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What Is ‘Mommy Guilt’? with Dr. Darria Gillespie

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Despite their best intentions, many new mothers suffer from “mommy guilt” when they feel they could be doing a better job with their children. But are thoughts healthy or productive? Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen are once again joined by Mom Hacks author Dr. Darria Gillespie to discuss ways to silence that “inner mean girl” that sabotages your best efforts to be a good mom.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen.
Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here, we teach you how to win the fight for your brain to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.
Dr Daniel Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is brought to you by Amen Clinics, where we've transformed lives for three decades using brain SPECT imaging to better target treatment and natural ways to heal the brain. For more information, visit amenclinics.com.
Tana Amen: The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast is also brought to you by BrainMD, where we produce the highest-quality nutraceutical products to support the health of your brain and body. For more information, visit brainmdhealth.com. Welcome to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.
Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. We are with mom week and Dr. Darria, we found out, has a five-year-old and a two-year-old.
Tana Amen: And you look amazing. Seriously amazing.
Dr Darria: Oh, thank you. Thank you.
Tana Amen: You look so healthy and beautiful and vibrant and ... Yeah. Yeah.
Dr Darria: You're very kind. You're very kind.
Dr Daniel Amen: And that comes from habits.
Tana Amen: Right.
Dr Darria: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: That comes from habits, right?
Dr Darria: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: I mean, if you've gone through medical school and your residency-
Tana Amen: And you still look like that.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and working.
Tana Amen: And you're a mom. I'm like, "What is she doing? I want to know what she's doing."
Dr Daniel Amen: And you said you went through a time-
Dr Darria: Well, you look amazing [inaudible 00:01:27]. You look fantastic.
Tana Amen: Thank you, but I-
Dr Darria: But you're right, it is habits. It's the healthy habits and the stuff that's in Hacks isn't just because I read them in a book. It's because they are what helped me survive. A lot of them I learned by reading clinical trials, but a lot of my ... I learned trial by error. So that's what I wanted to share — here's what works for me.
Dr Daniel Amen: I love that, practical advice rooted in experience and science.
Dr Darria: Yes, exactly.
Dr Daniel Amen: Mom Hacks comes out February 19th. We're very happy to support it. The subtitle is 100+ Science-Backed Shortcuts to Reclaim Your Body, Raise Awesome Kids, and Be Unstoppable. All of these things are also good for brains and brain warriors.
Dr Darria: Yeah, no, everything you've said is very aligned with what we teach for brain health. So I love that.
Dr Daniel Amen: And so let's talk about relationships because there are actually a lot of single moms that are raising kids, and it'd be important to talk about them. And there are a lot of people whose relationship gets better when they have kids because they have this very important shared common purpose. But I see, and that's the people I would see, they'd be the ones that come to Amen Clinics, where things actually begin to unravel.
Tana Amen: Right. And that certainly happened for me.
Dr Daniel Amen: And if you have a handicapped child, which is happening more than ever before, as we've seen autism skyrocket and ADHD skyrocket ... One of my grandbabies, Emmy, has a genetic microdeletion syndrome. She had seizures at five months old. Emmy's just, goodness, next week, going to turn eight. And I know it's been stressful-
Tana Amen: Very stressful.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... for my daughter and my son-in-law. What are some of the things you've noticed and written about but also experienced in your own relationships that are both helpful and not-so-helpful?
Dr Darria: You get plenty of not-so-helpful advice, too, right?
Tana Amen: Yes.
Dr Darria: As a mom. So there are days where, as a mom, no matter what, that you have it all together, and then there are days that you just swear you think you're being punked, in terms of everything falling apart.
Tana Amen: Yes, so true.
Dr Darria: "What's happening?" So a couple of different things I think really, really matter for moms, one is we have this inner critic as ... And everybody has it. Women even more so, then add on the mommy guilt, and you have this enormous mean girl inside you that's saying things to you that we wouldn't allow anybody in public to ever say to you. So I first address that and kind of the supermom myth. I had looked up "supermom" in Merriam-Webster, and essentially it's somebody who always looks wonderful, does the laundry, maintains a happy, happy family, and works a full-time job.
Tana Amen: So she's a Stepford Wife.
Dr Darria: And I was like, "Are you kidding me?" Because I know I have cried about having not met a supermom ... That's what I was crying about? So number one is kind of embracing what they call matrescence, which is ... It's like adolescence, but it's the development of yourself as a mother. And just acknowledging that there's perfection, and then there's reality, and if you are always aiming for the perfection and upset that you're not there, you're going to miss what the reality is and the beauty of the baby in front of you. So that one's a little more conceptual, but it's something we have to remind everybody like, "You're doing a good job. You are a great mama." So just kind of conceptually telling them that.
Tana Amen: I really like that because this idea of the Stepford Wife and the Stepford Mom is ... I mean, number one, it's impossible, but number two, who wants that?
Dr Darria: Who wants it? Yeah.
Tana Amen: If you really step back, it's like, do you really want to be that? Do you really want to be ... When we see that, when we see what we think is that in other people, we kind of cringe, right? Don't we?
Dr Darria: Right.
Tana Amen: Because it's not real. So it's just not ... doesn't feel real.
Dr Daniel Amen: Right. And people assume that's what's happening in everybody else-
Tana Amen: And it's not.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and it is a lie. When I was a young psychiatrist, I was the chief psychiatrist at Fort Irwin. It's in the middle of the Mojave Desert, and I was the only psychiatrist for 10,000 people.
Dr Darria: Wow.
Dr Daniel Amen: And I came to realize that whenever I thought someone else had it all together, whenever I thought they were awesome and normal, within three weeks they would be in my office telling me about the garbage in their life. The substance abuse, the pornography, the affairs, whatever it was. I came to believe that most people are like me. They are trying to do a good job, and there are ups and downs. The other thing you said that's so important, we talk a lot about on the podcast are you have to learn how to kill the ANTs, the automatic negative thoughts that steal your happiness.
Dr Darria: 100%. I actually have two hacks on automatic negative thoughts, which I think I first learned about from reading your literature.
Dr Daniel Amen: Well, I coined the term about 30 years ago and after I had an ant infestation in my house, and I'm like, "My patients are all infested." And I have a cool kids book. Send me your address. I'll send it to. It's called Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions. It's basically how to eliminate the ANTs, but because it's a skill that no one's been taught ... You should have been taught this in second grade, that moms need to know whenever they feel sad or mad or nervous or out of control, just start writing down what you're thinking and ask yourself if it's true. Because it cracks it, so you don't have to obsess on it.
Dr Darria: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Exactly on that, and I ... A lot of that cognitive behavioral therapy is challenging those ANTs, and so what I do ... Because when I'm in that ANT moment, and I am emotional, and I'm thinking that I'm a failure and the world's going to fail and my marriage is going to fall apart, and everything that we tend to catastrophize, we all forget the good. So I have people go through ... They have a little worksheet in there. And what I do every day now is when something good happens, especially with my book, I put it in a little note in my Notes on my iPhone.
Tana Amen: I love that.
Dr Darria: Because what does our brain retain? We retain the negative, we retain the rejections. So if I put it in my iPhone, the next time I get that negative, I can pull up like, "Oh, no. Actually, three things happened today. I just forgot about them."
Tana Amen: Yes. And for me, one thing that helped me ... I know when we moved to this area that I live in, and it's just a lovely area, but I remember feeling like I don't fit in with the moms here. I really did. I just felt that way. I just felt like what we were talking about before, like they're all somehow better than I am. I felt they were like ... It's sort of this country club element, and I went to the PTA, was enjoying the PTA, and I showed up and, literally, they're dressed to the nines, made up at 7:00 in the morning and I'm in my gym clothes, and I'm like, "I'm so confused. How do these people have it all together?"
I felt just so alienated because I'm not a country club mom. I'm a karate girl. So I'm like, "I don't get it. I'm so out of the loop. I don't understand." And then I had to do a reality check. I had to kill the ANTs, but then I did a serious reality check with myself, and I went, "Do you even want to be that?" And I'm like, "No, I don't want to be that." I had to really do this ... We don't even stop to ask ourselves, "What do you actually want?" I don't want to go to the country club and dress up at 7:00 in the morning.
Dr Daniel Amen: So you don't want to be like they.
Tana Amen: I don't.
Dr Daniel Amen: And many people, they carry-
Tana Amen: But it was making me miserable, thinking I needed to.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... they in their head, which is the critics committee.
Tana Amen: Right. I can-
Dr Daniel Amen: And so, as Darria said, it's the Mean Girls club. But-
Tana Amen: But they weren't being mean to me; I was.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... the people need to recognize it's the they in their head, not the they in reality. Because the they in reality are suffering like you are. If you look at the statistics, 51% of us at some point in our life will have a mental illness. Anxiety, depression, substance abuse, ADHD, bipolar disorder, whatever. So it's more normal to have a problem than not to have one.
Tana Amen: But I want to make one important point with all that. When I sort of did this on myself ... Because I remember I called you one day, and I broke down crying because I couldn't find the right shoes to wear, and that is so not me. And so he goes, "Who are you, and what did you do with my wife?" And I'm like, "I don't know. I feel like everyone's judging me." And that's when I stopped myself. Not one of them were judging me.
Dr Darria: No. No they weren't.
Tana Amen: I was judging me. I was judging me.
Dr Darria: Yes. And they were probably saying, "Wow, she looks hot in her karate clothes."
Tana Amen: They probably weren't even thinking about me. They probably weren't even thinking about me.
Dr Daniel Amen: Oh, Darria, you'll like this rule. We have the 18/40/60 rule, which says when you're 18 you worry about what everybody is thinking of you, and when you're 40 you don't give a damn what anybody thinks about you, and when you're 60 you realize no one has been thinking-
Tana Amen: Been thinking about ...
Dr Daniel Amen: ... about you at all. People spend their days worrying and thinking about themselves, not you.
Tana Amen: Right. So that was my reality check.
Dr Daniel Amen: So just as you said, it's what do you think about you? What does my husband-
Tana Amen: And what do I want?
Dr Daniel Amen: ... think about me? What do my kids think about me, and how am I managing the organization? Because women and ... I don't know, I'm going to probably sound sexist and get hate mail, but they're the CEOs of the house. And I grew up ... I'm one of seven children. How my mother did that, God only knows, but-
Tana Amen: And she did it well.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... she was clearly the CEO at home and organized and amazing. And yes, she had periods when she'd break down and cry or she'd throw something at me, and Lord knows I deserved it.
Dr Darria: You probably deserved it, yeah.
Tana Amen: He did. Yes, he did. I've heard the stories.
Dr Darria: It's not sexist. I mean, studies show that even when a woman works outside the home, the chances are greatest that she is also bearing the majority of the home load as well. We all do that. And so that was also the point of Hacks. Moms don't even have time ... I don't get to go pee by myself [crosstalk 00:11:53]-
Tana Amen: Right, no, you don't.
Dr Darria: It doesn't happen. So how do I build a system for people-
Tana Amen: I'm not the only one.
Dr Darria: You're not the only one. How do I give them a system of hacks similar to just ... super actionable and tactile, like kind of rearranging things in your house. Others are really conceptual, like we were talking about in this last podcast. The goal being if you just open it up, read one hack, you will feel better because that's all moms [crosstalk 00:12:16]-
Dr Daniel Amen: So you can do a hack a day-
Tana Amen: I have to-
Dr Darria: Yes.
Dr Daniel Amen: ... and then within three months you transform your life. All right. Stay with us.
Tana Amen: Wait, wait, wait. I have to say one thing. I feel so much better knowing that someone like you, your education, your level of sophistication, who looks like you, has the same problems. You can't go pee by herself. I just had to say that.
Dr Darria: Oh, my god. And anybody who thinks it's perfect go look at the video on my website. It looks perfect with my kids. That thing took four hours, and I'm not even [crosstalk 00:12:43]-
Tana Amen: For one shot.
Dr Daniel Amen: Stay with us. We're going to talk about more.
Tana Amen: I love that. This is so fun. This is actually fun.
Dr Daniel Amen: Mom Hacks with Dr. Darria Long Gillespie. Stay with us.
Thank you for listening to The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast.