A quick one, while I've been away
A few links to my other writings and what I've been reading lately
This is just a brief update to say that I’m still here! This summer I transitioned to two new jobs, moved to a new house, and have been living with a toddler who never sits still, so… I guess things take awhile to get settled? Who knew? (Reader: I, apparently, did not know) I have no new, well-thought-out content to provide you today, so please enjoy these links to some other writing I’ve been doing and my brief thoughts on some recent reads!
Recently, I have been blogging for Cambridge Psychology Group on various mental health topics. While these posts are not specific to parental mental health, they are definitely relevant!
One nice thing about having a commute again is getting more opportunities to read for fun. Here are some thoughts on some parenting-related material:
Learning in Public: Lessons for a Racially Divided America from My Daughter’s School, by Courtney E. Martin
I became incredibly intrigued by this book after reading this review from the Washington Post. It was exactly what I was looking for and, at times, felt like it was written just for me. Or, at least for my anxieties around school, what a “good school” even means, and my desire for my parenting practices to match my social justice politics while living in an expensive, gentrified urban area. Courtney E. Martin, a white woman, struggles with these similar decisions for her children in Oakland. She provides a historical overview of segregation in the public school system in the US with a microscopic focus on her own community, interspersed with insightful interviews with other parents, teachers, and policy makers, as well as her observations of her own family’s decision-making. Transcripts from school board meetings were both revealing and, honestly, heartbreaking. The book is messy and raises more questions than it answers, but Martin is excellent at showing her thinking process and interrogates her intentions in an unflinching manner without ego. I have sent the following passage to multiple friends to recommend it, as it has really crawled under my skin and stuck there:
I suspect that White economically privileged and well-intentioned people have shirked our moral responsibility to the common good for decades under the cover of responsible parenting. In a time of eroding public institutions and soaring economic inequality, we have normalized private solutions whereby our children won’t have to endure the most broken American systems - public education, health care, the courts. By doing so, we’ve inadvertently created one of the country’s biggest problems: increasing and unconscionable inequity. We act mystified by this inequity, all the while propping it up with our choices.
Or as the poet and essayist Hanif Abdurraqib, puts it, “Not everything is Sisyphean. No one ever wants to imagine themselves as the boulder.”
Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts: A Healing Guide to the Secret Fears of New Mothers, written by Karen Kleiman, Illustrations by Molly McIntyre
As I’ve written before, intrusive thoughts are incredibly common in the immediate postpartum period. This book talks about those types of thoughts through providing fun, relatable comics, brief chapters, and evidence-based coping strategies for the most common anxieties that crop up immediately after having a child. I appreciated that it also briefly touches on some specific issues, such as having a deceased or otherwise unavailable parent when you give birth. It’s a quick read and a great introduction to these topics. Just a note: it’s geared almost exclusively for female birth mothers.
Work, Parent, Thrive: 12 Evidence-Backed Strategies to Ditch Guilt, Manage Overwhelm, and Grow Connection (When Everything Feels Like Too Much), by Yael Schonbrun
I’m still reading this one, so it’s more a “maybe” than a firm recommendation. The nice thing about trying to grow as a therapist who focuses on perinatal mental health is that my reading is often just as applicable to my own life as the life of my clients. My hope is that this is one of those books! I’m only a few chapters in and so far I like it. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is one of my favorite therapeutic frameworks I use, and it’s nice to see it applied to the difficulties associated with being a working parent. Yael Schonbrun is an engaging writer who offers helpful examples and clarifies complicated concepts in a clear way. It seems like she struggles at times to find the right balance between acknowledging that so much of the concerns around working parenthood are based on structural problems vs. focusing on individual solutions which, obviously, is what a book on addressing mental health concerns primarily has to focus on (and is a hard tightrope to walk!) I will keep you posted as I continue reading and my thoughts evolve. Melinda W. Moyer, who writes the newsletter Is My Kid the Asshole?, recently interviewed Schonbrun if you want a taste - come for the insightful comments around balancing work and parenthood, stay for the anecdote from the erotic dancer on how parenting helps her deal with difficult clients!