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Stephanie chats with Nedra Glover Tawwab MSW, LCSW about setting healthy boundaries to reduce burn out. They discuss how to be more assertive, why being passive aggressive isn’t the answer, and why being proactive during pregnancy leads to a smoother postpartum. You’ll learn how to ask for help to get your needs met, reduce tension in your relationships, and navigate tricky situations with extended family. You’ll see yourself in one of the many scenarios discussed in this podcast and walk away with tools you can put into action immediately to better nurture yourself and your relationships.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 0:03
I think a lot of times one parent or the other will have the expectation of ‘When we have a baby, it will be like ______,’ and the other person is not aware of that. And so they’re holding them accountable for this imaginary thing that they have going on. Meanwhile, their partner has no clue and is starting to impact their relationship in terms of resentment, sex life, and just all of those things that can really push couples apart.
Stephanie Greunke 0:34
Welcome back to the Whole Mamas Podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources and evidence-based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive, or are navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. I’m Stephanie, Greunke, registered dietitian and Program Director for Whole30’s Whole Mamas Club. I’m also the co-creator of Whole30’s pregnancy program and our weekly pregnancy email series. I’m also in the middle of creating our postpartum program and I am so excited to share with you. My co-host is Dr. Elana Romell. She’s a pediatric naturopathic doctor and creator of Med School for Moms, an online resource where she teaches moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
Now I first learned about our guests from Melissa Urban. Melissa mentioned that she loved this therapist and as soon as I checked out her website and her Instagram page, I fell in love with her as well. I totally understood what Melissa was talking about. And I wanted to bring her on the show to share her with you. Nedra Glover Tawwab is a licensed clinical social worker in North Carolina. In Charlotte, North Carolina she found Kaleidoscope Counseling, a group counseling practice. Nedra’s niche is helping people create healthy relationships by improving their boundaries, learning to be assertive, and by being authentic. You can find her on Instagram @nedratawwab or at our website, which we’ll link to in the show notes. On today’s podcast, we focus on establishing boundaries to reduce burnout, we talk about how to be more assertive, why being passive aggressive isn’t always the best answer, and how to create a plan for your postpartum. Most of the conversation centers around effective communication when it comes to getting your needs met, your relationship with your partner, and either navigating tricky situations with your extended family. You’ll see yourself in one of the many scenarios that we discussed when it comes to breakdowns that can happen on the journey to parenthood. You’ll walk away feeling heard and have tools you can put into action immediately to better nurture yourself and your relationships. In addition to the information she shares with us on today’s podcast, she also has a ton of free actionable handouts and worksheets on her website over at nedratawwab.com. Some of the worksheets include a customized self care plan, a worksheet on boundary setting, assertiveness training, and how to acknowledge, process, and accept events that happened to you. Also, many of the topics discussed on this episode are ones we cover in our whole mamas pregnancy program and postpartum program. As she mentions in the podcast, it’s incredibly important to set yourself up for success in the postpartum period by having a plan. Just like you have a birth plan or really birth wishes, it’s incredibly helpful to have conversations with your partner about what this transition will look like for you. We have an entire module dedicated to that and our Whole Mamas pregnancy program, and we’ll be offering tools and solutions in our upcoming postpartum program. Navigating grandparents who want to feed your kids tons of sugar, relationship issues that pop up, and managing expectations is something that’s often discussed in our private Facebook group as well. So if you’re interested in connecting with other moms about this, check out all of our programs at wholemamasclub.com. Alright, now to today’s show.
Thank you so much for coming on the show, Nedra.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 4:08
Thank you so much for having me, Stephanie.
Stephanie Greunke 4:11
Now, I’ve been following your work on Instagram. And I’m continually blown away by the amount of incredible information you give us for free when it comes to nurturing relationships, navigating anxiety, and cultivating self compassion. You’re a natural teacher. And it’s clear that you put in your hours working with clients and refining your skills as a therapist. So I’m truly honored you said yes to being here with us today.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 4:35
I am so excited to talk even more about some of that stuff. I’m posting on Instagram. So this is very exciting for me as well.
Stephanie Greunke 4:42
Yeah. So I’m really looking forward to this. But before we start, we always have to ask our icebreaker question, which is, how did you nourish yourself today or how are you planning on nourishing yourself today?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 4:55
So this morning, I’ve been practicing all of this month waking up, not touching my phone, getting up and running. I am not a lover of cardio. And so I have been pushing myself to get up, get a quick run out of the way and then start my day. So that has been my whole thing for this month, and I hope beyond this month, I will continue it and maybe add to it. So that’s been very fulfilling, because I feel like I’ve done the very hard thing the first thing in the morning, so I’m ready to tackle the rest of the day, I feel really energized. So it’s been really good. I shocked myself because like I said, I don’t like cardio, but I’ve done my brain tricks. And I’m like, ‘You can do this, you’re strong, you’re a girl,’ you know, all of that stuff. So I’ve been doing it and it you know, each day is getting easier. And it’s amazing to see that I’m able to do this thing that I was so against. Oh, wow, this really isn’t this hard. So that’s been my way to nourish myself just trying things. Nothing’s a ‘no’ until you try it, so I’m just trying stuff.
Stephanie Greunke 6:02
And what made you decide to start running? If you hated cardio, what was that initial spark that led you to decide that this is maybe a good idea?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 6:10
So my husband, he was like, ‘Well, me and my friends, were going to do this challenge this month. We’re going to run a mile we’re going to do 100 squats, we’re going to do 100 leg raises and 100 something everyday.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I can do that, too!’ So I’ve just, I’ve just been doing it. So he dropped the buzz my ear. And I was like, you know what, I think I could do that. And I kind of prep my brain, ‘You can do this. You’ve had two kids, you can survive a run and squats.’ So it’s happening.
Stephanie Greunke 6:43
Yeah, I feel like once you birthed a baby, once you’ve brought a baby into the world, it’s like, ‘If I can do that I could do anything.’ So I love that you’re doing it. And you live in North Carolina too. So I’m sure getting up in the morning and doing it first thing helps with the humidity. And so it’s not super hot when you’re running.
Unknown Speaker 7:02
We’ve been doing it at about 5:30/6 o’clock in the morning. So it’s pretty cool, kind of a mist some mornings, but it’s been very pleasant. And you know what i have? I’ve exceeded my own expectations. There were about three days this month where it rained. And you know, the night before I was like, wow. But I woke up and like I said, I was able to just like talk myself into it. And I did it.
Stephanie Greunke 7:29
Oh, that’s great. Well, definitely when it rains, that’s an easy excuse. Like I can just say no, but you’re committed, and you said yes, so that’s fantastic. And I think once you can get more of those wins under your belt, it’s just it becomes such a habit and you have broken through those barriers, and it just will keep coming easier to you. So I’m excited. I’m going to follow you along your journey and see how it all goes for you.
So I’m really excited – at the time of the recording this week I’m going to Postpartum Support Internationals Conference in Portland, Oregon. And I’m really excited to connect with other colleagues that are maternal mental health professionals who I admire and I can’t wait to meet them first time in person, I’ve been getting their phone number so that we can connect for dinner or we can connect while we’re there. And I’ve never been to Portland. So I’m really excited to not only get to meet these people, but also to visit a city and eat all the incredible food that’s there. It’s been hard to like nail down where I want to go because I want to go everywhere.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 8:35
That’s the best thing about traveling is really getting into the culture of the city or you know, whatever country you go to, and get food and all that’s the best part.
Stephanie Greunke 8:43
Yeah, yeah. So I can’t wait. And you know, I know maternal mental health is something that you’re really passionate about. So let’s get into the interview and, and talk a little bit about you and and what you’re doing. As we mentioned, you are a licensed clinical social worker, and you have a passion for mental health and healthy relationships, and also perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. So what sparked your interest in the work that you’re doing today?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 9:08
Well, I work a lot with adults, particularly women who have relationship issues, and sometimes those relationships can be issues with their mother’s father’s family. And what I’ve noticed is if they don’t have that support before pregnancy, they have an even higher likelihood of developing issues while pregnant or even after pregnancy. And so I wanted to get more of a focus on how to help that population, because it is so important to be able to build those supports, and figure out how to set boundaries and expectations, so that you’re not overwhelmed. A lot of time, if you have a bad relationship with someone, and they’re really pushing you to have it, sometimes once you’ve had that baby, it’s very hard to say, ‘This is how I want things to be.’ So I’ve done a lot of work around helping people establish the foundation, while pregnant, or even shortly after giving birth, or sometimes, while your kids are older, and establishing those boundaries and those expectations with family and friends and partners. Because it’s so important for moms to have that support, and also for dads. So that’s how I got into it, it just naturally sort of happened,
Stephanie Greunke 10:28
I think that’s a great point that you made that if you can be proactive and get to the couple, or the woman or the mama while she’s pregnant, that’s the ideal scenario. But it’s never too late, as you’re saying, you work with some moms that have five, six, probably older kids, six year olds and older, and you can still really help support them and learning how to set boundaries and how to cultivate a healthier relationship. And so I think the work that you’re doing is so important. Can give some examples of struggles that you see partners having when it comes to this transition to parenthood, and maybe what are your first steps when it comes to working with them?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 11:11
Well, with couples, one of the biggest transitions I see is mom thinks she’s prepared to be a mom, and they feel that perhaps dad is not prepared because his lifestyle has not changed as much as maybe mom’s has. And so we have to talk about some of those expectations. What does that change look like? And also what this postpartum period is like for both parents, not just for mom. Another big thing I see is mom taking over everything, and then saying, ‘Oh, he’s not supportive, he’s he’s not doing these things.’ And they haven’t created an environment where dad can be helpful, or where they could as maybe family members or other supports for help. And that really gets in their way of being able to enjoy motherhood, because it’s so much about ‘I have to do everything’ and it leads to a lot of burnout and frustration and all sorts of things. So I think the biggest thing is helping people manage their expectations around what parenthood looks like and how that could be different for everybody involved.
Stephanie Greunke 12:24
Yeah, one of the things that I always talk about to the moms that I work with is there’s so much education, and there’s so much planning for what your baby’s nursery is going to look like and what your birth is going to look like. And while that’s important, it’s also really important to understand that huge transition that’s gonna come and put some procedures and some policies in place, and be realistic with what this is going to look like. I know sometimes we think it’s just going to be all cuddles and fun. And yeah, there might be some sleep deprivation, but it causes a lot of tension. And truly the entire process to motherhood can come with a lot of tension, whether that is a couple that is experiencing that tension as they’re trying to conceive, if they’re experiencing infertility, or maybe mom is on hormones, she’s going through IVF and that just is really messing with her ability to regulate moods. Or maybe mom is really uncomfortable during her pregnancy, and that can cause some tension, in addition to after baby. What kind of things do you have couples talk about so that they can get realistic when it comes to setting these expectations?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 13:36
Stating what their expectations are. I think a lot of times one parent or the other will have the expectation of ‘When we have a baby, it will be like ______,’ and the other person is not aware of that. And so they’re holding them accountable for this imaginary thing that they have going on. Meanwhile, their partner has no clue and is starting to impact their relationship in terms of resentment, sex life, and just all of those things that can really push couples apart. You know, for most relationships, the time period after you have a child is one of the most difficult times in a relationship. And a lot of that has to do with not preparing properly for having the child in the relationship because kids are demanding, but our partners are demanding as well. And so we have to be very clear about all of these things that happen as a result of you being the parent. And lots of times I just don’t see folks talking about that. When people are pregnant, I do not recommend any baby books outside of things that are mentally and emotionally supportive. So I recommend like Baby-Proofing Your Marriage or And Baby Makes Three. I have another book called the Pregnancy Comfort Guide and is really about self care during pregnancy and nurturing yourself and your relationships. So I recommend those sort of things, I think you’ll get a lot of the pregnancy app and your baby is this size, you know all of this sort of stuff. But I think what we don’t focus on is how our lives will change as a result of having a challenge family.
Stephanie Greunke 15:21
So you don’t recommend like baby sleep book or anything like, that you really want them to focus more on the couple. And, you know, can you kind of explain why you don’t recommend those other books?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 15:32
I think those books are good, I think your doctor will recommend those. But as a therapist, it’s important for me to give you the mental and emotional, relational part of the pregnancy experience. And so a lot of the changes that I see have nothing to do with what size your baby is growing and that sort of thing. What I see is, ‘I’m having these issues in my relationship,’ and that has nothing to do with development of the baby. So I don’t think those things are always therapeutic. The important piece for me to kind of drive in is let’s talk about what your roles will be. Once this baby arrives, let’s talk about how we can maintain a healthy relationship by finding some good babysitters, having regular date night, checking in at the end of the day, being open and honest about what sorts of things you expect of your partner – if you want them to help with baths,, visiting family, like which holiday and all of those things, because the relationship doesn’t just change for you. It changes with everybody around you. So that’s your friends, that’s your mom, that’s your partner’s mom, all of those things sort of shift. So I think the more conversations you can have about those things, the easier that transitional process will be for most families.
Stephanie Greunke 16:51
Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And when we’re looking at our relationship and delegating things and making sure that we’re on the same page, who’s taking care of what after baby becomes I think there can be a lot of tension because one parent feels like they’re pulling a lot more weight than the other. ‘I’m taking care of the baby. But I’m also taking care of all the meals and I’m making sure that we have enough diapers and I’m doing x, y&z. Yes, I get that you’re working. But there’s a lot of responsibilities that come with taking care of the house, too.’ So this is something that I know I personally experienced and I hear all the time from parents, it’s usually on the woman’s/mamas side that she feels like, ‘Gosh, you know, I wish my partner would help out. But I don’t know how to have this conversation.’ So how do you help parents work through this so there’s less resentment and frustration.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 17:48
I think the biggest step is relinquishing control. I hear lots of women say I really want my partner to help with this, but they don’t really want their partners to help. Because they want to dictate how that help is given and they want to make sure it’s done to their perfection. And that has a lot to do with postpartum anxiety that you feel that there is this very accurate way of giving the baby a bath or there’s this very perfect way to dress a baby. And when the other parent is trying to do that, it really makes you anxious. And then some moms, being away and leaving the child with the other partner causes a lot of anxiety. And so we have to do a lot of work around: we have to be able to delegate, you cannot be more relaxed in your parenting if you are unwilling to relinquish some of the control around being a mother.
Stephanie Greunke 18:44
So what is the first step with that? What I like to do is when I’m helping moms, I like to have them list out all of the responsibilities that are needed in their house. Okay, what is it that you do, and have them break it down into even section. We were talking in a previous podcasts how for meal prep, if you just put down meal prep, that doesn’t take into consideration all of the things that happened with meal prep from you figuring out what meals that you’re going to have to grocery shopping to coming home and unloading the groceries to making the meals. And so really making it clear, like these are all of the things that I do your partner, here are all the things that I do. Okay, what are we willing to delegate? What are we willing to hire help for? And how can we make sure that it’s fairly split? So that it’s very clear that maybe you are taking care of more things, but at least is acknowledged and appreciated. So is that is that similar to your approach? Or do you have a different approach when it comes to getting in there and getting dirty and figuring out how you can help each other the best?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 19:47
Well, I think that what you mentioned is certainly helpful. Another thing that I always suggest is doing what you do best, and not always what needs to be done, because there are some parents who were very good at planning a vacation, or searching out schools, and you get into sort of a riff when you start to place emphasis on which things are more important, instead of allowing a person to operate in their natural skill set. And so moms may say, ‘Well, he doesn’t help with that. And he doesn’t help with getting the kids ready in the morning.’ But he’s picked the school and he’s packed lunches. So there becomes this hierarchy of these things are the most important things. And those things that he’s doing, they’re not that important. I think there are some things that we could work on in terms of not saying things always as fair and equal, because I think that that’ll shift throughout the relationship and definitely with parenting.
Stephanie Greunke 20:53
Yeah, especially if you’re breastfeeding in the early couple of months to years, when you’re responsible for feeding the baby. And certainly the partner can help by giving bottles, or bringing you food, or pampering you while you’re taking care of baby. But there there is a lot that it is that falls on mom’s shoulders in those early a couple of months to a year. So I agree maybe using the word ‘fair’ is not the appropriate way to approach it. But just making sure that people aren’t feeling like they’re taken advantage of, there’s no resentment, and they feel like they’re on the same page. But you know, when it comes to having these discussions, how you approach the conversation can make or break how the conversation ends. I like to say how you start the conversation is how the conversation is going to end. So if you’re kind of like, lashing out and throwing these things, what your partner’s not doing well, at them, that may not be the best approach. So how do you recommend that we have these hard conversations so that we can really get on the same page with our partner?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 21:58
Well, I think people mostly lash out because we have set on things that have bothered us for so long. And so we finally say something, it’s a scream. It’s not like, ‘Hey, can you help me?’ it’s like, ‘You never help me!!” you know, it’s a really big thing. But it’s a really big thing because we have been collecting all of these offenses. And it takes one little thing to just push us over the edge and say ‘every time’ or ‘you never,’ and I think the way to get on top of that is to whenever something is bothering you, whenever you find yourself kind of thinking about something longer than three minutes. mention it to your partner. Just say like, ‘Do you think we’re doing a bedtime routine?’ Okay, I mean, like with me giving the bath, and then you put in the clothes on…’ Have those conversations before it becomes a big deal. Because once you get to the point of yelling, people are unwilling to listen to you. And then you’re you know, I find with when people are bein passive aggressive in that way, you are bringing up offenses that people no longer have a recollection of. And so it’s very hard to hold people accountable for things that happened one month ago. Whereas if you mentioned it maybe in the moment or a few days later, they’re able to recall that and say, ‘Oh, yeah, the other day, it was like this,’ but they can’t recall this stuff from a month ago. And so when you’re bringing those things up, yes, it creates an argument. Plus they have the understanding that you’ve been sitting with this information and not sharing it with them and probably acting a certain way. So I think just talking about those things, as soon as you’ve been thinking about this for a few hours – that’s an indicator that that’s something you need to share and talk about with someone.
Stephanie Greunke 24:05
Yeah. And I like how you were thoughtful of how you chose the words – ‘how do you think we’re doing?’ with this instead of ‘You’re not doing this right,’ you know, coming to it as a couple as a team, because you really are partners in this. And if there’s a breakdown that’s happening, it’s going to require both of you to fix it. And so coming at it from a place of like, ‘Hey, I r.eally want us to succeed, I want us to be doing a good job, how can we be doing better? How can we make this work?’ is a lot more approachable, than, ‘You never watch the kids’ or ‘You never do the laundry.’ It really is a team approach. So I loved I loved what you said there. And you know, sometimes you can lash out, or sometimes it can come off as passive aggressive, which is something that I have to be mindful of, because it’s a default reaction for me, especially if I haven’t been communicating my needs well, and the I’ve been building up so you know, I might be in the kitchen, and I’m trying to cook dinner, and my kids are pulling on me, and they need something and I’ll say something like, ‘Well it would be really nice if daddy would come help while mommy’s cooking.’ And I’m saying it from a place of just pure exhaustion and frustration that he’s not helping and he doesn’t know. And most of the time it is it’s not because he’s trying to be a jerk, he’s just not paying attention.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 25:28
I think a lot of time, when we think folks are offending us, always like to think of it as they have no idea you’re offended. In their own world, they have no idea you need help, they have no idea that they said the wrong thing. Let’s just play like we need to tell people everything. Let’s just pretend that if I need help, while I’m cooking, I need to say to my partner, ‘Hey, can you get the kids while I cook?’ In our brains that may seem like, ‘Oh, this is such simple information, why do I have to say that?’ You have to say it because it’s not being done. That’s the indicator that you need to say it and you don’t have to say it with an attitude or as if you’re upset, but say it just, ‘I need help. Can you come and help me?’
Stephanie Greunke 26:13
Yeah, yep. And that’s the conversation I’ve had with my husband so many times, and he’ll say exactly what you just said, there. It’s like, ‘Look, I’m totally happy to help you. You just gotta let me know how you can.’ And I think from my end, and from probably other moms that are listening, it can be really annoying, because you’re like, why do I need to tell you, are you another toddler? That’s the kind of thing that comes up in my head is like, ‘You’re an adult, like, you should see that I need help. Or you should know that I need help here.’ But it really comes down to they just, they just don’t and most of the time, they’re not trying to be mean. And we just need to over communicate.Just like you might over communicate to your little kid about like, we need to go now, you need to tell your husband or your partner, I need help now too. So I agree, it really comes down to direct communication. And even if it is frustrating for you, it’s also it’s frustrating for them, because they don’t want to receive that passive aggressiveness, and they really do want to help you know at that, and then to the day, they want to be helpful and resourceful and not completely puts you off.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 27:20
I think it goes back to relinquishing some control, and that’s control with yourself. Because sometimes we don’t want to say anything to our partners, because we feel like we should be able to do it off. Perhaps I should be able to manage my kids while cooking.
Stephanie Greunke 27:37
Yeah, that’s so true.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 27:40
And then you get irritated kind of with yourself first, ‘I’m not managing these kids, and I need help.’ And then also that comes across when you’re speaking to your partner, and you’re frustrated, because you’re frustrated with yourself. And that then goes back to like all this social media stuff of you know, woman dressed sexy, baby on her hip, she’s cooking…you know, we have this idea that all of these things are possible, and they are not. We have to be very clear about, ‘I cannot cook with my kids in the kitchen.’ And I think it’s okay to say that, ‘Anytime I’m cooking, they cannot be in the kitchen. That is the rule. So if I’m in the kitchen, I always need your help. Because I’m just distracted, it’s taken me double time. So I need some support around being able to cook a full meal without kids in the kitchen.’ And I think that’s okay to say, if that’s your thing, and whatever those other things are being able to say those things. So you’re preventing, these disputes each time that they happen, if you know that like, ‘I need to fold laundry in this room without the disruption of kids.’ You have to be able to communicate that to your partner.
Stephanie Greunke 28:51
Yeah, that’s such a good point that you brought up about the comparison. I mean, yeah, you see, on social media, somebody’s making this beautiful meal with their kids on their hip and are such a happy family. And then if you’re struggling to get dinner on the table with your kids around, it can come down to like, ‘Well, maybe there’s something wrong with me.’ And so you might kind of lash out at your partner, because you’re struggling with something internally. So yeah, that’s really great. I’m glad you brought that up. And you know, when it comes to laying down the law that like, ‘Okay, I guess I’m cooking in the kitchen right now with my kids isn’t going to work for me. It may it may work when they’re a little bit older, and they’re not trying to like reach and touch the hot burner as a two year old.’ But it comes down to creating boundaries. And that’s something that you do so well. And that’s something I know you focus on with your counseling – you have boundaries set in place to develop healthy relationships and know what you need to really thrive. And that’s something that a lot of people struggle with is creating boundaries, they have a difficult time saying no to things that they really don’t want to do, or making these rules that will ultimately help them like not having kids in the kitchen. So why is that? Why? Why are we struggling to say no?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 30:05
Because we think we’re supposed to do it all. We think that setting boundaries is mean, we think that when we set boundaries with people that we’ll have this awkward interaction, after we say this thing to them, we think that people should just know what we want and we shouldn’t have to tell them. I mean, there are all sorts of reasons that we have boundary issues. But those are just some of the biggest ones that I see. And I think, as you have as your role shift, you need better boundaries, whatever those roles are, when you leave home for college, you need to put some boundaries in place, ‘Hey, Mom, you can’t call me every single day, five times a day.’ So you have to put boundaries in place and maybe say, ‘We’ll talk once every day,’ whatever those boundaries are at different stages in our life, in different roles. And when you become a parent, that’s a new stage where you need new boundaries around. ‘Okay, so when I’m cooking, this is what I need.’ ‘When I have the baby, I don’t want people in the hospital room with us.’ Or, ‘When there is a holiday, we’d like to have things at our house,’ whatever those things are. New roles require new boundaries.
Stephanie Greunke 31:16
Yeah, and this is something I just want to appreciate the fact that it’s not easy to start creating these things. So I’m not a direct person by any means. And it’s a skill that I am practicing, because I have seen when I do speak more directly, it’s difficult for me, but it’s really effective for the person and for myself to getting what we need and really understanding each other. And like you’re talking about, you know, these things are just going to keep building and you’re just going to keep getting more frustrated. And it’s truly not fair to the other person, because they don’t know what they’re doing wrong most of the time, and just want to acknowledge that it does take time. And so for me a couple of the things that I did, when I was figuring out how to use my voice and how to say know, is I kind of learned other ways to say no. I would say, ‘Oh, no, not right now.’ Or I’d say, ‘Oh, let me think about it.’ Or, I would acknowledge them and thank them for the offer or thank them for thinking of me, if I didn’t want to go to a party, I’d say you know, ‘Thank you so much for thinking about me, but right now is just not a good time.’ So kind of acknowledging them. Or even if it was something like having that communication with my partner about the roles that we’re playing, I would say, ‘You know, this is really hard for me to say, but it would be very helpful if we could make a plan that I went to the grocery store alone, instead of taking the kids because it takes me twice as long when they’re with me and I forget half of things on my list. So this is hard for me. But I would really like to start going to the grocery store alone. And can how can we make this work?’ Do you find that that’s the case to is it takes some time, it takes some practice, we can’t expect that we’re going to be these people beautifully, communicative, direct moms that never have passive aggressiveness tendencies. It really does take time, right?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 33:10
It certainly takes time to develop your boundaries. And you know, a big part of that is that we are taught that it’s not okay to have boundaries, that people won’t respect your boundaries, you’re being mean, you know, goes back to all of these things we’ve learned and boundaries keep us happy, and safe and aware of what’s going on. And when we don’t operate in that space of awarenes, and people aren’t aware of what we want or what we need from them, it creates a lot of chaos, it creates relationship issues. And it’s not a simple thing to put into place. But I think we do need to understand the why, ‘Why do I need this boundary?’ And sometimes that’s for peace of mind, like your example is, ‘I can go to the store alone, and really knock this thing off, I just feel more relaxed. I’m not impulse buying…’ I think you have to be very clear about why it’s very important for you to be able to say this thing, because if you don’t say it, you’re going to continue to be frustrated and annoyed and resentful. And those are all things that are just not do for your relationship.
Stephanie Greunke 34:22
Yeah, so even saying, like, ‘I need this, and this is what it’s going to provide for me – if we can make it work, I’m going to feel more calm, I’m going to be able to be more resilient, I’m not going to lash out at you or the kids.’ When you show the results that would happen, who wouldn’t want you to have those results?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 34:41
Mm hmm. And I think that, especially with extended family, we have to be very clear about our boundaries up front. Because as our roles are changing, their role is changing too – your mother is becoming a grandmother, and grandmothers have expectations of how they’re going to grandparents. And so you may have to set some some boundaries with your parents, that’s very important that you’re clear about like, ‘So I don’t want you to move in with us for three weeks,’ or, you know, whatever those things are, because lots of times people will allow these things to occur, and then they’re frustrated, they’re depressed. And these are things that could be prevented, if we know that these are going to be issues, if you know I would not like this thing to happen, it’s very important for you to build some support and to be able to say that thing to other parties, and walk off, because, ultimately, it’ll impact your mental health.
Stephanie Greunke 35:41
Now, that’s that’s a really great point, because many of our moms have expressed concern that their extended family will want to feed their kids foods that they don’t normally serve at home. So maybe their extended family wants to start giving them you know, ice cream, or treats or food that they prefer their their children not eat. And that creates a lot of tension in that relationship. Because they may have told them that they don’t want their kids to eat that food. But it’s almost like the grandparents know better, or they don’t want the kids to be deprived, or they do they really mean that. So how do we approach situations where we’ve made our wishes known that we don’t want our kids to have that ice cream, or whatever it is, but it’s not listened to?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 36:29
I think that’s where you have to go to Boundaries 2.0 and figure out how you behaviorally want to change. So if you have a parent who was not respecting your boundaries around food restrictions, or lifestyle changes, or that sort of thing, I think you have to say, ‘Well, I’m going to pack a lunch when my kid comes over. And this is the only thing that they can eat while at your house. Or if you do if you refuse to listen to this and feed my kid x y&z, we’ll stop letting them come over there.’ Or, I think you have to think of some things that make you feel safe, because your parents had the opportunity to parent. And so now it’s your turn and I think you can do that, if it’s healthy, in whatever sort of way you want to do. And what typically happens with grandparents is, when we challenge some of those things we were raised with, it’s almost as if it gets them in the spirit of defensiveness around. ‘Well, what are you saying about me because I let you eat ice cream.’ And that’s not your stuff to process with them, they will bring it to you as if that’s your stuff to process. Like, it’s nothing wrong with this. Yeah, they’re saying that because they let you do it, or they’re doing it. But that may not be something that you want for your child. And that’s okay, and I don’t think you have to justify that. You have to let them experience this change that you’re requesting as well. You don’t have to change your mind about it. They can think ice cream every day is great, but they can’t give it to your kids.
Stephanie Greunke 38:02
Yeah, no, it’s so true that they’re trying to process the information that they’re given. And when I think back to what I was fed, when I was a kid, we weren’t talking about all this health food lingo, we didn’t talk about grass-fed. We didn’t talk about organic and GMOs. And so I remember eating chicken nuggets from McDonalds all the time, and these frozen meals. And so you know, my parents coming and seeing us provide these really healthy meals, I’m sure it’s it’s very difficult. And you know, I stayed home for a year with my kid and my mom went back to work right away, and I breastfed my kids and my mom formula fed me and so it really, you kind of almost have to sit in their shoes for a second and realize that yeah, it probably is hard. But again, like you mentioned, it’s not something that you need to process. And you really do need to be clear and direct if you want them to, to listen to you. And they need to know that you’re serious, you know, it could be they could think that you’re just trying to joke around or play like, ‘Oh, I don’t want my kids to have ice cream.’ And they don’t take it seriously. But if you put your foot down and say, ‘Look like the kids aren’t going to come over if you give them this.’ or you know me not the ice cream, they could be whatever it is for you. It could be sleep training or whatnot. But yeah,I think it’s a very difficult thing when its family.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 39:21
Mm hmm. And I you know, it always goes back to me that I think most parents are doing what they think is right in that time frame. So if your mom, you know, formula fed or whatever, those were things that may have fit their lifestyle or things that felt right for them. But this is not what feels right for you. And parents have to respect the children sometimes, especially when grandchildren are introduced. So that’s a part of you changing your relationship with your parents from being their child to being their adult child. That’s a huge event when you start to have kids because you are now the adult child, like you have your own child now. And for some parents, that’s very challenging, because they may be very used to being able to treat you as a child and tell you what to do and be your go-to. And now you’re developing your own concept of this stuff. And that may not be easy, but it may be necessary.
Stephanie Greunke 40:18
Yeah, absolutely. Good point. Now, this kind of leads into the next topic that I wanted to discuss with you today, because I hear this a lot, especially specializing in perinatal mental health, is the concept of anxious attachment. And you had a really thought provoking Instagram post about this. So can you kind of explain what anxious attachment looks like and how it can present for moms specifically, as we were talking, I’m thinking about leaving the kids at the grandparents, or leaving the kids with a babysitter.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 40:57
So for moms, what I typically see when they’re anxious is this overwhelming dread that something is going to happen to their child. So they’re very fearful of kids being able to sleep alone, whether they’re breathing, leaving them with certain people, and when it gets to that you’re afraid to leave them with people and that impacts your employment, your relationship with your partner, your friends, because you’re afraid to leave them with anybody. And so a part of that could be a fear of something might happen to them, or even people won’t do things the way you would do things. So you’d rather not leave them. But it comes across as mistrust, especially when that anxiety is directed towards your partner. It’s almost as if you’re saying, ‘I don’t trust you to parent our child, and I have to be the sole person to do it.’ So lots of times with moms postpartum anxiety is just not something that’s talked a lot about as much as part of depression. But it’s a very real thing: sleep issues, issues with always worried about your child when you’re with them, when you’re away from them, being hyper-concerned about their safety, kind of keeping them in a bubble and not letting letting them be active or experience things, because you’re always on edge about something happening. And that spills over into the child, and that child can develop some of those anxious tendencies as well, because the parent is modeling tha. And then the child becomes the sort of person who’s hyper-concerned about safety and worried about all of these things. So, it’s very important that you’re aware if you’re having these anxious tendencies, that you get help so that all parties involved can function in a healthy way, and not be so attached to each other, in safety and fear.
Stephanie Greunke 42:54
Yeah, and this looks a lot different than just dropping your child off at daycare and being sad that you’re going to leave them or having it be difficult, because that’s that’s the case for probably every mom that I know. It’s not easy to leave your kid at daycare or the first night that you go on a date with your partner, it’s very hard because you missed them. And you might find yourself talking about the baby as you’re having your entire meal. But this is where you feel threatened, and you feel anxious, and you feel panicky when it comes to leaving your child and you are not taking care of yourself, you’re not going out with your friends, you’re not going to the gym, because you don’t want to leave your baby, even in the hands of somebody you do trust like your partner. It’s a very uncomfortable place to be. And one thing that you mentioned too was that it comes down to the other person not feeling like you trust them. And I know something when I was navigating postpartum anxiety I dealt with a lot when my partner was watching my first son, Otto. And I still have to battle today, to be quite honest with you, when he’s watching him, he has a more laid back approach, which I think a lot of men do is they’re not as hands-on, they don’t kind of helicopter on their little one, they, they let them explore their boundaries, a lot more than what I was comfortable with. And so I found myself like he was taking the lead as a parent, but I had to be there to make sure that he was watching them the whole time. And I would come outside, and sometimes he wouldn’t be watching them. And the kids would be like, standing on top of their their trucks and doing some things that weren’t really that safe. And so it’s tricky, because you really want to make sure that your child is safe and your partner feels like they don’t think they’re not trusted. And it can be a very difficult situation. So I think that if this resonates with you, it’s really important to work with a therapist, and work through some of this anxious attachment that you’re feeling. So that you can really feel more at ease and allow yourself to go and explore and be with your friends an have it not impact your employment and have it not impact your day to day functioning, because it is something you think about non-stop if you’re experiencing it.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 45:21
Well, one of the things you mentioned was you did not feel like that was a safe caretaker at all times. And I think that certainly is important. I think with anxiety, sometimes some of those threats that you’re thinking about are not actually real. So you may have the idea that someone is not safe, and they actually are safe. So that’s what would be a distinction and having that anxious avoiding time that you really have no proof that this is an issue, it’s just the issue that you think is real, but nothing has ever happened. There are no safety dangers here. But it’s just like this overwhelming fear of something going wrong and you not being there to protect the kid or to help them out. I think also, with anxious attachment, like you said, leaving your child for the first time is going to be difficult for most parents. But if you’re leaving them for the fifth time, and you feel the same way that you do when you left them before first time, that might be an indicator that there are some anxious attachment things happening there, because that fear should subside. And really, when you leave them the first time, it’s more of a combo, sadness, you’re detaching in a way. But with anxiety, if you’re feeling that same level of intensity, and this is something that’s not new, that’s problematic.
Stephanie Greunke 46:49
Yeah, absolutely. And so kind of working through that anxiety, so that you can feel safe in that the people that are taking care of it feel like they’re trusted, and just an overall more calm experience is so important. And, if you’re experiencing this, one of the things that we talked about is that it can lead to you not taking care of yourself and really engaging in that self care and that time away. Which is so important, it’s really important to get even just a couple of minutes by yourself. And that might not be possible if you are navigating this. But one of the things that you talk about is that you truly believe it’s possible to attend to your needs, and be in relationship with others, and be a really great mom. So how do you help people put themselves first?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 47:36
Yeah, I think I think we have bought into the belief that we can pour from an empty cup, and we cannot, we have to be completely full before we’re able to help people. You know, I always say that a dehydrated mother can’t breastfeed. So you have to be able to drink your water, spend time with your friends, have some some downtime, all of those things are healthy, it’s not required that you’re 100% on. No child expects that I think that’s our expectation of ourselves, and we put that on kids. But it’s not healthy for you to completely neglect yourself, or to terminate friendships, or avoid certain interactions because you think that’s a part of, ‘I have to be a parent, so I can no longer enjoy these other parts of myself.’ I know when I had children, reading for me is like really important. So the transition I made was from reading physical paperback books to reading audio books. So I read just as much if not more, so I’m able to read those audio books while I’m cooking dinner, or when I’m in my garden, when I’m exercising in the morning. So I’m still able to pour into myself and that way, because that’s very important to me, and I wouldn’t want to have to give that up. But so many people who will say yeah, ‘I haven’t read a book in five years, because I have kids.’ Kids aren’t requiring you not to read, that’s you requiring yourself not to do that, because you’re saying there are these other things that are more important. And that’s not always the case. And sometimes self care can come in the form of delegating and asking for paid or free support.
Stephanie Greunke 49:23
Yeah, and self care can also come in the form of setting those boundaries, right, and letting people know what you need and how they can help you and being clear in your communication. Because if you feel like you don’t have time, I’m sure there’s a way where you can get 10 minutes a day to do something for yourself. It’s just as a matter of being communicative with your partner, or allowing yourself to take those 10 minutes to go take a shower or to lock the door in the bathroom. So you can have a deep breath and maybe paint your nails or whatever it is that makes you feel good. But I think it really just comes down to to find that communication and not thinking that you have to be everything to everyone and do everything to everyone, and knowing that it’s okay to step away from your baby, which is hard for a lot of moms, they feel like they shouldn’t have to, or they shouldn’t want to, but we all need to.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 50:16
You know, I think we have to do some work around not shaming mothers for engaging in self care. Because this there is this idea that you can’t be a parent. And I remember when I was pregnant with my first daughter, someone saw me looking at Pinterest, and they said, ‘Oh, you better get that out the way because when you have a baby, you won’t have any time for that.’ And I thought wow, like I won’t have any time for like Pinterest or getting my nails done or you know, just all these messages you receive about you will need to let yourself go or you should not practice self care, that is not being a mother. There are a lot of messages that women receive around that idea that this is a part of parenthood. And it’s not.
Stephanie Greunke 51:01
Yeah, that’s a dangerous message to be to be sending that you have to give up everything if you want to be a mom, because you can still be an employee, you can still do the things that make you happy. And really, it’s important too, if that’s what makes you feel fulfilled. I hate that that message is out there that it’s something we should shame, because self care is essential. It’s nurturing ourselves, it’s taking care of ourselves. And I don’t understand how that could be a bad thing. So I think when it comes to feeling like we need to do it all and be it all, it really comes down to the fact that we need to be more realistic with what we can get done every day. And I think often as moms, we have unrealistic expectations of what can get done every day. I remember having a newborn and being excited if I had dinner on the table that day, or if I got laundry done, and I remembered to switch it from the washer to the dryer, that was a win for me. So how do you approach this? How do you help moms realize that, no, even if they didn’t nothing but hung out with their baby and fed their baby and played with their baby, that that’s still a huge feat and it’s something to be proud of.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 52:16
Mm hmm. I’m always shocked by single moms who tried to do the exact same thing that their counterparts from two parent homes do. And they had an expectation that they should do all of those things to the same intensity. And we have to work really hard around reset and those expectations because they’re often unreasonable – it’s not possible for you to take your kids to sports, dance class, cook dinner, you know, all of those things are not possible. So let’s talk about the things that you can do and the things you can get support around. But we have to readjust those expectations. Because we feel like this is parenting and we’re defining our idea of parenting based on what everybody else is doing, and not actually what we can do.
Stephanie Greunke 53:08
Yeah, it’s very true. And you talked about single parents, and also I’m a part of the military community, too. So there’s a lot of moms that have partners, but they’re deployed for months on end, or they’re gone very frequently, or even moms that I talked to you that their partners travel a lot for work. I always kind of laugh when my when my partner is gone for a while, I’m like let the house be messy, like, let’s choose more healthy convenience foods, let’s not worry about taking a shower every day. It’s almost like survival mode at that point, and that’s only a week. And so kind of just realizing that nobody’s doing it all. And yeah, we should be more realistic with our expectations, because we’re never going to be perfect with things and it’s it’s completely okay to leave the dishes in the sink for a few nights and take that longer shower or be on the floor with your kids or the dishes can wait. And I’m glad you brought that up.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 54:08
Yes, yes, I think those expectations we have fully, we have to think about the things that we are actually able to do. And not all of the things that we want to do, because every time you try to fill all those obligations, you will be burnt out and upset.
Stephanie Greunke 54:24
Yeah, that’s so true. And then being realistic where, if it’s not getting done, but it’s important to you, like with cleaning, maybe that’s the time where you see if you can budget for help with cleaning your house, or maybe that’s the point where you realize, okay, I need to have pulled my partner in with this discussion and they need to help out more, or whatever it is. Some moms that I work with, they will do a kid swap. And so for a couple hours a week, their friend will take the kids and then for a couple hours a week will take their friends, kids, and that’s their time that they can clean. So there’s a lot of options that are out there. I think it’s just being creative and being realistic with what life is and how, how much work it is to live. I mean, there’s so much that’s always going on. And you know, every season is so different with the needs that are presented to us.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 55:16
But I think that goes back to getting comfortable with asking for help. That you have to be willing to say that, ‘Wow, I’m really having a tough time folding all my laundry, and maybe, you know, there’s another mom who’s having a tough time. And maybe we can do a time swap.’ Instead of saying, ‘I can probably do all of these things myself,’ we are willing to be able to ask for the help. And even when people offer, to accept it. I’m often surprised at how much help people turn down. People will asked all the time, ‘How do you want me to help you?’ and we say, ‘Oh, no, that’s okay. I can’t think of anything.’ Meanwhile, we have to-do list of 50,000 things. There was not one thing on that list that someone could have helped you with? There wasn’t one thing on there that you could have delegated? Yeah, yeah, I definitely think we have to get more comfortable with accepting hel and asking.
Stephanie Greunke 56:12
And from the other side, I have a couple of friends who are really good at that. And it always impresses and inspires me when they’re like, I’ll come over to their house, I have a little one. And I’m like, ‘What can I help you with?’ And they’re like, ‘Oh, like, would you mind doing my dishes?’ Or like, ‘Oh, would you mind walking my dog?’ And my jaw dropped, because I’m like, ‘You’re amazing. Like, yes, I will totally help you with that.’ And like the fact that you asked me lnever once feel like, ‘Oh, she can’t handle it?’ or ‘How dare she actually say something?’ Like, it’s just like a question that I’m asking without wanting to fulfill on it. I’m so grateful to be able to help and her giving me a specific thing. Just it fills my cup as much as it does her. So if you have things that you want help with know that the other person receiving it will gladly do it. Just like in the beginning, we talked about your partner, like being clear on what you need, will get you what you want. And you’ll benefit the other person by making them feel like they nurtured you, which is beautiful.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 57:14
Yeah, people want to help you, they just have to know how they can help you. And we have to be very clear with them about, ‘I need my dog walked, can you help me?’ instead of using the strong phrase we like to use, ‘I got this, I don’t need any help.’ We do need help.
Stephanie Greunke 57:31
We do. And you know, as you’re saying there’s, there’s always going to be another mom that needs help with the laundry. So that’s not a problem. We’re all happy to do a kid trade and get some things done. So thank you so much for your time, I could spend hours talking to you, there’s a lot of topics that are presented a lot of concerns that are presented when it comes to relationships when it comes to really nourishing ourselves, our mental health and our physical health on this journey to motherhood. So where can can people find out more about you and get a hold of some of your free resources.
Nedra Glover Tawwab 58:04
So please check out my website, which is www.nedratawwab. I am very active on Instagram, I try to post daily, and it’s the same name as my website. I have a boundaries course coming out mid-July. So you can go to my website and check that out. And I’ll have some other resources coming out as well to help people with boundaries and self care and healthy relationships.
Stephanie Greunke 58:39
Oh, that’s brilliant. Those things are so needed these days. So thank you for creating that. And is there anything that you want to leave our listeners with before we go?
Nedra Glover Tawwab 58:48
I’m just happy for this opportunity to be able to spread it more about mental health. Instagram, for me, has been one of the easiest things I’ve done because it has been my way to inform people about things that they are completely unaware of. They have these expectations of what talking to a therapist might be like, or what anxiety is, or you know different things about relationships. And I think it’s so important that people have the proper information to be able to start that healing journey. And sometimes as not through therapy, sometimes people choos other sources for that. But I think just having the knowledge and the awareness is completely helpful.
Stephanie Greunke 59:31
Yeah, so please keep doing what you’re doing. We really need to normalize therapy and normalize these conversations and know that we’re not alone on this journey. We’re all really figuring this out as we go. So appreciate your time. Thank you so much for coming on.
We hope you enjoyed today’s episode with Nedra and we hope you’ll walk away with a couple of tools that you can put into place so that you can start taking better care of yourselves, start having those difficult relationships, and really at the end of the day getting your needs met so you can keep your couple. If you enjoyed this episode, please help us out by sharing our podcast with your mama friends and reading us review on iTunes. It seems small but it means the world to us and by you reading a positive review we can share this information with more people. Please let us know what you enjoyed about this episode and help us grow our village. You can visit our website wholemamasclub.com/podcast to review show notes, find past episodes, look at the transcripts, leave questions and comments for future shows, and more.
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- How being proactive during pregnancy leads to a smoother postpartum
- Common sources of tension in relationships
- Getting to the root your passive aggressiveness
- Becoming comfortable with direct communication
- Navigating anxious-attachment as a mom
- How to set healthy boundaries
- Setting realistic expectations
This episode's guest
Nedra Glover Tawwab is licensed as a clinical social worker in North Carolina. In Charlotte, NC, she founded Kaleidoscope Counseling, a group counseling practice, in 2011. Nedra’s niche is helping people create healthy relationships by improving their boundaries, learning to be assertive, and by being authentic. Nedra’s passion for mental health and healthy relationships is reflected on social media, and in local and national media outlets. Nedra has a certificate of completion in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders from Postpartum Support International. Additionally, she has advanced training in working with adults with childhood emotional neglect and couples.