressure that is on mothers to do it all and do it perfectly.
[00:01:57] But what I love about this interview you're about to hear, is that the answer is also not about putting more on your list. Hence the name of this podcast. This is a conversation around the cultural, organizational and individual changes we need. Dr. Kerr shares how her burnout became so extreme that she found herself contemplating ending her life.
[00:02:25] And so, before we begin this absolutely insightful and powerful conversation, I would just like to say a warning. There is discussion around suicidal ideation in this interview. So please be mindful of whether this is right for you today. Please check in with yourself on whether this is a conversation you were ready for today. And if you are, get ready, we are going to shine a light on what burnout really is for modern mums. And also what real solutions look like. Enjoy.
[00:03:08] Jacqueline, welcome to the podcast. Your TED Talk moved me to tears when I watched it in preparation for this conversation, so I am incredibly excited for where we're about to go. Thank you for being here.
[00:03:22] Thank you so much for having me. And it was a tough topic. And interestingly enough, for myself, I've done a lot of public speaking; but, stepping onto that red sort of circle, that is the TEDx stage, oh my goodness. I really, I was like, I was really struggling to make that step. I knew it was going to be emotional. And yeah, it was, it was kind of, the whole thing was quite overwhelming.
[00:03:47] It was interesting.
[00:03:50] I could feel that emotion, and I think that's why it was so emotional for me. And the emotion didn't feel like nerves because you're on a TED stage. It was because what you're about to share was so deeply personal, but also so universal, which is what I really want us to talk about. But the way you started,
[00:04:09] was the story of your husband taking one of your children to the pediatrician. Something that you had done their whole life, except this one time there was a work clash and he had to take them to the appointment. And when he got home, you couldn't thank him. Because inside of you, there was this feeling, this anger, this resentment of nobody ever thanked me for all the times
[00:04:34] I did it, so I can't say thank you. Oh, that story, the way you started with that story, I think it lands so deeply because every single mama listening to this right now knows that feeling. Well I can't say thank you, what about all the times I did it? This then triggered a big moment in your life. Let's start there.
[00:04:58] What happened after that pediatrician appointment?
[00:05:01] Yeah, thank you. And hopefully we'll come back to, now my husband and I thank each other profusely all the time. So there's really hope in this story, honestly. It's, it is incredible. Um, and when, I just got goosebumps saying that in thinking, oh my goodness, how much our lives have changed in some ways since then.
[00:05:23] Um, so I'll tell you that whole journey over the process of our discussion today. So yeah, to, to start out, so. Basically, when I refused to thank my husband, he was so proud and he wanted me to thank him. I was making dinner and I just couldn't bring myself to it. So we had this big row, and part of the row was him saying to me, “It's not my fault
[00:05:51] you no longer have friends or hobbies.” And it was like this cut to my heart because it was so true. I mean, I was cooking dinner and I hated cooking. I had loved cooking, it had been one of my favorite things to do, and now it was just another chore that I had to do. And I think that's always been the case with me, that I can get through a lot
[00:06:14] but when my husband and I fight, I feel the most hopeless. Because I feel like that one person that I know is there for me, is maybe not there for me. And it had been at the end; this was on January the third two thousand and eighteen and kind of the reason I know so detailed what the date and day was, was because I wrote a letter to my kids on my phone,
[00:06:36] so I have this timestamp. And we had just spent the Christmas holidays where he hadn't taken time off of work, I was with the kids. I knew I was going back into the office the week after, and I kept that diary from that week. It was full. Every single moment was full. So I was just stretched so thin. And then that emotional kind of, um, knife cut just,
[00:07:01] I couldn't take it anymore. And I couldn't face the whole new year, right. This was the third of January. So what happened to me that night? Um, I think my husband went and slept in the trailer or something, you know, it was a big fight. And I just thought, I can't go on and I don't want to go on. And, I have friends who were clinical psychologists and they’re very
[00:07:25] cautious with me about how I speak about this, because my TEDx Talk and, and my message is not about suicide prevention. Um, and they also wanted me to make sure that I communicate that, don't get to the point where you're feeling suicidal. Burnout starts way, way earlier and being suicidal is not the definition of burnout,
[00:07:48] like it's like the worst case scenario. So, so, don't assume you have to get to that point till your burnout feels like it's real or credible. So definitely think there's so many steps ahead of them that you can do it. But I asked my husband about sharing this story and he basically said, please share it,
[00:08:08] nobody shares stories like this. And he goes, I was so lost in that time, I didn't know what to do to support you. And I didn't know how serious it was, so please do it for other husbands and dads. So, that's what happened to me that night. I basically wrote a letter to my kids and I kind of said in it, um, you know, you're so amazing.
[00:08:34] But it's not enough that you are amazing. I'm so unhappy. I'm so sorry that, um, I can't ask for help. And I'm so, you know, I told them to do all the things that I would do. Like ask for help, go outside, take more time for yourself. I was giving them all this advice and then looking at it and going, oh my goodness,
[00:08:55] I should be taking that advice myself. But at that moment, I couldn't quite see it like that. And I did, I just felt so desperate. And then, you know, for a few weeks afterwards, I definitely was in that sort of state of despair and, and making plans in my head. Like how can I do this in a way that I don't hurt everyone, but I just don't want to go on anymore.
[00:09:17] But I told my husband how I was feeling and, um, he then said, come on, let's get you into therapy, let's get you a leave of absence from work. And, the therapist said to me, you know, parents who die by suicide, their children are three times more likely to die by suicide. So I think that just kept me going to get through that period, because I was, kept thinking of that and thinking like, I can't do that to them.
[00:09:48] Right. Um, but for me, it wasn't that I, I mean, because, so awful to say but I was like, I want to be here to know the consequences. Right? So it's so selfish, but so real. And then, you know what, the, one of the best things that I learned in this process, because there was so much shame in, in this feeling as a mother to be saying these things and feeling these things.
[00:10:14] And later I learned about emotions from Karla McLaren’s book The Language of Emotions. And one of them was, um, suicide ideation. It was an emotion that she described. And she said, it's your body, it's your feelings telling you that you need a new life. Not that you need to give up this, like, not that you need to, the heartache, but you do need a new life.
[00:10:43] It's your body telling you, you need a new life. And I was like, okay, thank God. It was, that's what it was telling me. It was telling me I had to do something different. Um, and so, yeah. I'm so grateful that we were able to get help. And I know in this process, I have met other women who have known other mums who have passed, who have died basically,
[00:11:04] so, so it's real. It happens. Um, so, yeah, and I think that's, what's so important about this message too, is, it's not a badge of honor. It, and it's not just something that we can sort of say, oh yeah, I'm burned out. And you know, it has such serious health consequences and mental health consequences and consequences for your family.
[00:11:28] I did wear my busy badge with pride, but there is no pride in, you know, how this impacted me and what it could have done. So, yeah, it's a tough one.
[00:11:39] I am so incredibly grateful for your honesty. Because I don't, from my understanding and I do study and teach around this; so even from my understanding, burnout, the way that you're describing it, which so many of us resonate with, is not seen as a potentially extreme mental health condition that has potential for this level of distress, you know. Burnout
[00:12:07] is often spoken about in terms of too much on your to-do list, you know. Go for a massage, ask for some help, book a babysitter, those types of things. And before we started speaking today, we, before we started recording, we jokingly said we could call this episode “Don't give me another f-ing list.”
[00:12:28] Because that is not the answer to what we're talking about here, is it?
[00:12:32] We're not talking about taking more off our plate. We're talking about a systematic, cultural, societal, individual and familial change in how much we ask of mothers.
[00:12:47] Yes, exactly. Um, just to give some more context about kind of the, the burnout cycle; there's Freudenberger and North has this 12 stage cycle of change. And stage one is the need to prove yourself. So I think that's so important to remember that's where we could intervene, right, at stage one. And I'll talk a little bit about that from agenda perspective, but you go through and that's basically prove yourself, work harder,
[00:13:14] avoid conflict, give up your values, then you go into sort of denial, withdrawal, and then obvious behavioral changes. And that's another point in time that you could pick up on that. Some of those could be maladaptive coping like alcohol or drugs, but it could also just be going quiet or becoming really resentful, and ruminating and passive aggressive could come out then;
[00:13:37] so it can be kind of different behaviors at that point. And then, that's then after that point that it starts to tip into the inner, really inner distress and, and potential suicide aviation, and then the burnout. So, yeah, it, I mean, it definitely is on that scale, the, the, of, the depression and the suicide ideation is it's definitely on that scale, up to the twelve.
[00:14:05] And I actually add a thirteenth, which is, you leave your job, your inner critic screams at you and you feel like a failure. You lose your identity and all these things, so even after the burnout, there's still so much to go through. Um, but I think particularly if we think about that, the reason why this is a systemic problem and that we need to think of these multi-level solutions that I talk about in my TEDx Talk as well, which comes so much from my public health background;
[00:14:35] but, the conditions for burnout include lack of autonomy, lack of reward and injustice and value conflicts. Now, if we think about that women are not promoted and mums in particular face the maternal wall and the motherhood penalty, then these are the conditions that create burnout. You know, if we're not promoted to then be in a position, maybe of management, where we have more autonomy, and we're not rewarded
[00:15:04] fairly, and there's this injustice, and then our values of collaboration aren't valued by leadership. Then yes, there's this, all these reasons why those conditions that are defined by Dr. Milesluck are actually conditions where mums struggle in particular.
[00:15:24] But if we think back to that need to prove yourself, it also sort of fits into that framework. Which is, as a mum, if your commitment is constantly questioned, and as women we know that
[00:15:37] we can have equal performance as men; but, if say, the promotion process says, but what's their potential, then, women are constantly seen as having less potential with equal performance. Um, and I was in academia and I studied then all these different trajectories that mum's face. Like equally before birth, mum, men, and women
[00:15:58] publish equally. Then after birth, it's the, the mums who don't publish as much, but the fathers actually, again, it's not just that we have this motherhood penalty, then fathers get a fatherhood bonus. They're promoted for the same circumstance where we are demoted or not given the opportunity. And even sort of very specifically in academia, there's this tenure clock.
[00:16:23] And if they give the tenure clock, which means you get an extra year before you have to submit your file for promotion; and they give it to all parents, mums during that year are with the infant, and, and dads are publishing. So it makes the disadvantage even greater. So that's why all these systemic things, it's so important, that we actually address those biases.
[00:16:47] And so that mums aren't having to keep reproving themselves and work harder. And to be honest, that's part of my shame in my process, was when academic moms would come to me or women and, and explain that they were struggling and the barriers that they'd have, my answer as a mentor always was, work harder.
[00:17:09] And yes, you get there if you work hard, but you arrive, burned out. And so that definitely is something now that I'm just trying to say, it's, it's not about work harder, that's not the answer.
[00:17:23] So, perhaps hypothetically or in actuality, if a mother came in and asked you now, what would you say? What is the answer then, if she's asking this, if she's struggling with this. When the world does tell her, well, you just need to work harder, get up earlier, hire a nanny, all of that. What, what do we say to her instead?
[00:17:47] So I think one of my main pieces of advice is to say no to all unpaid work, right. You can be in a season of life where maybe you're volunteering for the school or doing some of the office housework. But if you are in any way experiencing this, this pressure and this feeling of inadequacy, you have to stop doing unpaid work.
[00:18:15] And to me that just, um, you know, and again, this is one of the stereotypes that we, we face as, as mums and as, as women. Which is, we will volunteer. We will serve others. We will care for others. And so when you act in that counter stereotypical way, you can be penalised. Though we’re being penalised anyway, right.
[00:18:35] Let's not, la, not pretend that it’s not happening. So I think that's one area where you can just really gain control. So, definitely with a lot of academic mums that come to me, I'm saying, okay, get off all those committees. Right. So I think that's really important. And I also think the reality that we have to do more to get to the same place, it's there, but we could probably do like
[00:18:59] two times as much, not ten times as much. So really trying to pull that, that over proving. I accept we have to probably prove ourselves more, but we don't have to do it ten times over. And so actually, um, another Australian coach, who um was on my podcast, gave this advice which I absolutely love. Because as mums, to each other we're not necessarily the best role models,
[00:19:25] right. Because we're all busy and we're all trying to achieve this image or this societal expectation of motherhood that leaves us, as I say, wearing our busy badges with pride. So the tool she suggested for my listeners was to filter all your thoughts through a mediocre man mindset.
[00:19:47] Basically what that means. I know, isn't it great? That’s brilliant. And it works so much. It's so, it's so, its like once you start to use it, it totally works. Because if you think about back to the volunteering, I mean, volunteering at the kids' school is not even on my husband's radar, let alone that he's feeling guilty for not doing enough of it.
[00:20:08] Um, let alone what it might be. And so it's kind of one of those things where you sort of go, okay, should I feel guilty about, would a mediocre man feel guilty about not volunteering? Answer is definitely no. I had a colleague who was doing a book proposal and she was doing the stage for the book proposal where you, um, write
[00:20:28] the competitive books. And, um, she says, so I'm getting really stuck in that bit. I'm like, so how many are you writing about? She goes 30. I was like, okay, how many would a mediocre man write about? She goes, two. Like no question, answered it, just like that, two. I'm like, there's your answer. Maybe do four, you know.
[00:20:51] I love that so much. It makes me sad though.
[00:20:56] It makes me sad when I think that we are in a place in our culture, and in our world where things like volunteering at our school, our kids' schools, need to be sacrificed. Need to perhaps say no to, because there is so much already on the shoulders of working mothers or mothers, that this is what they are needing to do to protect their mental health, their
[00:21:28] physical health, their wellbeing. And there's going to be parts of this world that suffer for that. Do you see what I mean? I think it's such a sad indictment on our culture and our society of where we're at. That we have asked so much of women, and it is not expected of the men, that we're now at a point where our advice is you just can't do that at the moment.
[00:21:52] Wouldn't it be wonderful place to be ,where we were so well-supported as mothers. That if volunteering at the school lights you up, you are able to do it without ending up, you know, burnt out, sick, overwhelmed. I just think it's such a sad reflection of how skewed we have this.
[00:22:18] And I think that so many parts there, because, again, I do, do know a mum that has volunteered so much during my kids’ plays at school. And I would do what I could in terms of like buying resources and things, but I didn't have the time to give. And I think in the past I would have tried to, but it does fill her up to be there.
[00:22:40] And she said, this is what I want my evenings to be. Cause I was checking in with her saying, oh, you're giving so much time to this. I really appreciate it, I feel bad that I'm not. But she knew that that was the thing she enjoyed, the social contact that it provided. And so I think that's the thing, like if it fills up your cup, right. But it doesn't fill up everyone’s cup. I mean,
[00:23:05] I maybe just don't like other people's kids. I don't know. I'm just not good in that group, social sort of thing. You know, there’s, there’s maybe other tasks that I would be more comfortable volunteering around, or I don't know what it is. But I think that's what we have to admit, is if it doesn't fill your cup and you don't have time, then don't feel the pressure to do it. Being a good mum
[00:23:30] isn't that volunteer position. And so, um, I, and I also have this example that just came to me this last week. In my son's school, he's 13, his grade organized the Valentine's Dance back in February. And so many of the girls volunteered throughout the whole dance that they never got to enjoy one minute of that dance.
[00:23:53] And so they got really upset and really resentful. And now the teachers are actually organizing them another dance so that they can enjoy it, and that's tomorrow night. And when my son shared that with me, I was like, wow, those girls, as 13 year olds, are over-giving and over volunteering, probably cause they see it modeled to them. And
[00:24:13] isn't it great the teachers are organizing something for them, because there is no ball for Cinderella in the real world, you know. Like you will, you'll just give and give and you will be resentful and you will miss out. So, I definitely think it's, it's all about having, um, some level of limits and not over-giving. But I also do agree, like what supports could we have to make it possible?
[00:24:38] Particularly in the U.S. I mean, the cost of childcare is ridiculous. It's really not available. Some companies provide it and they've shown it to be really effective for retaining parents and having, you know, higher well-being amongst their employees. So that would be something companies could do. We don't have, um, paid leave here. And not even maternity leave,
[00:25:01] so let alone paternity leave. And I think that's so important when the dads are able to stay home and actually, during those early times with the infant, do some of the similar type of bonding. That data also shows that it changes the mums trajectory about going back to work. And I certainly know of a couple of dads in Australia who are, they're taking a year to be, um, the stay at home dad.
[00:25:28] And I know it's still been difficult, the negotiations with their companies and it is still not seen, let’s say in, in a positive light. But I, but I agree, those are the sort of levels of support that we need from, from society. Um, so that, and even again, the other one, um, that they had during COVID was, um, child tax credits.
[00:25:53] And those have also been shown to be related to, to not just the maternal, um, improvements in stress, but then the whole family improvements in stress. So again, we know that would help. But they've gone now that, that, um, you know, COVID has progressed. Um, so again, it's like, And rush my son, Johnny as well.
[00:26:14] And her martial plans to mum is basically saying, you know, we should be paying mums for the labor they do in the home and for the labor they do at work. And so I think that is so important. Like if we actually valued parenting and caregiving, um, then yes, it would be such a different world. And I think it's so important because I think many young women
[00:26:42] are not so interested in becoming mothers on these terms.
[00:26:47] Yeah, the, um, the statistics are showing us that the, the research asking the younger generation at the moment about their feelings about becoming a parent, is women do not, they do not want to do it. They see what it is like. They see whose shoulders it falls on. Um, they see what it does to career, to work-life balance, to opportunities, all of it. You know, that's, that's a scary thing too.
[00:27:12] I think there's so much we could just stay in the conversation around the societal cultural changes and the organizational changes. Cause we need this on three levels, you know, cultural, organizational and individual. And I am so passionate about talking about the cultural and the organizational, because I often think women do think it's individual change that needs to happen. And even when they just begin to see that actually this isn't their fault, there is a whole other way we need to be changing. This is, is reassuring I hope and hopefully freeing. So we could stay here for another hour, but I do want to bring it back to the individual. We've looked at the other two, now let's look at the individual changes. Especially perhaps if we can pick this up in the earliest stages of burnout. I loved the way that you shared in your TEDx Talk that some of the things that you did to really begin to reclaim yourself and to find yourself again,
[00:28:12] and like you said, begin a new life because that's what was happening, was that you signed up for improv comedy. And how these then weaved into your relationship, into your parenting, and how it helped you really find yourself again. Can you share that with us? Because I think it's a beautiful reminder that once again, this is not about having another effing list.
[00:28:37] This is about, what is it for you that you need.
[00:28:43] Exactly. Exactly. So my journey actually started in stand-up comedy. Part of it just was that I wanted to laugh more. And I definitely knew after that comment of my husband, I was like, I need a friend and I need to get out the house. Right. I need a hobby. And so literally with, with a really quite newly formed friend, Sarah, she and I went up to, went to stand up comedy class together.
[00:29:08] And it was so amazing. I mean, literally stand up comedy, the classes are like therapy. Because one you're laughing, two the teacher got us to focus on what were the emotions we are having that we wanted to get out. I was just this angry mom letting out this primal scream. As I say, mostly at Alexa, but, there was so many people there from all different walks of life. All with the thing in their life that they were resentful about and frustrated about, and that we could bring and talk about through free humor.
[00:29:41] So that was also just such a great insight into the human condition, like that was what we were all experiencing. But it was so funny because on the first day of class, the teacher said, if you want it to be about you, it’s stand up. If you want it to be about the team, it's improv. And I went, oops, I'm in the wrong class
[00:30:00] cause I definitely wanted it to be more about the team. But it was great to do that and to go through it. And so then I started improv classes. And I mean, it was like unicorn, fairy, pixie dust magic, this thing because you just literally, you, you learn a few sort of basic constructs. The first is yes,
[00:30:22] and. So basically when you step forward in any scene work that you're doing, somebody brings something and it could be anything. And actually, so many of the games that we played to, to sort of get us ready to be on stage, were often gift games. So I might just sort of hand you over and say, oh, you know, here, Amy, take this little shell. And then you would take it and go, oh wow,
[00:30:48] this shell. Yes, it's… and then you describe it too. And so it literally, we would practice giving each other a gift and that's what improv is. You give someone the gift and they yes, and it. They don't go, oh, no, I don't want a shell today. They go yes, and… and then they build upon it. So it's this beautiful, beautiful process
[00:31:09] of, of not controlling anything. You can't control anybody else's, cause you could say, see this shell. Then they start to say, yeah, shell oil company and they've gone totally in a different way from you. Right. You can't control it. So that is so awesome. That was such a great lesson for myself and in parenting. But also to go that everything you bring,
[00:31:30] and it's like you're bringing these bricks to build a cathedral, and everyone brings their own work. And the cathedral's so much more interesting and beautiful because you each bring your own ideas. And then also, emotions. Uh, often they would sort of say, no, you're not, you're not trying to be funny. You just got to try and come with a very clear, big emotion.
[00:31:52] So again, such great practice to me is the British stiff upper lip who had suppressed all my emotions. And that's why I had to learn about them from that book; um, was okay, just bring a big emotion, just be a, so I was acting out emotions. This was fantastic practice for me, um, to do that and then have fun with. And then, mistakes.
[00:32:14] There are no mistakes because you, you kind of step onto stage and say you've misunderstood what somebody said. It's not a mistake. It ends up being funny. Right. That's where the funny happens, when you've misunderstood somebody. Um, so again, it teaches you to embrace mistakes. And it teaches you, what is your new unique thing that you bring?
[00:32:35] So for example, there was this one time, we were on scene on stage and they, the guy sort of prompted me and said, you know, he was dying or something. He goes like, sing to me. And so I started singing. I'm terrible singer, but I belted out anyway, the one of the songs from Ariel, The Little Mermaid, because my kids were in the Ariel musical.
[00:32:58] So I've been listening to their songs all day. And it was just like stuck in my head, so it came out. And I remember somebody afterwards saying to me, that was so amazing, you just pulled it out of thin air. And I was like, oh no, that's my life. And then you suddenly go, okay, my life is not somebody else’s
[00:33:15] life, right. So what are the unique things that I bring to this situation? And it gave me such confidence in my ability to bring something to working on burnout that nobody else would bring, just because it was me. I would be bringing something different. And I think everything I do now, I sort of look at it and say, I'm going to say this in a way
[00:33:39] somebody else won't. I'm going to write this in a way somebody else won't. And so rather than trying to be something or someone, I just have to be myself and have that faith that what I bring is unique and of value. And if I bring it, someone else can build upon it or I can build upon someone else's work.
[00:34:03] It's such a beautiful process. It's really incredible. That's why I say fairy, pixie dust, unicorn magic. And then, um, I did learn a lot of the games that I share with my kids. So for example, if we go on a hike together and they're getting antsy, I start saying, okay, come on play a game. So one of them is, it's word associations.
[00:34:23] And so you start with a word and then you hear what word they add. And it tells you something about where they're at in their head. Or it tells, my eight year old, it tells me about, you know, what things is she interested in? So that helps me have other conversations with her. From my thirteen-year-old, I can maybe sort of
[00:34:40] get a sense of his mood or something because of the words he uses. And actually what I then discovered, cause my son is on the Autism Spectrum, and I discovered an improv comedy class for kids and teens that came from an organization that helped people with Autism. And again, he's able to
[00:35:02] embrace the yes and. He's able to read cues from other people and he's just embraced comedy. I mean, he is, he's funny and he's realized that he can bring funny to something. And so I'm just so excited that that's part of something that, that he loves too. So he's got a two week summer camp coming up, uh, doing improv in the summer.
[00:35:29] I'm like, I'm jealous. I want a two week improv summer camp.
[00:35:34] Wow. I love this so much. You know, my brain is thinking, so what is the formula here for, for that burnout, you know, that you found in improv. And the things that come to mind are, you learned to express emotions, feel them, own them, speak them and then move them. Because when I think about that mother like you were, that was at the kitchen sink, you know, cooking and hating it. And resenting the husband who needed congratulating for doing one thing. You know, you had all those feelings and you didn't express it.
[00:36:09] So in improv, you're learning how to own it, name it, feel it, shift it. You’re shifting it through laughter and through that beautiful sort of unicorn energy, as you said. You're also learning how to take what people, you know, have given you to be able to give things and listen to what they say. There's a little bit of, um, letting go of control, of outcomes.
[00:36:34] There's no mistakes here. Everything I can get through, even if it's something I wasn't expecting. Like there's a really beautiful formula within that experience, isn't there? That can be translated even if you don't want to do improv. I think we can take some things out of there that could be some steps for anyone.
[00:36:56] Right. Exactly. And actually, I'm so glad that you reflected back, that back to me so well. You're such a good active listener there. There is the technique if anybody needs it. There went the perfect technique.
[00:37:09] Thanks for pointing that out for all those listening right now.
[00:37:13] Right. Exactly. Um, and, and that, active listening, super important. It teaches that active listening skill.
[00:37:20] Cause you really have to be present and that's the other part you have to be present, right? You can't just go into an improv class and not pay attention because you're paying attention to, what did the people say? What was the gift they gave me? So yeah, I think those things are also really important for our kids, to be
[00:37:37] really present with the kids. Cause I try and set boundaries around that now. If you know, if I am in the middle of something, I'll just sort of say to them, one second I'm going to finish this and then I'm gonna really pay attention to you. And then it is that like in front of their face, face to face.
[00:37:52] And, and even that, coach helped me with that in terms of when you are trying to communicate with your children. You get down on their level and you're literally eye to eye. And you're, you're either saying, you know, I love you, and so they can really hear it in that moment. Or you're sort of saying, okay, I need to set a boundary here. And it can be, you know, when you're actually laying, laying down something else. But it's that taking that time to, to really be present and in front of them that I thinks important.
[00:38:22] So, yeah, I, I think there’s so many lessons. So I think it all comes back to mindset. And that's what's so important for mums to hear is, I think it's about coaching and mindset. I don't think it's about baths and self care. And so if professional and personal development is self-care, then fine, it's self-care. At the individual level, we need to develop these skills. The emotional intelligence,
[00:38:48] the communication skills, the boundary setting skills to, to help us thrive in our families and at work. So that, that is definitely so important. And even though I'm an exercise scientist, and I know how stress moves through our body and the exercise can help with that, and the exercise is actually good for your mental health.
[00:39:10] It's been related to reduce depression. But, but burnout is chronic stress. And so many people can't keep an exercise habit up forever. So that's why I get really frustrated when companies say, oh, it's self care. Because they're pointing their finger at you saying, it's your problem, your self care. In that pose is three fingers pointing back to them.
[00:39:33] What are they going to do as an organization to change? But I think it comes back to what you said, which is that when moms think it's all their fault, um, one, that, that, you know, it's important to own the behaviors you bring. Cause if you burn out from one job, you'll burn out in the next one. If you don't own that need to prove yourself, your perfectionism, the people pleasing the over-giving, you, you have to get a handle on that through mindset changes.
[00:40:02] But if you're feeling like it's your own fault, it doesn't then make it a systemic problem because you're literally thinking it's your fault. Whereas when you discover, oh, actually the mum next to me is feeling the same. And so is the mum in HR. And so is the mum... And that basically, that then indicates this is so many different types of people that are having this problem, or it's a specific group like mums or other disadvantaged groups.
[00:40:28] That's what tells you it's a systemic problem. And that's when it gets elevated to a systemic change. Whereas if we get the finger pointed, it's your fault. You take it as your fault. You don't ever tell anyone how you're feeling. You don't share what you're doing to improve it. Cause that's the other thing back to like the mums as the role models, you know. I want to hear about the fact that you take a whole week off from your kids, right?
[00:40:54] That's something I do. That's something I tell people I do because it's an active role model to tell other people you have permission to do this too. Good mums take breaks from their kids. Um,
[00:41:07] Amen. We, that's the other, that's the other title of the podcast we could use. Good mums, happy, good moms take breaks from their kids. And don't give me another effing list. Uh,
[00:41:19] Right. Right. Because yeah, as you say, it's not about, you know, being more efficient in the home and all those things. Cause yes, you can do those things, but maybe you shouldn't even be doing any of those things in the home. I mean, it, it is letting go of these expectations and this perfectionism. Um.
[00:41:38] It is so, it's so intricate. It's so interwoven. It's so complicated in a lot of ways. Because the change has to happen on so many levels. But I do think from our conversation today, I love what you've just shared. That there is also some core skills that we can learn as mothers, through a coach, through a therapist, through mindset work,
[00:42:07] however you want to do it. That teaches us how to communicate better around our needs. Uh, instead of staying silent and then only screaming when it's too much. There's key skills we can learn around communicating with our partner, our workplace, you know, that doesn't take away from the fact that they need to be doing their work too. But we can empower ourselves more, not from being busier or doing more, but from learning how to speak up, hold boundaries, decide what's important and just what is not, all of those things.
[00:42:40] I think that's a really beautiful conclusion on this amazing, enormous conversation. That, yes, we've got a lot of work to do in this world to fix this. And also on an individual level, there's some things we can do too.
[00:42:56] Absolutely. And I think what's the great part about taking control and empowering yourself to do that is, we are, um, part of the system. So whatever we do change impacts the system as well. It's going to ripple back out. What we do in our family will ripple to other family members, to other families, into the workplace and into society.
[00:43:19] So if we can accept that those things influence us, then we can also accept that we can influence them back. And that to me is where the hope comes. So, yep.
[00:43:30] Absolutely. I've always said that I believe the knowing of matresence, the understanding of what matresence is, is going to cause a revolution. Like the old, you know, women's rights. It starts with the women demanding more. You know, we will change this because we won't put up with it anymore. It is going to start with us, as mums, who say I can't and I won't anymore,
[00:43:55] well before, I hope, that we get to such extreme burnout places. Thank you so much. What a spectacular conversation. I will put the link to your TEDx Talk in the show notes. I'm sure everyone will jump over and, and watch, and also put the notes to your podcast and everything else that you do in this world around this.
[00:44:14] Thank you for being so vulnerable with all of us, so we can really see ourselves reflected in your story.
[00:44:22] Thank you so much.
[00:44:23] I have to say that was one of my favorite conversations in a long time on this podcast. As you've heard me say so many times, I love it when we can look at the experience of motherhood right now, with both a big cultural lens and a small individual lens. Because the changes are going to need to come on all levels.
[00:44:49] I hope that you feel inspired. Perhaps you might want to sign up for an improv class. But even if not, that you know that there are things you can do to start putting those boundaries up, connecting with your emotions, speaking your needs, letting go of things that you just don't need to be doing anymore.
[00:45:08] And also holding hope that the change we need will come. But each of us, as we make these small changes in our own life, are contributing to the big changes. Please go to the show notes for Jacqueline's TEDx Talk, her podcast and all of her resources. And as always share this conversation with mamas, with friends, with partners. And a little reminder,
[00:45:35] that the Mama Rising Training, which will train you in how to coach and support a mama through matresence, through these periods of her life is open for enrollment again in August. Go to the website to find all of the details. Until next week, Satnam.
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