Kristin and Monique, author of Intentional Motherhood: Who Said It Would Be Easy?, discuss her book and share tips to connect with your children and communicate your needs with others to better enjoy this time of transition.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m so excited to be joined today by Monique Russell.  Monique is a clear communication coach and the author of Intentional Motherhood.  Hi, Monique!

Monique:  Hi, Kristin, how are you?

Kristin:  Doing so well!  I would love to hear a bit about your back story as far as your journey into becoming a young mother and also what led you to write this book on intentional motherhood.

Monique:  Oh, absolutely.  So right now, I live in Atlanta, Georgia, but I grew up in the beautiful islands of the Bahamas, and I left the Bahamas after I graduated high school and I moved to cold Minnesota.  And that’s where I went to college.  It was one semester after I started college that I found myself pregnant.  It was an unplanned pregnancy.  I switched schools from where I was going.  I was going first to the College of St. Benedict, and then I switched to St. Cloud State.  And so I had my son and literally, like, that next semester, I picked up – I started picking back up classes that January.  But in between that, I had my mom come, and she was there when I gave birth, and she was there after I gave birth, to sort of help me get acclimated back into the routine of things.  But as I was going to school, as I was working – I was working on campus as a multicultural student consultant, and I was also working a retail job at the time in customer service while going to school and raising my son.

Kristin:  Busy!

Monique:  Tell me about it!  I happened to be so fortunate to have his childcare right on campus, which was such a blessing because so many of the teachers there – some were trying to get into early ed, and so they had all this excitement about working with young babies, and they were being mentored.  And so my son had one of the best early experiences at that daycare on campus.  And then I just kind of continued to finish my studies.  I did my undergrad in broadcast journalism.  I did both my graduate programs in communications, as well, one in PR and one in advertising.  And shortly after, I was asked to teach other moms around campus and on campus who were twice my age about parenting.

Kristin:  Wow!

Monique:  Yes.  And I was actually surprised, and I did.  I did the workshops; I did the speaking engagements.  And all throughout my life, I will just be so honest; I never saw myself as being handicapped or limited by having a child so early.  I just always had in my mind that I just have to continue to do whatever I had set out to do.  But fast forward to where we are today.  This book just came out last year.

Kristin:  I noticed that.  February, correct?

Monique:  Yes, just last year, and I never had it in my mind to – you know, it definitely wasn’t something that I was going to write about, talk about.  I mean, it’s not even been a part of my brand for forever.  But I had a lot of questions about how I did things and what helped me to still move through growing a business, working, and taking care of my kids, and it was through reflection, through coaching, through healing, through therapy, that I realized it was about my mindset and my identity.  So when I grew up, we did not have – I am the eldest on my mom’s side.  It’s me and my two youngest brothers.  We didn’t grow up with a lot of media influences, a lot of TV influences.  I think I had one hour a week I could watch TV, Kristin.

Kristin:  Not typical!

Monique:  It’s not.  It’s not.  And I think that’s part of why I don’t watch much today, either, but as I was reflecting about the whole experience and how our mindsets are shaped and formed or how mine was formed, I point back to a lot of these types of things because there were people around me when I got pregnant who thought that I would not finish school.  They thought that I wouldn’t, you know, become a success because I would end up as a statistic, which I obviously did not.  And I think back to, okay, well, where did this mindset actually begin?  And I think it’s because I wasn’t surrounded with so many stories of failure around parenting or of failure around young people and parenting.  And then my mom was a very strong support for me.  So this journey of the book came through my personal experiences being a young mom, losing some of my identity after I had my second son, building back my confidence, working with my clients on their confidence and their professional careers and their business lives, and just really chronicling the whole journey of what it means to be an intentional mom because I think we tend to plan everything out in our lives.  We plan our marriage.  We plan our college.  We plan where the kids are going to extracurricular activities.  But somehow when this motherhood thing comes up, we just tack it along and keep going as though, okay, nothing’s changed.  We’re just a mom, and we keep going.  And then when we can’t keep up with everything or we feel low or we don’t feel like ourselves and we feel isolated, we feel like a failure.  So it’s us stopping to redefine what success looks like and stopping to redefine and really step into the identity of being a mom.

Kristin:  Yes.  So much changes, and it can be overwhelming if you’re trying to compare yourself to the Instagram moms or Pinterest moms or society’s expectations.  So I do love how individualized your approach is.

Monique:  Yeah.  That’s so true because you don’t even have to a mom to be impacted by the social media feelings, right?

Kristin:  Yes!

Monique:  That’s one thing I would always say, too.  Follow the people in your social media who are showing positive stories or who are showing the reality of what it is that they’re facing so that you won’t feel alone or you won’t feel as though you’re not measuring up because those stories can begin to play in your head so quickly, and before you know it, you’re in a spiral thinking that, oh my God, just not measuring up.  And I don’t want any mom to have to feel like that.  Or if you do feel like that, knowing how to kind of journal your way or gratitude your way or talk through your way out of that feeling.

Kristin:  Makes complete sense.  I tell my birth clients during pregnancy to surround themselves with positivity.  Hearing positive birth stories versus the fear-filled ones, and really finding a group of supportive friends and family members.  And then after they give birth in that postnatal phase, really finding people who are telling it like it is.  And like you said, telling the truth versus having the filtered version of motherhood.  The ideals of perfection that we have.

Monique:  Oh, my God, I was a perfectionist, Kristin, in a past life.  In a past life I was a perfectionist; my goodness.  But that journey to letting go of that, and I write about that in the book, too, the journey to embracing that and recognizing the difference between self-like and self-love, what we are doing when we like ourselves, which is a lot of that internal/external stuff, versus when we love ourselves and we’re embracing the thoughts and the feelings that we have and we’re setting up healthy boundaries for ourselves and having realistic expectations and being gentle and patient and kind with ourselves so that we can pass that down to the little humans that we’re raising who are observing everything that we do.

Kristin:  They sure are.  There’s no doubt.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com.  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  I would love to chat with you a bit about your communications skills.  We launched an online course in March called Becoming A Mother, as our clients were feeling quite isolated during the pandemic and wanted a community of supportive women.  So our course gets into a lot about communicating your unique needs in regards to both your expectations for birth and also parenting and surrounding COVID, visitor restrictions in the hospital or visitors after baby arrives.  So I would love to hear your thoughts on, especially during pregnancy, having those tough conversations with family members and friends and communicating your needs to your partner if there’s a partner involved, rather than waiting until you go into labor or after baby arrives.  What are your thoughts on that?

Monique:  Absolutely.  It is essential because when we don’t let our feelings out, they just bottle and turn inward, and our baby is feeling those feelings, too.  So I know sometimes it’s not always easy to open up, especially if you are afraid of being ostracized or you’re feeling like you’re being downplayed, but I would suggest, even if it’s just one person – because I remember when I had my second child, I stayed home for a while, and it became very isolating.  It definitely wasn’t a pandemic, but it was isolating nonetheless, and not having the type of conversation – you know, my husband was working, and he’s at work, and I’m at home.  Not everybody is at home with their kids.  I had a friend.  She actually lived and still lives in South Africa, and she became my daily catch-up relief person, and it was incredible.  We weren’t meeting in person because we were thousands and thousands of miles away.  So I would say, you know, release – first, release the expectation that it has to be someone in your biological family that you are opening up to because at the end of the day, sometimes we are in situations with family, blood family, that may not be as supportive.  So think about family as having that support and reach out to that person.  Share your heart.  Use journaling as a tool, but try not to keep it into yourself because it’s not going to do you or the baby any good.

Kristin:  So true.  Very helpful advice.  And so as far as communicating with the partner, any tips for our listeners on really setting the type of support that a mother would be looking for, especially after baby arrives or how to best support her doing labor and so on?  That can be uncomfortable for some women.

Monique:  Definitely, especially because we don’t know what to say.  Sometimes we don’t even know how to articulate what it is that we need.  All we know is that we will know it when we feel it, and I will use both of my pregnancies as examples because with my first son, there was almost this unspoken communication with my mom, with those around me, that knew, okay, to bring a warm towel, to help massage my lower back that was filled with so much pain.  You know, different things that were things that I didn’t even have to verbalize.

Kristin:  Yes.  Things a doula would do, sure.

Monique:  Yes, so you know!  No one even has to tell you.  A lot of times with our partners, oh, my goodness.  They don’t have a manual, either.

Kristin:  Exactly, and they want to fix things.  They just don’t know what to do.

Monique:  They don’t know what to do, and they don’t know how.  So you have to express – instead of saying, “My back is hurting,” you know, “Can you get a warm towel for my back?”  This is what I have observed: being very clear about what it is that you want to happen or what it is that you need support, where you need support, that’s going to reduce your own level of frustration because if you’re speaking in general terms, then you’ll feel like you’re not being understood, and your partner’s also going to feel frustrated because, you know, they don’t know what to do.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Monique:  So as much as you can to articulate with clarity, as much clarity as you can, and I wish I could tell you I got this right because I didn’t, Kristin.  I was like, “Oh, my God, I can’t take that smell.”  There was something I used to love eating before I got pregnant; mackerel.  And when I got pregnant, I could not take the smell.  I couldn’t take the smell, and in the beginning, that’s all I would do.  I would complain about the smell; complain about the smell.  And, you know, I had to get very clear and just say, “Don’t buy mackerel.  Don’t buy mackerel anymore.  Don’t buy it.  Or if you cook it, don’t cook it when I’m around.  Let me go out because the smell is going to drive me crazy.”  And you may think, like, okay, that’s self-explanatory.  Like, I shouldn’t have to do all of that explanation.  But trust me, the more clear you can get, the better it’s going to be for everyone.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  Totally agree.  Circling back to your book, Intentional Mothering, any highlights that you want to cover and resources that our readers may be interested in?

Monique:  Sure.  The book is a short, quick read.  It’s written with also prompts, journal prompts and exercises so you can take your time and actually think through.  It has eight chapters.  The first one is “Who said it would be easy?” because who said it would be easy?  Chapter two is, “It’s not about age; it’s about identity,” and this is, like, how we see ourselves.  We don’t have to be biological moms to be moms.  It’s not about biology.  It’s not about how old you are.  It’s about how you see yourself.  If you see yourself as a nurturer, as a carer, as a provider.  “The identity of a mom” is the third chapter, and that talks about how our identity shifts so much when we do become a mom and how we can take time to redefine what that means for each one of us individually.  Chapter four is about a woman’s likes versus a woman’s loves, and we talked a little bit about what that means.  Chapter five is about the working mom.  “The working mother,” that’s what it’s called.  And that chapter is filled with practical tips.  You know, when your kids are older, how to batch and how to have meetings and things like that so you’re not overwhelmed.  Chapter six is about apologizing to your kids.  Chapter seven is called “The ego-full father,” and I met my biological dad at the age of eight, and it was a journey of trial and error to connect, but in this chapter, I dispel so many myths about the fathers and the men in our lives that are leading from their ego.  It’s not that they don’t want to connect.  They don’t know how.  And so when we as an intentional mom have a deeper awareness of communication, we can choose how to navigate those conversations.  And then the final chapter is “Intentional conversations,” and that’s really about being an intentional mom, leaning into conflict.  And so that means that we’re setting aside time to build connection with our siblings, to build connection with our friends, with our partners, and just really being intentional all around in our conversations so that we’re not carrying hurt or overwhelm, frustration, in our bodies or in our hearts.

Kristin:  Love it.  And I did notice that you have some amazing reviews on Amazon, so way to go.

Monique:  Thank you!

Kristin:  Outside of Amazon, how else can our listeners find your book?

Monique:  You can get it on my website.

Kristin:  Great.  And then for anyone who happens to be interested in your communications business, would you like to share that contact info as well, Monique?

Monique:  Absolutely.  So the same way you can reach me, by my website, or you can visit my LinkedIn profile.

Kristin:  Great.  And you’re also a podcaster?

Monique:  I am!  I’m a podcaster.  My podcast is called Bridge To U, understanding and Black unity.  It focuses on diversity and inclusion among Black cultures through highlighting awakening conversations in their journey to discover themselves.

Kristin:  Amazing.  I will check it out for sure.  So any last tips or words of advice for our listeners?

Monique:  Yes.  I want every single mom that is listening to us to know that you can’t mess it up.  You can’t mess it up.  Give yourself grace.  Give yourself grace.  You’re doing an awesome job.  Try not to take the world on your shoulders.  There is no right or wrong way to connect with your child, but there’s definitely effective ways to connect through communication.  So just keep doing the great job that you’re doing and stay encouraged.

Kristin:  That is perfect.  And my add on to your advice would be ask for help.  You don’t have to do it alone.

Monique:  Yes, definitely ask for help!

Kristin:  Thanks so much for your time, Monique!  I loved chatting with you, and I hope we can reconnect sometime.

Monique:  I would love that.  Thank you for having me on the show.

Kristin:  Of course.  Take care.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.


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