Nina Restieri’s guide to trading mom-guilt for a life you love is perfect for fans of The Art of Good Enough by Dr. Ivy Ge and You Are a F*cking Awesome Mom by Leslie Anne Bruce. While the advice in this book is evergreen, it applies more than ever with added pressures of motherhood throughout the pandemic. The Child Therapy List had a chance to ask Nina about her new book, Overcoming the Mom-Life Crisis.
Thank you Nina, for writing Overcoming the Mom-Life Crisis, and for speaking to us.
Your book taps a nerve with moms who are at a crisis point, feeling overwhelmed, unhappy, sad, anxious, or depressed.
What in your view, are the big issues for moms and mothering today, that make the timing right for your book?
Moms are under an unprecedented amount of pressure right now due to the pandemic. Between trying to work while the kids are home from school, trying to keep the kids on track with school work during remote learning, and trying to maintain your sanity and keep your kids happy when no one can leave the house – it’s been brutal. And moms of younger kids are under incredible stress too. It can be so lonely and isolating to be a new mom even during normal times – but add in the pandemic, where we’ve lost the ability to find community with other new moms, to spend time with our kids’ grandparents, to go to playgroups and baby classes and playgrounds. It makes mothering that much harder.
The writing feels more personal with every chapter. You share mom pain points early on, like ‘Shoulds’ and ‘Good Mom Types’ and my heart skipped when I read, “My unhappiness is impacting my parenting.” At page 53, I committed to your wisdom and by page 66 you felt like a friend.
Did you write the book to become increasingly intimate and what experience do you hope to deliver to the reader?
Thank you – I’m so happy to hear the book resonated with you. To answer your question, I think I realized as I was writing the book that it was going to be important to be really transparent about my experience. Even though it was very personal and it was often hard to write about, I thought I’d really be wasting my time if I didn’t approach it that way. I think you have to come from a place of real authenticity and truth in order to connect with the reader. So that was my goal in my writing, to be authentic and truthful so that readers could connect with my experience and maybe see themselves, this universal truth of what it’s like to be a mom and lose yourself in the process. And maybe there can be an experience where the reader doesn’t feel so alone in their struggle.
When you go on social media today there are so many depictions of motherhood being just an experience of joy and happiness and awesomeness. And for those of us who are struggling with the mom-life crisis, you can feel really alone, like no one else understands. You ask yourself, why am I so miserable when it seems like everyone else is so happy? I have it all, who am I to feel sad? So I hope my reader has an experience where she feels like she’s not alone, like this is a universal experience and we’re all doing our best. And just because no one talks about it, doesn’t make it any less real.
You dedicate chapter 8 to overwhelm, and offer eight ways to decrease overwhelm. What kind of parenting regrets would you say come from moms being overwhelmed?
You can’t be your best self when overwhelmed. Being overwhelmed takes away your ability to be calm and rational. And we can do all the self-help work in the world, and do all the therapy and coaching, but it only works if we’re in a place of calm when things happen. Overwhelm can contribute to anxiety and depression. Overwhelm can make you resentful toward others – I know it did for me. And these effects can snowball over time, if you don’t deal with the overwhelm and take care of yourself.
So I would say parenting regrets that come from overwhelm vary based on the person, but they may include snapping at our partners or kids, or withdrawing. Overwhelm can lead us to behave in ways that can sabotage our relationships.
You share that at one point your kids might have gotten an all-or-nothing mentality from you.
How much positive influence would you say moms can have on their kids, as role models? What kinds of challenges or outcomes do you think are preventable for kids, through mom role modelling self-care and living a personal vision for life?
I really believe that role-modeling is the most powerful way we teach our kids. Our actions have a far greater impact than our lectures or explanations. I’ll use an easy example. Let’s say you tell your kids verbally that eating lots of green vegetables is important for good health. But then when you’re at home with them, you consistently feed the family fast food and chips and soda. Which lesson are they going to learn? Clearly they’ll grow up thinking fast food and soda are what’s for dinner. And it’s not that you didn’t teach them about vegetables – it’s that you didn’t model that behavior for them so they don’t have a reference point for it.
That’s one of the reasons I wrote this book. I want moms everywhere to understand that their kids are watching them and observing them every minute, unconsciously building blueprints for how to be a parent and spouse and human. So if you want your kids to be happy parents, show them how to do that by taking care of yourself and making yourself happy. Show them that it’s ok to have your own needs, that it’s ok to take time for yourself, that it’s ok to say no sometimes. That’s the most powerful way to teach them.
That goes for relationships as well. If you want your kids to be in a happy marriage someday, model what that looks like. Show outward love for your spouse. Be a giver. Because then the kids will learn that that’s what love looks like.
What does a hopeful future for moms look like to you?
What I want is for every mom to have the freedom to make choices that make her happy, without society telling her she’s wrong or selfish. I have a lot of hope, as more and more women are brave enough to speak up about this matter, that things will begin to change for moms. I see my daughter, who’s 22 now, making choices that are right for her rather than trying to please others, and I feel like there’s definitely hope.
Overcoming the Mom-Life Crisis