Breaking away from the idea that there is one “right” way to mother

    —
February 19, 2024

We live in a wild world with a wealth of information at our fingertips. This means we can read reviews, check forums, and see what other parents are saying about everything we purchase or do for our children. 

But that is not always a good thing. There is such a thing as too much research. 

I distinctly remember working with a client who had very high expectations around her child’s food. She was concerned with what ingredients were in the food, how it was prepared, how it was served—and anything less than “healthy” felt wrong to her. She was a self-proclaimed perfectionist who wanted the best for her child—she wasn’t going to “lower her standards” at the request of her partner or anyone else. 

As a result of her food concerns, she spent hours upon hours extensively researching topics related to food such as GMOs, toxins, ingredients, and safety. Through her research, she also read that stress could decrease her milk supply—so she shut down any conversations when her family tried to approach her about this or how it had taken over her life. 

This level of research was no longer about the food—postpartum anxiety was in the driver’s seat, pushing her to search for control. 

It’s also important to break away from the idea that there is one “right” way to mother. Just because we have access to information doesn’t mean there isn’t room for nuance. Take “healthy food” as an example. What constitutes a “healthy” diet has been a debated topic for decades and is often a wellness space filled with fads and extremes with each approach contradicting the next. There have been more rules prescribed to our food then I can count that cause people not to trust themselves and leave them seeing food as being good or bad. Food is not black or white. Our approach doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

In my client’s case, research had gone beyond just information-seeking. Sometimes, research is just research. But other times, research is:

  • Trying to find the “right” or “best” way to do something
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Grasping for certainty
  • Feeding your anxiety
  • An attempt to soothe your anxiety

I have seen this pattern play out many times with many of my clients. I believe that in many ways intensive mothering prevents us from seeing signs of anxiety. When we interpret perfectionism and the need to avoid mistakes at all costs as being a good mother, we have a lot of pressure to carry. It’s no wonder that so many of us find ourselves in the research rabbit hole.

Does that mean all research is bad? Of course not. But we need to learn the difference between when it’s helping and when it’s not. Researching should be used to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision. It should have boundaries—not be all-consuming. 

Excerpt from Releasing the Mother Load: How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood More by Erica Djossa.

Erica Djossa

Erica Djossa is a registered psychotherapist, sought-after maternal mental health specialist, and the founder of wellness company Momwell. Her popular Momwell podcast has over a million downloads. Erica’s a regular contributor to publications like the Toronto Star, Scary Mommy, and Medium, and her insights have been shared by celebrities like Ashley Graham, Nia Long, Christy Turlington, and Adrienne Bosh. She lives in Toronto. For more, visit momwell.com

Erica Djossa

Erica Djossa is a registered psychotherapist, sought-after maternal mental health specialist, and the founder of wellness company Momwell. Her popular Momwell podcast has over a million downloads. Erica’s a regular contributor to publications like the Toronto Star, Scary Mommy, and Medium, and her insights have been shared by celebrities like Ashley Graham, Nia Long, Christy Turlington, and Adrienne Bosh. She lives in Toronto. For more, visit momwell.com.

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Erica Djossa: Releasing the Mother Load

What have we done to our mothers? Sociologists call our times “the era of intensive mothering,” a period in which moms must be it all and do it all for their children and families. Psychotherapist and maternal mental health specialist Erica Djossa has made it her mission to teach today’s mothers how to take care of their well-being in a sustainable way. In this podcast, Tami Simon speaks with Erica about her much-needed new book, Releasing the Mother Load, and the steps we can take to challenge the norms and change the culture around mothering. 

Enjoy this empowering discussion of: values-centered mothering; mothers as martyrs; the pressures facing a generation of “overinformed, overeducated, and overwhelmed” moms; equally sharing our household duties; the cost of cognitive or invisible labor; boundaries; using the “load map” to redistribute the work; “mom rage,” its roots, and the unique nature of anger in motherhood; identifying the “red light and green light” times for difficult conversations with partners (and sticking to them); overcoming perfectionism; self-compassion; re-parenting yourself while you’re parenting your children; the disempowering belief that I’m failing as a mom; effective self-care for moms (it’s not just bubble baths!); advice for making changes—start small; and more.

Note: This episode originally aired on Sounds True One, where these special episodes of Insights at the Edge are available to watch live on video and with exclusive access to Q&As with our guests. Learn more at join.soundstrue.com.

Breaking away from the idea that there is one “right...

We live in a wild world with a wealth of information at our fingertips. This means we can read reviews, check forums, and see what other parents are saying about everything we purchase or do for our children. 

But that is not always a good thing. There is such a thing as too much research. 

I distinctly remember working with a client who had very high expectations around her child’s food. She was concerned with what ingredients were in the food, how it was prepared, how it was served—and anything less than “healthy” felt wrong to her. She was a self-proclaimed perfectionist who wanted the best for her child—she wasn’t going to “lower her standards” at the request of her partner or anyone else. 

As a result of her food concerns, she spent hours upon hours extensively researching topics related to food such as GMOs, toxins, ingredients, and safety. Through her research, she also read that stress could decrease her milk supply—so she shut down any conversations when her family tried to approach her about this or how it had taken over her life. 

This level of research was no longer about the food—postpartum anxiety was in the driver’s seat, pushing her to search for control. 

It’s also important to break away from the idea that there is one “right” way to mother. Just because we have access to information doesn’t mean there isn’t room for nuance. Take “healthy food” as an example. What constitutes a “healthy” diet has been a debated topic for decades and is often a wellness space filled with fads and extremes with each approach contradicting the next. There have been more rules prescribed to our food then I can count that cause people not to trust themselves and leave them seeing food as being good or bad. Food is not black or white. Our approach doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

In my client’s case, research had gone beyond just information-seeking. Sometimes, research is just research. But other times, research is:

  • Trying to find the “right” or “best” way to do something
  • Seeking reassurance
  • Grasping for certainty
  • Feeding your anxiety
  • An attempt to soothe your anxiety

I have seen this pattern play out many times with many of my clients. I believe that in many ways intensive mothering prevents us from seeing signs of anxiety. When we interpret perfectionism and the need to avoid mistakes at all costs as being a good mother, we have a lot of pressure to carry. It’s no wonder that so many of us find ourselves in the research rabbit hole.

Does that mean all research is bad? Of course not. But we need to learn the difference between when it’s helping and when it’s not. Researching should be used to provide you with enough information to make an informed decision. It should have boundaries—not be all-consuming. 

Excerpt from Releasing the Mother Load: How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood More by Erica Djossa.

Erica Djossa

Erica Djossa is a registered psychotherapist, sought-after maternal mental health specialist, and the founder of wellness company Momwell. Her popular Momwell podcast has over a million downloads. Erica’s a regular contributor to publications like the Toronto Star, Scary Mommy, and Medium, and her insights have been shared by celebrities like Ashley Graham, Nia Long, Christy Turlington, and Adrienne Bosh. She lives in Toronto. For more, visit momwell.com

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