SFP 160: Selfish vs. Selfless Parenthood [with Hunter of Mindful Mama Mentor]

There is a fine line between selfishness and selflessness in parenthood. In today’s episode, I’m chatting with Hunter Clarke-Fields of Mindful Mama Mentor. We talking about martyrdom in motherhood and how trying to be-it-all and do-it-all is not actually the best thing for kids. This is an important message for every parent.


Hi, it's episode 160. And today we're talking about selfishness versus selflessness in Parenthood as a parent, how do you find the middle ground between one or the other?

You are listening to the Simple Families podcast, the Q and A style show that brings you solutions for living well with family. Here's your host Denaye Barahona

It's episode 160. And I so appreciate you tuning in today. I'm chatting with Hunter Clark fields. Hunter joined us back in episode 112. We were talking about whether we really control our kids. And today Hunter is going to be joining me to talk about martyrdom and Parenthood. We'll explore the contrast between selfishness and selflessness and as parents, it can be really hard to feel like we're finding a balance between the two, but before that, here's a quick word from today's sponsor. The sponsor for today is Highlands. Earaches are one of the primary causes for doctor visits with over 30 million visits per year. And Hylands can help. If you've been diagnosed with an Earache by a physician, you can try a Hyland's homeopathic, earache drops or tablets. I actually know this firsthand. I had an ear infection a couple of years ago, and I forgot how bad they hurt.

And I had some Hylands on hand for my kids and I used it on myself. And I have to say it took the pain down from like a nine, at least to a three or four. I was super impressed. Hylands has been trusted for generations to provide safe homeopathic medicines for all members of the family. Hyland's homeopathic, earache drops and tablets provide natural relief to help you get back to doing what you love. So visit hylands.com, H Y L A N D S to find a retailer near you. That's hylands.com/ear-pain. These claims are based on traditional homeopathic practice and not accepted by medical evidence, not FDA evaluated. And you must read and follow the label directions before use back to today's episode. I want to tell you that my new book, simple, happy parenting comes out in less than a week.

It's available on Tuesday, June 4th. And if you pre-order it, you're going to get two free live group coaching sessions with me this summer go to simplefamilies.com/book, and you can get the link to purchase the book. And you can also find the spot to redeem the two free coaching sessions this summer. I'm so excited for it to launch. And I am so thankful for all the support from all of you over the past month or so, as I've been getting to ready to launch this book, I appreciate you tuning in every week and being a part of simple families. You bring me far more inspiration than you realize before we get into today's episode. I want to bring you a quick listener spotlight. And if you're new to the podcast each week, I feature a listener who has sentenced some kind an encouraging words this week.

It's coming from Melissa Michelle and in the form of a podcast review. And she wrote, I'm so grateful to have found Denaye's podcast over a year ago. I never miss an episode. I appreciate all of her advice and practical ideas on simple living. She has amazing guests on her show. And my book wishlist has grown so much after listening to the wonderful authors who cover a wide range of topics, but at the core of all carrying the same message of how to live a more simple, intentional present life, I have never felt mommy, guilt or shame when listening to Denaye. And in this world of social media, it is easy to feel like you're not a good mother because you're not doing enough. I've enjoyed the podcast so much. Now that I follow her blog and social media, and I'm taking all the courses she has to offer, I truly respect and value her opinion.

Thank you, Denaye, for all your hard work. I so appreciate those words and that feedback. And thank you to you, Melissa, Michelle, none of this would be possible without listeners and readers like you. Before I get into my chat with Hunter, here's a little bit about her Hunter. Clark fields is a mindfulness mentor. You'll find her at mindfulmamamentor.com. She's the creator of a mindful parenting course and the author of an upcoming book called raising good humans. Hunter also has a podcast that I've had the pleasure of joining her on, and she's the mother of two active daughters. And without further ado, here's my conversation with Hunter. You can go to simple families.com /episode160 to leave questions or comments. And if you hear or see something that particularly resonates with you, I would love you to take a screenshot and post it up on Instagram so I can see it. You can find me on instagram.com/simple_families. Thanks for tuning in.

Denaye Barahona: Hi Hunter. Thanks so much for chatting with me today.

Hunter: Thanks so much for having me back on. I'm happy to be here.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, it's so great. So the last time we talked, we talked about control and how we don't really have that much control over our kids. At least most of the time control is kind of a facade. So today I'm excited to be talking about martyrdom and motherhood. And I know that you, you did a training on this recently, and I got an email about your training. And I was just like, yes, I have to talk to Hunter about this. So tell me about that.

Hunter: Well, yeah, so I do an on martyr yourself week because I, you know, it's funny because personally, it's not something that I ever struggled with. I mean, I did a little bit, but like I'm, I happened to be sort of a naturally I know, I know that if I don't take care of myself, I'm a hot mess for the world. So I learned at some point really young that that has to be an important, a really important thing for me. But I have clients all the time. Who've struggled with this who struggle with getting their needs met with it really comes down to valuing themselves. And the thing is that there's, there's, we live in a culture that, you know, has this sort of cult of motherhood, you know, and exalts motherhood, and this whole idea of mothers, the self-sacrificing mother meme. I really think it's just I've I see in my clients constantly all the time, how dangerous it is, how it, how it hurts moms, how it hurts families, how it hurts mom's relationships with kids and, and how it teaches it.

Hunter: You know, it puts this pressure on moms to not value themselves as much as they should be valuing themselves. And you know, always, always putting their children first. And, and I tell moms and dads very straight out that your needs are actually just as important as your child's needs. And you're, you know, it's interesting because when we start out this parenting journey, our kids are infants and an infant's needs are really immediate there it's so essential and, and right. You know, they have to be met right away. Right. And our needs can be pushed back. Right. We don't have to meet them as immediately. And so we kind of start out this journey with, you know, pushing our needs back to meet the more immediate needs of our infants, but we forget to bring our needs back into the picture. Soon enough we forget too. We, we think that this is the way it should be in. I see that it, it hurts people and it hurts families and it, and it makes it harder and harder moving into, you know, as kids grow. So,

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I will admit that I definitely fell into this pattern in early motherhood, and I have definitely emerged from it as I've become more aware of those tendencies. But I'm curious on your thoughts. Why do you think women especially fall into this?

Hunter: Well, it certainly has some, it has some historic roots, so I've actually looked into it and, and there's an anthropologist, Maxine Margolis, and she explains that actually, you know, raising kids, you know, we kind of think I would, this is just this biological thing. Right. But actually raising kids, wasn't actually even exclusively women's work until pretty recently. And so back in the day when we were all sort of farmers and merchants and artisans, right? Like the fathers worked near the home and they took an active parenting role, you know, for centuries while, you know, their wives helped with the business and made goods for, you know, families basic survival. Like the family was like a unit that worked together for centuries. And there were of course aunties and uncles around, right. Like it, because people didn't travel so far. And it actually wasn't until manufacturing left home for the factory in the 19th century that middle-class men found themselves like kind of freed up their time, freed up to spend more time on childcare.

Hunter: And you know, and before long, it was kind of like they were told that such full-time chick care was essential. And this was this like beginning of this kind of cult of motherhood. And then, you know, in the Victorian era and the turn of the 20th century, it was like, really this, this principle, this idea was that women are born to me, mothers and that it's caring for children. Isn't just instinctive. It should be just completely fulfilling in every way, part of our lives and, and, you know, mothers shouldn't even need any other pursuits. And so it just kind of intensified until you kind of get to like, you know, the the 1950s and, and it's interesting, 'cause it's all very much like middle or upper-class women. Like if you look at working women like lower income women, it's always been, you know, working in the world and, and out in the world.

Hunter: But this, the ideal that was presented in the media was always, you know, you can then think of like the 1950s mother, like rolling out pastry for Apple pies and that kind of thing. And, and then, you know, now we have so much information about how to raise kids that, that we, you know, we just feel like, you know, they're, it's so challenging as far as like, we want to raise them emotionally balanced and, and they want, they have to be successful in the world's changing rapidly. Right. So, so then we feel like now that we have more information in some ways about how important our early childhood is now, we, then we have even more or less sort of guilt and things, but the way it kind of really falls on women goes, it goes back to these historical precedents, which I think is really interesting. Cause it's like, Oh, it wasn't always just, it wasn't always just women doing all the child-rearing work, you know, right.

Denaye Barahona: At least in the early months, it probably always has been in the early months or years as well. Women are still nursing and breastfeeding. And I feel like that's where it started for me, especially because I, in my early days of motherhood was pretty adamant that we weren't going to use a bottle for the first few weeks. And then we just didn't really end up using bottles very much more out of the fact that I was home all the time. And I just became the person who really the sole person who could provide for my first child. And I think in many ways that alienated my husband, but it also kind of pigeonholed me into always being there and always being the one that knew everything. And the one that did everything, the maternal gatekeeper per se. And I saw myself fall into that pattern.

Denaye Barahona: And honestly, I was pretty happy with it for a long time. And I think it wasn't really until my second child was born because I feel like with my first, with one child, I could kind of handle it with I could, I had, I took it all on and I did it in stride and I was happy to be doing it. But then I think once number two arrived, I started to feel the weight of it and realize like, Oh, wait a minute. I can't do this all myself. Or I, if I do try to do it all myself, I am not going to be doing it well, no,

Hunter: I, yeah. I mean, I hear you. It is canned. It's like, you're you, your life changes so completely, right? Your body, your relationship to your body changes to your partner, changes to everything. Everything is turned upside down and, and it can feel really fulfilling. I mean, I was of a similar sort of slant and was able to have, luckily I was able to breastfeed my child and, you know, when was it when it was just one child, like she slept with us in the beginning. And I remember feeling quite smug because everybody would say, Oh, are you so tired? How are you sleeping? And I'd think actually we're sleeping really well because I would just roll over on one side and nurse her and fall asleep and then sleep late into the morning because there wasn't any other kids there, any other things there that I had to do so I could handle it.

Hunter: And it, and it did that part did feel, feel really good. I mean, yeah. And part of it, this is part of though where the problem shows up is like when we take on everything ourselves, right? Yes. We may have the feeding mechanism. We may be, you know, nursing and that might be really important. But then when we take on everything ourselves like, Oh, my partner is not changing the diaper in the right way or, or giving the bath and the right way or doing all these things. And so not when we don't give other people a chance to do things in perfectly then it can start a real pattern of just kind of slipping into these gender roles, traditional gender roles. And then eventually that can be, you know, really end up with so much work left on mom's shoulders.

Hunter: Like it's amazing, you know, I wish I had the numbers for you today. I didn't couldn't find them, but they're like men ultimately have like something like 300 something, more hours of free time, leisure time a year than women do. Because as these, the choices that we make when our kids are little play out down the line, when they're less and less egalitarian we women end up just doing so much more work and men are, you know, quote unquote helping, helping out rather than being equal partners because we, you know, it can be hard to yeah. To let other people through that, of this precious child taking care of this precious child, but it ends up being so important.

Denaye Barahona: Right. And I think there's this very, very, almost impossible to see fine line between selfless and selfish in motherhood. And I don't know that any of us really strike that balance. And I don't know that we can really see a middle ground a lot of times. Like, I think we are often very selfless, especially if we are acting as murders, we're being very selfless. And we look at everyone else around us who is not doing that as selfish. What do you do?

Hunter: Yeah. There's like a lot of judgment that comes out. Yeah. I mean, especially before we have kids, we're very used to kind of judging parents and saying, well, when I have kids, I will do it this way. And this is, you know, so that, that judging mind is, is really going forth in full effect. Yeah. I mean, we tend to say, you know, there, there tends to be kind of like we're getting value from that. Like we're, we're, we're saying, because I am getting up all the time at night, I am a better person. You know, we tend to value ourselves more yet. We don't see in those early years, how on the other end than we, you know, what ultimately happens is that our kids, they don't do what we say as much as they do what we do and how we live our lives as much, you know, what we model teach as much more to our kids than anything else.

Hunter: And if we model sacrificing ourselves and not valuing our own needs and not taking care of our own needs, then ultimately we're showing our kids to do that too. Like what do we want our kids to be sacrificing their own needs to the point of exhaustion? You know, would we want our kids to be doing, you know, taking care of everybody else before they take care of ourselves? No, we wouldn't. So we shouldn't be doing that ourselves. Like there was this study this blog macaroni kid did this survey of 8,500 moms and they found this they found this, that 90.4% reported taking better care of them's families than they do of themselves, which is shocking to me. And then 25% admitted, they hadn't done anything just for themselves in more than a year.

Denaye Barahona: And if that it's not okay, and here, this is what I tell families. Your kids are not going to be happy. If you're not happy, you have to be happy. Happiness is contagious. It's not something we can teach. It's something that our kids learn from being in the vicinity and being around and having relationships with people who are happy. And if we're you can't and I, one of the phrases that I hear a lot is, well, it's Fine. As long as my kids are happy, that's all that matters, but it doesn't work like that. Right. Would you agree with me?

Hunter: No. And, and actually biologically, it doesn't work like that. So if you're not taking care of yourself, right? Like if you are not getting enough sleep, if you're not getting enough exercise, having some quiet time to yourself, having time for friends, we have a lot of needs, you know, as human beings, we need time for ourselves time for friends, family exercise, sleep, sleep is so, so important if we're not doing those things then literally like in our biological system. So we have our fight flight or freeze system in our nervous system, right? This is that stress response in the nervous system. And the stress response is wonderful thing. It helps keeps us safe, but it's what helps makes us irritable stressed out, unhappy, reactive yelling parents, right?

Hunter: Like it's what makes parents who can't hold, you know, keep themselves together. That's, that's the cause, right? And when we aren't taking care of ourselves, we're depleting our resources, depleting our resources, depleting our resources. And then literally we have nothing left to give. And literally you're much, much more likely to yell. You're you're much, you're not able to access the higher evolved part of your brain. Like the prefrontal cortex is where the your empathy resides, your logical thinking, your creative, thinking, your intuition, all of this, all of these higher order thinking things, you're then literally quite literally in the brain, the stress response, bypasses that part of the brain so that you can have a quick reaction. You're literally not able to access these things. So you may be thinking, Oh, this is better for my kids, but you're actually making yourself a far worse parent, you know, to be Frank.

Hunter: And, you know, I think of it this way. Like I, I heard a beautiful image about loving kindness, and I love this image and I would love to give this image to the listener. And this is like that our care and loving kindness, right? Like it's like like a mountain spring, right? Water coming down a mountain. And the first pool it reaches is this pool of ourselves. Right? And so we have to fill up this, the new mountain spring of kindness and care and concern, loving kindness. It has to fill this pool from ourselves. And when this little, this mountains, spring of care for ourselves is over full it, then spills over and goes down to fill the next the next pool down the line, which may be care for our, our family and our friends. But like, literally, if it's not inside of us, we, we can't give it out. We, we cannot give what we do not have. And so if you have, if you're just so stressed out and overburdened, you're going to, you're going to be resentful, ultimately ends up to like moms exploding and being, becoming resentful of their kids, which is, that's not right.

Denaye Barahona: I have an image that I made that I'm going to put into the show notes that it's actually a few different little sticks of dynamite with different length fuses to give you this visual of what it looks like to have a short fuse versus a long fuse. And we think about, we all have different length uses, right? Like a three-year-old has a pretty short fuse because as soon as their fuse burns a little bit, they explode pretty quickly. And an older child has a little bit of a longer fuse and an adult can have any variation of lengths of fuses depending on the day, depending on their overall wellbeing. So a parent with good self care has a long fuse. You know, they can handle a lot. They can really sustain themselves throughout the difficult days as parents, without exploding. But if you have poor self-care, that fuse is going to be a lot shorter. And you're going to find yourself exploding more often, you're going to find yourself being more volatile with your kids. And, and I don't say that in a shameful way, but more so in a way that I know that anyone who's ever lost their cool and got upset with their kids always feels that sense of guilt after the fact. And you wish that there was a better way and you wish you had tools to do better. And I really do think that this self-care piece is, is the most important piece.

Hunter: It, it, it really is. And the thing about like, losing your cool, like that, that that's not your fault. Like we have this biological stress response, right? This isn't personal to you. It's not about you being this type of parent or that it's not personal. We just have, this is our nervous system, and this is how it works. And it doesn't work that well as far as accessing these other things, right. If, if we're, if we're not taking care of ourselves. And so yeah, that, that really means, you know, sleep. It really means exercise a good food time with friends. It, it really means looking at how you, how you speak to yourself in the privacy of your own mind. What, when you make a mistake, if you do yell at your child, or, you know, if there's something like that that happens, do you shame and blame yourself?

Hunter: Are you harsh and mean, and cruel is that voice inside harsh and mean, and cruel to yourself. And many of us were, you know, have inside a voice that's really harsh and mean and cruel because of our society. That's, you know, we happen to have a very judgmental society and or maybe our upbringing, our parents, and things that not to blame them, they had probably worse. But if that voice inside is harsh and mean, and cruel, we have to think of, remember that when our resources are depleted, what's inside is what's going to come out. So just as if you squeeze an orange, you got orange juice coming out, rather than Kiwi juice what's inside you is going to come out when you're squeezed. And so, you know, we can't just expect to, will ourselves to always say the right thing, because that's not going to happen. It has to be actually a practice like a pro there has to be a practice of kindness to ourselves. And that kindness to ourselves includes taking care of all of our needs of our physical body, our mental well-being or emotional body, all of that.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah. And I've talked a lot on the podcast about how, for me work is very much self-care and that I found as my kids have gotten older, that I've needed more and more. And for me very much has been getting childcare so that I can pursue my career and my work interests. And that, I think that reflecting back now on a time before I had childcare and before I had support to pursue my own time and my own interests, I feel like I'm so much happier.

Denaye Barahona: Now. I'm so much, I'm happier with who I am when I'm with my kids now. And I'm happy that I have something outside of my kids. And I think there's this big sort of conundrum that we come up with when we're thinking about motherhood, especially for stay at home mothers, this idea that motherhood is enough, right. If you're a mother and you're staying home and you're making motherhood, you're everything that it is enough. And especially if you've made this decision that you have to stick with it and there's no turning back and you got to give it your all and do your best. And I Think that that is that's difficult

Denaye Barahona: Because you have to give yourself the permission to change your mind and to be flexible and to quite possibly make a different decision later on. And maybe it means going back to work, or maybe it means doing some volunteer work or whatever it is that fills up, fills up your cup, that you didn't anticipate you were going to need when you started motherhood. If you, even, if you started as a martyr or you started with the idea that you were going to do it all and be at all.

Hunter: Oh yeah, absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more and it's okay that your kids aren't, you know, and in fact, I actually think it's sometimes I, I tell my clients, I say, actually, you know, in a lot of ways, like it is so much in a lot of ways, it's really good for your kids, for them not to be your everything, like that's too much pressure on a kid. Like that's too much pressure on a person for their whole life to be everything fulfilling for you. Like, that's, that's a lot of pressure on them. And actually when we, I, I you know, I tell my clients to like sort of care, less love more. And I actually, I heard Dr. Shefali Safari say that one time. And I really appreciate that. And the idea that when we, when we care a little less, when we stop making every little moment so important and, and us being there every single moment being so important, we can relax a little bit more.

Hunter: We can be ourselves a little bit more, and us being our authentic selves and accepting our own selves that gives our, you know, then we're able to accept our kids for who they are. They don't have to be perfect. They don't have to be, you know, they don't have to meet our expectations in every moment. They don't have to make us happy in every moment because the truth is, kids are annoying and kids are frustrating and they're wonderful and they like make your heart sing. But they're also all those other things too. And if, if we can back off and take some time for ourselves, even stay at home moms, if you take some time, get a mother's helper, come a couple days a week, go for a long walk, whatever it is, take some time away. It's beautiful to come back and have a reunion.

Hunter: And it's beautifully for your kids to have an experience with, with other people it's really helpful for them. And it, and it, it really feeds you both, you know, and, and missing each other is a wonderful feeling. I once went away for two weeks a retreat, an artists or cheat. And I came back and I heard my daughter's voice. And it was like, Oh, it was amazing. Cause I could hear her voice for the first time that everyone used to tell me what's so cute. And I could hear it like, as somebody else heard it. And she gave me like a thousand kisses all at once and it was amazing. And so it's really, it can be really lovely to, to have time away. And that gives you perspective and enjoy upon reunion. You know, even if it's just a couple of hours,

Denaye Barahona: Right. And I feel like in recent generations, as families are getting smaller and the average family has like 1.9 kids or something like that. Now we, I think that fact alone lends itself to more intensive mothering and more intensive Parenthood. I think back when I was a new mom and I had an infant that I literally had the time and energy to watch and perseverate over his, every move. And I often found myself thinking at that point, I was like, well, maybe I should have like five or six kids so I can distribute my energy evenly. I don't. And I don't overwhelm any one of, because I felt like when that was my all, and it really was, I was working on my PhD while he was an infant. But that, although, that did help me and it gave me some mental space to be doing something else. I found plenty of mental space to fuss over his, every single move. And it, it was almost overwhelming to me to give my everything to another single individual. So I've kind of always thought about that as with the smaller your family. It, do we have the tendency to really dive deeper and maybe get a little too over-involved in the lives of our kids.

Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, they need us, right. They need to have this attachment figures of the parents or the caregivers at home. Right. Or the, you know, the caregivers that are in their life when they're young, like they, they had kids attached to those and that's important, right. They need us to be able to regulate their emotions so they can come and, and, and, and do that. But that's can be, that's overwhelming for it to be the job of one person to that sounds like my, you know, in some ways like it's like a definition of insanity to like, be with like a 18 month old for like 24 hours a day for weeks on end. Right? Like that, that child and that person need more, you know, that wasn't how humans evolved to be. Right. We evolved to be with many people. Kids evolve to learn from, from many people and kids are so much work that we need to, to give, have breaks really, really important.

Hunter: Um restorative breaks for those, those caregivers. When my, I w one thing I was very cognizant of was sharing as much as I could equally with my husband. And at some point later when my kids were littler, but than they are now, but older than infants, they would, they would just say, mommy, daddy, like they would call us bullet. Like my kids would call me daddy and my, they would call him mommy sometimes. And sometimes they would just call us both mommy, daddy. And I remember feeling like, yes, you know, like this is we're, we're both provide that what they need, right. As far as this loving presence to help them with when they need help. Right. I was really pleased that he was just as much a caregiver as, as I was. And that's, if you look at the big picture in the world, right, we need, we need to bring out the caring instincts and men too. We need to give them that chance to, to model that for the next generation. For sure.

Denaye Barahona: Now you had mentioned attachment on the importance of kids gaining with primary care primary caregivers and the people in their lives. And I, I think that's as something important to touch on because I, so before I did my PhD in child development, I was a clinical social worker and I worked with children and families. And as a part of that, I worked in the foster care system. And I also worked with failed adoptions. So quite a few international adoptions that the kids came to the U S lived with the families and had reactive attachment disorder or other types of attachment disorders as a result of the transition happening during that important early period, that is so pivotal for attachment. So this and this was before I had kids. So I felt like I had a pretty strong understanding of attachment and what it looked like and what the research about it said and what the, what the concerns were were if attachment wasn't properly established.

Denaye Barahona: So this was pre kids. And then I got pregnant with my first and started reading about different parenting approaches. And I came across detachment parenting and immediately was sort of like, wait a minute. Like none of this stuff is what the research shows is necessary for attachment. I will openly say that I'm not an attachment parents supporter, but I do support all the tenants of attachment parenting. I'm a strong supporter of breastfeeding and of baby wearing. And co-sleeping, if it's the right fit for your family and all of those things, but what I don't like is when we put all of those things on a list and make them a list of boxes that we have to check. Yeah. And I've seen so many families, mothers in particular fall into this pattern of adopting this philosophy that really makes them the end all be all for their child in search of a strongly attached relationship with their, with their infant or with our young child.

Denaye Barahona: When the reality is that the research shows us that 75% of children are securely attached. The 25% who have attachment challenges or attachment disorders are the kids who have had parents who have passed away. Parents who have been incarcerated other types of very severe separations in those early years in early months of life. So if, when I first learned about attachment parenting and started to understand the phenomenon that was coming through the parenting schmear, especially as it pertained to the educated population, it felt a little bit scary to me to think that so many amazing, amazing mothers were all of a sudden worried about their kids being properly attached.

Hunter Yeah. Yeah. I can relate to that too, because I had a less D not quite so deep understanding of attachment theory. And I took psychology in college and thought, Oh, maybe this is the source of all in my anxieties. Is that my, I think my mom might've gone on vacation when I was, when I was I dunno, six weeks old, something like that. And left me with my grandparents. But so I had had this idea in my head and I was, I had come across attachment parenting and was like, I will have a securely attached child. She will be, you know, she'll be securely attached and, and we will baby wear and do all those things too. And so I, I could, and, you know, as a relatively educated person, you know, I, I fell right into that category you're talking about.

Hunter: And actually, so did all my friends, I had this moms group from the birth center where I agree birth. Some, it was very sort of crunchy world. Everybody had their, you know, baby wearing accouchement breastfeeding and all of that. So you know, it was interesting and there I but I had a lot, I had a fair amount of skepticism of it, but when, when we brought my first daughter home, we, you know, we, we ended up co-sleeping with her because she didn't, she wouldn't sleep in the bassinet near the bed. And so we, we slept with her, we tucked our sheets in a halfway into our bed. So we couldn't pull them up over our hips, which was incredibly frustrating. I can only imagine firstly, but we wanted to do it, the safe and things like that. I share with you the same concerns about attachment parenting and that it seems to like, especially the books by the Sears seem to put all this pressure on mom and make mom everything, which is too much pressure on one person.

Hunter: I believe it's, it, it kind of says that, you know, it supports in a lot of ways, some of this mommy martyrdom problematic stuff, where you should be, you know, you're putting your child's needs before your own all the time, which isn't healthy. It's is when we, you know, yes, our infants' needs are more immediate. We have to meet them, but our needs also have to come into the picture or else we're going to become a hot mess. So yeah, it, it, and plus kids can have one or many attachment figures, you know, they can be attached to Granny and they can be attached to dad. And that's, that's really healthy for kids. Yeah, I share a lot of your same concerns with us. Right.

Denaye Barahona: And I actually had a few months ago, someone email me and say that it seemed like I wasn't supportive of co-sleeping. And that was interesting to me to hear that. And I can understand why people would think that, and that's because most of the time when people are coming to me with sleep concerns, and I don't generally talk about sleep, sleep is definitely not my forte, because I think it's a little bit too polarizing. But generally speaking, I, if coasts co-sleeping like, if it works for you, then it works. Like you're not usually seeking out support to learn how to co-sleep better. Like if you're co-sleeping or co-sleeping, and it works for you, then that's fine. It's usually the people that I see are people who have been co-sleeping and don't want to do it anymore and are having a hard time transitioning off of it, which is why I feel like maybe it comes across that I'm not supportive.

Denaye Barahona: Cause I'm trying to help people to find better sleep outside of co-sleeping. But that's usually because that's, who's looking for the help, if that makes sense. But I think that co-sleeping is wonderful and beautiful if it works for your family. And I think a lot of people start co-sleeping with the intent of, they love it and they love spending that time with their baby and with their young toddler. But then when you get to the point where it's not really working well for your sleep, and it doesn't always come to that point for everybody, but for many people, it does. You come to a point where you're not sleeping as well, your child isn't sleeping as well. And possibly even the marriage is taking a hit in the, in the process too. I think that's when we have to look at this idea of, are you being a murder around sleep? And are you feeling like you said you were going to host, co-sleep originally out the door, you said you were never going to leave your child alone at night, or you're going to be a parent in the night and a parent during the day and now you're not sleeping and you're an irritable mess all day. Like what happens then?

Hunter: Yeah, it's, it's a frustrating situation because the truth is until you get to the point where you have a, a small infant and you're not sleeping at night until you get faced with a challenge that is like messing up your sleep at night, as much as having a baby, it does, you have no idea how you're going to react to that little sleep or interrupted sleep for some people they're kind of okay. And they can deal with it. And for a lot of us, it turns out we turn into raging Ben cheese don't get enough sleep. Like I remember just feeling so unregulated, right? Like, so dysregulated, so unhappy. So frustrated my day times I would be, you know, much more likely to be triggered much more likely to be triggered into, you know, sadness and depression. And you know, that actually, you know, research shows that women are more than twice as likely to become depressed as men.

Hunter: And, and the research also shows that mother's depression has significant negative impacts on our children. And, and the thing about this is, is that sleep is the underlying necessity for everything else that we do. Like it's just biological necessity for us. So for parents too, you know, it's wonderful. Yeah. Like if it works for you, that's great. And you want to, co-sleep, that's great. It's fine. You know? And we co-slept with my youngest daughter until she was three months old. And then we got her into that bassinet beside the bed. Thank goodness for us. We can pull our sheets up.

Hunter: And and you know, I feel like there's like a middle path, right? It's almost like you're, you know, people feel like they're either, you know, they're, they're co-sleeping, and they're, they're sacrificing themselves. And therefore, you know, getting this boost of self-esteem from doing this, this self sacrificing thing for their child, but then maybe a little more miserable during the day and during the waking hours when we're actually kind of making those memories and, or, you know, we're, or you're, you know, it has to be your, your, your child's like five doors down. And, you know, with them, you know, you don't see it, you know, you're trying to train them or whatnot, but I really do think there can be a middle path for this and, and whatever that middle path has to be. I think that the, the key ingredient is that mom and dad's needs for sleep are really incredibly important. Maybe much more important than maybe a, you know 11 months old need to nurse at night, for sure. You know?

Denaye Barahona: Right. And it's funny, you mentioned 11 month old because my son, my first fell into sleeping through the night pretty early on, pretty pretty naturally, we really worked hard to set good rhythms for naps during the day. And it just kind of happened. My daughter was still waking to nurse usually once, sometimes twice during the night when she was 11 months old. And what we did, which I know not everyone's going to agree with was I sent my husband in to be with her rather than going in myself. That's what we did to that. It took two nights and she was basically like, well, if I'm not getting the boob, I'm not getting up. And she stopped, but you know, here's the thing she cried. Like, she cried a lot with my husband, but I, and I was awake in the other room listening to it, which was wasn't easy.

Denaye Barahona: But I settled in this, knowing that she had human touch, not just any human touch, but loving human touch. She had a clean diaper and she had a bottle, even though she didn't ever take a bottle, I was like, just take the bottle and just offer it to her because, you know, if she's really hungry, she'll take it. And she didn't want it. She didn't want any of that. She just wanted me and she wanted us to nurse for comfort. And at that point I had decided that I really wanted to be sleeping in the night. And I did that. And again, it took two nights and it worked and it's not for everybody, but I think that if we really want a change and like, if we really understand that sleep is in fact incredibly important that we can, we can often make positive changes in the sleep department.

Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. We can absolutely often make positive changes in the sleep department in it. Does it just, I think it, it requires us to recognize that, you know, I love that you recognize that you had this need for sleep. Right. And you recognize that yeah, your kid was unhappy there. Like she was like, I want mommy and I don't have mommy and you know it, but I applaud you for saying, well, yeah, she wants mommy. But for the sake of all of us, we're going to, mommy's going to take care of herself so that we can all be happier and healthier. Ultimately. I mean, the truth is like it even, you know, we're not going to go out of our way to create hardships for our kids because life is hard enough, but it would be a terrible thing for kids to never have any hardships to encounter with the support of a loving family.

Hunter: But because then you're gonna end up with kids who can't handle anything in life. The truth is that we have to, they have to come up against things that said that they don't like, and that, that are challenging for them. And, and they have to come up against those boundaries and when they can come up against those boundaries and also have the support of a loving parent there, it says, yeah, sorry, you know, you're not going to get what you want. I know this is hard for you. Are they equivalent in infant touch of thereof? Right. Then that's exactly what our kids need. Right. And I feel like for me,

Denaye Barahona: It has been slow and steady understanding the importance of finding my own happiness and how that impacts the happiness of my kids. And I mean, a few years ago, I would have said the things that I do now, right. Like having childcare and support at home, like I would have felt like that was pretty selfish, but for not putting my kids first every minute of the day, but now how I see how it's changed my relationship with my kids so much for the positive. Like I just, I think I'll never, never look back.

Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. And I, I also encourage the listener, you know, to look at what are, you know, what are the stories that you're telling yourself about these things? You know, like we, we look at things through a certain lens and we tell ourselves a certain story about about whether it's sleeping at night or taking time for ourselves during the day, or working or going back to work. All of those things, we tell these stories that are filled with judgment and they're filled with they're filled with beliefs that are kind of backed up in our culture and things like that. So I invite people to question, you know, you know, is that, is that really true? You know, when we are, you can feel it right. You can feel in your body when there's a judgmental thought that you're having, Oh, I'm a terrible mother.

Hunter: Well, this is really true. You know, Oh my, my child is unhappy. And that means I'm a terrible mother. Is that true? Like, it's really important for us to start to question some of these beliefs that drive us into this kind of martyrdom behavior, because, and I hope that you can find, you know, other sources that can encourage us to make sure our own needs are met, right. Because it's, those, those are really ultimately just stories and beliefs that are, that are driving this behavior. And we can make choices that meet our needs, that meet our kids' needs as best we can. If we can just take a step back and say, well, what am I needing? What am am I have? I had time with my friends. Have I had time with my partner? My husband have I, when was the last time I did something just for myself.

Hunter: Um you know, but if we can start to take a step back and look at the big picture and look at those things, I mean, we ultimately, you know, we want to remember that we were living whatever we're living is, what our kids are learning, right? So we have to live what we want our kids to learn. You know, do you want your kids to learn, to not take care of their own needs, to not value themselves? So then if that's, you want them to value themselves and you want them to take care of their own needs, as difficult as that might feel, if you've have a story about self-sacrificing motherhood and how great that is, it may feel uncomfortable too, to say, you know what my needs matter, but I'm encouraging you to do that because it'll be good for you. It'll be good for your kids. It'll be good for your relationship for all of you in the long run.

Denaye Barahona: Yeah, I totally agree with that. Well, thank you so much for this. This has been such a great chat Hunter. I feel like we could go on and on. We really didn't even touch the impact of this on this.

Hunter: Marriage. Yes.

Denaye Barahona: How'd, you know, that we didn't even touch the partnership and the impact of martyrdom on partnership. And I think that is another huge maybe for, for another day, right? Yeah.

Hunter: Yeah. This is absolutely true. And really your, your marriage or your partnership is that's one of the biggest impacts of, of kids' happiness, right. That are so important to take care of that, for sure.

Denaye Barahona: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much. Absolutely.

Hunter: Thanks so much for having me on today.

Thanks again for tuning in to the Simple Families podcast. If you want to stay in touch with Simple Families, the best way is to, to simple families.com and to leave your email address, the email list will keep you in touch with what's going on on the blog, on the podcast and In the community. If you want to learn more about Hunter and the things that we talked about today, you can go to simple families.com/episode160.

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Denaye Barahona

Denaye Barahona is a loving wife and mama of two. She's a therapist for moms, an author, and the host of the top-ranked Simple Families Podcast. Denaye holds a Ph.D. in Child Development and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been featured on the likes of The Today Show, Netflix, The Wall Street Journal, Real Simple, Forbes, and numerous other media outlets.