May is Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month, so I've decided to relaunch my "Momma Interviews" series--This time with an extra special set of moms. These mommas also work to support other moms and their families during the transition into new parenthood and beyond. I'm calling it the "Expert Edition", but I think you'll find that while these women definitely are experts in their work, parenthood has a way of making a beginner out of everybody. Even experts get surprised by the unexpected and learn new bits of wisdom while in the trenches!
This series is all about their experiences with motherhood, in the hopes that it provides you with some validation and new tips to try. Because for all the many different ways there are to be a mom (and there are definitely MANY ways to do it right), it's so amazing how much we moms all really have in common.
So, to kick off this series this month, I interviewed Arianna Taboada, a wife and mom of a 1-year old, and a Maternal Health Consultant for Entrepreneurs. I love what she has to say about making motherhood easier and about what surprised her most about motherhood. Check it out!
Scroll down to watch the video now, or check out the transcript and get more info about Arianna below.
Watch the video:
Catherine: Hello. I'm Catherine O'Brien and welcome to The Momma Interviews, The Expert Edition. Today, I am interviewing Arianna Taboada and she is an expert in maternity leave issues and I'm so excited that you're here because you have a great story and you have a really big background in maternal mental health as well. Why don't you share a little bit about what you do and we'll get going.
Arianna: Sure. What brought me to the series is that I have a 1-year-old so, I'm in the thick of new motherhood myself. My professional background as you mentioned is as a public health trained social worker. I did three years of training with the US Maternal and Child Health Bureau so specialized pretty early on in my career on that mother-baby dyad and on maternal mental health issues. Was formally in clinical settings, then moved into research and now, I'm in private practice where I still get to see clients, but apply the years of intervention research work that I did to really figuring out what among the best practices available is relevant for a particular person or particular situation, and I do specialize around that period of planning for leaving work and then returning to work.
Catherine: Yeah, I know because I get questions like that all the time from moms. That's one of their most stressful things is figuring out what their leave is going to look like financially and taking off and possibly not coming back to work and all these different things so that's very interesting. Very cool.
Thank you. I'm so glad that you're here and especially as a new mom because I am interviewing moms from all different stages, which is really cool because I think it just offers different perspectives and stuff and the hope is that I always believe that there's just not one right way to parent your child and how to mother your child and father your child or anything like that, and some things work for some people and not for others so, I think this is great to get a different perspective from everyone and see what's working and maybe something someone says will help someone else.
My first question how do you balance, and I know balance is an interesting word, but how do you balance mom, work and just your relationship roles?
Arianna: Sure. I would say that I am always looking for what can be taken off my plate.
Catherine: Yes. I love that.
Arianna: There's the trap of what can be added and there's so many things that are added on and just layered, task on top of task or responsibility on top of responsibilities, constantly assessing and asking myself, "What do I not have to do? What can I take away and the world will not end or no one will go hungry or no one will go unclothed or no client will go with their needs unmet?" That really helps me to parse out what are the priorities for any given day or any given hour, any given ... depending on the time frame. That is another thing that I'll do is I'll have sessions where I'm planning ahead, but for the most part, I try and stay within a shorter time frame. What do I need this week? What do I need today? What does my kid need this very moment, which can make all of the things a little less daunting.
Catherine: Right. It's true when we look ahead, it's like, "Oh, my gosh, there's so much to do." It's like, "No, you just have to worry about what you have to do right now." I love, that's such great advice. That's awesome. Cool.
The next question is most moms I speak to say there are moments when they're ready to throw in the towel. Can you describe a time you felt this way and what got you through it?
Arianna: Sure. As I was getting ready to meet with you today, I was like right now, right now I am so ready to throw in the towel. I'll just share with you and whoever's watching or reading this that about 10 days ago, March 15th, my husband and my 1-year-old and I we moved internationally.
Arianna: From Mexico back to California where I'm from and we had a very short and sudden planning period so in the span of about three weeks, we got our house packed up. We got our tickets to California.
Arianna: We got all our personal things in order, work stuff in order, and made the move. I've moved before. It's stressful in and of itself. This was the first big international move with the baby and it's just like, "Whoa." I was just done. I was so fried, but with a move, you can't really be like, "Oh, I'll just wait on the packing or I'll wait on whatever." It was one of those times where saw the limit, pushed myself to it, past it, and was just burnt out.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, so what are you going to do to recover from that? Because I know that's hugely stressful. Moving is stressful and then internationally, I imagine is even that much more stressful.
Arianna: Yeah. My husband and I actually had the great idea, he was like, "Let's just think of the first two weeks as a vacation. Let's not even think about new setup stuff. Let's think of it as a vacation." We have really been doing the minimal amount of unpacking and planning that goes along with a move and we've been going out to the park a few times-
Catherine: Good. Yeah.
Arianna: Going out to eat. Last night, we went to this family friendly brewery and just [crosstalk 06:02] for a few hours.
Arianna: Taking the vacation aspect is helpful.
Catherine: Good. No, that's such a good idea, yeah, and park is such a fun time with a 1-year-old. Very cool.
Arianna: It's like so-
Catherine: It's like they're just discovering it all and it's all so exciting, yeah. Very cool.
Catherine: All right. What do you when you feel overwhelmed, overstretched or less than?
Arianna: I think my response touches on something I mentioned earlier was take a look at the to-do list and really start slashing. What does not even need to be on that list? Because part of my personal overwhelm comes with just seeing the amount of stuff that I'm supposed to be doing. If I really reframe and think there's and say to myself and literally practice the art of reframing, but also reorganizing the way I think of what I have to do and so, it could be things I can delegate to someone else, it could be things that really just don't need to get done and I'm just adding to the fire by piling on more things. Along with the what can I not do, the literally slashing things off the to-do list.
Catherine: Yeah. No, that's so great. This next one is I've had parents tell me one of the hardest things about being a parent is the comparisons and judgments from other parents. How do you personally cope with that?
Arianna: Yeah. I think one area that maybe I wasn't expecting that I've felt this in ... I've actually had positive experience with my fellow parents.
Catherine: Good, yeah.
Arianna: One challenge that I've felt that wasn't expected is judgment or just feeling very scrutinized by my own parents, by my partner's parents, and really they raised us and we turned out okay.
Catherine: I know. That's so true. I hear that all the time, like, "They're telling us this and that," yeah.
Arianna: Yeah. Our parents have been very supportive of letting us come into our own as parents so they're not the type to give a lot of unsolicited advice, but just feeling whenever we're around and feeling observed.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. What do you feel is your greatest personal struggle with the experience of motherhood?
Arianna: I would say for me, and this comes back to part of my work, I had a not very fun pregnancy so really early on in my motherhood experience, I experienced a huge shift in what I was able to balance in terms of parenting or pregnancy, in this case, and work, so I felt like a total shadow of myself in the work [inaudible 09:04] because I felt like I had lost all productivity. I felt like I really wasn't able to reach the standard that I had set out for myself in terms of work and my professional identity.
Once I had a newborn and [inaudible 09:21] then that I set out a big block of time that I was not going to be working, but I realized how integral to my identity and my sense of being and belonging and making sense of my role in the world that my work has to do with and so I really missed that early on. When the time that I had planned to be doing no work, I actually ended up coming back just on a few hours every few days, not diving back into full-time work or anything, but I actually went back earlier than I thought I would because I felt like I needed tor reclaim that part of me.
Catherine: Right, right. What is something that has surprised you about being a mom? Something maybe you didn't realize you'd enjoy? Something you didn't know babies or kids did? Something you didn't know could bring you so much joy?
Arianna: I think watching my husband become a parent has been really fun. I don't know if he would say the same for me. Since we actually had a home birth and so, my husband was there and very [inaudible 10:50] and was with me and the baby from the minute he was born, the whole labor and the minute he was born. From that time on, they've had just this really wonderful bond and I've seen him in a whole new different light and been able to ... I would say that I've developed a new level of respect for the more emotional side of him. It's been sweet. It's been fun. It's been a learning process for me to also discover all the new layers of a person.
Catherine: Yeah. No, it definitely is opens ... I don't know. I felt like my heart got fuller just watching my husband as well, too. How has your relationship with your husband changed?
Arianna: I would say there are times where we've tried to allow ourselves the time of just both of us enjoying the baby because there's so much to do with parenthood. Sometimes I feel like we would fall into the trap of, "Okay, you be with the baby and I'll do laundry or I'll be with the baby and you cook dinner," just this because of time and logistics and needs, [crosstalk 12:21] find the time. What we really felt was important was having family time, all three of us, even if it meant we're getting a rotisserie chicken for dinner or whatever. That I think has been a great lesson that we've learned.
Catherine: Yeah. No, that's such good advice. I think it's so important that we make that time together and as a family and stuff, and you don't have to be doing them separate. In fact, we're in the middle of a move as well so it's like crazy over here. How has your relationship stayed the same?
Arianna: That's a great question. I would say that our roles, the roles that we tended to fill before, I was doing a lot of the home finance and home organization stuff, and he was taking care of a lot of stuff outside the home. I would say that those roles have definitely been consistent and to some extent magnified at certain periods over the past year.
Catherine: Yeah. That's good. How has your relationship with your friends, your family or support system changed? I know you spoke on the parents and stuff, but is there anything else? I imagine it's difficult, too, if you were moving internationally.
Arianna: Yeah. Because I lived internationally and I worked remotely mostly, I had a really small circle of in person friends and basically developed a whole new circle of in person friends who were also moms. I had the good fortune of having a postpartum doula nearby who organizes postpartum groups.
Arianna: I was able to join one of those groups and from about six weeks on through the first year, we met regularly and just hung out and got to know each other. I think the key thing for me is it was people that I probably wouldn't have made friendships with if it weren't for our kids. We just came from all different walks of life and we're in all different stages of life professionally, but we really were able to come together and realized how much we did have in common besides a kid once we're in a space together and have had a lot of opportunity to get to know each other.
Catherine: Right, right. Yeah, is there any way your relationships have stayed the same with friends, family, support system?
Arianna: Yeah. I would say my, for lack of a better term, it's the ride and die friendships, people who are [inaudible 15:54] to be in your life through thick and thin, through everything, that those became so apparent. It's the friends who would have a really late night Skype session [inaudible 16:07] after the baby went to bed and a friend who has no kids, but is willing to listen for an hour about your trials and tribulations as a new mom.
Catherine: That's awesome. Those are good friends to have for sure.
Catherine: Cool. What is the great lesson so far you've learned as a mom? Anything stick out? I feel like there's a lot, but ...
Arianna: What really stands out for me is the do less, [crosstalk 16:34] do less.
Catherine : Yeah. No, I love that. I think that's so important. Yeah, I love that. I think that's good advice for us all because I find myself doing like, "Oh, I have to add this to my list and this to my list," and finally, it's like now I feel guilty if I'm just sitting here watching a show or something because I have this big list to do, but why do I have to do all those things.
Catherine: No, I love that. I'm going to go with that one for myself I think. Do you have a favorite quote that inspires you as a mom?
Arianna: Yeah. I was thinking of this and it's a quote that actually has inspired me before being a mom and I think just I turn to it much more frequently now as a mom. It's an Audre Lord quote. Audre Lord is a black feminist poet or was, passed away from cancer, but that quote is and it's kind of the mix between the personal and the professional and the political. The quote is "Caring for myself is not an act of self-indulgence. It's an act of self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare."
Catherine: Yes, I love that, yeah.
Arianna: It speaks to the stigma or the taboo around putting yourself first and I think especially with motherhood, the perception of selfishness, but I think you know this as much as I do, but I'll say it just because not everyone is in the field of maternal health, but what we know from the research is that when mom's health is taken care of, [inaudible 18:13] health and outcomes down the line are improved dramatically. I always like to reiterate it's not about self-preservation or that selfish thing. It is about the greater good.
Arianna: It is about health outcomes at the mom level, at the baby level, at the family level, at the community level.
Catherine: Yeah. No, I love that quote, too. That's one of my favorites as well. Thank you for sharing that. Yeah, absolutely, everything you just said. How about a favorite song that inspires you as a mom?
Arianna: That is a hard one. Actually, one of the blog posts I recently read in The Momma Series, on your site, was like said something to the effect of I don't have any time to listen to music anymore.
Catherine: Yeah, right. I know.
Arianna: That resonated with me. The songs that I have listened to recently are Hakuna Matata.
Catherine: Yeah, right. The wheels on the bus, I don't know.
Arianna: Yeah. No, Hakuna Matata, that's a good one. I'll go with that.
Catherine: Yeah. I love that. Yeah, don't worry, right. Yeah, that's a good one. I like that. What is the one piece of advice you'd like to give other moms?
Arianna: I would say treat yourself with the same compassion and understanding and patience that you would treat a friend of yours who is telling you about a situation. Removing yourself a little bit and thinking what would I tell if my situation right now, how would I treat someone who is in that situation and being as empathetic to yourself as you would be with someone else.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah. That's very good. This is a new question we've added to the list and I'm like just because I think it's fun, but is there any can't live without gadgets or products that made mom life easier or better for you?
Arianna: Definitely so many. I'll say I'll go with backpack and diaper bag in one. That's not really high tech. It's pretty low tech, but ...
Catherine: Right. I think those are the best, the less techy. My favorite one is dry shampoo. I never knew I would be such a dry shampoo user, but yeah, used it today.
Arianna: It looks great.
Catherine: Thank you. Yeah. No. Yeah, the backpack and the diaper bag because then anybody can, dad can use it and you just go.
Arianna: Yeah, it allows me to carry so much more, so many more things.
Catherine: Yeah. Yeah. The next question is how many children do you have? You have one child that's a year old?
Arianna: I just have the one, yes.
Catherine: Yeah. Cool. Is there anything else that you would love to share to moms, to dads, to just families in general, grandparents before we end today? Anything else that you're like, "Oh, I just wish people knew or I feel is important?"
Arianna: I think part of what I would say is related to what you're doing. Find the stories, find the narratives, find the common threads with other people and figure out ways to break through some of the isolation that I think is inherent and especially, the first few weeks of motherhood. That has helped me tremendously. It's something that I know from my work is tremendously helpful. It's incredible what a difference a quick phone call or a quick text or even a few hours of in person time with another person or group of new moms can be. Finding those ways to connect.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah, such great advice. I am so glad that you joined us today and I love your advice and I love your tips. I hope you continue to enjoy motherhood and that you get settled in on your move here. Where in California did you guys move?
Arianna: We are right now in Berkeley at my parents' house actually [crosstalk 22:42] area so close to Sacramento.
Catherine: Yeah, yeah, awesome.
Arianna: We're not sure if we'll stay here or end up in a different part of California or different part of the country. It's all up in the air at this point.
Catherine: You're in a transition.
Arianna: Yes, definitely.
Catherine: All right. Cool. Thank you. Thank you for sharing with us and so glad that you can be here today.
Arianna: Thanks for having me.
About Arianna Taboada:
Arianna is a maternal health consultant who works with experienced entrepreneurs who are becoming first time mothers, helping them customize their maternity leave plan and return to work. She is deeply committed to providing on-going, multi-faceted support that meets the professional, physical, mental, social, and emotional needs of entrepreneurs as they babyproof their business and navigate new motherhood.
Prior to her consulting practice, Arianna worked on maternal health issues for over a decade as a health educator, a social worker in a mental health clinic, a reproductive health researcher, and a yoga therapist. She draws from her expertise as a maternal health professional, combined with her experience as a business owner and mother, to provide highly personalized services so expecting entrepreneurs have the tools and information they need to make decisions and take action when it comes to balancing their business with a new baby.
Arianna lives, works, and plays with her family in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.