Mariah Sage on Enjoying Parenting and Releasing Mom Guilt Through Simple Shifts

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Katie: Hello, and welcome to ďThe Wellness Mama Podcast.Ē Iím Katie from wellnessmama.com and wellnesse.com. That is wellness with an E on the end. And this episode is all about parenting, and how to release mom guilt and enjoy parenting more through some simple shifts that make your whole family happier. Iím here with Mariah Sage, who does exactly this. She helps parents raise empowered kids, improve their family dynamics, and actually enjoy the parenting process while releasing things like mom guilt and societal expectations that are relatively new to our generation. She uses a work of a combination of intuition, systems, and clear applicable skills to create some really tangible shifts here, and we talk about a lot of those today. She has a background in psychology, and nearly a decade working in the childcare industry. And now her focus and passion in life is to help families live and work with more harmony.

In this episode, we go through things like why todayís moms feel increased pressure and mom guilt compared to other generations? How we can do it all, but not all at once and what to do instead? The reason why of moms can feel like theyíre losing themselves in motherhood and how to move past that? Why what we model matters more than what we say and how to use this to help our family have a calmer life? Why kids need certainty and systems, and why leaning into this can relieve a lot of that mom stress? As well as some practical steps to start implementing systems that make family life easier. And I will have links in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm to more resources on this topic, as well as to Mariahís work if you want to continue learning from her. But without further ado, letís join Mariah Sage. Mariah, welcome. Thanks so much for being here.

Mariah: Thank you. Iím excited.

Katie: Me too. And weíre gonna talk about what I think are some really, really important topics for moms today. But before we jump into that, I have a note in my show notes that you were homeschooled until 10th grade and you got to grow up traveling a lot with your family. And Iíd love to hear a little bit about that, and maybe also probably how that informed maybe your approach to adulthood and parenting. And Iím sure there was flow over into a lot of aspects of life.

Mariah: Yeah, absolutely. So I grew up in a big family, and I was homeschooled until 10th grade. And my mom has actually been in the coaching industry since the í80s. So I like to say that I grew up in the back of a seminar room. So my parents held workshops all over the world, and my siblings and I got to grow up, traveling with them and being a part of their work, which had a huge influence on what I do today.

Katie: Wow. That sounds amazing. And speaking of the work that you do today, I think thereís gonna be so many important points weíre gonna get into today. To start broad, I think itís not a secret based on social media interactions and memes, moms today seem to be largely overwhelmed. And there seems to be a lot more pressure on our generation of moms than there has been in previous generations. I know before she died, just conversations I had with my grandmother, for instance, like, she was blown away at some of the things that our generation internalizes, and focuses on, and hyper-focuses on when it comes to motherhood. And I remember her telling me, like, it actually isnít supposed to be this difficult. Like, take a deep breath. And you have so many great points related to this and so many tangible systems for people. But I think to start broad, letís talk about what does it mean to have this more relaxed and eased approach to parenting? Because I think it has become this huge, stressful thing that maybe it doesnít have to be, and you explain this so well.

Mariah: Yeah, definitely. I love that story of it being kind of something thatísÖitís new, really, right, that older generations had a better understanding for the way we could approach parenting, and that it can just be this, like, natural part of our lives instead of having to be the only part of our lives or the thing that takes over our identity or thatÖyou know, I think the messaging we get is when youíre a mom that if youíre not exhausted, and if youíre not overwhelmed, and if youíre not kind of self-sacrificing, then youíre doing something wrong, right? But actually that, you know, thereís a truth that, you know, parenting is always gonna be hard, right? I mean, kids are difficult. They will challenge you. And thereís always going to be difficult parts of having kids.

But ultimately, it doesnít have to be as hard as we make it, right? There can be a sense of ease. And having an easeful approach to parenting to me means that when those challenges come up, that you know how to respond, that you have a plan. That youíre able to stay in your center, even when thereís chaos around you or when one of your kids is going through a difficult phase or when any of the, you know, natural challenges of parenting come around, that we have systems and we have approaches that allow us to know how to deal with them without getting completely thrown off our center.

Katie: Yeah, I think thatís really important. And I donít remember the exact words of it but I saw a meme one time that encompassed so much of it. And it was basically, like, Iíll just be over here trying to keep my kids, like, physically fed and emotionally stable without helicoptering, while, you know, being like keeping the house clean, but not too clean. Because realistic, it was like this whole list of contrasting expectations that moms often feel in todayís culture. And I do think thereís an element of that thatís perpetuated by social media because we only typically put the good parts of our lives on social media. And in previous generations, we werenít exposed to every other mother on the planet, you know, all the time, just like we werenít exposed to news from all over the world, all the time. And there are psychological approaches to that. But I think it also touches on this idea of mom guilt. And I would love for you to kind of delve into this, maybe explain where this is coming from, why weíre seeing this so much more in our generation than we have in previous generations.

Mariah: Yeah, really, I think so much of it, like you said, is this social media culture, right? Itís like this thing that being a mom has to look a certain way. And so a big part of what I teach parents is that, you know, being a great parent is really about drowning out the noise, and it can feel ironic to say that as a sort of parenting expert, right? But ultimately, I tell people, you know, let go of the experts, drop the advice, and get back to, what is your approach to parenting? What are your family values, and how do you kind of silence all of that and get back to who you are and whatís important to you as a family?

Because otherwise, the pressure, itís impossible, right? There is this pressure like, you know, you need to have a great career, you need to be the perfect mom, you need to look Instagram ready every single day. And thatís just not realistic for everybody, right? And you can do all of those things, but you canít do them all at once. And, you know, you canít try to be the outside version of what motherhood has been made out to be. And so, you know, moms are being taught that they should feel guilty. Theyíre being taught that if theyíre not perfect, then, you know, that they are doing a bad job. Itís really hard to overcome this cultural messaging and know that weíre allowed to be happy, and weíre allowed to have fun, and weíre allowed to care for ourselves. And what weíre being told is that losing yourself in motherhood is normal. And that doesnít have to be the case, right? Actually, the truth is that we can be the moms that we wanna be and we can still have the lives we wanna have, and we can still be the people we wanna be. But thatís not what society is telling us.

Katie: Yeah. So two things you just said, I think one being, we can do it all but not all at once is such an important point. And also that there is this mothers seeming to get lost in motherhood, which didnít seem to be the case in previous generations nearly as much, either. And objectively, there also is more I think on a lot of our plates than there used to be just because thereís a lot more in a fast-paced world and weíre managing more. And I know when I was a kid, my parents werenít having to figure out how to help me navigate social media, and there just wasnít as many factors to navigate. But I also think youíre right, that thereís these societal perceptions that we internalize.

And Iíd love to talk a little bit more about that, how do we not lose ourselves in motherhood and why is it so important? Because I think thereís been a little bit of mis-messaging around this idea of self-care that actually maybe perpetuates more mom guilt, because then it is actually intensifying the pressure that, oh, if we just added that to our to-do list and did that right, then we would have enough energy to do everything else perfect. When, if you go back to the core of it, and kind of go back to first principles, the most powerful thing we can do for our children is what we model, not what we say, and how many of us meet, included, for sure, different times are modeling an unhealthy way of navigating that. So Iíd love to just kind of go deeper on that concept.

Mariah: Definitely. Yeah, I feel like thatís something that, you know, I always say my mom models so well for me is that, you know, she was, of course, an amazing, dedicated mom who made tons of sacrifices for us, but she also really modeled for us that taking care of yourself and living the life you wanna live, is part of being a good parent. Right?

I mean, it really isÖ Itís easy to lose yourself in motherhood because of all the pressure. But ultimately, the way you live your life is the way your kids are going to live their lives. And when I look back on my childhood, the times when I was the happiest were the times when my mom was the happiest. I always remember that to be true. And I think thatís so important for moms to remember is that, you know, your kids are so attuned to you. Theyíre so sensitive to you. And itís so subtle, but they pick up on everything. So itís not just the external things you do. Itís like the way you feel and the way you be in your life is what your kids are going to pick up on, and the way theyíre going to live their lives, and the way theyíre going to respond to the life around them. And so, the thing of self-care, I totally agree, itís like thereís this messaging out there, like, oh, self-care, have a glass of wine, take a bath, do all these things. Right? But is that actually teaching us to really take care of ourselves and is it actually giving moms a practical way to take care of themselves in their lives with their kids? Right?

Because I think you tell a lot of moms, you know, double down on self-care. And the question is, like, how do I do that? You know, like, practically, what does that look like as a mom? And so thatís where I believe family systems really come in and having good rhythms and having good boundaries, and having systems set up so that when breakdowns happen with your kids, you know how to respond and it doesnít have to become this thing that builds up over time and continues to be an issue, right? Or, you know, when youíre stressed out and you need a break as a mom, how do you actually get that with your kids? You know, what does that look like practically as a mother? And so thatís where having systems and having, you know, ways that you clearly handle things in your family is kind of the key to being able to find yourself again as a mother, or to not lose yourself in the first place.

Katie: Yeah, I think thatís so key And Iíve noticed that in my own life, as I figured it out slowly, I think I was a slow learner in this but that often the mom fatigue and that overwhelm, it doesnít actually come from all the stuff we have to do, although there can be an element of that. But it comes from things like question fatigue, when kids donít have certainty about these systems and whatís going on, and so they have to continually ask us, and we are the bottleneck of the questions. But also on that modeling piece, I had a pretty harsh realization personally on this recently where I noticed my older daughter who wasÖ She was the reason I kind of started to actually face my trauma and unpack a lot of things was seeing her see me in the mirror, looking at myself, and registering in her face that I was looking at myself with this, like, very self-critical eye, and thatís probably the first time she had ever thought to look at her own body in a self-critical way. So it led to this beautiful journey of healing that trauma and healing my body.

But then, the last few months, I had noticed she was just like, focused on being small and tiny and, like, wanted to have, like, tiny shoes and not like grow. And I couldnít figure out why. And then it was that harsh realization of, oh, itís because Iíve been focused on being small these last couple years. And Iíve never verbalized that, but she picked up on the energy. And it was a good reminder, like, oh, now I need to model being strong and nourishing my body and the languaging that goes along with that. I think the modeling is super, super important.

But Iím really also glad that you brought up the systems aspects. And Iíd love to talk a little bit about maybe some tangible ways that parents can start bringing more of these systems and bringing more ease into parenting. Because like I said, I saw in my own life, itís not the getting it done necessarily, thereís a time and a place when weíve just added too much to the calendar but often, itís the uncertainty or the managing it all in our head, and then the kids having to depend on us for answers because there arenít clear systems. At least for me, that was a huge cause of stress. So Iíd love to hear from you. I know you do a lot of work in this area with, what are some tangible ways we can start bringing that ease back in?

Mariah: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, itís funny, because I think that, you know, family systems are so important. And to me, they are kind of the surface level in family, right? So they hold the container for all the other parts of our family. So they hold the container for the relationships, and the connections, and all of the kind of things that make up really being a family. And so in order to set up systems that really work, what is kind of funny is that you have to let go of the systems in the beginning. So a lot of the time, the beginning steps are counterintuitive, and itís that you have to first look at your family and say, okay, have we gotten caught up in power struggles? Are there breakdowns that are happening every day? Are there conflicts that are happening over and over again? And how can we unwind and let go of some of those things and come back to our connections, and our relationships, and our dynamics, and the things that make us a family?

And so what that looks like in the beginning, a lot of the time, is going out of resistance to your kids completely. So what happens is that when thereís not systems and thereís not that predictability, like you said, that kids really need, then stress comes in, right, and kids become more difficult, and they start asking a million questions every day, and they start resisting the rules and boundaries because they look for certainty. And so, when we can kind of let go and reconnect with them, then we open up space to implement and to insert new systems and new boundaries that work for our family.

Because if you try to start from a place of power struggles and difficult things that have built up and mom is stressed, and overwhelmed, and tired, and kids donít know what to expect, and then you wanna come in and say, ďOkay, now these are all the new rules. And this has been your schedule. And, you know, this is the new system.Ē Then your kids are gonna resist you completely, right? Theyíre not going to be able to go with the flow. And so thatís always the first step is let go a little bit, you know, donít ever let go of those bottom-line boundaries. But, you know, choose your battles, ultimately. Choose your battles and kind of let go of the need to control everything and know that the structure can come from that kind of letting go.

Katie: Yeah, thatís a great point. And then from there, what does it meanÖ? I think maybe, like, the idea of family systems might be a somewhat new concept, to some people listening. And I talked about this a little bit in the context of my own realization, which was in business, I had all these systems for everything. And when I hit my point of almost complete burnout, I felt all this stress, and I thought about letting all the business stuff go, because I was like, ďI canít keep all these plates in the air,Ē but realized the stresses isnít actually coming from the business. Itís coming from home. So why is that?

And realizing, oh, itís because in business, I have clearly defined systems and I know where things are going. And oh, yeah, I let people actually be involved on the team and have autonomy in their roles. And weíve built a culture around that. And what if I applied these same ideas at home? But I think, like, even understanding the broad concept of that, it can be hard sometimes to materialize in your head what good family systems look like. So I would love for you to talk to us a little about, like, what are some starting points for good family systems that we can put in place? I fully agree with your point about it has to be done, like, with good leadership and aligning motivations versus outside force, which is, of course, we want our children to be internally motivated, not mom forcing them in the long-term. And I know, anybody whoís had a two-year-old knows firsthand as a mom, you canít force a child to do anything. So what are some of the stepping stones into creating these good family systems?

Mariah: Yeah, so I think youíre so right that family systems can feel foreign because weíre not taught to ultimately run our families like a business. But thatís, you know, what you said about family culture, or what you said about business culture is true for family culture too, right. So your kids need to be able to feel autonomy. They need to be able to be involved in the rules. And they need to be able to feel like a part of things and a part of the team. And so, starting out, what I always tell people is look for the one part of your day thatís the most challenging. If you just wanna start with one system, look for the one part of the day where youíre having the biggest breakdowns over and over and over again, and choose a predictable way of dealing with it. So, you know, the thing about my approach is that I donít teach people a specific parenting style, because I donít believe that thereís one right way to raise kids, right? We all have our own style. And the best way to parent is the way that reflects you, and who you are, and your values. And so, instead of looking for some outside system thatís going to be the right way to do your morning routine or the right way to handle bedtime, itís like look into your family, and see what needs to happen, and keep it really simple.

So for some people, bedtime routine is the same four things happen in the same order every night. And thatís all it is, right? And then just focus on that, and do that over and over and over again. And consistency is so key with any kind of system, because so much of the time, you know, itís probably one of the biggest breakdowns I see that parents deal with is they come to me and they say, you know, ďWe tried everything, right? We tried this and tried that. We tried that.Ē And I say, ďOkay, well, how long did you try it for?Ē And people are like, ďOh, well, we did that for three days. And then it didnít work. And then we did this for three days and it didnít work.Ē And so the thing about systems is that they really require consistency, especially for children. And so, you know, if you choose a system youíre going to implement, do it for a month before you decide if it works or not because it doesnít matter what the system is or what the approach is as much as it matters that you are consistent with it. And then over time, your kids will adjust, and your family will find your rhythm and your flow.

Katie: Thatís a great point. And I think, at least for me, I can say I was getting in my own way with systems at different times, because of some of these factors like mom guilt and some of these cultural beliefs about parenting, where I had to unpack myself and realize I was feeling guilty or bad about having my kids actually do things around the house. And, like, oh, well, where is that coming from? Because logically, itís actually great for everybody if they are involved around the house, and if they can feel ownership of something. And I got to unpack parts of my control-freak nature or parts of this idea that I needed to do everything for them.

And that actually led to a shift that Iíve talked about before, which is now one of my core parenting ideals, which is that I donít do anything for them that they are capable of doing themselves. And that is a consistent thing. And so they know that. And so when they at age 4 or 5 are capable of learning to do their own laundry, they do. And then now this is a thing they take ownership for. And itís beautiful because thereís natural consequences built-in, just like there are for us as adults where if I donít do my laundry, I donít have clothes to wear. And they learn that lesson. And they get to attach that natural motivation, natural consequence, versus me being this external mediator of you must do this thing because I said so. Itís like teaching the natural lesson. And also, I think the other part of that is them getting to feel like they actually are contributing to the family because they are, and like creating a family culture that encompasses all of that. Letís talk a little bit more about that, on that note, of kind of the cultural beliefs about parenting that seem to have shifted in the last couple generations especially.

Mariah: Yeah. Yeah, there are so many beliefs that weíre fed these days. And again, I think so much of it goes back to this social media culture that we live in, right, and the way that we are all absorbing memes and content all day long that tells us these things that have to be true. And a lot of itís humor-based, but then we internalize that still. Right. And one of the big ones, of course, is this idea that you have to be overwhelmed to be a good parent, right? That if youíre not stressed out, that youíre just not doing a good job. And it takes a lot I think to go against that and yourself. You know, I think it takes a lot to say, no, you know what? For a lot of us, like weíve waited years to become parents, and raising kids is something we are excited about. And then here we are, you know, getting stuck in this belief that it has to be so difficult or it has to be so negative.

And itís so funny, I just had a baby. And when weíre out and about with the baby, you know, I have people coming up to us constantly saying, ďOh, enjoy it. Enjoy it while it lasts. You know, it goes by too quickly. And you know, theyíll grow up before you know it.Ē And itís so funny because Iíve been reflecting a lot on just how much we get that comment when weíre out. And I think so much of that is that, you know, it goes by in a blink of an eye, and a lot of the time we donít even get to enjoy it as much as we want to because weíre so caught up in this cultural belief thatís been fed to us that it has to be so difficult. And so itís kind of like reclaiming your desire for what you want parenting to look like. You know, what do you want your life as a parent to be, and what do you want your experience of parenting to look like, and how can you design that for your family? Because thereís so many of these things that if you let them come in, they can really take over your family, right?

Thereís, like, having kids will ruin your relationship. Thatís another big one that we hear, right? Like, oh, once you have kids, your relationship with your partner just isnít gonna be the same. Youíll never have time for each other. But does that have to be true? Right? Arenít there people out there who have incredible relationships and incredible connections, and who are raising big families? Or, you know, again, becoming a mother means losing your identity. And can we stop long enough to question those things and say, ďOkay, is this true for me or do I wanna let this be true for me?Ē

Katie: Yeah, I think that is an invaluable tip in every aspect of life, actually, that anytime we feel a strong emotion, and I personally say it, especially if itís an emotion thatís attached to, like, guilt, like mom guilt, or fear, or shame, itís a great opportunity to learn a lesson because usually, thatís not actually necessarily an objectively true statement. Itís thereís something attached inside of us. And itís a wonderful chance to explore. And theyíre people, like Byron Katie, who talk about that, like, to your point asking, ďIs this true? Well, what else could be true?Ē And starting to unpack it. And thatís a beautiful thing to model for our kids as well.

It seems like another societal expectation that at least I only have obviously experienced in this generation, but it seems new to our generation is this idea that we are supposed to entertain our kids all the time. I donít think my grandmother felt any guilt about the idea that she was supposed to be, like, her childrenís entertainment and teacher, and, you know, puppet master, and whatever, all these things to keep them from ever being bored. And Iíd love to hear your take on this. I feel like thatís a pretty pervasive cultural one right now.

Mariah: Yeah, it really is. You know, itís just something I hear all the time from parents. I was just telling a story the other day of a client that I worked with, where we got on our first call and she was, like, nervous to tell me that her I think 4 or 5-year-old daughter, played by herself happily for, like, up to two hours in the playroom. And she was like, ďAm I a bad mom for letting my daughter play by herself for that long? Like, do I need to be entertaining her?Ē And I told her, ďOf course not. You know, kids are supposed to play. Itís what theyíre supposed to do,Ē right?

And for some reason, I genuinely donít know where this came from but for some reason, we have been taught to believe, and I think it probably ties into this thing of like us needing to be self-sacrificing to be good mothers, right? With that comes this thing of, like, itís your job to entertain your kids 24/7, you know, make sure thereís always a structured activity, take them, drive them back and forth to extracurriculars, you know. As soon as theyíre home, give them your full attention. And so, I think that whatís really important is, again, that you set up systems that you teach your kids ways of being able to play and entertain themselves, but also that then when you are with them, that youíre able to be more present. And thatís the distinction that happens when you stop trying to entertain your kids all the time is all of a sudden, you have the bandwidth to be present with them, right? Because if youíre constantly trying to entertain them, how are you ever going to be able to give them your full presence when you have a life to attend to?

Katie: Yeah, I think thatís a great point. And I think another part for me of releasing that was the idea that not only am I not being a bad mom if I let them entertain themselves. This actually is an important psychological step for them. And for some reason, in our culture, maybe because of just constant stimulation from all friends, weíve gotten this idea that boredom is bad. But boredom is actually really important for kids because thatís when they learn how to, like, find creativity from the inside. And thatís actually like a very valuable skill for them. And as adults, no one is entertaining us all the time. And we have Netflix, we can turn to I guess at all times. But weíre actually giving them a valuable framework to be able to handle a very real-life adult skill, which I think is another important point. Because I think one thing that can be an antidote to some of the cultural pressures, is I look at it as going back to first principles, and also having a long approach versus just being stuck in the day-to-day. And the idea of what are the tangible skills I want to make sure that my kids learn while theyíre in my care?

And for me, the answer was things like creativity, and critical thinking, and the ability to ask good questions, and to learn rapidly from information thatís available. And so then how do I help them cultivate those skills versus, like, how do I make sure they donít experience discomfort today? And that just helped me have a longer approach I think there. I also think that when youíre already a busy parent and youíre stuck in this cycle, it can be hard to even take that breath to step back. And, like I said, there could be a point of there might be too much on the schedule. And thereís a time and a place for reducing the amount thatís on the schedule. But more often, it seems like these are just mindset and practical shifts within the execution of family life. So what are some ways that parents can start building in more of that space, to have that ease and calm come in?

Mariah: Yeah. Yeah, independent play, I think is probably the biggest skill here. And itís exactly what you said about creativity, and independence, and boredom. Iím such an advocate of kids being bored. You know, I think for most of us, kind of in our generation that was just built into our childhoods. You know, and I think, you know, you joke about Netflix, but part of this kind of issue with us having to entertain our kids all the time is technology, right? Itís the fact that they and we have gotten used to having constant passive entertainment from our technology, right, having phones, and having screens, and shows, and everything that we can just turn on. And weíve lost the beauty and the power of play. I really believe that. You know, I think that children are designed to just sit in a room and figure out from their own imagination with toys or without, you know, worlds of their own and entire, you know, scapes that they play in for hours and hours.

I mean, thatís what I did, as a child. I would sit in a room alone and just play pretend by myself for hours on end. And those are good childhood memories. You know, thatís what I try to remind parents is that, when you think back on your childhood, are some of your best memories of play because they are for me, you know. And so, teaching that to kids in todayís culture is a skill, right? Itís not like it used to be where parents just said, ďGo outside and play,Ē and we had to figure it out. These kids have gotten used to being passively entertained all the time. And so we have to help them build that muscle for how to play again. And so, that looks like building it up in increments. And going back to family systems, thereís a system that I teach for this, you know, where each day you work a little bit with your kids, and you let them play by themselves for a little while, and you just use a lot of acknowledgment, and you use a lot of positive reinforcement. And you make it fun and easy but over time you let them build in that space, and you also give them the chance to be bored.

And sometimes you have to say like, ďOkay, well, if youíre bored and, you know, thereís nothing to do, then you can just sit,Ē and thatís okay, you know. And eventually, I guarantee you if you keep creating that space, but you donít create a power struggle around it, right? You donít force it, but you just keep creating space for it and keep creating the space for it, your kids will find their play in that space. And thatís probably the number one way that parents can start to free themselves up is to teach their kids to enjoy playing again, and to be able to entertain themselves and have that kind of creative flow.

Katie: Yeah, I donít think we can overstate, like, truly how much of a shifts that can be for moms, I think even just that realization for me was so freeing and helped break some of those societal expectations of not only am I not being a bad mom, this is actually part of helping guide them into healthy adulthood and being a good mom. And I think this is another one that gets tied up in those cultural expectations. When we see the memes that paint in a bad light are moms and grandmas who said like, ďGo outside and play and donít come back until dinner,Ē and itís almost always portrayed as like, can you believe they did that? And Iím like, ďCan you believe weíre not doing that?Ē Iíve heard it said play is the work of children. And I feel like weíve taken it away from them. And also that they can be our greatest teachers in relearning how to play. And to tie in that idea of modeling, I know thatís been part of my own evolution of not losing myself in motherhood and of modeling this for my kids was realizing, ďOh, this is a part of my life that Iíve lost.Ē

So what are some areas that I can be creative, and I can play, and I can show them, those parts of myself and give them the example to do that themselves? So whether itís art or like learning new physical things, or sports, I think them seeing me have the bandwidth to be able to do that was also a big step for them in being able to do that as well.

I think something else really important that you touched on is that idea that they may have emotions that come up related to if theyíre not used to being bored or if theyíre not used to having that space to actually just go play and have to entertain themselves. And as moms, stepping back and realizing those emotions are valid, theyíre not necessarily bad, like, and not placing an external judgment on their emotions, and also not solving it for them. That seems to be like a fall down point when you kind of start implementing these things.

I know for me, at least I can speak personally. I at times felt discomfort when my kids would have certain emotions, and I realized it actually had nothing to do with them. It was because of something emotionally in me that was being triggered by, ďOh, theyíre not supposed to feel angry. Theyíre not supposed to feel uncomfortable. Theyíre notÖĒ And one thing that helps me a lot was to step back, and pause, and put some space in there, and then actually think through, like, how do I help them feel and validate this emotion? Because the emotion itself is never bad. Itís what they do with the emotion. So how can I as two separate things, give them the space to feel their emotion and not judge it internally, and also give them guidance around actions that can be a result of an emotion? And just that step alone seems to have put a lot more space in place.

Mariah: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I mean, thatís such a piece of every part of parenting, right, is like being able to hold space for our kidís emotions without identifying with them, or trying to solve them, or trying to change them. And itís definitely a part of this, you know, and you have to be able to use those skills that I think are widely talked about these days, like validating your kidís feelings in that moment. But that doesnít speak to how difficult that can be internally. You know, itís one thing to say out loud, oh, I know, youíre frustrated, or I know youíre bored, and you donít wanna do this, but itís another thing to be able to manage your own internal experience while thatís happening.

And I think, you know, parents, you have to have grace with yourself through this process. You know, itís gonna take time and you really do have to remember that itís a skill these days because kids are not being allowed to play and have that space, and theyíre not being allowed to discover that in themselves. And so, when you do that, youíre going against the grain, you know, when youíre doing something that most parents arenít doing today. And so, your kids might say, you know, ďOh, none of my friends have to do this. They get to watch their iPadsĒ or, you know, whatever it is. But yeah, you have to be able to manage that internal experience of your own. And itís so true that it, a lot of the times our own discomfort with that emotion.

Katie: And Iíd love to delve into maybe some like age-specific systems that are helpful at different times and/or for people listening, thereís probably going to be the full spectrum of everybody from pregnant moms and moms of babies up to teenagers and beyond. And so, is there a difference if youíre implementing these things when you first have kids versus what if you already have ďestablished systems,Ē maybe they werenít intentional, but you have these established patterns? Can you still do this with older kids even if it hasnít always been the case in your home?

Mariah: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that thereís always space to change your parenting practices, whether itís independent play, or whether itís the way you handle discipline in your family, or, you know, the way you communicate with each other. Thereís always room to make changes. And, you know, Iím a big advocate of apologizing and telling your kids that youíre wanting to make a change. So I think with older kids, you have to be really honest and explicit with them again, whether thatís okay, weíre gonna start working on implementing more independent play, and weíve never done this before. And, you know, you can say, ďI learned about this, and I wanna share this with you. And I think itís really important for you to learn. And can we work as a team to figure out how to do this?Ē

And so I think what really varies specifically with independent play is like the communication around it, the way you talk to your kids about it, but Iím a believer that from 6 months up, you know, kids can be flying independently. And so for a little baby, that might be, you know, 5 to 10 minutes that theyíre happily kind of cooing around on a blanket on the floor. And for, you know, a 10-year-old, it might be that theyíre getting lost in play for two hours straight. So the expectations are different. But whatever it is youíre wanting to implement, whatever new system, itís a matter of taking your time and picking one thing at a time.

So if independent play feels like the biggest thing that would really free you up right now, pick that and work on it every day a little bit. So if you have a little one, you know, have five minutes a day, set a timer, you know, let themÖ You be, you know, 10 feet away on your computer or cooking dinner, and you have them on a blanket across the floor. Or if you have an 8-year-old, you know, have them go up to the playroom for 15 minutes, and then let them come back down. And over time, itíll build. So, the biggest distinctions I think by age are the communication, which I think for a lot of parents is pretty intuitive, right? You know your kids and how they communicate, what age they are, what their kind of developmental capability is there. And so yeah, you can taper based on that.

Katie: Yeah, youíre right. I think communication is a huge piece of it in all regards to this.

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I know people may be wondering, and a sticking point I hear a lot from a lot of moms is like, how do I get my kids to do chores at a different age? That seems like a very common one. So Iíd love any advice you have specific to that, monitoring systems that come into play at different ages.

Mariah: Yeah. Yeah. The biggest thing with that I think, is that you know, so much of what you said earlier on, I think about not forcing kids and getting them to feel autonomy and getting them to feel like itís their choice, in many ways, goes a long way. So, you know, you can do chore charts, and sticker charts, and things like that. And those can work to have structure. But to me a family system isnít necessarily those things. A family system is more like an agreement that youíve come up with together as a family, because I really believe that a great family system feels like a team, that everybody is an equal member, and everybodyís contributing, and everybodyís a part of it. And so, getting your kids involved can look like sitting them down and saying, you know, ďWhat chores do you enjoy doing? What would you be happy to help with around the house? And, you know, how can we set it up so that you are motivated to do this?Ē

And so how that system actually plays out will look different, depending on the ages of your kids, and what kind of chores you want their help with. But itís really, you know, a matter of getting them involved and getting their buy-in so that theyíre excited, and they donít feel like itís you forcing them to do it. Because if we kind of manufacture these systems that we want to work, and then we put them on our kids, and theyíre just going to feel a loss of power there, right? So itís like, how can you get them to feel like itís their idea almost, you know? And then how do you make it fun, you know, make it fun, and bring play into it? And for some families, itís like, you know, turn on music for 15 minutes in the evening, and everyone cleans the house together, and do like a power cleaning session, you know.

For other families, itís like, you know, the kid doesnít like to be told what to do, and so you discover together that what works is to write them a list of the things they need to do that day and slip it under their door. So figuring out what that looks like for your family comes by talking to your kids about it and asking them what they would want and how they could actually be excited to help?

Katie: Yeah, exactly. And well, I was probably a very tough child to parent when I was a kid, because I have that personality that on multiple personalities has to be explained, like the rebel side of, you canít tell me what to do and I canít either. So any kind of super rigid external structure, I tend to justÖ My instinct is to rebel against. And so I had to learn that in myself. And itís the thing I think we have to help our kids learn, which is that long-term, this motivation has to come internally. And like you said, leadership is aligning motivations. So how do we do this without us being the outside force of pressure that gets these things to happen? Because that also still keeps the emotional burden of that in momís camp versus if we get them bought in, and we have a family culture around this, and we all have clear ideas of our family culture, and our goals, and where weíre going, and they have actual ownership and feel actual contribution in what theyíre doing. It is an external pressure from parents, itís everybody moving toward a common goal together, which, of course, like you said, itís not gonna be a perfect system. There are going to be times when itís still hard, but at least then we have a clear direction that weíre going.

Mariah: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, working together with their personalitiesÖ And I love what you said about the personality test, because itís also about looking at your kids as unique individuals, right? And one kid might need something different than a different kid. And so, a family system doesnít necessarily mean one system that everybody follows in the family. Itís like looking at everybody and saying, ďOkay, whatís gonna work for each of us, you know?Ē And so maybe you have one kid whoís really motivated by doing things with you. And so you guys do a cleaning session together, and the other one works better independently, and thatís okay, right. But I think itís really easy to get caught up in this idea that you need to treat all your kids equally. And Iím really a big believer that every kid is such an individual, and itís so important for us to parent them as individuals. And so that comes in, in every kind of system that you implement, whether itís how you handle your bedtime routine, or how you handle conflicts when they come up, how you set boundaries with them. Itís like look at each kid and say, ďWhatís going to work for them and who they are.Ē And, you know, that can feel complicated, I think as a parent, but if you all sit down together, you can probably find a flow that serves everybodyís personalities and everybodyís interests.

Katie: Thatís a great point because I think youíre right, getting swept up in this idea of equality and fairness, it often can be actually less fair to your kids, because theyíre all so different. And if you apply the same, Iím gonna do the same thing with each of you and buy gifts in the same idea for each of you, youíre not gonna actually maybe love them in the way they each individually need to be loved or spoken to. And Iíd love also to touch on a little bit aboutÖespecially with young kids, it seems like there can be stress that comes from things like temper tantrums or siblings fighting. Do you have any guidelines or systems that are helpful from the momís perspective to guide through those?

Mariah: Yeah, I mean, I think the biggest thing I always say is, again, consistency is so important. So thereís a lot of schools of thought around those things. And I do have skills that I teach around them, but most importantly, when I work with someone, I look to see, whatís their parenting style? Because what works for one parent isnít going to work for another. So, for example, I have a client who has a very, very, very gentle parenting approach and itís really difficult for her to implement any kind of boundaries or discipline with her child. And so we came up together with a system thatís really, really gentle for how she deals with temper tantrums with her son. Whereas another parent needs more structure and more kind of firmness in their parenting. And so, whatever your style is, thereís a system that can work for it, but itís so important that you choose something you stick with it.

So, you know, I have a neighbor who has a young daughter who was hitting at school, and she was like, ďYou know, this person is telling me to handle it this way. And this person is telling me to handle it this way.Ē And I said, ďYou know, honestly, it doesnít matter. I think those are both like good approaches, theyíll both work, but you have to choose one, and you have to feel competent in it, right, you have to own it as a parent that this is what you wanna do and this is how you wanna handle it.Ē So, I think that when it comes to temper tantrums, you know, Iím a big fan of being really present with kids when theyíre emotionally dysregulated, and staying with them through that process, and validating their feelings, and holding space for them. And I know that sometimes as a parent, that that breaks down, right? And itís like, you get to a point where you canít be in the room anymore, and you need to leave.

And so part of like choosing the approach youíre going to take and choosing the system youíre going to take is to be honest with yourself about whatís going to work for you, right? So if youíre not the parent who can sit through a 20-minute temper tantrum, itís okay to leave the room for a couple of minutes, right? Like, thatís okay to do as long as your child is in a safe space, and you feel like, you know, things are okay. So itís really about choosing something thatís gonna work for you and being consistent, I think is the number one thing. I think thereís so many resources out there for parents telling you, ďThis is the right way to do it or this is the wrong way to do it.Ē And I really aim not to be one of those voices, you know, because I wanna empower parents to look within and find the system thatís going to be the most aligned for them in their parenting practice.

Katie: Yeah, I think thatís an important point for sure. And I know one thing that helped me internally figure this out, realizing that, oftenÖI see this in business, I see this in my household, often thereís a recurring issue if I look at it as, oh, this is actually a management problem. Like, what can I do that I have the ability to change that would help make this less stressful for everybody? But one thing in this particular camp that was helpful for me was realizing temper tantrums in and of themselves arenít a problem. I was trying to fix a problem that wasnít actually a problem. Itís a problem if it leads to hitting a sibling, or hurting someone else, or breaking things. But I think often it can be back to that idea of separating the emotion from the action. The emotions themselves arenít bad.

And I as an adult had to actually do therapy around the fact that I had detached from certain emotions because I had internalized as a child that they were either inconvenient, or bad, or harmful, and that I wasnít supposed to ever feel angry, or sad, or mad. Like, I had detached from those. And then I had to relearn, like, these are normal human emotions. Iím judging them in a way I donít need to judge them. And how can I both model this and also give my kids safe ways to understand and express their emotions? And I think thatís partially things like giving them words to explain it beyond just, like, I feel mad. Well, what specifically do you feel? Where do you feel it in your body? What does it feel like? Giving them tangible words can help them process it, but also validating, itís very normal to feel mad sometimes.

And, you know, if you wanna have a temper tantrum in your bed and, like, punch your pillows as hard as you can, like, I will cheer for you, and letís talk about it, and letís process it. Giving them space for that versus shutting it down, ironically, actually makes it, at least in my house, happen less often, I think because they feel validated in their experience. But then still adding that piece of, youíre still responsible for what you do and your actions no matter what your emotion is. And so letís talk about these two things, and how can we work together to have a system where your emotions donít lead to actions that are going to cause consequences for you, but also that you have a safe way to express your emotions. So maybe we need to talk about it. Maybe weíre gonna sing. Maybe weíre gonna have a temper tantrum together. Maybe weíre gonna go for a walk. Like, what is this thing for each child that helps them have a tool? And I think, like, for me, at least thatís a big thing I think about it, like, what are tools that would actually help in whatever the situation is.

Another piece that seems to come into play is environment as well. Like, Iíve talked about this with previous podcast guests. Like, we have the idea as humans, we understand we shape our environment, but also our environment shapes us, whether it be what weíre sitting on and our posture, down to the things that are in our environment will influence the activities that weíre doing. So any tips for curating a great environment that helps build some of these systems naturally or that encourages kids naturally to play or be creative, or be bored?

Mariah: Iím a really big advocate of simplicity in spaces for kids and toy rotation. Toy rotation is like the best thing ever I think for children, especially young children. I think so much of the time, kids are overstimulated. And it doesnít mean that you need to get rid of all your toys, or anything like that, but the more we can take things away that are excess and kind of just give kids a few things, the more they have space to find that creativity, and the flow, and the boredom, and all those things. So, you know, having just a few toys out at a time in a room and keeping everything else put up in a closet, and then every couple of weeks, you bring them back out. And the other added benefit of that is that the wonderful things about kids is they forget about the toys while theyíre gone. And so, when they come back, theyíre brand new and exciting again. But also when it comes to your routines and things like that, you know, having things being accessible for kids.

You know, I love the Montessori style setup, where everythingís within reach, everything is allowed to be touched. And, you know, thatís not always realistic for your entire home. And thatís totally fine. But that in childrenís bedrooms, that they can reach their own clothes and get them out, and that in their bathrooms that their stool is set up, you know, where they can climb up safely and brush their own teeth, and things like that, because especially younger children are really motivated by that autonomy, really, kids of all age are motivated by that autonomy and, you know, need for independence. And so, the more you set it up that they can feel empowered in that, the less fighting youíre gonna have to do and the less youíre going to have to do for them. You know, like you said about your kids doing their laundry as soon as theyíre able, you know, thatís the way I was raised. And I think that kids naturally want to do things for themselves as part of being a child, you know, is that they wanna learn and they want to grow. And so the more you make that, like, practically accessible to them in their space, the easier over time weíre all going to have.

Katie: Absolutely. And I think, yeah, just anythingÖ Iím a big fan of nonspecific toys, so things like Legos, Montessori toys are great, things that could be rotated in and out and that like lead to creativity versus youíre trying to do it one particular way. And this way has one particular way you can play with it. I also love in our house having art supplies always available. I made a decision early on that our house was meant to be lived in. And so there were going to be handprints and footprints from handstands on the wall, and there was gonna be paint on the kitchen table. And Iíll just get a new kitchen table when all my kids are grown. But for now, itís gonna be colorful, and thatís great. But just things like that or, like, if we want our kids to move more, Iíve talked about putting things like yoga swings in the room or a gymnastics mat in the hallway. Like, kids naturally have all these movement patterns. So just putting things as reminders in their way of whatever the thing is creativity, or movement, or whatever it is.

But I love those practical tips. And I know you have so, so many more in your work as well. So Iím gonna link to you in the show notes. For all of you guys listening, thatís wellnessmama.fm. So you guys can find Mariah, and learn from her because she posts a lot of great stuff related to all the things weíve talked about. I know you work with people directly, as well, so if people want to reach out to you. And as we get toward the end of our time, a couple other questions I love to ask, the first being, if thereís a book or a number of books that have had a profound impact on your life, and if so what they are and why.

Mariah: Yeah, itís so funny I thought a lot about this question because, of course, it feels so hard to choose just one. And I went through in my head all of these, like, spirituality books or personal development. And then whatís so funny is I felt drawn to share something from my childhood, which is, as a little girl, I was obsessed with the ďLittle House on the PrairieĒ books by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And we just named our son Wilder. And so itís something thatís important to my husband and I both. And I think that, you know, weíre all such products of our conditioning. And for me, that was such a big part of what I was drawn to as a little kid. And so it still feels so important to me because I think those books speak to family and the simplicity of family life. You know, theyíre really aboutÖ I used to play for hours, you know, scenes from those books because I loved that what they really were about were our relationships with each other and about kind of the day-to-day things that we did, you know, turning butter and making clothes. And I think itís so funny that thatís in some ways really connected to what I do today.

Katie: I loved that series too when I was growing up. My kids are reading it now, and it is so fun to see them get to go through that journey as well. I love the name Wilder. Congratulations on your new little one, by the way. And any parting advice you wanna leave with the listeners, could be related to everything weíve talked about or something entirely unrelated?

Mariah: I mean, I would say if I could share one thing with parents, in general, I would just say that, you know, I know itís so difficult to hear that advice that everybody likes to share that, oh, the days are short. And you know, Iím sorry, the days are long and the years are short, so enjoy it while it last. But that really if you can do one thing to make a shift in your family, itís to find a way to be present in the times when you are with your kids. So, you know, itís impossible to be present with them all the time and also to take the pressure off of that and back to the mom guilt to let go of that need to be present all the time but really to choose times when you are completely giving your undivided attention to your family and your children so that you can soak in those moments when youíre able to and then take the pressure off the rest of the time that you donít have to do that all of the time.

Katie: I think thatís a perfect place to wrap up. And Iím deeply appreciative of your work. I think youíre tackling a big issue like we talked about in the beginning with mom guilt and all these cultural expectations that are making something much harder than it needs to be. And I think thereís a lot of freedom for us as moms in finding these simple shifts that can make such a big difference. And that anytime we can help moms make those shifts, we help families make those shifts, and we help society make those shifts. I think youíd agree I said a lot on this podcast, but that moms are the most powerful force in the universe. And I love that your work is so supportive of moms and families. Thank you so much for your time and being here today.

Mariah: Thank you so much. Itís great talking with you.

Katie: And thanks as always, to all of you for sharing your most valuable resources, your time, your energy, and your attention with us today. Weíre both so grateful that you did, and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of the ďWellness MamaĒ podcast.

If youíre enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.



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