Back in February, I connected with author Lindsay Powers (leader of the #noshame parentingmovement) after reading and reviewing an advanced copy of her book You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids through her publisher Atria Books.
After relating so much with her book, I was ecstatic when Linsday offered to do a Q&A on my blog. So much has changed since a month ago, and this book is more important than ever. Our interview was done in February (when we didn’t yet grasp what was coming…) but her answers are still as relevant as ever.
While we can not control outside factors (we are learning this more than ever right now) we have significant power over our own reactions. Parenting in “regular life” is no joke. When you think you have something mastered in parenting, it changes, and basically, you rinse and repeat that cycle for the rest of time…
One of Lindsay’s most powerful messages for me was the idea of doing your best, giving yourself grace and learning together. Parenting is the most humbling experience I have ever willingly signed up for. And now we are parenting during a global pandemic.
Parenting During a Global Pandemic…
Many of us are now juggling full-time jobs and full-time childcare, amidst financial strain and SO much overall unknown. I listened to Brene Brown’s new podcast this past weekend and she talked about how helpful perspective can be and how in this situation, NONE of us have it because this has never happened to any of us before.
The anxiety we face as humans during a time of such worry and panic is real and then we are also trying to be the voice of calm and reason for our children in a world we don’t quite recognize ourselves right now…
If you are looking for a book that will help you with your overall perspective and that backed up with relatable text and a wealth of research, You Can’t F*ck Up Your Kids is for you.
You can pre-order your copy (publishing 3/31/20) through the LibroFM Bookstore link AND help support a local independent bookstore at the same time! Now on to the Q&A…
Interview With Author Lindsay Powers:
Q: How do you start this #noshameparenting conversation in your own parenting community? Like many of us these days, I feel like I am parenting in a game that is meant to be won. Where triumphs are shared and sad stories are only shared once they have been “dealt with’ or there is a funny take away in the end. How do we talk about the realness of parenting every day? The roller coaster rides of emotions and the ups and downs that happen to everyone, no matter the choices they make via sleep/feeding/working/how many activities their children participate in, etc.
I’m a big believer in having open conversations on whatever platform you have access to, whether it’s your 100 or 1 million Instagram followers. Be the change you want to see in the world. Share your own stories, openly and honestly, about the true ups and downs of parenting. This honesty is what made #NoShameParenting, which I co-founded with my Yahoo Parenting team, go super-viral and reach 170+ million people across social media. We need to destigmatize the less-than-perfect moments of parenthood. Conversations are powerful. They change the culture, which then changes policy. Millions of parents could be helped one day by your simple, honest tweet.
Q: How do I introduce this topic to parents to be? What I would have loved to have been given this feedback before I became a parent.
A: It’s really important to change the language about parenthood, even before one becomes a parent. If you have a friend who is pregnant, ask her how she is feeling. Don’t only speak in platitudes like, “enjoy every moment!” I’m not saying that you need to scare your friend about tearing in childbirth, but you could say, “I love being a mother, but I honestly struggled with postpartum anxiety and I think I would have felt better if my friends told me about their tough times too. So I’m here for you, no matter what you’re going through.”
I also make sure to ask all my new-parent friends how they are doing instead of just how the baby is doing. And I like to give gifts to parents instead of just a newborn when I’m able to get it together! Another friend always brings a bottle of wine to the parents for every kid’s birthday party, and I love how that quietly implies that parents are important in kids’ milestones too.
Also, be mindful of how you phrase advice to others — try not to gloss over every reality. “I breastfed my son. It was really hard at first, but amazing once we got a good routine down. It was a good move for my family, but it’s not for everyone one — so you should feel free to do whatever works for you.”
Q: I love how you incorporated the perspective from your own childhood. As someone who experienced trauma as a child, how do you navigate your own parenting now? I often struggle with my perspective on things because there were so many emotional things lacking from my own connections. I get really down on myself when I lose my patience or don’t rush to their every need and desire and I have a hard time remembering that balance is okay.
A: Thank you. I was kind of weirdly calm before I had my first kid, because I knew I could feed him, I had a good marriage, I had a house, I wasn’t rich, but I had enough money to ensure the house and food would always be there… Basically, due to my childhood, I had a really low bar of success in my mind!
And then I became really obsessed with writing this book after meeting so many smart and wise parents who were so stressed out — I mean, literally, a parent emailed around a link to infant flashcards when our babies were a couple weeks old and the whole group devolved into anxiety — and I felt like I had to prove through science that our kids would be fine without all the bells and whistles and pressure to do activities that are frankly too expensive and time consuming for so many families. (Caveat: If you like infant flashcards, please carry on! It’s your enthusiasm that will translate to your baby, not whatever is printed on the cards!)
I felt like I had it all pretty much under control, was kind of zen, until I had my second son… and experienced a LOT of postpartum anxiety. It came on fast and furious and really caught me off guard. A therapist I was seeing at the time eased my mind by saying that I was giving my sons a gift by letting them see me as imperfect, by being honest (in an age-appropriate way), saying things such as “I had a hard day today, but I’ll try again tomorrow”, and by them witnessing me falling down and bouncing back.
She said that pretending to be perfect all the time would backfire — my kids would think there was something wrong with themselves if they experienced very real and human emotions when I never showed them my ups and downs. So that gave me the freedom to not always pretend to be perfect and to let my ups and downs be a lesson in resilience. Building resilience is ultimately my goal as a parent.
Here’s the thing: We are whole humans, and our emotions are part of us, but we are not defined by anxiety and depression and struggles. We can be both anxious and great parents. We can question our parenting decisions, but still trust we’re doing the right thing. The fact that we’re willing to admit that we’re not perfect and that we can try something and then change our minds, is a good thing. The fact that we care about how we’re raising our kids means we’re already ahead of the game.
I also think you should be kind to yourself. As my book says: No child is perfect, and no parent is without flaws. But showing how we recover from those is where the beauty and humanity lies.
Q: How do you balance sharing your own parenting in the online community? While I am a book blogger, when I discuss parenting topics I always feel more vulnerable because SOMEONE always has something to say. 😉 Even when I shared your blog post I got a comment on social media that said: “actually you can fuck up your kids!” (which I think was addressed in your book, but alas…)
A: Ha, yes, I fully expect people to disagree with me. I wanted the title of my book to be eye-catching because I wanted it to open up a very important conversation! You are right that I list the five things that can f*ck up your kids over one page in my book — I’m not giving parents permission to abuse, starve, or neglect their children. But I do want parents to know that as long as their kids have the basics, they will thrive.
Also, our society is not set up to make raising children easy — it’s not a personal failing on our part. It’s a misnomer that parents have a lot of choices about in how we raise our kids (and if we do, we need to check our privilege): The reality is that majority of kids are being raised in two-parent households, meaning there’s some kind of childcare involved, organic food is expensive, screentime is ubiquitous, many parents don’t have access to quality healthcare…. Look, I won’t get super political here, and I don’t in my book, but I do want to ultimately reassure parents with my book that our kids will be totally fine in all different kinds of situations.
I also believe we need to redefine success, which I wrote about in a Washington Post op-ed:
“For our sanity — and that of our kids — we need to stop this relentless pressure to achieve more, and more, and more. A not radical (but radical) idea: What if we just nurtured our children to become the best version of themselves they could be, and called that successful? Grades, salary and job title need not apply.”
Thank you so much, Lindsay, for sharing such meaningful and important answers in a more than ever, incredibly important ongoing discussion. And thank you to Atria Books for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.