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Stephanie chats with Crystal Clancy, LMFT, about how your relationship with your mother can impact your own mothering process. We discuss how this “mother wound” often manifests after your baby is born, how it impacts your thoughts and beliefs around yourself and your parenting, and what you can do starting the healing process.
Interested in enjoying the medicinal benefits of mushrooms via delicious hot cocoa, matcha, or coffee? Receive 15% off your Four Sigmatic purchase by using code WHOLEMAMAS at check out or simply head to foursigmatic.com/wholemamas.
Crystal Clancy 0:04
I do think it’s important to understand that transgenerational piece it’s a big part of the grieving process because it’s key to dissolving that shame of looking at why did your mom treat you the way that she did? Or why was she not capable of giving you what you needed?
Stephanie Greunke 0:22
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 navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we’ve got you covered. Hi, I’m Stephanie Greunke registered dietitian and program director for whole mamas club. I’m also the co-creator of Whole Mamas pregnancy program and our weekly pregnancy email series that teaches you how to navigate the endless decisions around your pregnancy. And my co-host is Dr. Elana Roumell, pediatric naturopathic doctor and creator of Med School for Moms, an online resource where she teaches moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
Crystal Clancy 0:56
Now before I introduce you to today’s guests, who will be opening our eyes to a topic I’m fascinated about when it comes to understanding who we are and how we approached motherhood through the lens of what we were taught from our own mothers. I want to spread some love to my favorite functional mushroom company and today’s podcast partner Four Sigmatic. We’ve been talking about Four Sigmatic for a while now because Elana and I really love their quality and the therapeutic benefits of their mushroom based drinks. If you’re new to Four Sigmatic or you’ve missed the episodes where we shared our favorite products, where have you been? Do not press go do not continue with this episode until you catch up. Just kidding friends as a quick refresher Four Sigmatic makes a variety of warm nourishing blends including mushroom coffee that does not taste like mushrooms, I promise mushroom elixirs with adaptogens. Hot cocoas, matchas superfood blends, a delicious super food packed protein powder and even skincare products that are so clean you can even eat them. Yes, really. What I love most about these products is that they’re convenient to use. Many of my favorite products like their mushroom coffee and hot cocoa with Rishi are in individual packets that you can just tear open and mix with hot water. These come in handy if you’re traveling and don’t want to drink hotel coffee. If you prefer to consume organic coffee or you want something with the less caffeine than a coffee you’d get at your local coffee shop. Many mamas I work with that navigate anxiety aren’t ready to give up caffeine entirely, that are still looking for an extra boost of energy to get them through their busy day of momming. Four Sigmatic helps bridge the gap from over caffeination to providing you a steady stable energy and herbal support for your immune system and adrenals and who doesn’t love a warm beverage in the fall and winter. I love starting my day and ending my day with a warm beverage when it’s cold outside. The convenient packs make it easy to enjoy it a warm beverage when I don’t want to make a pot of decaf and I’ve had my share of caffeine, so the leftover coffee from breakfast doesn’t really sound appealing. If you’d like to try Four Sigmatic and enjoy the warm hug in the mug in the mornings and evenings with me while boosting your energy and supporting your adrenal and your immune system, we have a special discount for you. Head over to foursigmatic.com/wholemamas or use discount code WHOLEMAMAS at checkout to get 15% off your order. That’s foursigmatic.com/wholemamas .
Stephanie Greunke 3:17
Okay now on to today’s show. Crystal, thank you so much for coming on today’s show.
Crystal Clancy 3:29
Thank you for having me.
Stephanie Greunke 3:30
I’m really excited to have you here because you are an expert in perinatal mental health and you’re a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and that combination means you’re one of my favorite people and I so appreciate the work that you’re doing. It’s it’s really rare to have that certification and to understand the population at the level that you do and to help guide them to really enjoy their experience with with motherhood and parenthood and work through a lot of the the struggles that many of us experience so and I also know that you specialize in something called the mother wound, which I first heard about this a couple of years ago. And I thought it was so interesting. And it’s something that many people don’t talk about. I think there is this taboo when it comes to talking about your mom in a way that’s not 100% full of gratefulness and appreciation. Or it’s just hard to have that conversation about what your relationship with your mom is like. And you apply that to how it can interplay with your experience as a mom and even your experience when you’re pregnant. And I am so looking forward to exploring that with you. But before we begin, we’d like to start out with an icebreaker question. And that is how did you nourish yourself today? or How are you planning on nourishing yourself today?
Crystal Clancy 4:54
I was trying to think about that. I think always coffee is the way I nourish myself but one thing I do is I do enjoy getting up early in the morning. Because that’s when it’s quiet, I can do the things that I need to and then I can also just play around on my iPad or watch a show on Netflix or however I want and not feel guilty about, Oh, I should be cleaning the house or you know, going to bed kind of thing and so actually that works really well for me and it’s just a great start to my day.
Stephanie Greunke 5:28
And how early are you getting up?
Crystal Clancy 5:30
Well, it varies. I kind of just get up when I wake up naturally. This morning it was 4:30, that was not intentional. But I actually did go to bed early last night and so usually it’s around five I like to get up and and I’d usually just naturally wake up and get up and start my day.
Stephanie Greunke 5:49
Yeah, once it becomes a habit. I think five o’clock can seem really scary to some of us. Maybe not if you have a little one and you’re already waking up like every couple of hours. But you know once you start getting that sleep again, which you do five o’clock can seem intimidating, but I totally get that I find my body wanting to wake up if I have made it a habit. So very cool. And what do you put in your coffee? Do you drink it black? Or do you have some special?
Crystal Clancy 6:13
I use some flavored creamer. So a little bit. I don’t like to add any more sugar than that. But that just gives a little bit of a flavor.
Stephanie Greunke 6:21
Yeah, can be such a treat. Awesome. Well, one thing that we started to do in our house that’s been really nourishing to me is we’ve revamped our dinner routine and what I was doing especially when the boys were younger and I had to cut their food up into special pieces to just make it safe for them is I would plate their food in the kitchen and then bring them their plate to the table with the food already on it. And that was great and it worked well for a while but you know, you know how it is. There’s always something like you sit down at the dinner table and then somebody wants to ketchup or somebody wants more milk or somebody wants a spoon instead of a fork and there’s this like dance that happens in the kitchen. And I found that every time my husband and I had to get up to get something, then the kids would want to get out of their seat. And it felt like this just like scramble at night. And so what we’ve started to do now that they can eat, you know, adult sized portions, like they’re able to kind of, I don’t have to chop everything super small anymore for them. We put everything on the dinner table, and then everybody just serves themselves family style. And it’s been really cool to see that there’s less scramble in the kitchen. I mean, it’s like, it seems so obvious. And it’s what I did growing up, like we all ate family style, but we had just gotten into a rhythm with serving them their plate full of food. And this change has been really nice. I like seeing them being able to like pick the vegetables that they want. They feel like they’re eating more overall, especially vegetables because they get to choose.
Crystal Clancy 7:49
Right. Yeah, that and it’s funny when you said that. You remember doing it family style, but the reality is that you also don’t remember what it was like before you were three, probably most people so it’s sure you know, your parent parents might have also cut up your plate separately and serve that to you.
Stephanie Greunke 8:09
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Who knows what happened before then. But that’s my memory. And I think it also ties into, like, that’s what I found so nourishing, right, like I loved the family dinners together and I want to, I want to keep that trend going. It feels good to me. So I think what we’re what I wanted to bring up with that today is going to tie into a lot of what we talked about today with the mother wound so before we begin the interview, I would love for you to introduce yourself and tell us what made you decide to become a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and why you decided to specialize in perinatal mental health specifically.
Crystal Clancy 8:46
Well, how I decided to become an LMFT really has nothing to do with where I’m at
And that’s you know, a lot of life experience, but I actually was already in grad school when I met my husband, so I knew I was going to be a therapist of some kind and of course, then the laws had changed also about what was required for schooling in order to be licensed. And so at that point I was already in a masters of counseling program and finished that but I still wasn’t able to be licensed at that time. So I ended up deciding all of the paths available I ended up deciding Marriage and Family Therapy just because it felt like a good fit for me. I actually started my practicum work working with kids K through 8th that wasn’t my goal either but that’s where I ended up and realized so much so many times people would have you see their kid but not realize how much they contribute to the problem and so the the mentality of fix my kid and you’ll fix the problem, just really sat with me as far as I need to know more about how to have families be working together and all the systemic pieces. So that led me to deciding to become a marriage and family therapist and starting that program. And at that time, my husband and I actually had been going through infertility. And, of course, the week after I started grad school, I got pregnant. And but by the time I was ready to do that, practicum I ended up doing my practicum in a fertility clinic, because that was decided that I wanted that to be a focus for me, because when I was going through it myself, there were really very few resources. And especially I didn’t know of any therapists that specialized in infertility. And so that was just a great experience. And then, low and behold, just continuing to build our family, after my second child was born, I had the most post partum depression and that led to again, feeling very alone and lack of resources and you know, all of that, for most people who work in this field will say the same thing. So started networking with other clinicians who also had that passion and just more and more got into building that as my specialty area.
Stephanie Greunke 11:10
Yeah, I think that’s what can make you a really effective practitioner to is you get it from the therapist level and all of the different resources and exercises and tools that you can use in that toolbox. And you get it from an empathetic standpoint of, yeah, like I have sat in similar shoes, not the same, because everybody’s experience is different. But you can combine those two worlds to really be effective. So yeah, we hear that a lot. And it also had postpartum anxiety and that’s why I’m so passionate about it. And that’s why it’s such a huge part of my life and education right now. So thank you for sharing that with us. And, you know, you talked about perinatal mental health, but you’re one of the few people that I know that talks about the mother wound. So this is probably a new concept or you know, some people might have assumptions about what it is But can you kind of explain what the mother wound is?
Crystal Clancy 12:03
Sure. And it is not a term that I coined. It more has come out of all the research already that exists as far as understanding that if a child was raised by a mom, who may not have been very healthy as far as personality disorders or abusive behaviors, that there is this wound, and the child often that they’re not even completely aware of, that that has an impact on them for long term. And so that has become, you know, there’s research on that, but then there are not a lot of people who have specifically then taken that and explored it in becoming a parent. And so that’s something kind of an offshoot of the whole research.
Stephanie Greunke 12:55
So what does that look like? How does that present in a child? Like, can you kind of walk us through how it impacts our personal journey to motherhood from preconception to pregnancy to life as a mom?
Crystal Clancy 13:08
Sure. And I think, you know, a lot of this is anecdotal. So, in my own clinical practice, which honestly coming across this sub niche has been accidental. It was more after working in this field for a while and recognizing, hey, a lot of these moms that I work with, and we’ll talk about dads too, because I work with dads as well. But a lot of the moms that I’ve worked with, I’m starting to see this pattern of certain struggles that they may have. And it’s because this is what their relationship was like with their own mom. And so, how it impacts your personal journey, I guess as far as preconception to pregnancy. Most people aren’t even aware of it at that point. And I personally went through this myself and I know that it was not until after I went through postpartum depression and did my own work, that I realized the true impact of that. And so that is a really common thing that my hope is that over time, people will become more proactive so that during that preconception and pregnancy, it’ll become something that people talk about just like going to childbirth education. How might this affect you as a parent and how you see yourself as a parent. So kind of life as a mom often is when things come out sometimes during pregnancy, sometimes related to gender. And so sometimes, oftentimes, it will be a woman who had a difficult relationship with her mom and then finds out she’s having a daughter, or has a daughter, which was also my personal experience. But a lot of times you’ll see that pattern of, wow, this idea of having a daughter really threw me for a loop. And I don’t know how to be a mom to a daughter. How am I going to mess up my daughter? How am I going to attach to her? Or I don’t want to attach to her. It’s where it feels very scary. And so, you know, they may have felt differently during pregnancy, initially about being excited to have a baby. And then these other feelings crop up, and that can really throw them for a big loop.
Stephanie Greunke 15:18
Yeah, what else? Can you give us some more examples? Because I think it’s really helpful to kind of hear maybe some experiences that you’ve heard from the women in your practice that you’ve identified as, Oh, this could be a potential mother wound that they’re experiencing. So the identification of the gender could be one. What are some other examples?
Crystal Clancy 15:34
It could be about their relationship as well with their partner, they have a partner about how are we going to make it through this as co parents because my mom treated my dad this way or I didn’t see effective parenting because their mother may have been too ill to parent in a healthy way or co parent, let the other parent parent, saying that word a lot. But that again, that’s something that, you know, a lot of times when couples decide to have a baby if it’s if it’s planned or even if it’s not, they have this rosy picture of what that’s going to look like. And then you start realizing like, Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this? I didn’t have a good model. I didn’t learn how to attach in a healthy way. And so how am I going to do that? So it can come out in relationships, it can also come out sometimes it can come out with one child and not another and so you may also then see a mom who didn’t experience any challenges with that feeling during her first child but then the second one it came up and it starts to feel just so uncomfortable because then you feel guilty about why do I feel this way about this child when I didn’t feel this way or the guilt of now I’m messing up my older child too, because I feel Like, I’m such a failure as a parent. You know, kind of questioning reality. Did I really was I really as good of a mom as I thought I was. So those are a couple other examples that come to mind of other ways. So just again, very relational, very systemic, and a lot of guilt and shame.
Stephanie Greunke 17:18
And how does that, you know, I feel like this may be and you can correct me if I’m wrong, but would have to be a mother wound if somebody was excited about having a boy and they found out they had a girl or they’re nervous about parenting challenges? That seems like something that a lot of us experienced, but how does the reality of new parenthood and all of the doubts and fears and questions differ from a True Mother wound?
Crystal Clancy 17:44
That’s a really big question. I think really, it’s all very extreme. I think it feels very extreme and very intense and overwhelming and scary. Whereas you know, I think a lot of new parents feel the same way like you’re saying, but they’ll be able to talk about it and not feel ashamed of, you know, wow, I have days where I think how am I going to do this and the other person was like, Yeah, I totally get it. I felt that way too. And then you don’t stew on it for three days. Whereas a mom with a mother wound it may be more something she has a hard time not thinking about, something that gets in the way of attachment, or relationships, bonding with your baby, taking care of your baby. And, so it can just feel very intense to some moms. And then if it gets to that extent of postpartum depression, they may feel like I just need to leave. I’m just not fit to be this child’s mom. And so I just need to leave. And so it goes above and beyond with the intensity piece of it.
Stephanie Greunke 18:56
Yeah. And that’s what we see with perinatal mental health concerns too, right. Like there’s some natural anxiety that’s going to be there. But if it’s interrupting your daily life and your quality of life, then it starts to be something we really want to take into.
Crystal Clancy 19:08
Yeah, yeah. And so I think as far as with the mother wound, you know, it’s not always something that comes out right away in therapy, it takes time because of course, you are usually addressing just the depression and anxiety and trauma, anything there. But then as you start to explore history, or who’s in their support system, or you know, previous experience with going through difficult things, then you start to see those patterns of times about like, well, who was there to meet your emotional needs? Sometimes also, a lot of times, women with the mother wound will not be really good. I mean, women are not great at accepting help anyway. But even more so difficult accepting the people in their life who do care about them, because they don’t believe they deserve it. There’s that shame of you know, if they really knew what a crappy mom I was, they wouldn’t want to help me or just a way or a lot of times they’re so used to meeting their own needs that they don’t know how to accept help.
Stephanie Greunke 20:14
Yeah, that makes sense. Now, I’m curious, do you see common, I don’t want to call it risk factors, but common types of behaviors that a mom exhibits that you see then showing up in other moms that have this mother wound? So you said some characteristics of moms can contribute to this or personality traits, like narcissistic personality disorder, what are some things to look for if we’re wondering if we have this mother wound going on? We’re looking at the intensity, we’re looking and reflecting back at our childhood. What are some common themes that you see?
Crystal Clancy 20:51
A lot of how I’ll end up finding out about it is asking more of those systemic questions about what was life like growing up, so who in your life met your emotional needs? Who was there for you? And also just genetically asking, I always ask my clients, did your parents experience depression or anxiety after they had babies if they had biological children? How would your mom be when she had her period or going through menopause? Because there’s that genetic piece too. But then you’ll see the ones they’ll say, Well, yeah, she really would be really angry around the time of her period. But then she’d go back to normal kind of thing. And, you know, so their experience that was just normal for someone raised by someone with a personality disorder, it was that person didn’t meet their emotional needs, rarely, if ever, and so sometimes they’ll say, I don’t have a relationship with my parents anymore or they’ll say I’ve never asked my mom about that I don’t really talk to my mom about that kind of stuff. And so just kind of how they answer questions of, well, have you asked your mom about that? Or what was something really difficult you experienced growing up? And who supported you? And what did that look like? Or if you had to make decisions who supported you in that? And so getting some of those things that looking for strengths in the person will get that information that will make you have that question mark of what what was really going on there that may be contributing to their core beliefs about themselves and themselves as a mom.
Stephanie Greunke 22:43
Yeah. And that’s, you know, one thing that I commonly hear I’m a dietician, so I deal with a lot of food related behaviors. And one thing that I hear a lot is the dieting cycle that can happen and a lot of times I asked about, well, what was your mom like? Did she talk about her weight? Did she go on diets? And it’s really hard to hear sometimes hearing women who, and this happens frequently, their moms took them to Weight Watchers with them and had them enroll in Weight Watchers when they were eight or nine years old. And so that was a huge part of their identity. Do you see that wound in your practice?
Crystal Clancy 23:17
Absolutely. And that, I mean, eating and weight and self images is just one piece of it. But same thing, with kids with activities or how you were encouraged or my parent was this way, if I got good grades, but this way if I didn’t get good grades, or just again, that overall feeling of that they weren’t okay, they weren’t accepted. And sometimes it’s also about it being inconsistent. So with borderline personality disorder, for example, there’s that difficulty expressing needs because they didn’t know what they were going to get from their parent, sometimes they got an overly loving response. And the other times they got rejected for expressing a need or even a want just expressing something about themselves that wasn’t okay to the parent. So those types of things then start playing out in motherhood or even the fear of that playing out in motherhood and doesn’t start to resonate often until after having children.
So interesting. Now, this isn’t a diagnosis. So you don’t diagnose somebody with a mother wound. But it’s a trait that you pick up on in your therapy session, that you can then work on is that correct?
Yes. Yeah. And often it is, again, it’s a secondary, it’s not the reason they’re coming into therapy. It ends up you know, you’re kind of peeling back the layers. You start with the immediate needs of safety and mental health, you know, getting their mental health into a better place, but then starting to look at how do we keep this going? What do you need in your life to keep your wellness going? And start peeling back those layers. And often it’s then when it’s uncovered.
Stephanie Greunke 25:07
And do you find that this is something that you commonly see in women in your practice that are diagnosed with a perinatal mental health condition?Is this like a secondary thing that happens pretty frequently? Or you know, I’m sure it’s missed a lot of the time with practitioners that don’t know about it, and you kind of uncover it.
Crystal Clancy 25:25
Right. It is and it honestly I probably talk more about it with clients now, or assess it more now. Because it’s become such a common thing with clients that a lot of times, you know, initially, I would be just working with them on what they’re coming in for, but then over time, start seeing like, Oh my gosh, these people have these moms. So many of them. I can’t give a percentage or anything, but there definitely is. It definitely was enough of an aha to me to realize that it’s a significant risk factor for a parent. So I do think it’s important to be having that conversation with moms or moms to be
Stephanie Greunke 26:10
Absolutely. And then you can tweak your treatment plan and the action steps that you take with your clients to address this factor versus working on maybe some other types of modalities or other tools that you can use as a practitioner to help them so, you know, if you do see that this is a concern for somebody, what is maybe one or two things that you start to address to help them heal this wound?
Crystal Clancy 26:34
It really depends on the situation. I think if they really, here’s a common example because I said that a lot of moms really have no idea that this is what’s going on and that it’s not healthy. There will be many moms who are still very enmeshed with their mom. So we kind of have the two camps. We have the ones who really have a limited relationship with their mom and we have the ones that are enmeshed with their mom and really just want their mom to, you know, maybe if I do this she’ll accept me. Boundaries is a huge thing either way, but using the more the example of the enmeshed relationship is helping them, you know, over time, see how they may need to set some boundaries with that parent in order to start to feel okay with their own parenting and okay with themselves and feel more confident as a parent. And that’s super hard. So, you know, I’ll see a lot of them, you know, initially they’re coming in and asking who’s in their support system? And, you know, again, my mom’s great she’s always over at our house babysitting, you know, she’s taken care of my kids right now. And that’s great, and in some cases, that really is a great thing that they have that support. But if it’s someone who may have a personality disorder, you’ll start to see over time, where they’ll talk about how that changes. How you know, I don’t feel like I need my mom there all the time anymore, but she still keeps coming anyway or, I’ve noticed now that my baby’s getting older that my mom will make critical comments about how I parent or, you know, or question my choices. And I feel like sometimes she thinks she’s the mom. So things like that. So you just start to hear their dialogue shift as they get more emotionally healthy, to starting to feel frustrated by that behavior. And then you start kind of again, peel back the layers of like, is this a pattern? Is this something your mom just cares too much because she’s a great person? Or because this has been a pattern your whole life and now we have to set boundaries with that. So that’s one piece. I think a lot of it is dealing with the guilt and shame that they feel like you started off saying that, you know, society is not really welcoming about talking about how we may not love our mom or we may not think favorably about our mom. Or the relationship that we have. Or in some cases, people that have decided to cut off contact with a mom. And so how giving them space to not feel guilty about setting boundaries, not feeling guilty about having their feelings, who is in their village that safe to talk to about these things. And so just really helping launch them into the world where they don’t feel like they have to be ashamed of saying, Hey, I do not have a great relationship with my mom abd that’s not my fault. And because of that I need to set these boundaries.
Stephanie Greunke 29:37
Yeah. And as you’re talking what I’m thinking from a functional medicine or perspective, is that this is really a source of chronic stress for people. You know, your mom, if they’re in your life and you have this conflicted relationship with them. It’s something that you have to navigate maybe day in and day out if you’re thinking about the struggle or if they’re in your life watching your kids or calling you or wanting pictures or however that relationship may play out, I can see why, you know, that would be a huge thing to address. And it’s unfortunate that it’s not being talked about more often, which is why I’m so glad you’re here. So you know, I think also very similar to a perinatal mental health condition or, you know, a lot of other mental health conditions that we see, sometimes we think that it will just go away with time, right? Like, Oh, well, maybe, maybe if I tried this, my mother and I will be fine. Or maybe when my kids older, the relationship will get better, or whatever it is, but I’m thinking that’s probably not true, correct?
Crystal Clancy 30:41
Yes. And that’s a big.. later stages of therapy often involve a lot of grief work and helping them to see that this is a grieving process that they’re looking back now and realizing that their relationship with their mom wasn’t what they thought it was, or the future isn’t going to look like they hoped it would, or just all those kinds of things like what you thought of your peeling off those glasses of this is what I thought it was like and what it was going to be like, and it’s nothing like that and now what do I do with all of those feelings? And so again, all that grief work of that. And even later stages of therapy, where often you know, I won’t be seeing people even regularly anymore, but they may come back in, the holidays is a really common time, where they’ll come in, and they’ll just say, you know, oh, I saw my mom at Christmas. And, you know, I’m so mad because, you know, this happened. Whatever it was that happened. And they’ll say, Why do I do that? I know she’s never going to change. So why do I do that? And because you’re human, because it’s your mom, you know, and so, you may logically get to a place where you can accept that that’s who she is, and she’s not likely to change. And you still have a heart that says, Wow, wouldn’t it be lovely if she did?
Stephanie Greunke 32:03
Yeah, no, I think that’s so true what you said about the grieving process because it is a loss of a relationship. And it’s a loss of a very intimate relationship. And one you may have tried so hard to hold on to or so hard to make it work. And I can completely see that. And the other point that you brought up that I thought was really interesting is finding people that you can talk about this with because holding it in and only talking to yourself, maybe you don’t have a therapist yet, which would be so helpful if you if you could find someone, but you know, talking to your friends and also, I think having this conversation is important because everybody listening can start to have a more empathetic ear and understand that sometimes we do need to open up and vent about issues that aren’t comfortable. I mean, maybe you have a wonderful relationship with your mom and then you hear somebody else talk about their issue and you want to fix it right away for them or you don’t understand and kind of give some judgment to it. So I think just understanding that this is a real thing. And if somebody comes to you and explains their frustration with your mom, almost just like I talked about holding this garbage bag for them, and just letting them dump it all in the garbage bag and not trying to fix it, or throw it back out at them, but just absorbing it and letting them be
Crystal Clancy 33:20
Yeah, so true. And just like with any other topic, it’s because this one is so emotionally loaded. But just like with any other topic, you know, I might have a friend who doesn’t have kids at all. And it doesn’t mean that I can’t talk with her about being a parent. So in the same way that I definitely have my friends who understand this because they’ve also lived it. I have also other wonderful friends who have great relationships with their parents, but they’re still empathetic about my experience. And so I think it’s not making those assumptions and also knowing how to respond to people who you do feel that pushback or shame. That’s a piece of therapy of how do you not internalize that? How do you not feel guilty about that? And just be okay with you know what? They’re just not able to see that and that’s okay. That’s on them.
Stephanie Greunke 34:12
Yeah, yep. And then realizing that they’re probably not the person to go to next time if you’re feeling that right.
Crystal Clancy 34:17
Yeah, they’re not my bad mom village.
Stephanie Greunke 34:20
Yes, yes, we all need that. And it’s very clear. I mean even once you open your mouth and start unloading I’ve had conversations at the park with people where I’ll say one sentence that’s like a frustrated mom or like the bad mom club. And you can see the reaction right away like they look at you like, I would never say that or they kind of look at you like I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Or their eyes kind of like scrunch and you’re like, Oh, nope, nope, try again with a different group.
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Crystal Clancy 36:33
Yes, that isn’t great. That could be its own episode because really, it’s again, a piece of therapy and not even just if you’re not doing this in therapy, there are wonderful books that help do this work also. And so it’s partly about, I do think it’s important to understand that transgenerational piece it’s a big part of the grieving process because it’s key to dissolving that shame of looking at why did your mom treat you the way that she did? Or why was she not capable of giving you what you needed? Well look at her own family of origin. And usually, we get some answers unless the person really doesn’t know much about their family of origin. But you start to see that there was something there, there was some reason that they are the way they are. And it’s not because they were born bad. You know, I mean, there are the small percentage of people that are sociopaths. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about people who also didn’t get their needs met or didn’t get them met consistently. And so they don’t know how to do that. And so that is a huge piece to dissolving that shame and healing, and then going forward, recognizing Okay, so I don’t know how to necessarily do this automatically. So how do I learn? How do I be intentional? How do I be aware of healthy attachment with my own children? So that might be reading books, it might be seeing a therapist, it might be going to a parenting class. There’s all kinds of things that can be done so that it doesn’t have to feel hopeless. I mean, I like to joke about I’m going to mess up my children somehow I’m sure they’ll be in therapies for something someday, but I hope it is never, because they felt like their emotional needs were never met. Because I put work into learning how to do that in a healthy way. It’s really important for parents to be aware that they don’t have to repeat the patterns. They are not doomed to repeat that pattern.
Stephanie Greunke 38:39
And what books are out there that are on this topic? Can you list a couple and I’ll put them in the show notes?
Crystal Clancy 38:44
Sure. One of my favorites and one actually that was key to my own healing was Will I Ever Be Good Enough by Carol McBride. And I love it because it talks about everything we’ve just talked about. It talks about how do you define, it’s more specifically about narcissism from mother to daughter, but I’ve had men read it about either their mother or father. So you can take the information and still use it with other relationships. But it talks about how to define it, what that looks like, how does it happen and then how do you heal from that? And another good one that I really love is called Children of the Self Absorbed. The author’s name is Brown. It’s similar, but it talks then about how does that narcissism, what do those children tend to grow up to look like as adults and kind of like, you know, adult children of alcoholics. So it’s for adult children of personality disordered or abusive parents.
Stephanie Greunke 39:50
Yeah, thank you. That’s really helpful because I think with something like this that’s very intimate and is very taboo, like we’re talking about, I think spending some time and reading and Reflecting on it even maybe before you go see a therapist, so you really get like a handle on it or in conjunction with the therapist can be extremely helpful to maybe do some reflection, some writing, some crying, whatever behavior you need to, to express, to feel these really hard feelings that have likely been suppressed for a really long time, because it’s almost too hard to face some of these thoughts.
Crystal Clancy 40:25
Right. Yeah. And the hard part is getting that insight, figuring that out on your own. Again, doesn’t always happen. But I know not everybody loves to read so I’ve also learned to find others. You know, there’s a YouTube channel that I like, there’s podcasts, there’s all kinds of things because not everybody is a reader, or maybe they won’t read a book, but they’ll read an article. But what I love about those tools for people is they’re so validating. They may be terrified to read it at first but then they’ll come back and they’ll say I am not the only one who deals with this and that’s why there’s a whole book about it. And yeah, it’s so validating to feel like I’m not weird. I’m not the only one out there who has struggled with this.
Stephanie Greunke 41:08
Oh, absolutely not. And I think even when I first heard the term, the mother wound and a lot of the information that you’re sharing here, I was like, Oh, that makes a lot of sense. And I started putting together pieces for clients that I’ve worked with in the past. And, you know, just things that I hear from our community. So I think even just starting this conversation and digging into whatever type of resource works for you, whether that’s a book or a podcast, and after the show, I’ll get those podcasts and YouTube’s from you and we can put them in the show notes too. So obviously not all therapists know or understand the mother wound so how would you go about finding somebody that really gets this and can help you work through it.
Crystal Clancy 41:48
My recommendation would be to look for someone who mentions having training and education with attachment. I think a lot of those folks who really have taken time to dig into that topic are going to be more likely to understand because being raised by a personality disordered parent is a disrupted attachment, an unhealthy attachment and so that is someone who’s going to get it. And then you’ll also see people who specifically market themselves as mothers and daughters or abusive parents or they’ll be more specific about what it is. But definitely look for someone who says something about those things. Because just like perinatal mental health, it’s so important to find someone who gets it and not just says that they get it, but will show how they get it on their website, on a podcast, in their book or however you find them, that they really are very clear about why that’s their thing, how they got that to be their thing. And so that, you know, going into it, they didn’t just check a box saying, Oh, yeah, I work with that.
Stephanie Greunke 42:58
And do you only see clients in your state? Or do you see clients throughout the country? and which state are you in?
Crystal Clancy 43:05
I’m in Minnesota.
And so I’m only licensed here. So I can only see people here. But I’ve thought about ways to do other types of support or coaching or training. I can do trainings and things like workshops across state lines, I just cannot do therapy, practicing in other states.
Stephanie Greunke 43:32
Okay, got it. So I would love to switch gears a little bit just because we do have a wide variety of people who listen and I want to make sure that we are as inclusive as possible with this. So, you mentioned in the beginning that this also can happen with sons too. And there’s something called the father wound so can you explain what that is? I’m sure it’s very similar, but it may present different ways with a different gender.
Crystal Clancy 43:59
Sure. Absolutely there would be and so a lot of times that is father son, but it can also be father daughter, it can also be mother son. And so again, it’s just very important in your own work or journey to parenthood to examine all of those relationships. But typically with Father wounds, it often is from father to son. Because again, they’re examining their own ability to be a father. And so they’re thinking about what they learned about being a father and feeling a lot of shame about what they may perceive as a deficit or inability to do because of their own relationship with their dad. So similar, it just, I think, where a lot of times you will see it differently with men is that they are way less likely to talk about it. So they may even have the insight and recognize it but they don’t know what do with that or they feel a lot of shame with talking or sharing that with anybody, including their own partner. Their behavior tends to be more checked out. So they may avoid being a parent versus a lot of times women will go the other way and almost overdo it. And so again, their behavior is just different, they may become more angry, and irritable versus depressed, we be sad. So does this seem that you see gender with depression, you know, men and women often look very different. And it’s why men are overlooked. So we don’t think about how a man could be impacted by his dad, who may have been abusive. May have been personality disordered. May have not been in his life. And so they carry those same wounds in becoming a parent themselves. And maybe again, that rosy belief that they’re going to do it better and do it differently and they definitely can do that. But they don’t realize they don’t have the tools to do that.
Stephanie Greunke 46:05
Yeah. And you know, aren’t guys in general, I mean stereotyping here, but aren’t they more resistant to going to therapy as well? So what kind of resources as far as books? Are there anything specific to the Father wound?
Crystal Clancy 46:18
Off the top of my head? I don’t know. There really is not a lot out there. And it’s really also been difficult for me to get men to read. Not because they can’t, they just don’t make time for it, or they don’t enjoy it. And so, there again, if I’m able to help find podcast, audio books, things like that, but that’s why there will be times where I’ll say, you know, hey, this book is about Daughters of mothers, but the information is still similar. And so when you read it, keep your father in mind. And it’s still very helpful for them. And Children of the Self Absorbed is not gender specific. So That also is a good one. It’s going to be finding more generic or again, just saying you just need to tweak it as you read it. There isn’t a lot out there, as far as I know, that is specific to the Father wound.
Stephanie Greunke 47:15
Okay. Now what about different cultures? Do you see this presenting differently in different cultures? I’m sure you know, there’s a lot of different ways of parenting and styles and what’s considered, you know, normal behavior and culture. So what are some? What are some interesting things that you’re seeing across cultures?
Crystal Clancy 47:35
Honestly, I will say I can’t speak to seeing things cross culturally as far as this topic, but what I can say is, I think as a therapist, or healthcare professional of any kind. It’s needing to have that cultural humility about not making assumptions that because a client who’s from another culture culture says this is what their relationship was like with their parent, that they see that the same way. And so making sure you have to ask those questions about maybe that was the norm in their culture and so that they have not internalized that meaning in the same way.
Stephanie Greunke 48:13
Oh, interesting. So maybe what can affect somebody in one culture as far as how they related to their mom, maybe the same in a different culture, but how the perception is of that behavior could be completely different, and in one case, be problematic and in one case, be completely normal and comfortable?
Crystal Clancy 48:31
Right. For sure. And also not even just in the current family of origin but also that transgenerational where perhaps I have seen this with people, especially with interracial marriages, I have definitely seen couples where the expectations for typically the white partner of what a grandparent does and doesn’t do is very different than the other person from the other. culture. And so again, it’s examining that meaning to that because someone who was raised in America, this is what parenting looks like, but their parent, they are first generation immigrant, their parent grew up in another country where nobody’s dad was around. They all left for work for the week or didn’t have dads that was just more common. So again, we can’t make those assumptions, but also addressing that within the couple, which I don’t want to get us too off track with But that’s more to do with I think, just relational work and culture versus specifically mother and father wound.
Stephanie Greunke 49:43
Yeah. And, you know, talking about transgenerational, I’m thinking, is there an interesting dynamic you see between the grandmother and the child too. So there’s the interplay between the mom and the child where there may be some like issues with attunement or fears or concerns about the gender. But if it is transgenerational there might be some interplay between grandma or grandpa and the child.
Crystal Clancy 50:11
Absolutely. So you know, because my lens is most commonly with mother daughter borderline or narcissistic or both. Typically what you will see there is that’s how you start to realize your own experience because you will see Wow, what I thought my mom was like with my baby, she’s like overly warm and fuzzy and wants to be there all the time and talks to her and sings to her and does all that. Well a lot of times with personality disordered parents early childhood will be more like that. They definitely get their own needs met by being a mom. But then when the kid gets to a certain age, usually teenagers, when they want to have their own opinion and have their own interests, then mom’s not so interested anymore in that, and not okay with that. And so you’ll start to see some people will say like, Oh, my mom is so toxic that I don’t want her to have a relationship with my kids, but then I feel guilty. And she’s so good with my kids, which can be painful. But then you start to see like, well, this may change when they become teenagers. You can’t predict that for sure, but just kind of helping them be prepared for that possibility. And then you also see the other end of the spectrum where you were hoping that they will be more into your children, and they’re really not interested at all in being a grandparent. It’s kind of that hope for change. Hope that maybe this will be different because it’s their grandkids. And really, it’s not. They’re so into their own needs, that they’re not interested in taking care of someone else’s needs.
Stephanie Greunke 52:00
Yeah, and that’s where I could see it being identified, is maybe you go through your pregnancy in early postpartum, and you don’t really clearly see that mother wound but then all of a sudden you see your mom with your baby and you’re like, Whoa how they’re interacting with their baby kind of reminds me of some things from my childhood that starting to stir up some emotional tension or resistance. And I think that self reflection piece can certainly happen during that time.
Crystal Clancy 52:29
Absolutely. And then feeling very normal disappointment of you know, for example, the mom who was more distant and really not interested, like, Why did my mom not seem to have an interest in throwing me a shower or coming to my shower even and just really not interested in what’s going on with my baby or my pregnancy, and that’s very disappointing and hurtful. And so then they start to have, typically if they even take the step to talk to their mom about that about how they feel, it doesn’t go well. So there’s that stirred up of like, well, maybe I just need to let it go. Maybe, you know, maybe she’s just having a tough time. And so that kind of phase of making up excuses for that behavior. But you’re right, it starts to stir the pot of, oh, that’s really icky. Like, that’s not how I thought this was going to be
Stephanie Greunke 53:21
Another time where I see this happening a lot or I hear from moms is around the labor and delivery is sometimes their mom or their mother in law really wants to be there during labor and is very frustrated and angry that the mom who’s pregnant doesn’t want them there for whatever reason, or sometimes I see that the mom is in labor, and she thinks that she wants mom there. But that turns out to be a disastrous situation because these mother wounds start coming up during a very vulnerable time. Do you see that to?
Crystal Clancy 53:59
Absolutely. And Especially with narcissistic mothers, either mom isn’t interested at all in being part of that process, or like you said, she tends to be very interested, but then makes it about her. And that’s really hard because you’re the one who’s supposed to be vulnerable and getting your needs met, and mom will be there like, Oh, this is so hard to watch or, again, making it all about her and how hard it is for her, or talking about her own experience, or just again, difficulty with that empathy of No, this is not about me, this is about my daughter. And so seeing those behaviors can be really surprising in some cases. And for those who have already figured it out, they’re not going to be the ones inviting their mom to the delivery, but for the ones who haven’t quite figured it out yet, or are still hoping for something different, it feels very hurtful and disappointing.
Stephanie Greunke 54:58
Yeah. And that’s the conversation I have a lot and it is a very uncomfortable situation that I have with people but we talk about their labor plans and who they want in the birthing room. And a lot of times I hear this confliction with people and they’re like, well, I kind of want my mom like I think she’d be helpful in the labor and delivery room, but I just don’t know because we have this history and I’m like, there’s a red flag for me like yeah, if you are feeling conflicted, it’s probably a No, but that’s not my choice to make for you. But really think about that decision because when you are in labor, that is the most vulnerable that you’ll ever be and you absorb everything that is said to you and even just how somebody looks at you like their eyes and their non verbals makes such a difference. So that would be just my request. I am really learning boundaries. And usually it’s hard for me to say no to people or set boundaries, but that’s one thing where I’m like, No, you really need to set a boundary if you think there might be an issue, there’s a good chance that there will be so just really be thoughtful about that decision.
Crystal Clancy 55:59
Yeah. That’s a great way to also kind of talk about how to enlist your health care providers with that. Because not only may the healthcare provider help identify some of those red flags, but there are already times where they know some of those red flags, but they’re just not sure how to handle it. Or maybe they just don’t want to hurt their moms feelings or they don’t want to deal with the consequences of setting boundaries. But having their health care provider, be aware, I’ve worked with many doulas, and OBGYNs and all of that, that’ll be like, you say the word and I’ll kick them out of the delivery room, you know, okay. So that then like, I’ll be the bad guy, that’s fine. And so it can be really important not only for parents and moms to be to feel comfortable sharing that information, but also for healthcare providers to be asking more questions about, you know, I know that most health care providers don’t have a half hour to talk about family origin issues. But even just to talk about how or even afterward in pediatrics like How did that situation go? How did your birth go? And then they’ll probably open up about like, Oh, that was horrible. And this is what happened. And so that person can be an ear to just say, Well, wow, and validate and how hard that was and just really encourage them to set boundaries.
Stephanie Greunke 57:25
Yeah. And you know, we’re talking about labor and delivery in that environment, but also in your postpartum period. I mean, those for first 40 days or first couple of days or weeks in your postpartum, really understanding your dynamic in your relationship with your mom and those in your life and deciding who you want in your cocoon because even though labor and delivery has already happened, you’re still in that very sensitive emotional state and sometimes, you know how your mom wants to parent is different from how you want to parent. There’s a lot of tension that can be there. So just proceed with caution is all I’m saying and try to do some of that reflection beforehand as much as you can.
Crystal Clancy 58:07
Yeah. So helping in therapy, help provide them with a script, basically, how to handle those situations, a lot of times, whether or not a person has a personality disorder Mom, I try to incorporate the partner into the session closest to birth. To be able to say those things like here is how you can help. Or they may even be worried about like, Mom wants to come stay with us for two weeks, and I just can’t handle that. Well, Okay, how can we handle that? What could you say to her? You know, partner, are you willing to speak up and say this and nine times out of 10, they’re like, absolutely.
Stephanie Greunke 58:46
Yeah. Oh so good. Such good information. I could talk to you forever. This is such an interesting topic. And again, it’s not one that’s well explored. That’s why I held you for a little bit longer than an hour today. Is there anything that you want to wrap up with? Is there anything we didn’t talk about that you want to just mention briefly or give a helpful tip about?
Crystal Clancy 59:05
I think, you know, I was just looking at one of the last bullet points about empowering your own daughter, because I like this on a helpful positive note of, again, back to the you’re not doomed to repeat the pattern and mess up your children that it is also great to have the tools needed so that as your kids age, you can also educate them about it and talk with them about just the nature of that relationship. And that that is why grandma is the way that she is and that is not about you, in an age appropriate way of course, but that’s always such a great way to empower your own children, well to set boundaries in general, but especially not to set them up to hear the message that well that’s grandma’s so we can’t be honest. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t hurt her feelings. But about it is okay to say I’m not comfortable with that or that hurt my feelings. Giving them the voice that you didn’t have yourself.
Stephanie Greunke 1:00:11
No, I think that’s so important and such a great point to end on. I think also just understanding the power of saying, I’m sorry, I messed up because, like you’re talking about, we’re all gonna mess our child up in some way, shape or form, like jokingly, but just understanding if you do see those patterns come up in yourself in your parenting to be able to stop and say, Look, I’m sorry, this is not about you. This is something that I’m working through and leave it at that. Just help them understand because I think sometimes children are very vulnerable. But if we say we’re sorry, they hear that and they can take that in. So thank you so much for all this great information you shared with us today. I really think our listeners learned a lot and they can take this opportunity to reflect on their relationship and really support their postpartum experience or the future pregnancy. So where can we find out more about you if we want to learn about your work or if we’re in Minnesota and we want to see you?
Crystal Clancy 1:01:08
My website is www.irisrepro.com.
Stephanie Greunke 1:01:13
Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you. We hope you enjoyed today’s episode with crystal and if you can relate to her message know that it’s a lot to take in and we encourage you to reach out for support from a therapist or reference the resources that were mentioned in the episode, which we also have available in our show notes. And anytime we would love to hear from you over on Instagram. You can direct message us at wholemamasclub and we’d love to chat and help you out. And don’t forget to head over to Foursigmatic.com/wholemamas or enter wholemamas at checkout to get 15% off your order of functional mushroom based drinks like their popular mushroom coffee, Rishi hot cocoa, matcha, golden milk latte or their super food protein powder. If you enjoyed this episode, please help us out by taking a screenshot of where you’re listening to this episode and sharing on Instagram, or writing us a review on iTunes. Let us know what you love about the episodes and help us grow our village. Then please remember that the views and ideas presented on this podcast are for informational purposes only. All information content and material presented on this podcast is for informational purposes and not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation diagnosis and or medical treatment of a qualified physician or health care provider. Consult with your qualified physician or health care provider before starting any diet, supplement, regimen, or to determine the appropriateness of the information shared on this podcast. Or if you have any questions regarding pregnancy or your prenatal treatment plan. Now go on, have a great day and nourish and nurture yourself and your family.
- What is the “mother wound” and “father wound”
- How this can impact our thoughts and beliefs about parenting
- How this can influence our behaviors as parents
- How to heal from the “mother/father wound”
- Considerations for including parents during labor, delivery, and early postpartum
- How to break the cycle and empower our children
- Crystal’s website
- Find Crystal on Instagram
- Book recommendations: Will I Ever Be Good Enough by Dr. Karyl McBride, Ph.D. Children of the Self Absorbed by Nina W. Brown, Ed.D., LPC
- YouTube videos
- Learn more about Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program
- Subscribe to Our Weekly Pregnancy Emails
- Take the free mini-course at Dr. Elana’s Med School For Moms
- Schedule an appointment with Dr. Elana
- Follow Steph and Elana on Instagram
- Whole Mamas Podcast Archive
This episode's guest
Crystal Clancy, LMFT, has a private practice specializing in perinatal mental health. She is one of the founding members of Pregnancy and Postpartum Support MN, which is the Minnesota State Chapter of PSI. She has been a PSI State Coordinator for 5 years. She is married and the mother of a son and a daughter.