When I started in private practice I didn’t think much about specializing. I thought clients would come see me. They did. But, as I’ve said before, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s fine. Over the years I’ve learned that there are certain groups of people who like me and do well in treatment with me, and there are others who really don’t like me which gets in the way of their treatment.
Lesbians…oddly enough don’t always like me. I shouldn’t say all, but probably 3 out of 4 don’t stick with me. Transmasculine lesbians tend to stick with me longer than others. Trans people obviously stick with me as they make up a significant portion of my practice and I love treating them. Non-binary individuals are also my jam. I love a good non-binary autistic person. They are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.
There are a few specialties that developed with me kicking and screaming- like postpartum and peri-natal mental health care. When I started I had a number of 20’s females…they all eventually got pregnant…and when I insisted I refer them to some one with actual peri-natal experience they 1. refused to leave and 2. I couldn’t find any one with peri-natal specialization. So yeah. I did a lot of research and got supervision and tips from the old school psychiatrists I worked with inpatient at the time. They saved me. Now I see a significant number of pregnant women and post-partum mood disorders. I begrudgingly admit it’s a specialty of mine that I am now rather good at.
The one specialty area I didn’t see coming were Moms. Because until 4.5 years ago I wasn’t a mom. Then I became a Mom and still felt I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I have a lot of Moms on my caseload. Moms of young kids, under the age of ten are the most common. I mean a lot. Out of 500 clients at least a 1/3.
I hear a lot about Mom-ing. It’s taught me a lot. Now that I have my own kids I often hear myself reflected in their moments of vulnerability. Fears that they are not loving enough, that they are too short with their kids. I’ve heard the worst parenting moments from people who are too scared some times to even tell their own spouse for fear of judgment. But I hear it through hitched voices as tears stream and I often feel my stomach clench with empathy.
This past weekend I had probably one of my worst parenting moments not in terms of my behavior, because I was quite proud at how calm I stayed, but one of my sons had to be dragged off a playground literally kicking and screaming in front of far too many people. All while he and I were wearing masks. Nothing like a screaming child, me sweating dragging him, through a hot mask that in that moment makes it feel 10 degrees hotter and 100% more claustrophobic.
That was only the tip of the iceberg. The car ride. Then we got home and he got sent to his room and it morphed into a couple hours of torture for us all. I did lose my shit at some points during the hours at home.
In the midst of the home debacle my other son- who loves keys- threw his hands up in frustration and said, “I can’t find my freaking keys!” I feel their speech delay is somewhat voluntary. Because I swear they always pronounce the bad words completely correct. And yes I’ve said that while looking for my keys. Many many times.
What I’ve learned as a trusted ear for parents in their darkest moments and as a parent of twin boys is that I never judge parents for even their worst moments. Because it’s hard. It’s hard at baseline. Add in a pandemic, months of homeschooling, working from home, no break from our kids ever…and yeah. It’s been rough for parents. Myself included.
I’ve obviously never had a parent tell me about blatant abuse because I would report that. I have had parents tell me about their yelling, their irritability, their short temper, and their struggles to be a good parent. I have a somewhat standard line that I use when people ask me if they are a horrible Mom.
I say, “Does your kid know you love them? Do you apologize after? Do your kids miss you when they have to go to school? Do you kiss them good-night? Do you tell them you love them? Secure attachment with a parent and child is achieved by the child knowing that you will be there for them. Kids forgive so much because they just want to be loved. Do they know you love them?” At this point if they aren’t crying already they start. And they all say their kids know they love them. They hug after a fight, they apologize. I think saying sorry is important as a parent. I have apologized to my kids before for yelling. I’ve hugged them and kissed them and explained I shouldn’t have done that.
They hear that. They see the example set that I own my mistakes and are more willing to own theirs.
We are all just trying to survive this parenting journey and it’s not okay for Mom’s to feel judged. We all do. We all feel like horrible parents. Because we go on Facebook and Insta and see posts and stories of smiling kids and smiling Moms and we think, yes they have it all together. Why don’t I?
But I promise you that no one has it all together when parenting kids. Especially not during a pandemic. As I dragged my son off the playground with my other son carrying his brother’s shoes that had been kicked off and flung…I wanted to cry, scream, and hide. But I didn’t. I kept dragging him to the car. When he kicked the seat and screamed he would break the car I eventually told him I would call the police unless he stopped. Again, not my finest moment, but he stopped.
It was a horrible day. I actually needed the next day to recover and so did he. Today when we were at a farmer’s market and I told him we had to leave he started to get angry, and I flashed back to the playground and I almost panicked, I felt it building up. But I held his hand and kept talking and reminded him how good he was being and how I knew he didn’t want to leave but we had to go…and on and on…he didn’t escalate. By the time we got to the car he was fine with leaving. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Then tonight we sat cuddling watching Peter Rabbit under an afghan. We laughed and with his head resting on my chest I knew he felt loved and supported. I know we will have hard times with him because he’s a challenge to parent. I know all my clients who are Mom’s have challenging parenting jobs. We all do. I ask instead of judgment spread support. Instead of judgment offer kindness. I’ve told a few people about the playground, and they’ve laughed and told me of their own horrible parenting memory. It made me feel better to know that I’m not the only parent who has been through that. We need to lift each other up instead of putting each other down.
To all the Moms my only advice is to let your kids know you love them. Apologize when you are wrong. Hug and kiss them good-night. And remember that you are not alone.
As an aside…I was on the phone with a friend sitting on the couch, and as we tried to have a serious discussion I watched the pumpkin appear suddenly in the air and then slowly descend from upstairs into the entryway….I had to intervene when one boy came down the stairs and started to try and hit it like a pintata while the other one held the string. #momofboys #thanksGrammafortheHalloweenbaskets