Artwork for podcast Happy Mama Movement with Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
#202 - Not Another F*ing To-do List with Dr Jacqueline Kerr
Episode 20213th July 2022 • Happy Mama Movement with Amy Taylor-Kabbaz • Amy Taylor-Kabbaz
00:00:00 00:46:10

Share Episode

Shownotes

When I listened to the TEDx talk in preparation for this conversation, I was moved to tears because my guest, Jacqueline Kerr, really brings to light what Mum burnout looks like. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how much is on her to do list.

Please note - there is discussion around suicidal ideation within this interview so please be mindful if this is right for you and check in with yourself, reaching out to others if required.

Within this discussion, Amy and Jacqueline explore:

  • Standing in the position of being triggered by several experiences and situations which lead us to feeling that we are not being able to show gratitude and thank others.
  • How our body can tell us that we need a new life, do things differently and the serious consequences that can happen if we push it down considerably.
  • The systematic, cultural, societal and individual change that needs to happen in how much we ask of mothers.
  • The conditions of burnout - including lack of reward, injustice, value conflicts, autonomy to name a few.

This episode reminds us that changes are going to need to come on all levels, from big cultural ones to small individual lenses. To watch the TEDx talk mentioned in this episode please visit https://youtu.be/9YY0gVnVPoQ which is a wonderful support to this conversation.

If you would like a deeper understanding of matresence and how we support women differently, Mama Rising facilitator training opens just once a year. For early offers and to join the 5 days to a motherhood revolution event before August, please jump the link below to join the wait list. https://mamarising.net/mama-rising-waitlist/

Transcripts

[:

[00:00:38] Welcome back Mamas.

[:

[00:01:20] It just happened to be the day that I watched this TEDx Talk, that the tank was pretty empty. And as I watched it, there were tears. Because today's guest, Dr. Jacqueline Kerr, really brings to light what mum burnout looks like. And it has absolutely nothing to do with how much is on her to do list. Mum burnout is the cultural, societal pressure that is on mothers to do it all and do it perfectly.

[:

[00:02:25] And so, before we begin this absolutely insightful and powerful conversation, I would just like to say a warning. There is discussion around suicidal ideation in this interview. So please be mindful of whether this is right for you today. Please check in with yourself on whether this is a conversation you were ready for today. And if you are, get ready, we are going to shine a light on what burnout really is for modern mums. And also what real solutions look like. Enjoy.

[:

[00:03:22] Thank you so much for having me. And it was a tough topic. And interestingly enough, for myself, I've done a lot of public speaking; but, stepping onto that red sort of circle, that is the TEDx stage, oh my goodness. I really, I was like, I was really struggling to make that step. I knew it was going to be emotional. And yeah, it was, it was kind of, the whole thing was quite overwhelming.

[:

[00:03:50] I could feel that emotion, and I think that's why it was so emotional for me. And the emotion didn't feel like nerves because you're on a TED stage. It was because what you're about to share was so deeply personal, but also so universal, which is what I really want us to talk about. But the way you started,

[:

[00:04:34] I did it, so I can't say thank you. Oh, that story, the way you started with that story, I think it lands so deeply because every single mama listening to this right now knows that feeling. Well I can't say thank you, what about all the times I did it? This then triggered a big moment in your life. Let's start there.

[:

[00:05:01] Yeah, thank you. And hopefully we'll come back to, now my husband and I thank each other profusely all the time. So there's really hope in this story, honestly. It's, it is incredible. Um, and when, I just got goosebumps saying that in thinking, oh my goodness, how much our lives have changed in some ways since then.

[:

[00:05:51] you no longer have friends or hobbies.” And it was like this cut to my heart because it was so true. I mean, I was cooking dinner and I hated cooking. I had loved cooking, it had been one of my favorite things to do, and now it was just another chore that I had to do. And I think that's always been the case with me, that I can get through a lot

[:

[00:06:36] so I have this timestamp. And we had just spent the Christmas holidays where he hadn't taken time off of work, I was with the kids. I knew I was going back into the office the week after, and I kept that diary from that week. It was full. Every single moment was full. So I was just stretched so thin. And then that emotional kind of, um, knife cut just,

[:

[00:07:25] cautious with me about how I speak about this, because my TEDx Talk and, and my message is not about suicide prevention. Um, and they also wanted me to make sure that I communicate that, don't get to the point where you're feeling suicidal. Burnout starts way, way earlier and being suicidal is not the definition of burnout,

[:

[00:08:08] nobody shares stories like this. And he goes, I was so lost in that time, I didn't know what to do to support you. And I didn't know how serious it was, so please do it for other husbands and dads. So, that's what happened to me that night. I basically wrote a letter to my kids and I kind of said in it, um, you know, you're so amazing.

[:

[00:08:55] I should be taking that advice myself. But at that moment, I couldn't quite see it like that. And I did, I just felt so desperate. And then, you know, for a few weeks afterwards, I definitely was in that sort of state of despair and, and making plans in my head. Like how can I do this in a way that I don't hurt everyone, but I just don't want to go on anymore.

[:

[00:09:48] Right. Um, but for me, it wasn't that I, I mean, because, so awful to say but I was like, I want to be here to know the consequences. Right? So it's so selfish, but so real. And then, you know what, the, one of the best things that I learned in this process, because there was so much shame in, in this feeling as a mother to be saying these things and feeling these things.

[:

[00:10:43] It's your body telling you, you need a new life. And I was like, okay, thank God. It was, that's what it was telling me. It was telling me I had to do something different. Um, and so, yeah. I'm so grateful that we were able to get help. And I know in this process, I have met other women who have known other mums who have passed, who have died basically,

[:

[00:11:28] I did wear my busy badge with pride, but there is no pride in, you know, how this impacted me and what it could have done. So, yeah, it's a tough one.

[:

[00:12:07] is often spoken about in terms of too much on your to-do list, you know. Go for a massage, ask for some help, book a babysitter, those types of things. And before we started speaking today, we, before we started recording, we jokingly said we could call this episode “Don't give me another f-ing list.”

[:

[00:12:28] Because that is not the answer to what we're talking about here, is it?

[:

[00:12:47] Yes, exactly. Um, just to give some more context about kind of the, the burnout cycle; there's Freudenberger and North has this 12 stage cycle of change. And stage one is the need to prove yourself. So I think that's so important to remember that's where we could intervene, right, at stage one. And I'll talk a little bit about that from agenda perspective, but you go through and that's basically prove yourself, work harder,

[:

[00:13:37] so it can be kind of different behaviors at that point. And then, that's then after that point that it starts to tip into the inner, really inner distress and, and potential suicide aviation, and then the burnout. So, yeah, it, I mean, it definitely is on that scale, the, the, of, the depression and the suicide ideation is it's definitely on that scale, up to the twelve.

[:

[00:14:35] but, the conditions for burnout include lack of autonomy, lack of reward and injustice and value conflicts. Now, if we think about that women are not promoted and mums in particular face the maternal wall and the motherhood penalty, then these are the conditions that create burnout. You know, if we're not promoted to then be in a position, maybe of management, where we have more autonomy, and we're not rewarded

[:

[00:15:24] But if we think back to that need to prove yourself, it also sort of fits into that framework. Which is, as a mum, if your commitment is constantly questioned, and as women we know that

[:

[00:15:58] publish equally. Then after birth, it's the, the mums who don't publish as much, but the fathers actually, again, it's not just that we have this motherhood penalty, then fathers get a fatherhood bonus. They're promoted for the same circumstance where we are demoted or not given the opportunity. And even sort of very specifically in academia, there's this tenure clock.

[:

[00:16:47] And so that mums aren't having to keep reproving themselves and work harder. And to be honest, that's part of my shame in my process, was when academic moms would come to me or women and, and explain that they were struggling and the barriers that they'd have, my answer as a mentor always was, work harder.

[:

[00:17:23] So, perhaps hypothetically or in actuality, if a mother came in and asked you now, what would you say? What is the answer then, if she's asking this, if she's struggling with this. When the world does tell her, well, you just need to work harder, get up earlier, hire a nanny, all of that. What, what do we say to her instead?

[:

[00:18:15] And to me that just, um, you know, and again, this is one of the stereotypes that we, we face as, as mums and as, as women. Which is, we will volunteer. We will serve others. We will care for others. And so when you act in that counter stereotypical way, you can be penalised. Though we’re being penalised anyway, right.

[:

[00:18:59] two times as much, not ten times as much. So really trying to pull that, that over proving. I accept we have to probably prove ourselves more, but we don't have to do it ten times over. And so actually, um, another Australian coach, who um was on my podcast, gave this advice which I absolutely love. Because as mums, to each other we're not necessarily the best role models,

[:

[00:19:47] Basically what that means. I know, isn't it great? That’s brilliant. And it works so much. It's so, it's so, its like once you start to use it, it totally works. Because if you think about back to the volunteering, I mean, volunteering at the kids' school is not even on my husband's radar, let alone that he's feeling guilty for not doing enough of it.

[:

[00:20:28] the competitive books. And, um, she says, so I'm getting really stuck in that bit. I'm like, so how many are you writing about? She goes 30. I was like, okay, how many would a mediocre man write about? She goes, two. Like no question, answered it, just like that, two. I'm like, there's your answer. Maybe do four, you know.

[:

[00:20:55] Ooh.

[:

[00:21:28] physical health, their wellbeing. And there's going to be parts of this world that suffer for that. Do you see what I mean? I think it's such a sad indictment on our culture and our society of where we're at. That we have asked so much of women, and it is not expected of the men, that we're now at a point where our advice is you just can't do that at the moment.

[:

[00:22:18] And I think that so many parts there, because, again, I do, do know a mum that has volunteered so much during my kids’ plays at school. And I would do what I could in terms of like buying resources and things, but I didn't have the time to give. And I think in the past I would have tried to, but it does fill her up to be there.

[:

[00:23:05] I maybe just don't like other people's kids. I don't know. I'm just not good in that group, social sort of thing. You know, there’s, there’s maybe other tasks that I would be more comfortable volunteering around, or I don't know what it is. But I think that's what we have to admit, is if it doesn't fill your cup and you don't have time, then don't feel the pressure to do it. Being a good mum

[:

[00:23:53] And so they got really upset and really resentful. And now the teachers are actually organizing them another dance so that they can enjoy it, and that's tomorrow night. And when my son shared that with me, I was like, wow, those girls, as 13 year olds, are over-giving and over volunteering, probably cause they see it modeled to them. And

[:

[00:24:38] Particularly in the U.S. I mean, the cost of childcare is ridiculous. It's really not available. Some companies provide it and they've shown it to be really effective for retaining parents and having, you know, higher well-being amongst their employees. So that would be something companies could do. We don't have, um, paid leave here. And not even maternity leave,

[:

[00:25:28] And I know it's still been difficult, the negotiations with their companies and it is still not seen, let’s say in, in a positive light. But I, but I agree, those are the sort of levels of support that we need from, from society. Um, so that, and even again, the other one, um, that they had during COVID was, um, child tax credits.

[:

[00:26:14] And her martial plans to mum is basically saying, you know, we should be paying mums for the labor they do in the home and for the labor they do at work. And so I think that is so important. Like if we actually valued parenting and caregiving, um, then yes, it would be such a different world. And I think it's so important because I think many young women

[:

[00:26:47] Yeah, the, um, the statistics are showing us that the, the research asking the younger generation at the moment about their feelings about becoming a parent, is women do not, they do not want to do it. They see what it is like. They see whose shoulders it falls on. Um, they see what it does to career, to work-life balance, to opportunities, all of it. You know, that's, that's a scary thing too.

[:

[00:28:12] and like you said, begin a new life because that's what was happening, was that you signed up for improv comedy. And how these then weaved into your relationship, into your parenting, and how it helped you really find yourself again. Can you share that with us? Because I think it's a beautiful reminder that once again, this is not about having another effing list.

[:

[00:28:43] Exactly. Exactly. So my journey actually started in stand-up comedy. Part of it just was that I wanted to laugh more. And I definitely knew after that comment of my husband, I was like, I need a friend and I need to get out the house. Right. I need a hobby. And so literally with, with a really quite newly formed friend, Sarah, she and I went up to, went to stand up comedy class together.

[:

[00:29:41] So that was also just such a great insight into the human condition, like that was what we were all experiencing. But it was so funny because on the first day of class, the teacher said, if you want it to be about you, it’s stand up. If you want it to be about the team, it's improv. And I went, oops, I'm in the wrong class

[:

[00:30:22] and. So basically when you step forward in any scene work that you're doing, somebody brings something and it could be anything. And actually, so many of the games that we played to, to sort of get us ready to be on stage, were often gift games. So I might just sort of hand you over and say, oh, you know, here, Amy, take this little shell. And then you would take it and go, oh wow,

[:

[00:31:09] of, of not controlling anything. You can't control anybody else's, cause you could say, see this shell. Then they start to say, yeah, shell oil company and they've gone totally in a different way from you. Right. You can't control it. So that is so awesome. That was such a great lesson for myself and in parenting. But also to go that everything you bring,

[:

[00:31:52] So again, such great practice to me is the British stiff upper lip who had suppressed all my emotions. And that's why I had to learn about them from that book; um, was okay, just bring a big emotion, just be a, so I was acting out emotions. This was fantastic practice for me, um, to do that and then have fun with. And then, mistakes.

[:

[00:32:35] So for example, there was this one time, we were on scene on stage and they, the guy sort of prompted me and said, you know, he was dying or something. He goes like, sing to me. And so I started singing. I'm terrible singer, but I belted out anyway, the one of the songs from Ariel, The Little Mermaid, because my kids were in the Ariel musical.

[:

[00:33:15] life, right. So what are the unique things that I bring to this situation? And it gave me such confidence in my ability to bring something to working on burnout that nobody else would bring, just because it was me. I would be bringing something different. And I think everything I do now, I sort of look at it and say, I'm going to say this in a way

[:

[00:34:03] It's such a beautiful process. It's really incredible. That's why I say fairy, pixie dust, unicorn magic. And then, um, I did learn a lot of the games that I share with my kids. So for example, if we go on a hike together and they're getting antsy, I start saying, okay, come on play a game. So one of them is, it's word associations.

[:

[00:34:40] get a sense of his mood or something because of the words he uses. And actually what I then discovered, cause my son is on the Autism Spectrum, and I discovered an improv comedy class for kids and teens that came from an organization that helped people with Autism. And again, he's able to

[:

[00:35:29] I'm like, I'm jealous. I want a two week improv summer camp.

[:

[00:36:09] So in improv, you're learning how to own it, name it, feel it, shift it. You’re shifting it through laughter and through that beautiful sort of unicorn energy, as you said. You're also learning how to take what people, you know, have given you to be able to give things and listen to what they say. There's a little bit of, um, letting go of control, of outcomes.

[:

[00:36:56] Right. Exactly. And actually, I'm so glad that you reflected back, that back to me so well. You're such a good active listener there. There is the technique if anybody needs it. There went the perfect technique.

[:

[00:37:13] Right. Exactly. Um, and, and that, active listening, super important. It teaches that active listening skill.

[:

[00:37:37] really present with the kids. Cause I try and set boundaries around that now. If you know, if I am in the middle of something, I'll just sort of say to them, one second I'm going to finish this and then I'm gonna really pay attention to you. And then it is that like in front of their face, face to face.

[:

[00:38:22] So, yeah, I, I think there’s so many lessons. So I think it all comes back to mindset. And that's what's so important for mums to hear is, I think it's about coaching and mindset. I don't think it's about baths and self care. And so if professional and personal development is self-care, then fine, it's self-care. At the individual level, we need to develop these skills. The emotional intelligence,

[:

[00:39:10] It's been related to reduce depression. But, but burnout is chronic stress. And so many people can't keep an exercise habit up forever. So that's why I get really frustrated when companies say, oh, it's self care. Because they're pointing their finger at you saying, it's your problem, your self care. In that pose is three fingers pointing back to them.

[:

[00:40:02] But if you're feeling like it's your own fault, it doesn't then make it a systemic problem because you're literally thinking it's your fault. Whereas when you discover, oh, actually the mum next to me is feeling the same. And so is the mum in HR. And so is the mum... And that basically, that then indicates this is so many different types of people that are having this problem, or it's a specific group like mums or other disadvantaged groups.

[:

[00:40:54] That's something I do. That's something I tell people I do because it's an active role model to tell other people you have permission to do this too. Good mums take breaks from their kids. Um,

[:

[00:41:19] Right. Right. Because yeah, as you say, it's not about, you know, being more efficient in the home and all those things. Cause yes, you can do those things, but maybe you shouldn't even be doing any of those things in the home. I mean, it, it is letting go of these expectations and this perfectionism. Um.

[:

[00:42:07] however you want to do it. That teaches us how to communicate better around our needs. Uh, instead of staying silent and then only screaming when it's too much. There's key skills we can learn around communicating with our partner, our workplace, you know, that doesn't take away from the fact that they need to be doing their work too. But we can empower ourselves more, not from being busier or doing more, but from learning how to speak up, hold boundaries, decide what's important and just what is not, all of those things.

[:

[00:42:56] Absolutely. And I think what's the great part about taking control and empowering yourself to do that is, we are, um, part of the system. So whatever we do change impacts the system as well. It's going to ripple back out. What we do in our family will ripple to other family members, to other families, into the workplace and into society.

[:

[00:43:30] Absolutely. I've always said that I believe the knowing of matresence, the understanding of what matresence is, is going to cause a revolution. Like the old, you know, women's rights. It starts with the women demanding more. You know, we will change this because we won't put up with it anymore. It is going to start with us, as mums, who say I can't and I won't anymore,

[:

[00:44:14] Thank you for being so vulnerable with all of us, so we can really see ourselves reflected in your story.

[:

[00:44:23] I have to say that was one of my favorite conversations in a long time on this podcast. As you've heard me say so many times, I love it when we can look at the experience of motherhood right now, with both a big cultural lens and a small individual lens. Because the changes are going to need to come on all levels.

[:

[00:45:08] And also holding hope that the change we need will come. But each of us, as we make these small changes in our own life, are contributing to the big changes. Please go to the show notes for Jacqueline's TEDx Talk, her podcast and all of her resources. And as always share this conversation with mamas, with friends, with partners. And a little reminder,

[:

Follow