Jessica Grose is an opinion writer at The New York Times and the author of Screaming on the Inside: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood

415: The Unsustainability of American Motherhood 

Jessica Grose

American mothers are struggling. “Obviously!” you may be saying, but there are some clear reasons for this and some reasons that go back into our history. Learn why American motherhood is unsustainable what we can do about it with Jessica Grose, author of Screaming On The Inside.

The Unsustainability of American Motherhood – Jessica Grose [415]

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[00:00:00] Jessica Grose: I have been covering issues around parenting in the United States and the social safety net that does not exist for us for about 10 years before I wrote the book. But it wasn't until I got pregnant with my older daughter, all these issues that were statistical or reported work that I did became incredibly personal.

[00:00:27] Hunter: You're listening to the Mindful Mama podcast, episode number 415. Today we're talking about the unsustainability of American motherhood with Jessica Gross.

Welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. Here it's about becoming a less irritable, more joyful parent. At Mindful Mama, we know that you cannot give what you do not have. And when you have calm and peace within, then you can give it to your children. I'm your host, Hunter Clark Fields. I help smart, thoughtful parents stay calm so they can have strong, connected relationships with their children.

I've been practicing mindfulness for over 20 years. I'm the creator of Mindful Parenting, and I'm the author of the bestselling book, Raising Good Humans, a mindful guide to breaking the cycle of reactive parenting and raising kind, confident kids.

Welcome, welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. I'm so glad you're here. Listen, if you haven't done so, please hit the subscribe button so you don't miss any episodes. And if you get some value from this podcast, please go over to Apple Podcasts. Leave us a rating and review. It just helps the podcast grow more and it just makes such a big difference.

Greatly appreciate it. In just a moment, I'm going to be talking to Jessica Gross, an opinion writer at the New York Times and author of Screaming on the Inside, The Unsustainability of American Motherhood, and we're going to talk about how American mothers are struggling. Obviously, right?

It's hard. It's crazy hard. But there are some clear reasons for this and some reasons that really go back into our history. So we're going to learn why American motherhood is unsustainable and what we can do about it. Join me at the table as I talk to Jessica Gross.

Welcome to the Mindful Mama podcast. Jessica, I'm so glad you're here. Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to talk about your book Screaming on the Inside. Very provocative title, and I really enjoyed it. Since we're talking about motherhood and parenting and all of those things, I'd like to compare what is happening now, what was happening before.

And maybe we could start with what for you, how were you raised and what was your childhood like? And maybe what did you perceive your mom's experience to be like, since we're talking about motherhood?

[00:02:55] Jessica Grose: I had a really nice childhood overall, I think very secure very involved. Both my parents, I think my dad was unusually involved in our raising for an 80s and 90s dad.

I would say he probably played with us more than my mom did. Although I didn't notice it at the time, when I became a mother myself, my mom would always say, I really didn't like playing with you guys. I always left it to dad. She was more there for the emotional support. So they both worked, and that was just completely normal to me.

And two working parents, two careers that were equal in stature. They met in medical school, so they're both physicians. And yeah, I have an older brother. I saw my mom as being able to really do both. In a way that didn't seem particularly fraught. I think, thinking back as an adult on her experience, I see a lot of ways that she had to fight to get to where she is that I didn't have to fight.

And so in some ways I think she actually felt less guilty about certain things because... It was just like, I'm fighting so hard to be where I want to be in my career. I don't have time to feel bad about it. It's, I'm trailblazing here, she was one of only five women in her medical school class.

I think she just didn't really think that much about what the expectations were of her as a typical mom. And she was one of, in the town that I grew up in, a small town. Very few of the moms of my friends worked full time. Some did. Actually, one of my friend's moms was my kindergarten teacher.

I loved her so much. One of my favorites. But it was, I think more normative for the moms to work part time or not at all. That was what I was raised with, thinking two career family. It's gonna work out and I don't, it was only when I was starting to think about having kids and having kids myself that my mom was really honest with me about, the challenges just in terms of the time crunch and the overwhelm that I know that she experienced when we were really little and I'm honestly really grateful for it.

I think it made me feel a lot less guilty when things were hard because I was like, okay, they're just hard. There's no value or moral judgment on it. And I think, I think my brother and I turned out pretty well. So

[00:05:42] Hunter: I can fully relate to the, that scenario. Like my mom was a nurse and my dad had.

like a sign business. And so they were both working most of the time. I was definitely a latchkey kid. I just biked all around my town as a small town and stuff like that. And yeah, when we were really little, my mom was like working nights as a nurse. And so she would like, we would go walk down to this Little beach.

I grew up on Rhode Island near that was down the street from her house. And I'm pretty sure she would take a nap while we were like at the beach and then she would go to work at night, but yeah, it was totally normalized for me to have both parents working. I didn't, I'm trying to think of most of them. Most of the moms, I think, of my friends, they were all working too. I think I remember meeting someone where moms didn't work. I'm thinking like, Oh, that's weird. That's like the fifties or

[00:06:37] Jessica Grose: something. I don't know.

[00:06:39] Hunter: But it's pretty normal now. That's, it's pretty normal. And has that changed?

It seems like It would be a more or less constant trajectory towards more women working. Has it like gone towards more women? Has it like ever dropped? Like as far, cause with the pandemic, a lot of women now. Yeah.

[00:07:00] Jessica Grose: So essentially since in the eighties and I don't quote me on these statistics cause I don't have them in front of me.

But I think around 60% of mothers with kids under 18 at home worked. So that's still a majority but it just went up and up and up. And obviously there was a blip in 2020, but I think people felt, thought that maybe that lasted longer than it did. Most of the people, most of the mothers with kids at home who left work for a period of time in 2020, 2021 are back.

And now we see the levels of the workforce exactly where they were in 2019, more or less for moms. And so I think around, now it's around 76% again, I don't have the numbers in front of me, so I could be wrong, but that's my memory. Yeah, the vast majority of... Moms in America work, and I think the other sort of misnomer that I always to say is there's this idea that there's some war between stay at home moms and working moms when in fact they're often the same people.

You can be a stay at home mom for a couple years when your kids are young, and the vast majority of people who spend some time as stay at home moms go back to the workforce in some sense at some point, or they, work before they stay at home. So it's the idea that we're in these separate camps and we're this entirely different group of people is just not true, and it's a way to foment.

Discord among women that I don't think actually really exist or shouldn't.

[00:08:37] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. That's helpful. I think that's helpful to understand. I think it's enlightening. Okay. So let's talk about then why you wrote Screaming on the Inside because the subtitle is The Unsustainability of American Motherhood.

Can you give us a little bit of an overview? There's so many details in this book that I love, but I'd love for, if you could give us a little bit of an overview.

[00:08:58] Jessica Grose: Sure. I have been covering. Issues around parenting in the United States and the social net, social safety net that does not exist for us for about 10 years before I wrote the book.

I was covering that, lack of paid leave for parents lack of sort of childcare support and the impacts of those things. I started covering that before I had kids. And so I was always very tuned into these issues, but it wasn't until I got pregnant with my older daughter and I got incredibly sick, I had hyperemesis, and I got incredibly depressed and I had to quit a job that all these issues that were statistical or reported.

Work that I did became incredibly personal. And so I kept reporting on these things and being frustrated that they weren't the main part, a big story in politics that was ongoing. I feel like it's something that is under discussed considering how many people are impacted by the lack of the safety net and.

It wasn't until the pandemic came and everything fell away, all of the structures of society for everybody, not just parents, that it did become a national conversation. And more people seemed to feel that it was an urgent issue that needed taking care of in the near term. And that was the impetus for starting to write the book, but the issues that were in it were things that I had been thinking about for a long time.

[00:10:29] Hunter: Yeah, I've been thinking about this for a long time, too, because... Because I, for me, I teach a mindful parenting course and I teach about mindfulness. But it's interesting to answer questions from people, I do interviews and answer questions from people about how to like, because I had a big issue with my temper and yelling and how to stop, like how to tame your temper.

But to answer these questions within the context of that incredible lack of support, right? Within the context of the vast majority of people I'm talking to we, there are people working two jobs. We have no support. We have no child care. Child care is really expensive and, this incredible thing.

And I've, I have a friend who lives in the Netherlands and she's she ended up splitting up with the dad who brought her there, but she's I'm not coming back to the United States. She's I have free childcare from the beginning. It is very high quality. They have like little lunches for my little child with real plates and knives every single day.

And it's amazing. She pays more taxes, but she gets all this incredible benefits and all this support from the, from the structures of the government. And it's it's very frustrating to see it not be talked about from my point of view too. I

[00:11:49] Jessica Grose: really get that. Yeah, and I think that there's a way in which it seems politically impossible, but I don't think that it is.

I think it needs to be reframed more broadly because as long as it's only talked about as a mom issue and a women's issue, we're never going to get anywhere. But caregiving is something that most people in any society are going to have to do at some point in their lives. Whether it's caretaking for an elderly family member, for a spouse.

And so I think when we, and so then it stops being seen as oh, this is an entitlement for yuppie moms and, all they do, they're just like frivolous and they want to work for pleasure and all of this. Stuff that is just frankly not true but when you take it, and it causes resentment when it exists.

There's a lot of reporting about tech companies that have generous benefits for parents on leave it can cause resentment from people who don't have kids because they are, they feel like it's entitlement that they're being deprived of, which, we should not be talking about maternity leave as if it's like a paid vacation, but I think if we take this away from just being this thing that moms are asking for and demanding and make it more of something that it is human to desire and need, I think we will have a lot more success politically getting some of the things that would make all of our lives easier.

[00:13:28] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

The pressure for a long time has been on moms and I really like this sort of first chapter, you go through sort of the history of the pressure of on American moms and, you quote this ridiculous Lysol ad from 1936, issue of Good Housekeeping, that says, Madam, you are to blame!

And just all this sort of blame and shame and sort of guilt that has been put on moms and the idea of the super mom. Can you take us on a quick romp through

[00:14:10] Jessica Grose: that. Sure. So a very truncated version of this history is once the Industrial Revolution happened men left the house to work and women stayed home to manage the domestic sphere.

This obviously leaves out a whole group of people. Black women always worked. Immigrant women always worked. Working class women always worked. But it started to be this idea that if you were a quote unquote good mother, which usually was a white upper class Christian mother you managed the household and it was your prime responsibility and anything that happened in that sphere was up to you to go well.

And there's a book that was a bestseller in the year 1900 that I also quote from, that I think about all the time, and it said, and by the way, the woman who wrote it never had kids said that a child should never be away from a woman's mind. You shouldn't, when you're wake, when you're going to sleep, when you're waking up, when you're walking down the road.

When you're eating dinner, you should always be thinking of your children and nothing else, which is just not possible. That, if that's the bar for being a good mother, no one is. But that was what was idealized. And even as society changed, women got more rights. Women became much more educated.

Now, as many people talk about, women outnumber men and college graduates. Those sorts of demands on mothers. Still are with us. In terms of the Supermom, it's this idea you can have a job, but don't think that for a second you're not also responsible for everything that goes on at home.

It's just instead of removing ideals or demands you're just adding more on it. And at the same time, people in heterosexual relationships, men are doing more. Men are doing more child care, they're doing more domestic work than they have, but not to, not enough to balance out how much women are now working outside the home.

Not even close. And there's a lot of data that shows men are very happy to have working spouses, but they are not happy to ever have to sacrifice anything in their own career. So you'll see in two income households, when there is a conflict, it's almost always the women's career that will suffer.

And there is, economically rational reasons for that. If the man is in a higher paying job, it makes sense. But it's just entangled with so many inequalities, just. Up and down the scale, up and down the systems, the choices that are made and The careers that are, highly remunerative, all of that.

Yeah, that's bringing us up to


[00:16:58] Hunter: Okay. And yeah and I see this and when I work with clients, sometimes we're like, I'm trying to find let's see if we can find some, carve out some little bit of time for yourself, right? And we start to go into what is your day like?

Who has, is responsible for what? When do you have time that is your own, that, when can we find this time? And it's really interesting to see those things because I come from a very egalitarian relationship. I'm not quite sure how I got so feminist because now I look back at my mom and she's doing everything.

My dad would be helpless without her. So I'm not sure how I ever was like... I'm not doing any of your laundry. That's your thing to do. Please. No, thank you. But they're, it's amazing to me to see how many people, women my age and even, and younger moms than me now are, have just take on there's no discussion about it and they're just taking on all those responsibilities without any discussion about it, including one of the biggest ones being like, All of the logistical planning for doctor's appointments and school nurse and health forms and this class and that class and all the communication that happens with all that stuff.

It's amazing to me how it's all just not even discussed. It's just taken for granted that mom's doing all this

[00:18:33] Jessica Grose: stuff. Yeah, that certainly came up a lot in my reporting, and part of the issue is that even if you try to be egalitarian, and you're trying to divvy up the responsibilities you had to train the rest of the world to for example, often when there's something wrong at school, they just call the mom first.

They always call the mom first, and in their defense, they call the mom first because even if they're told, in the families where they're like, no, you call the dad first, the dad doesn't answer, he's not calling back fast enough, and the administrators are doing what is logical for them to do, but it's, There's so many sort of external pressures that are encouraging the mom to be the primary parent, even if that is not how your household functions.

And I've talked to men who are stay at home dads or they're single dads and they feel really alienated often by groups of moms at school who don't include them in, various things. So it's not just simply a story of like, Why don't dads step up? It's even when they try, it's actually an up, it's often an uphill battle to be treated as the primary parent.

So I think, culturally, we all have a lot of work and change to do to get to a place where things aren't so uneven.

[00:19:57] Hunter: So I'd love to dive into your own story because you went into motherhood and you, it was a struggle for you. It is a struggle for many moms. Do you do you mind sharing some of your own story about how it became such a challenge with you with your own mental, emotional health as well as your work?

[00:20:18] Jessica Grose: Sure. Really the biggest struggle was when I was pregnant. Like I said, I had I It was on my second day of a new job when I found out I was pregnant with my older daughter. My husband and I had theoretically stopped trying before I got that job, when I got that job, because I was like, I don't want to be pregnant my first day of work, but then I was already pregnant.

And oops, almost immediately after that I just started throwing up. Endlessly. All day, every day. Seven times a day. I couldn't keep any food down. I was terrible at that job. I couldn't do it. I just couldn't do anything, obviously. And I felt really ashamed because I felt I was just all of the bad stereotypes of moms at work.

I was just proving them all true. Can't do both. And I ended up quitting that job after two months. Because it just was unsustainable. Like the subtitle of my book. I couldn't do it. I was so sick. I had to focus on my health. I was so nervous that either I was gonna have to be hospitalized or I would lose the baby because I wasn't having, I just wasn't keeping any food down.

And so I spent a month or two in bed and spent the rest of that pregnancy actually feeling a weird sense of relief. Like, when your life implodes like that, where just, you have to just focus on your own health and your own family it's clarifying. It was clarifying to me in that, it's just a job.

You can get another job. It's not You can't let yourself just fall into an abyss because this thing happened that was really hard and in a weird way it made. My early days of motherhood, I think a little bit easier because I was already like all these things that I feared would happen did happen and I got through them.

And so I'm just going to lower the expectations on myself in terms of what these experiences should be and should look like. So I didn't have a, I had no birth plan. My birth plan was arrive at the hospital. I did not have any expectations of what the birth should look like. I didn't have any expectations around.

Many things of early motherhood. It was more just let's get through this and try to enjoy this baby. And also I, and as a result I think back to that first year of actual motherhood, not a pregnancy as a really happy one, as a really idyllic one. I went back to work as a freelancer which also helps because I could, Make my own schedule.

It was nearly full time. I worked, between 30 and 40 hours a week, but because it wasn't, it wasn't strict nine to five, I could spend more time with my baby, which is what I wanted to do. Again, there are many privileges that undergirded that experience. My husband was employed.

He had health insurance. We weren't going to be destitute without my, without. a full time job although I had a very strict goals for myself about how much I needed to earn. That was in some ways helpful. And then, we decided to have a second kid had a miscarriage in between my two girls, which was not fun, but, A first trimester miscarriage is so common I don't mind talking about it because I just think it's something that also needs to be normalized because it happens to really most people who try to have multiple kids.

And and then I got pregnant with my older daughter, I, with my younger daughter rather. And we realized that, Financially, I needed to go back to a staff job to make that work. And, mostly that was a good experience. But it definitely there was more conflict. Our lives were easier when I was freelance.

And we had to reassess what our days looked like. What, whose responsibility for what. And COVID happened, which disaster for everybody, but we, I think less of one for us, honestly, in some ways, because we moved in with my parents about two or three months into it.

And so we had four adults to help with two

[00:24:44] Hunter: kids and that's

[00:24:45] Jessica Grose: ratio. Yeah. Although I always joke, it was amazing. I, honestly would do it again. But the help that, the free help is not help you pay for.

[00:25:00] Hunter: They don't listen in quite the same way, I bet.

[00:25:02] Jessica Grose: Exactly. It was just like, oh, we're, we don't work afternoons.

And it's but we got through it. We got through it. And we wouldn't, one of us would have had to take a leave from work if we hadn't had the additional help before schools opened again. Yeah, I think at this point, I feel really, really happy with the way our lives. And, we have two kids who are in elementary school, which is so helpful.

They're just... A delight, and it's so much easier than when they were little, and needed help with everything, and we needed to watch them every second, and so I always joke there should be an It Gets Better project for the parents of very young children, because it does. Yeah. I've never been so tired in my life as when my kids were 1 and 4.

I just remember that summer. Oh my god, yeah. I remember that summer. Just, I was, my younger daughter just decided that she was going to wake up between four and five in the morning every day. She was, and she wasn't upset. She was in a great mood. She just was awake. She probably does. I'm not a morning person.

I was just, it was wrecked. So it is much easier now that they are a little older and more self sufficient and just

[00:26:14] Hunter: delightful to hang around with. I agree. It's like the preschool years are so intensive. My my daughter, my 13 year old daughter and I recently went up to help out my cousin or just for a couple of days.

And my cousin recently lost her husband and is pregnant and has a one year old and a three year old. And the, so we hung out with the one year old and the three year old. for a couple days. And my 13 year old daughter was pretty funny actually. So we're hanging out outside with the one year old and the three year old and it's fun for me because it's one, it's like a day and a half.

It's, fine. And my daughter who's 13 as we came in for their nap time after hanging out with them for the day, she's Oh my gosh, Mom, I'm so exhausted. I am more exhausted than I was for Klondike, which is this like intensive winter scout three day event that they do. And she's I'm more exhausted than Klondike.

Is this normal or is there something wrong with me? Yeah. I was like, I think it's just childcare because it's so attention heavy. Like it's just you, your attention has to be on, it's like those like master chess players, right? Who like burn bazillions of calories when they're in a chess tournament because that attention is like a real drain on our resources, our body budget and all of that.

[00:27:41] Jessica Grose: No, we were hanging out with my nephews who are newborn and almost three and. When we were leaving, my older daughter was like, now I understand why you say you love being an aunt. Because ant life is the best. You get to snuggle a cute baby, you get to play with them for a couple hours, then you get to go.

[00:27:59] Hunter: Yeah. Yeah. And you talk, so it's interesting in your story because you had, I liked how you said how this sort of everything, just imploding. It helped you to lower your expectations on yourself, and I think that's something that most moms, not that we want everyone's lives to implode, but we have really high expectations of ourselves, right?

And you write about this in the book, and you talk about the guilt, right? And you say I spoke in this chapter for this, this word that, How women fell in their inability to subsume themselves fully into early motherhood, and it was guilty. They felt guilty for continuing to work or leaving their children in the care of others, and they felt guilty for...

about leaving work and feeling loss or they are never having a job they felt was a career in the first place. They felt guilty about having postpartum depression. They felt guilty about not living up to perfectly heteronormative, naturalistic, pristine ideals of their communities. And even when they were deeply aware of the flaws in society's ideals, Those ideals got into their heads, and I think that's so true, this overwhelming guilt, and it's just I'm not sure what my question is but, what do we do about this?

I don't know. As you've explored this, what have you discovered?

[00:29:17] Jessica Grose: I think it's a number of things. The reason I focus on American Moms is because I do think it is particularly American because we are such an individualistic society that mothers in particular feel like, if anything goes wrong, it's my fault.

It's all on me. It is all on me to shape this child. I am responsible. No one's going to help me. No one should help me. If I need help, there's something wrong with me. So I think that's one thing to know. It is not like this Like you said, your friend in the Netherlands there, in, in the book, I include some research with moms in other European countries, and the mindset is just completely different.

It's not, what am I doing for my kids? It's like, how am I being with my kids? Am I just spending time with them? That seems like that's the bar for being a good mom. And if that were the bar, I think we would all feel a lot better. So it's knowing that some of these expectations and feelings are culturally constructed here specifically.

So that's one. I think number two, and this has been, it's just easier said than done. It's having trusted friends that are supportive and make you feel good about yourself and good about your mothering and that you can lend to and that are not going to judge you. And that can give you, are there for you in ways that are not, are material.

After 10 years in this neighborhood, we have multiple families that we are close enough to say I'm in a pinch, can you pick up my kid from school? We have a family emergency, can you do X, Y, and Z? And I would feel totally comfortable doing that. But that takes years to, unless, if you're moved back to your hometown and you have that's amazing.

But so many people don't live near family or don't live near communities that they're already entrenched in. And as much as you can, building, this, a group of supportive friends, and they don't even have to be moms, just people who are going to support you. In this journey, like immeasurably helpful.

Because your spouse, if do have a spouse or a partner, they can't be everything. Like you need something outside that. And I do think that there is something specific to the challenges that moms face. My husband's totally empathetic and he's the best thing about him is he can, we've been together a long time.

We started dating when I was 23 24. And at this point, he can see me, and he can see my face, and he can see when I am just done. And he will say, why don't you go upstairs and lie down? Like, why don't you go and get out of here, go for a walk? He, Just having a partner that can be that perceptive and see when you're at your wit's end or that you can verbalize that to, just be like, I've had a day, I need you to be, the main dude when you come home.

I think that's something else that, at least for me, I can only speak for myself priceless. We're in it together and he knows, is really seeing me in those moments. And I do the same for him, of course, when he is just had it with the kids. I'm like, go to the gym, get out of here, don't worry, I got it.

I think that's... It's just incredibly important.

[00:32:38] Hunter: Stay tuned for more Mindful Mama podcasts right after this break.

Yeah. I mean that whole like building a supportive friend network and a community and all that stuff like that's so important. But then to also go back to the situation wouldn't it be nice if we could all just we could all have a little less anxiety. And you talk about this, like that anxiety, shame.

Jealousy, Shame, and Guilt are like the four horsemen of the mom pocalypse. Which I think is I

[00:33:10] Jessica Grose: have to give credit to the psychologist, Elise DeMarco, who really yeah, was like, gave a lot of good advice on that. And she is the one who really focused up on those four factors that just affect so many moms and make our day to day worse than it needs to be.

[00:33:26] Hunter: I think that if we I don't know, I'm not super political on the podcast generally, but if we had universal healthcare or something like that, like if we could just relieve some of the stress of I have to have a job for the healthcare and all the different things.

If we had some more safety net for that. One of the big things, like we talk about the mental health crisis being like enormous right now, not just for moms, but for teens and for all these different people and if we could just reduce the number of things we could, we had to be anxious that would go a long way to help this problem, you think?

It's it seems so obvious to me, and it just is like, why is it so hard for us to figure this out? I don't know. Yeah I

[00:34:09] Jessica Grose: actually think it's quite tragic that some of this stuff has been so politicized because, I talked about, I mentioned this in a lot of interviews because it just is so illuminating.

For a column I did, I talked to a pollster who... Mostly does focus groups with Republican. And she was telling me that whenever she does focus groups about paid leave, it is very popular among everybody. And she gave the example of a dad, works an hourly job, he is conservative, he lives in a rural area, and all he wants is paid leave so that he can support his wife who just had a c section and she can't lift anything.

They have, there's no nursing, there's, you can't hire a nurse because Rural areas have nursing shortages. They don't have family nearby that can help out. All he wants to do is be there for his wife. That's not political. I think that's just human. And so I think it is something that, yes, the, the nitty gritty of what the laws are going to be and who pays for it and where that funding comes from.

That's going to be, political sausage making and how it gets figured out. But simply the desire and the need to be able to be there for family members. Without going broke, I don't think that's a good goal. Or at least

[00:35:24] Hunter: it shouldn't be. Yeah. I completely agree with you. So yes, Jessica and I are fixing the world.

We're just gonna make it so we don't have to worry going back to like the shame and the jealousy. We see. Now, the social media world, we see everybody's perfection, and we see these archetypes playing out in social media that are really frustrating and hard, and they're getting into our psyche.

Talk to us a little bit about that. I

[00:35:59] Jessica Grose: mean, I think we, there is a ton of research about social media. I think we're not even scratching the surface of the ways that it's changing our brains, it's changing the way we think about each other. It's looking at people whose lives you have no context for outside of the images that they're showing you.

And I almost think that's the most destructive part because it's okay. You see the mom, from school, she posts the perfect picture of herself with her kids, but you see her at drop off where she looks a mess, or you see her like, her kids having a tantrum because your kid's having a tantrum.

You know that she's not perfect because you have the context for her actual life. But that's not what on social media, and as much as intellectually you, it's 2023, we all know that social media is not real. Seeing those images is incredibly powerful, and it does something to us, and I think it's really hard to say Oh, it's not real, I don't have to be like that I don't have a solution beyond, not looking at it, which obviously I still do, literally all the time, I'm a garbage monster the biggest, so I think it's unrealistic to say, oh, you just get off it, go cold turkey, because it's also the way you communicate with people.

I keep up with my, friends from college that don't live here via social media. I can keep up with their lives I think demonizing it and saying it's all bad is just not true and it is such a part of our, the fabric of all of our lives now we need to just have a sort of harm reduction relationship to it where if someone is making you feel less than bad about yourself.

Unfollow, Mute. Just be really proactive about checking in with yourself and how you're feeling as you're looking at it. That's the only way I can manage my relationship with it, which is ongoing. I often think if I didn't have to keep up with social media for work, I would quit tomorrow.

Or at least, look at it in a very different way, but it's... There's just no other way, especially Twitter for me. I've spent, I've been on it since 2009, 14 years curating a list of people that I follow who are on my beat. And that's academics, reporters, all different kinds of people.

And so I use it as an RSS feed almost. There's so many studies I would not see. There's so many news articles that are relevant to what I do. So many surveys and polls that I need to do that strengthen my work. That I, if any of your listeners have a solution for me to stop looking at it, I'm All ears.

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:38:43] Hunter: Too useful for an idol. For both of us. Yeah. Cause similarly, like I do this podcast. I have my book, Raising Good Humans. I do that, so I connect with all these people on Instagram and then I see their, and I'm, and I like got to turn off my comparison brain, where I'm just like, I have a 45 minute timer set on my phone if that comes to that, if we get to the end of that and I'm like, Oh, then it's definitely been a day.

And I'm like. Really try not to give myself

[00:39:13] Jessica Grose: permission to like, whatever your triggers are, and they might change if they're not permanent. But there's certain things I see that just, without fail, make me feel bad about myself. And they're different for everybody. Some things like you can look at and they're going to be fine.

Other things, like the example that I give in the book or I gave it, maybe in some essay I wrote when I had a miscarriage, I had a friend who was due almost the same time as when I would have given birth with a miscarriage. I had to. Mute her on every platform. I could not look at her. I just was like, I couldn't, it just was too sad, it just made me think about my loss, and once, a couple years passed, fine I could get over it.

But in that sort of acute mourning period, it just was too sad. Again, that's an incredibly personal and specific trigger, but everybody has theirs.

[00:40:05] Hunter: Yeah. Okay. So we've laid out a lot of problems. We've laid out a lot of problems and your book really goes through that and I really recommend it.

I think if you are a dear listener, if you are especially like Jessica's chapter is about pregnancy and early childhood and things like that, if you want to feel seen and heard you, we will.

So if we want to make things more sustainable, and given the world that we live in now, where, we have the certain, the political structural supports that we have now having gone through the ringer, because you really did go through the ringer in a big way, what, do you have any, advice for the listener who's I am struggling.

Is there anything that we can give this listener?

[00:41:07] Jessica Grose: So I think the first thing is just to say, it is hard. It's hard for everyone. I feel like it doesn't have to be comparison because I think a lot of people, especially if you're, reasonably financially comfortable, you say so and so has it worse.

My kids are healthy. You can be grateful for all of the things you have while also acknowledging that you're having a hard time. I think that's the first thing. I think just being able to have those feelings without that added layer of feeling bad about the feelings. Yes. That is

[00:41:38] Hunter: huge. And you're talking about this like permission to be human, right?

Like permission to struggle. Like you are allowed to, you don't have to be perfect. Your kids don't need you to be perfect. They need you to be human anyway, just because I love this. Like you permission to feel those feelings and acknowledge

[00:41:56] Jessica Grose: that it's hard. Yeah. I think there's a whole sort of genre of parenting advice that implies that every Conversation you have with your child could scar them for life.

Every tiny little thing you do can have major impact. And the fact is, it's accumulative. It's years. It's every day. It's showing up. And I don't I think we've lost the thread. We've lost the plot. We're not, it's not all gonna be perfect. You are going to yell at your kids sometime. You're going to say the quote unquote wrong thing, because you know what?

Even if you say the thing that a psychologist told you to say, your kid could take it wrong, but you can't control the way they receive what you say. It's impossible. You can't control the way anybody receives what you say. I think I think we need to take a step back and just try to be ourselves with our kids because there's not one way to raise thriving childs.

Each kid has different challenges. I think anyone with more than one child sees that. They are their own little people. I always describe that as one of the great joys of parenthood for me, is seeing my two girls be their unique individual selves and seeing them figure life out for themselves on their terms.

So I think that idea that we don't have all of the control over our kids. We just don't. So I think that's another thing to remember, and I think politically speaking, it can seem like things are, we still don't have paid leave at the federal level, we still, we basically don't have a system of childcare but, With that, I always remain hopeful because I look at the long view, and that's part of why I include so much history in the book.

I think all the time how when my mom got married, she could not get her own credit card. Yeah. That was the 70s. In the 70s, women could not get mortgages, credit cards. You had to have a guarantor who was a man. It just was... I interviewed a woman for the book who's in her 80s, who's a professor, and she was saying in her first job in the Baltimore public school system she had to sign a contract that said once she started showing, if she got pregnant, she had to resign.

You could not be pregnant. This is recent history. Even, I'm not saying we can't keep fighting, or shouldn't keep fighting, or that everything's great now and we should just... Have a party. That's not what I'm saying. I'm saying like, the reason that I remain hopeful is because I see how far we have come in such a short amount of time.

And. I think we can continue to move forward. So I think that's the other thing to always think about.

[00:44:34] Hunter: I love that. I think that's a really great note to end on. Thank you so much, Jessica, for all the, I enjoy all your, and I really loved Screaming on the Inside. It has a hilarious wallpaper cover with pregnant mom puking and it's all like flowers and like pregnant mom puking in a toilet bowl.

It's brilliant. I love that so much. Yeah, I highly recommend it. Where can people find out more about your work and reach out to you if they want to?

[00:45:07] Jessica Grose: I write a twice weekly newsletter for the New York Times. Some of it is about parenting, but I'm also writing about other topics these days. I'm doing a huge...

series on religion and how Americans are losing religion much less religious country than we used to be so you can find me at the New York Times and on Twitter I'm at Jess Gross, and my last name is spelled G R O S E, and on Instagram I'm at Jess Gross Writes. Yeah. I have a website that's just my name, but I don't really update it that much because I'm lazy.

[00:45:45] Hunter: That's totally okay.

I feel like it's so satisfying to know that it's not just you, that it's not just in your head, that it's hard and that you're struggling. I feel like the, I don't know maybe not for you, but for me anyway, it's so satisfying to know that it's oh, there's all these reasons. Like it's not just something I'm making up that it's super hard.

And I think that, so I hope that insight helps you as you come to the end of this podcast, dear listener. And and I appreciate you listening and I appreciate the reviews that listeners leave so much. I wanna give a shout out to Danielle 9 9 1 8 for their five star review. They said great insights. I really enjoyed this podcast and I've learned a lot.

Thank you so much for that review. It makes a big difference to give it out there. Thank you for sharing your review, and I'm wondering what you think about this episode, dear listener. Have you got some feedback for me, for Jessica? Let me know, tag me at mindfulmamamentor on Instagram. And I hope you have a sustainable week.

I hope you have a sustainable and peaceful and joyful week ahead of you, my friend. I really appreciate listening and sharing and all the good things. And I will be back to you. with self pushing call or another great guest next week and I hope it supports you and your family to grow and learn and thrive.

So thank you so much for listening and I'll talk to you again soon. Namaste.

I'd say definitely do it. It's really helpful. It will change your relationship with your kids for the better. It will help you communicate better

[00:47:46] Jessica Grose: and just I'd say communicate better as a person, as a wife, as a spouse. It's been really a positive influence in our lives. So definitely do it. I'd say definitely do it.

It's so worth it. The money really is inconsequential when you get so much benefit from being a better parent to your children and feeling like you're connecting more with them and not feeling like you're yelling all the time or you're like, why isn't this working? I would say definitely do it. It's so worth it.

It'll change you. No matter what age someone's child is, it's a great opportunity for personal growth and it's a great investment in someone's family. I'm very thankful I have this. You can continue in your old habits that aren't working, or you can learn some new tools and gain some perspective to shift everything in your parenting.

[00:48:42] Hunter: Are you frustrated by parenting? Do you listen to the experts and try all the tips and strategies, but you're just not seeing the results that you want? Or are you lost as to where to start? Does it all seem so overwhelming with too much to learn? Are you yearning for community people who get it, who also don't want to threaten and punish to create cooperation?

Hi, I'm Hunter Clark Fields, and if you answered yes to any of these questions, I want you to seriously consider the Mindful Parenting Membership. You will be joining Hundreds of members who have discovered the path of mindful parenting and now have confidence and clarity in their parenting. This isn't just another parenting class.

This is an opportunity to really discover your unique lasting relationship, not only with your children, but with yourself. It will translate into lasting connected relationships, not only with your children, but your partner too. Let me change your life. Go to Mindful Parenting Course Dot.

MindfulParentingCourse. com to add your name to the waitlist so you will be the first to be notified when I open the membership for enrollment. I look forward to seeing you on the inside. MindfulParentingCourse. com

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