[Episode 13] The Birth of a Mother

On the day your baby is born, the Mother in you will birth as well. This less obvious birth is significant and very personal for every woman.

In Episode #13 of "Moms Talk with a French Accent", La Petite Creme founders Fanny and Cecile, joined by New York Pediatrician and Holistic Coach Dr. Varisa Perlman, reflect on how becoming a mother shaped their relationship with their children and determined their parenting journey.

(full text transcript below the video)


Moms Talk with Dr. Varisa Perlman [Episode #13]: The Birth of a Mother

Cecile: Bonjour!

Fanny: Hi!

Cecile: Welcome to Episode number 13 of Moms Talk with a French Accent. We are live today with the topic of The Birth of a Mother. So we are going to be joined by our pediatrician friend, Dr. Varisa Perlman [inaudible] the beautiful topic of becoming a mother.

Fanny: Hi, everyone.

Cecile: Thank you for joining. Thank you, thank you.

Fanny: Welcome, welcome.

Cecile: Here we go. Hello.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Oh, very good.

Fanny: Technical issues.

Cecile: Technical difficulty that we had. So we'll go around and introduce ourselves. Varisa, why don't you start?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes, so I'm Dr. Varisa Perlman. I'm a pediatrician of 25 years and most recently a holistic health coach, and had the wonderful honor of being able to be a part of Cecile and Fanny's motherhood journey as their pediatrician. And I am a mother of an 18 and 20-year-old, so a little bit older, but it's still a part of who I am, of course. I think this is a really intense topic.

When we have these topics, I think about it during the morning and stuff. So I'm really excited for us to discuss.

Cecile: Yeah. So we go around, Fanny, you want to introduce yourself?

Fanny: Yeah. So I'm Fanny, I'm the co-founder of La Petite Creme, and I'm also a mom of two. My daughter Zoe, she's 5 years old, and my son Martin is 2 years old.

Cecile: And I'm Cecile, I'm the other half of the company. And I'm also a mother, which is one thing we all have in common here. I also have two kiddos, and mine are 10 and 12. So we represent the whole spectrum from baby to toddler to—I don't know what mines are—kids.

Fanny: Pre-teens.

Cecile: Pre-teens—that's a new topic—to teens and adolescent and young adults. So we have a good range, right? But one thing we have in common is motherhood, among other things, and that's why the topic came about this week of that moment where you become a mother. We talk about birth as the birth of a child and a lot of attention is brought to that baby entering the world, but on that very moment, something else is happening where you just are and become a mother, which has a lot of things attached to it.

Fanny: Yeah. I don't know for the persons who are here watching us, is that moment for you the moment where you discovered you're pregnant or the moment that you actually gave birth and you meet your baby? Because for some people maybe it's the day they found out they are pregnant and they already feel they are a mother, I don't know.

Cecile: Or maybe you were born and your whole life you knew you were destined to be a mother and you felt it was part of you all along. So write down in the comments, we'd love to hear what becoming a mother means to you. And then if you are pregnant and you're not feeling like a mother yet, what are you anticipating? What are you thinking about? How are you preparing for it? And if you just had a baby, how was your experience of becoming a mother. Tell us. We're gonna share our own experience, but we want to hear from you to know what's going on in your head.

So, Varisa, how was it for you? What was your experience a few years ago?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: As you have children who grow and get older and go through different phases of their lives, you realize you actually will never stop being a mother, and your role in the way that you interact with your children will shift. I find every five years, I feel like your place in their lives and the way that you interact with them will shift.

And I think that the reason why this topic to me really made me really try to sit and think and figure things out a little bit is because I think it's a very overwhelming concept. You find a lot of women are being told that, that moment is the thing, and that's something that we're talking about, but in many ways, it's a little bit of a spectrum. It shifts. And how you view yourself in your gaze and your new role and your new sense of responsibilities is something that I think even as a young person, you yourself, even if you don't have children, you see your mother, you see your grandmother, you see other women in your space, that actually colors the way that you perceive how a mother should be.

And sometimes it's a positive effect and sometimes it's a negative one. And we bring that baggage to how we raise our children. And it's hard because we are trying to not let taboos take over, right? This is something that we talk about all the time. And I know a lot of people, we always have visions of how our lives will be, and most of the time we're usually pretty wrong about what we think it's gonna be.

So I think a lot of times, sometimes this conversation can be colored with a bit of maybe disappointment, where your expectation doesn't match what happened when you had your baby. And I always wanna open the door for that because we are people too. And sometimes the concept of that hat of being a mother is a very overwhelming one because maybe we have our own traumas, our own positives and negatives that we haven't quite entangled as to what is the mother that we want to be.

Cecile: For sure, that's very true. And also that moment that Fanny was defining when that happened can take many different shapes. And you can be a mother because you gave birth to a baby. You can be a mother because you're fostering kids. You can be a mother because you adopt a child. You can be a mother because you have a surrogate. So all of that is also to be taken into consideration because becoming a mother can be something unusual, not what the book would say. And it's completely acceptable as well. If you feel it in your heart, that's what makes you a mother, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. I think that, again, we all have our different perceptions of what motherhood should be defined as. And I think that one of the things that—whether it be a generational thing, we've had previous generations of women, particularly, who have felt that in order to be a mother, you must sacrifice everything of who you are. And I don't think that that's a great idea because, in the end of the day, people that you care for, they need you just as much as they need your care.

And if you're burnt out and you are just completely fried as a person and you're feeling like you're emptying out your cup a little too fast, you can't be present for them the way that you would want to be. And that is upending that whole idea that in order to be a real mother, you must literally sacrifice who you are 100%.

Cecile: It is striking because it does feel, I don't know, sometimes you go to a party or you meet with other people and I'm the first to always volunteer that I'm a mom as the first thing to define myself, which, before having kids, I was a very independent, strong-willed woman. And yet now, I feel like it's an easy source of— like, “Oh, I'm a mother.” And then you don't have to volunteer too much information about yourself.

But at the same time, every time I'm like, “Wait a minute, why is it the first thing I'm saying when I am so much more than that?” And being a mother is just putting me in relation with my kids. It doesn't say anything about me personally. And I noticed the few last times that I've introduced myself is to strike me being like, “Wait a minute, am I me or am I just someone's mother when I define myself?” Right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. I think that what I have found as a pediatrician of 25 years is that when we, as people lose ourselves by sacrificing ourselves, whether it be to work, or sacrificing ourselves to being a mother, or sacrifice ourselves to something other than ourselves, honestly, we are not present. We cannot listen as well. We can't be able to be facile with what life gives us.

I find that so much of raising children required me to be able to adjust. The thing that I feel my children really would beg of me is that, “Just follow along with me, Mom, just keep up. Come on. Keep up.” And they were so busy growing and learning and having to face real challenges that I am a burden to them when I'm like, “But I wanted to be like this, so why can't it be like this? Can't you do this instead?” And whenever I would overlay all of my hangups, I wasn't really serving them as well as I could.

Whereas if I'm like, “You know what, I'm gonna go with the flow. I have my sense of self. You can bounce things off of me. I'm going to be present. I'm going to be there for whatever you need and be listening to you and whatnot,” it ends up being a situation where we keep up a little bit better. We definitely are a little bit more open to the chaos of raising human beings. I mean, that's really what being a mother is—

Cecile: Which is a big responsibility on its own. I feel there is a lot of stigma into being a good mother like, “I have to be a good mother. I want to be a good mother. I feel bad because I'm not a good mother.” But as you said, we're raising humans, just like fathers are, but we're part of raising people. And just for that, it's good. Just for that, we're putting an intent into raising those people or whoever they're going to be next, and that by itself is enough to be good, right?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yeah. And I think that the idea that you are modeling. Children are not computers that you can just program. They're not programmable. [laughs] I love how the mother of a toddler's like, “Yeah, okay. I'm gonna totally agree with that one.” [laughs] They aren't computers, they're human beings that work off of the environment, and they model. So the way you are as a person actually is the most informative to them of how to lead their life and to grow. But it's not about actually you, if you are a shell of a person, that's the model you're giving.

You think you're being a good mother. I would hear so much of my mother's generation of like, “But we sacrificed everything for you. We didn't even think about ourselves. We always gave everything to you.” And I'm like, “How did that serve any of us? You're miserable. You wanna guilt me. I didn't really learn about a full life. I wanted to learn more about that full life, about that person who has opinions, who disagrees, who has thoughts of their own.”

Cecile: Feelings, too.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. That's her who feels badly about things. And I don't feel like they were “allowed” to have that experience. They never got the message that was actually what I needed. That's what children actually need, is a model of a happy person, a fulfilled person.

Cecile: So you mentioned at the beginning of this talk that you feel like every five years is a new phase in motherhood, which the word doesn't evolve. So it's one word that, as you said, has a spectrum of meaning. What would you say would be the changes, 0 to 5, to 5 to 10, 10 to 15, for the people who are listening and maybe embarking into the first phase of motherhood?

Dr. Varisa Perlman: That's a great question. I love that. The 0 to 5 is physically incredible. So many times, even myself, I can't—they have this whole thing where stress decreases your brain's ability to remember things, and I feel so physically stressed I don't remember a lot of little moments because I was like, “I'm just trying to stay awake.” [laughs]

Cecile: Like Fanny now. [laughs] You didn't see that she went off-camera to yawn.

Fanny: I'm a toddler mom. I have a 2 and a 5, so I'm allowed. [laughs] She's telling the truth. That's it. That's my life. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: A lot of times when I talk to moms who are in Fanny's space, I talk about physical things. I'm like, “Go take a walk. Put food in your mouth. Try to have a moment to pee without someone else on your lap.” Really, my bar is really low because the physical is just so stripped. I'm not like, “What do you think about world peace?” No, you're like, “I don't even know what day of the week it is.” [inaudible] to that conversation.

And then the 5 to 10 sits you through elementary school. And elementary school, now Piaget calls that the studious phase. So the children, their job is to start to learn the rules that surround them. So when they're in society, when they're in school, they start to figure out, “Okay, who am I supposed to listen to?” When they go to a circle, “Okay, I'm supposed to sit.” And that actually consumes them. It's actually a lot of energy.

And what you start to feel as a parent and as a mother is that they're not really looking to you for that as much. So now they seem a little preoccupied, which is not a bad thing because that lifts some of the physical burden from you of like, “I'm going to move you to the left. I'm going to move you to the right,” to be like, “Oh, you can play on your own. You're thinking of your own things. Okay, so I'm going to go tiptoe out of the room so that I can maybe eat a whole meal by myself. Maybe I will pick up that magazine.”

And I think that is when you start to emerge. And I say emerge because it's not like you left the building, but you kind of did. [laughs] You were there, but you were not really there. And you start to have some of those—the memory cells start to be working again because they were fried the last five years. They start to join up again and you start to say, “Let me start to have a conversation.”

I remember my kids were very young and I remember this neighbor whose kids also went to school with our kids. She invited me over for a glass of wine. I mean, I remember I called my husband. I was like, “I'm about to have a conversation with someone over a glass of wine.” You would have thought that someone was like, “Jump on my jet to go to Paris.” Literally, you would have thought that I was literally embarking in this thing that I had never—and it just felt incredible. And her kid and my kid would play, and I was just like, “I didn't even know this was—” the tunnel, I did not know, that I was still here to enjoy that.

And it's good when you can appreciate those things because I haven't had it for so long. You really have that. So it's important to appreciate then, where you are, Cecile, as you go from the 10 to 15. All right. So we're in this thing called middle school. And middle school is a time where they are now—the differentiation is coming. The frontal lobe isn't there yet, but now, the tug and pull, the kind of like, “Am I close to you? I hate you now.” [laughs]

This strange dance starts to happen. And in order to really survive that in a healthy way, you also have to join in that dance where you're like, “You know what? I love you, but you cannot be my only focus because I clearly am not yours.” You start to give yourself permission to be like, “I'm gonna see what my friends are doing. You're seeing what your friends are doing, I'm gonna see what my friends are doing.” Like, wait a second. And I think that is wonderful. It should be like that.

And when they need you, they don't really need all of your advice. They need you to be present because they're trying to figure things out themselves. And that is a big difference from the last 10 years. And now you realize the questions are a little harder and the questions aren't like, “Okay, well, I could do this and this.” You're sitting there and you're like, “I don't actually know the answer to this one.”

Fanny: Yeah, it's not a yes or no answer usually.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right? And all of a sudden you realize, okay, I need to be humbled. I cannot fix this all. I need to pour confidence that they're gonna have to go through some tough times. I'm going to pour confidence that it's going to hurt because it's called growing pains. It's not called growing tickles. It's growing pain, and they're going to have to go through experiences that—it's not pleasant to watch your kids struggle. But remember when you were teaching them how to walk, they would fall sometimes. Not that different. Emotionally, it's got to be there.

And you have to turn off that switch that wants to fix it. Just turn it off and be like, “No fixie mommy.” [laughs] You need to turn that switch on that mommy panel, right? That's not what that kid needs right there. And if you are able to do that effectively and really give that kid space to breathe and be able to fall, get up, heal their wounds, which actually hurts, heal it so it actually heals from them because they have confidence, that 15 to 20 starts to make sense. To me, it's so funny because we talk about birth, to me, the beginning of every cycle is the birth of a new mom.

Cecile: That's fantastic what you're saying here because I think it also gives hope in the sense that it's all in chewable-sized bites. It's not like I'm starting a 20-year journey and I have to see the end of it. Seeing it as a five-year cycle feels like it's more manageable. And knowing that the phase that you're on is only five years, it also gives you a milestone of like, “Okay, I'm not gonna be doing that for 20 years because I'm drained physically. And there is something else coming that is gonna bring—”

I'm just out of the 5 to 10, and it does bring you a lot of joy to be like, “Okay, I'm getting on a roll. I'm mastering it by the end.” Something new is coming, but we're going through that together, the parent and the kids together. And we established the fundamentals where we're like, “Okay, something new. We can do this. We went through other phases before.” So it makes it a lot more digestible, I feel. I don't know if you feel the same thing.

Fanny: Yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And I think that our generation of mom is really searching for a certain authenticity. When we talked first about what these talks were going to be about, one of the things that you guys really [inaudible] that you wanted honesty and a place where women could take off that performative hat where like, “Everything's great. Isn't it amazing? I love this.”

So yeah, there are moments I feel like that, but there are a lot of moments as equal where I'm like, “This sucks.”

Fanny: This is hard.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Who's supposed to get through this? [laughs] And to be able to vent that out and not feel like you're a “bad mom” because you're feeling those very real emotions. Even telling your kids, I had to tell you there were moments that I would say—and I'm trying to think of it on all the different phases, but I always try to stay relatively honest, even with my children. If I was tired, “I'm really tired right now.” Because I knew that I would just bite their head off because I was trying so hard. You feel like I have to put a front, but sometimes you're like, “I'm just tired. I'm not going to be my best mommy. We need to take a break from each other.” And without the guilt, without the pain.

But especially, I felt like my teenagers, when I would sit there and be like, “You know what? This is a really hard situation you're in. And I actually don't know the answer and I'm not going to be able to fix it. So, power to you. This is hard.”

Cecile: It's tough, yeah.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: They were like, “Thank you. Yes. That's what we've been trying to say.” I think that that, to me, became something that I appreciated because I felt I came from parents who were like, “We know the answers. We know everything. We'll fix everything for you.” And I was like, “First of all, I don't think you do know all the answers because you're not really living in my life. And I appreciate the effort, but at the same time, I don't really want the—”

There was a teenager, I remember I was refereeing [laughs] to the teenager and their mom, and she just said, she goes, “I'm explaining this to you, but I'm not complaining.” There is a difference.

Cecile: It's interesting, the transition. It made me think that—so my daughter is 12 and two weeks ago we had a conversation because in the morning I was like, “Can you unload the dishwasher?” And she was like, “Yeah.” And then she didn't do it, which drove me crazy 'cause I'm like, “I asked, you said yes to me, you committed to this, and I have to ask again.” So we had to sit down and have a conversation because I was like, “What is it? What do I say? When you say yes, is it a real yes? Do you make it on purpose?” What struck me, she was like, “But sometimes when you ask for something, I don't know if I can say no.” I was like, “Okay, well [laughs] let me sit with that.”

And as we were talking about it, I realized that I told her, I didn't say, “Empty the dishwasher.” I said, “Can you empty the dishwasher?” So it wasn't an order, it was a question. So when I phrased it as a question, I expect you if you say yes that it's a choice that you make and a decision. So if I hear yes, that means you're going to do it. And by saying that out loud, which I'd never really analyzed, I was just trying to take the topic with her.

I said, “You know what, I think maybe I'm talking to you more as a grown-up or as a counterpart or as a partner in the life of the family and not as a kid anymore or not as a baby.” When your baby's a baby, you say, “Don't do this, don't touch that.” It's very imperative.

Fanny: It's ordering.

Cecile: It's full of orders. But I'm like, “If I ask you a question—” And I have to think about it. I'm like, “Okay, do I really mean what I'm about to say?” “But if I ask you a question, that means you have the power to say yes or no. It's not like I said because I want you to say yes—” And I was really trying to make sure that I wasn't putting myself in a situation where I would have to revert what I said a day after, but I was like, “No, if you hear me asking, you can say, 'No, mommy, I don't have time. No, mommy.' Then you have to live with the responsibility of your answer. So if you tell me all the time, ‘No way,’ I'm gonna be like, ‘Okay.’” But at least it gives you a chance to interact.

And talking to her about it, I felt we were going into one of those transitions of like, we're still parent and kid, but we're bridging into learning a new way to communicate to one another, which I didn't notice that I had changed my way of talking to her, but she had to point it to me being like, “Okay, now we're not in order mode anymore. Now I can say no?” I was like, “You can say no, you'd have to justify it if I'm asking you. Just like when you say, 'Mommy, can you pick me up after school?' If I say no, I better have a backup solution or at least give you some explanation of why I'm not going to show up.” But it was interesting to see the evolution of our relationship through that.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right, there's a shift. And it's interesting that language is one of those important tools to navigate that. So what's interesting for me after working with some adolescents, what would be interesting is if you said, “Can you empty the dishwasher now?” So she may say, “No.” It may give that space like, “No, I can't do it now, but I can do it in an hour or I can do it in a half an hour.”

I had a teenager that was like—the teenager was working on homework that she needed to do. And the mom would barge in and be like, “Your room is so messy. You need to clean your room now.” And the girl's like, “I'm in the middle of my homework.” And so there would be a blow-up fight. And what we had to do, as we were talking about it, was to make certain rules that at certain times, the teenager said, “The room will be clean on my own pace, in my own time.” And the mom couldn't just come in and demand a shift because that's what—

Cecile: But it works so well at her phase. So it's hard. That's not true. At some point, you master it when they're 0 to 5 and you naturally use those tools again in the 5 to 10 and you bring that forward until one day you're like, “Wait a minute.” If the mirror doesn't get back into your face and you're like, “Oh, that's not something I would have thought of as being more appropriate,” you go in autopilot too because there's so much going on that you just repeat what has worked in the past.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Yes. And you can't do that. You just can't do that. You have to understand that transitions have to happen for you to be healthy and for your kid to be healthy, for both of you to be healthy. Because I have to tell you right now that it's really hard. I remember, even Izzy was going to college the next year, and they're like, “Mom, don't get sad. I'm going to see you next year. I'll see you at least 12 times next year.” [laughs] I have seen you for 365 days for the last 17 years of your life. So I don't understand how— but in their mind, they were like—to me, that was unbelievable.

So it doesn't happen overnight, but it was almost like those small transitions of being able to like, yes, you have a life and a pace and a rhythm to your day. And I do too. And sometimes it matches, and sometimes it doesn't match.

Do you remember with the little kids, if you want them to go somewhere, you would just literally pick them up and then bring them to another room. I remember I was thinking about that for my son, because we were talking about teenagers and taking a shower and whatever. Can I just turn off the water and just take you out and be like, “You need to go.” [laughs] You realize is that when they're younger, you physically have to do that. That's physically what you're doing. But as they get older, you're right, they have their own space, their own rhythm. And it's a magical thing when the both of you can understand, hey, listen, we're in a different phase. We're in a conversation in our life together. And it's powerful. You should have a pride in it.

Cecile: You feel also that weight of being a mother feels like it's lifted a little bit because now it's not just you, you're doing that as a team with your child. And that really made me feel like, “Okay, I'm not perfect as a mother, I'm a human being, so I'm gonna miss a few things, but she's there too. So we're in this together.” And it really made me for the first time feel like, “Oh my goodness, it's the two of us on that journey.”

And the thing you don't get when you're at the 0 to 5 where you feel like you're the only one. And I'm not saying the father. I'm saying in that relationship, mother-kid, you're the one doing all the heavy lifting, literally and metaphorically. But all of a sudden, it's like, “Oh, we both are invested in that relationship and want to make it work.” And that feels like such a relief.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: It's a fluid relationship. And it's one of those things that it requires so much insight I believe on the part of the mother. I think that many times as the person, you need to understand that you're the one who actually allows for that next transition to happen. There's a lot of people who are grown adults from another generation who are like, “I'm so frustrated because my mother still treats me like I'm 5 years old.”

And what that does is that you actually miss out a lot. You miss out of these wonderful moments where you're like, “I have this thinking, breathing being.” Like you said, it alleviates some of that stress of like, who is gonna pour themselves also into this relationship. I can enjoy watching you through your life. I don't have to feel like I have to protect you all the time.

Fanny: Yeah. And also that give them the opportunity to take responsibility for their answer and their choice because you are not the one who's gonna fix it anymore. Their choice will have direct consequence in their life. It's not your life anymore. They are building their life at school, with friends, with other people around them so they have to have the tool to understand and navigate that. And if you always answer for them or dictate them what they have to do, they won't be able to make their own choice and take responsibility for their actions.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: That's a big deal because responsibility breeds confidence. The responsibility they have in their life, it breeds like, “I can do this without you.” Sometimes a mother will say, “Oh, I just feel badly because I want them to give me credit for everything. I want to be the reason why they do everything.” I don't want that.

Fanny: They can stand for their own opinion or if they want something, they have to advocate for themselves. That's something they will need in the future. So definitely something that we don't do anymore. I'm a little bit far from that step, but I'm already enjoying what's coming after. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Right. There's beauty and struggle with every five years. There is just beauty and struggle with all of it. And I find that with my kids, the less that I would handle them, the more they would shock me and surprise me with their own innovative way of dealing with life.

Cecile: But it takes a lot of vulnerability and risk-taking in a sense because I feel like as mothers, we are genetically programmed to be protective and be physically attached to our kids, and accepting that we're going to let them go and accept the unknown is very difficult.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Really difficult.

Fanny: For me, at my stage, even when we are on the park and my husband is very—maybe it's because we are woman and man, but my husband is very good at letting my daughter do things on her own at the park. But sometimes I'm freaking out like, “Ah, she's too high.” And he's like, “Oh, let her do the thing. She's calm, she know what she's doing, she's not calling for help.” And me, I'm just like, “Help my kids, please.” [laughs]

Cecile: [laughs] That's a funny side story. So Fanny was—we've been very close for 12 years when my daughter was born. She was babysitting for my child. And we've been very close even since. So you've been with my kids for five, six years before you had your own kids. She was never like that with my own kids. She's a very easygoing fun aunt that lets them do. She knows in theory how things work. [laughs]

Fanny: It's irrational. At the park, I'm the one who's freaking out and my husband is like, “Calm down.” [laughs] I'm not allowed in the park anymore because of that.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Well, I actually am very grateful that you brought that up because I had a moment. So I'll go back a little bit. I always tell you, as patients, I'm always talking about this idea of fear and guilt are poison for parents, right? It motors us in a direction that I don't think always honors our children because sometimes it puts blinders on you and you're not able to see what this child needs. You're fearful. You act reactively. So to me, fear is tough.

Now, this is as someone who was born and raised to be very afraid. I didn't ride a roller coaster until I was 25 years old because my parents were always like, “Oh no, oh no, oh no.” It was all about this fear-mongering. And I cannot live my life completely shrouded by fear. So I think that's [inaudible] so you fight it because I know my tendency and the fact that I have all this programming from my parents, they just are very big into fear.

And it's only been recently, and my husband is definitely very helpful. And that's why I'm with him because he's very good at every stage, but no, it's okay, no. He's really good about checking me but also, when there's things that I worry about, he's like, “Okay, how can we help you with this?” And I found that as I've been able to differentiate myself again from being this give everything mother to being my own person, which I think is healthy, which is important, I found that it helps my fears because I'm like, “Okay, they have to go through—” All the things I'm telling you, I tell myself every night, not because I mastered it, but because it's like, “Okay, remember, say that again, say it again.”

So I think that that's a very real thing. What I have found, which has been very humbling and a little bit upsetting for me, is that a lot of the older women in my life right now, who are maybe my mother's generation, are completely immobilized by fear. The fear to go out, the fear to go this, their fear that the kids will do this. It's almost like it took over them. And I don't know if it's because we come from a time where women were not really encouraged to take risks, women were not really encouraged to be independent, to work on their own, have their own thoughts, maybe these kinds of conversations we are having right now were not happening when they were this age, where like, “You're fearful? Fantastic, good.”

But I feel like we have a new generation of—every generation is going to do something good and something bad, but we have now a new generation where they're like, “I don't want to be afraid and I don't want auto fear and I don't want all my kids to be afraid of life,” because that only gets you so far. You can't thrive with fear taking over.

Cecile: And you can't create either. You can't really be you if you're following everybody's fear everywhere because you're always going to be wrong because somebody else is going to feed you that whatever you're doing might have some impact, even the most positive things. One thing that we talked about today that positive parenting, it sounds fantastic. The world sounds fantastic. Everything's so positive, but then you start digging into it and you're like, “Wait a minute. So if I don't do that, if I'm not always positive, then what's the opposite? I'm being negative and then I'm detrimental to my kid and now I have to be positive all the time?”

And you're adding up on that fear when the original intent was to be all about positivity, right? So I think realistic parenting is probably a better target. [laughs]

Dr. Varisa Perlman: I think, just to keep the P there, I think present parenting is a good way because I think that present means that we're going to take the positive and the negative together, because life is that. Life is a mix of both. Some days are really good, some days just suck. And some days, or most days, are just a mixture of both. Sometimes even simultaneously. You ever talk to people and they're like, “This wonderful thing happened and this awful thing happened literally within the same hour. Wow, isn't that fascinating?”

I think that the more that we are in touch with those elements, the more likely our children will have that outlook on their life. And we all want our kids to thrive and survive and be happy. And that just doesn't happen if you are afraid of your own shadow. It can't happen. But, again, and I'm not gonna get all like—the suppression of women, but fear was really a great tool to make women immobilized and to stop that feeling of that you should have your sense of self. You should nurture and preserve your sense of self because that strong person makes a strong mother.

Fanny: I think it's good that, as you said, every five period of time you start with the physical needs of your kids and it's not a big deal if you miss or you learn at the beginning of the stage they are 0 to 5, and as we said earlier, you have to take the big picture when they are 20. You can do learning and do a little mistake when you are at this phase of their age because it's not gonna make a big impact on—as I said, on the park.

You have to grow also with your kids and being allowed to do a little mistake and take on yourself because for me, I know that it's something I have to work on as a mother to let my kids do on their own and have a little bit of space. I know that's something I need to work, so I'm gonna work through that. And every stage maybe I will be more prepared to let them go a little bit more because I learn from the stages before.

Cecile: And what they say, right? Little kids, little problem, big kids, big problem. I think that applies very well here because at 0 to 5, it's letting them go at the park. And then at the teenage years, it's letting them go at a party. So if you haven't practiced in the playground, then maybe going to that party is gonna keep you up at night and be such a big trauma. So you might as well try it on something that is incremental.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Fear is like a muscle. The more you use it, like a habit, it grows. It keeps on happening. So when my kids were young, again, because I was really raised to be afraid of everything, my parents, when they would be around my kid, it was like, “Oh, oh, oh!” [laughs] And it was just driving me nuts. But I knew that because I came from that, I would do that. So when my kid was starting to learn to walk, I would take my hands and I would sit on them. I would sit on them. And I remember Izzy, we were on this concrete, fell, and I go, “Mm.” It was so hard for me. I had to stop, and I was like—And then Izzy looked at me, about to cry, and looked at my eyes, and I was like— [laughs]

Cecile: [laughs]

Fanny: [laughs] Good job!

Dr. Varisa Perlman: And they dust themselves off. And they got up and they kept walking. And I had to sit on my hands. But I had to tell you that image, it feels like it was yesterday. I replay that image in my mind when I get some texts from my kids that are really—like, “There's something going on.” I have to fight every bone in my body to be like, “Okay. You do this.”

Fanny: Let them do and see what happens because most of the time nothing happens. You just stress yourself for nothing. But I have to emotionally sit on my hands. Be like, “That really sucks. I'm here if you need me. You're doing a great job.” And walk away.

Cecile: And for everybody who's watching, I think that's very humbling and very caring of you to share that because you're a professional of kids and you went to school, you're a pediatrician. So it is expected of you to know it all and tell us that it should be this way and that way. So thank you again for sharing the real life thing, because as you said, Fanny and I started these talks because we want to be real for anybody out there who is a mother, become the mother, and remove the noise of the, that's what it should be, and the one size fits all type of motherhood.

I think there is now a big movement for every kid being very singular and being unique and being who they are. We don't give a lot of credit for mothers to be very singular.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: A hundred percent. This performative parenting—I mean, yes, social media has some good things, but social media did not make that better. And so many people, they're like, “This is great, this is fantastic.” Like you said, positive, positive, positive, but honestly, life is not like that. So it doesn't resonate when you're actually raising your kids? You're like, “That doesn't look like my family. That doesn't look what's going on with me.”

Fanny: Yeah, it's just comparison to people. 20 years ago, mom doesn't have a lot of comparison, just the women that's surrounding them. Now you have a million families to compare yourself and of course you're gonna find the one that impressed you the most and feel you guilt or not a good mom.

Cecile: But that same mother with your kid would probably have something different to show as well. You know your kid, you know yourself, you know your family, you know your surrounding, you know your means. As long as you stay within that, you are a fantastic mother because you're already asking yourself, “Okay, do I care for this child?” We were talking about it over lunch today that if you ask anybody who's pregnant and maybe anybody who's here, what are the three things that you want for your child when they're 20? What is the three things that you really want for them? So we went around, the two of us, we said we want them to be physically healthy, have good mental health and be happy, Three things. I'm going to the French way, three things. I noticed the Americans do three things.

Fanny: It's very hard for us to do. [laughs]

Cecile: So three things. Well, everything you do on a daily basis, whether it's 0 to 5, 5 to 10, 10 to 15, how does it go toward those three goals. The color of the stroller, the color of the nursery, the breastfeeding versus formula feeding switch, all of that doesn't really count toward are they going to be happy, good mental health. But as you said, being present, learning, being open to adjusting, listening to your child, all of these will count towards the long game. And that was interesting of us to talk about it because we thought, yes, if we could remind ourselves of that as mothers, it would remove—

Fanny: A lot of pressure.

Cecile: Yeah, and the daily struggle of things that you thought are important because social media, the pediatrician, your husband, your in-laws, everybody's feeding you into stuff that you didn't think about. If you can manage to step back and say, “Wait a minute, does that contribute to my three goals?” Which can be different for every family, then you can remove a lot of that stuff.

We talked about minimalist last time, remove that. [laughs]

Fanny: Declutter the bullshit. I said it.

Cecile: You say, “Excuse my French.”

Fanny: Excuse my French.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: [laughs] It sounds much cooler when you say it. There's just too much to do. There's too much to think about. And honestly, you actually will find the answers in the quiet. And if you don't have that quiet, you won't be able to hear yourself. And I think when we talk about all the different phases, it's interesting because we keep—the topic was the birth of a mother, and I think that it is a birth of a person. You are birthing yourself into another phase of your life.

As Grandma Irene, my husband's grandmother, who lived until 100, with her Brooklyn accent, she would say, “It was a lifetime of worry.” It's a lifetime of worry. It is an incredible responsibility to become someone's parent. I would hope that in this next generation of mothers, that we understand that a birth of a mother is basically a birth of you, but in a different phase of your life. It's always been you. And you are gonna be who mothers this child. It's not gonna be the mother that you saw on Instagram. It's not gonna be the mother that you saw down the street, the mother that on TV tells you you're supposed to be. It is your journey. And the authenticity, the stronger that you are as a person, the more able that you are gonna be as a mother.

And I think that's why I ended up doing a lot of this work where I work with parents because over and over again, I was thrilled by what people could do for their kids, what they contributed to their kids' lives, but that was only when we said, “I'm gonna give you permission to be as full of an adult as a person and take care of yourself as possible.” And when I did that, I didn't have to worry about my patient. I didn't have to worry about my kid because they were listening, they were watching, they were present, and that's the best kind of parenting that I could ever ask for. But it doesn't work when you are just not taking care of yourself and not checking in with yourself. It does not work. It cannot happen.

Cecile: Well, that's fantastic. So we're gonna leave it on that. Hopefully everybody who is on this channel right now watching have gained some insight. If you are about to become a mother, if you already are a mother, we wish you a wonderful journey. Embrace the chaos. Become you. Become your type of mother. That's going to be the best type of mother your child is going to need. And enjoy every part of the journey, that wave that goes up and down. And enjoy the ride. And we'll see you in a couple of weeks for another episode of Moms Talk with a French Accent. Until then, au revoir.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Au revoir!

Fanny: Au revoir!

Cecile: Bye.

Dr. Varisa Perlman: Bye.


Watch other episodes here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL1dpfz3OiZoOwHuST-GmH9sTD0TfF3rIp

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