Motherhood Matters! Empowering and Uplifting Self-Care Tips for Moms with Expert Dayna M. Kurtz, LCSW

IAOL 40 | Motherhood

 

Every day, millions of women struggle in their new (or existing) roles as mothers. No matter how much a woman desires to be a mother, the journey of motherhood can be scary and challenging. Motherhood is inherently imperfect, yet we often feel as if we should be perfect mothers who can “do it all.” In reality, the drain of striving for perfection—and comparing ourselves to others—makes being a mom even more difficult. Dayna M. Kurtz, LCSW, author, and motherhood expert, offers heartfelt tips for making the most of being a woman and a mom. In a world that often diminishes the value of motherhood and the huge effort it requires, let’s pause to give mothers the support and credit they deserve.

 

Books by Dr. Carla Manly:

Date Smart: Transform Your Relationships and Love Fearlessly

Joy From Fear: Create the Life of Your Dreams by Making Fear Your Friend

Aging Joyfully: A Woman’s Guide to Optimal Health, Relationships, and Fulfillment for Her 50s and Beyond

The Joy of Imperfect Love

 

Connect with Dr. Carla Manly:

Website: https://www.drcarlamanly.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/drcarlamanly

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/drcarlamanly

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/drcarlamanly

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/carla-marie-manly-8682362b

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@dr.carlamariemanly8543

TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@dr_carla_manly

 

Book by Dayna M. Kurtz:

Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom

 

Connect with Dayna M. Kurtz:

Website: https://www.daynamkurtz.com

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Motherhood Matters! Empowering and Uplifting Self-Care Tips for Moms with Expert Dayna M. Kurtz, LCSW

Discover Simple, Attainable Strategies for Navigating the Challenging Journey of Motherhood!

Every year, millions of women struggle in their new or existing roles as mothers. No matter how much a woman wants to be a mother, the journey of motherhood can be scary and challenging. In a world that often diminishes the value of motherhood and the huge effort it requires, it’s important to give mothers the support and credit they need and deserve.

In this episode, we’ll focus on this reader’s real-life question, “I have two great kiddos aged six months and three years. My partner is helpful, but I’m stretched thin between working full-time, managing the household duties, and raising my little guys. My friends seem to have a much easier time. Compared to them, I feel like I’ve lost myself. Even basic sleep, self-care, and exercise are hard to come by. Do you have any good tips and resources for me?” That question is the focus of this episode.

 

IAOL 40 | Motherhood

 

I’m joined by a special guest, Dayna M. Kurtz, a licensed clinical social worker, who will be talking with us about her expertise in the realm of motherhood and her amazing book, Mother Matters. Welcome to the show, Dayna. It’s such a joy to spend time with you.

Likewise, Carla. It’s a pleasure for me to be here. Thanks so much for inviting me on.

Before we started our show, I got to meet your beautiful son. It’s lovely to see that you are a woman who has walked this walk of motherhood. It’s certainly a challenging one

I’m still walking. I’m still on that journey.

It’s interesting. As every mother tends to find out, we’re never done being mothers, are we? No matter how old they are, we are still mom, and mother does matter.

Our roles and the ways in which we’re called upon to mother shift, but it doesn’t end regardless of how old our child or children may be.

Before we launch into the reader’s question of the day, which is a big question with a lot of facets to it, could you share with our readers a little bit about what makes you you?

I can attempt that. It’s a profound question in general, what makes each of us who we are? I can speak to what drew me to a desire to work with mothers and to women on what I call the motherhood spectrum, which is women who are considering becoming mothers, who may already be mothers, who have decided they don’t want to be mothers, and who are in a complex relationship with their own mothers. It’s a wide-ranging category.

What drew me to wanting to work with women on that spectrum is that when I was contemplating whether or not I wanted to have a child, and I should say that it was a privilege even to have that choice and to be able to decide whether or not it was something I wanted, when I decided to do this with my partner, I assumed that I would breeze into becoming a mother with great ease because it appeared that I had every resource at my disposal to try and make that transition seamless.

Motherhood is imperfect, yet we often feel as if we should be perfect mothers who can “do it all.” Join Dr. Carla and expert Dayna M. Kurtz for an honest, empowering discussion about the love, care, and support that are often missing (but so essential)… Click To Tweet

I did have many resources at my disposal. I had a supportive partner. We were blessed to be financially secure. I had family close to me. I had a community around me. I had many privileges and advantages. Even with all of those, I found that becoming a mother was among the greatest challenges I had ever experienced. Maybe it’s a nice segue back into the reader’s question.

One of the challenges I found was that it appeared as though I was the only person who was struggling with being a mother. Everywhere I looked, it appeared all of these other mothers were going about their lives with a fancy-free attitude. They were completely put together. Their babies or their children were completely put together. They had Instagram evidence to support that. If I’m being honest, back then, it was Facebook. It was pre-Instagram. I’m dating myself.

I felt isolated and alienated by the amount of difficulty I seemed to be having that was unique. I came to realize that it wasn’t unique at all. In some way, shape, or form, all of us have moments of struggle. Some more prolonged, some shorter, some earlier in the motherhood experience, and some later in the motherhood experience. We all have moments of challenge and struggle on this journey. This is part of why I wanted to be here with you. The more we are in dialogue about that reality, the less of a burden we’ll be carrying as individual women around being mothers and how hard it can be.

 

IAOL 40 | Motherhood

 

Thank you for that incredible honesty. I love how you set the stage. From the outside, it looked like you had everything you needed to make motherhood a breeze. You had good health, family, sufficient finances, and stability. It should have been perfect. Yes and no. It’s because life happens, kid’s demands on our lives, and society’s demands on us to be doing everything as women. Even though we’ve come far in the last many years, we haven’t come nearly far enough in getting.

We could talk about the politics of motherhood. That’s another episode. Maybe we can circle back one day and do that. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that as an “advanced nation,” we are woefully behind in the way we support, or more specifically, don’t support parents, mothers in particular. I’m talking about things like no federally mandated paid maternity leave or paternity leave and universal daycare that isn’t universal and available in every town and city in the country.

I’m talking about these more tacit expectations that women both maintain a career and also be available for drop-offs, pickups, and being class parents. We are called upon to do the hardest thing there is, which is to raise a human being, be happy and healthy, and be a contributing member of our society with few resources and support. It’s a terrible irony. We’re all set up to fall short.

We could digress onto the politics and the unfairness of it and spend a lot of time there. I’m with you. Let’s weave it back to this question where this woman is working full-time trying to manage a six-month-old and a three-year-old. The partner’s somewhat helpful but depleted that the basics of eating right, sleeping, exercise, and the things that allow us to be our best at work and certainly in the most important place, even though a lot of people don’t see it as the most important place. The most important place in my book is home. If we don’t have a loving and safe home environment, we can have all the money in the bank, all the food in the fridge, and all the vacations, but if home is not a loving, safe place, what do we have?

When reading that reader’s question, one of the pieces that stuck out to me and that resonated with me is the idea that she was deficient in some way because she didn’t feel as though she was doing whatever it was she was supposed to be doing as well as all these other people around her seem to be doing it.

There was this idea in our culture in the past about women being able to have it all. We can be in the workplace and be mothers if we choose to be mothers. At the risk of being a bit of a bubble burster, we can’t have it all, or at least not at the same time. The sooner we embrace that basic truth, that the way our culture and society are set up now, we cannot have it all.

 

 

I’m sad to say I agree with you on that. I have been there and done that. We can’t be everything to everyone and be something to ourselves, especially if you value the role of motherhood in and of itself, which I do. It’s one of the most extraordinary professions in the world. There are a lot of people who may disagree with me. That’s okay. Disagree with me all you want, but I do believe that raising a child is incredibly difficult. It takes a lot of attention and time, especially if you are a full-time breadwinner. Being able to remember and enjoy the journey of motherhood is almost impossible.

Millions of women struggle in their new (or existing) roles as mothers. No matter how much a woman wants to be a mother, the journey of motherhood can be scary and challenging. Join Dr. Carla and expert Dayna M. Kurtz for an uplifting journey into… Click To Tweet

The other piece that you drew attention to that I love is that this individual who wrote in is looking at how easy everybody else has it. You were saying, “Everybody’s kids were put together. They were put together.” I point that out in my first book, Joy From Fear, where I talk about that voice of toxic comparison.

The minute we start comparing ourselves and our lives to what we see in often carefully curated snapshots from other people’s lives, the minute that voice of self-doubt starts creeping in, “I am not enough. I’m not doing it good enough. My kids are not as whatever as this person. My life isn’t as pretty as beautiful as perfect.” It’s one of the reasons that I wanted to talk about imperfect love vociferously as I do because imperfect is life. We are imperfect. Life is imperfect. Anytime we’re looking at these perfect images out there, and there are more of them, we’re going to think that’s reality. It’s not reality. Reality is imperfection.

You use the word toxic in your book and speaking. It’s spot on. This oversaturation of perfectly curated images on social media platforms is toxic. In my practice working with moms, this theme of I’m not good enough, I don’t look good enough, I haven’t lost the baby weight as quickly as she did, all of that talk. As a psychotherapist, I don’t prescribe, and I don’t mean pharmaceuticals.

I’m not in the business of prescribing what people should do, but I do sometimes strongly suggest that my clients put strong boundaries around how much social media they ingest in a concrete way. Sometimes, I’ll say set a timer, five minutes scrolling through Instagram or whatever your drug of choice, Instagram, TikTok, or whatever it is, because they’re drugs. They’re designed to hook you in and keep you there. Set a timer because otherwise, the effects can be toxic.

 

 

It’s insidious where it creeps in. I’ve had many clients tell me that once they go on a social media diet, they feel better about themselves, or instead of choosing to follow the beach body bodies, whatever they are, they choose to follow real people with real lives. I am not a big social media person, but there’s one when I go on to check my feed because I have this TikTok account that I have to oversee. There’s one that pops up. I adore her because she is not a stick. She is a real woman with real curves. She models all these clothes the way they look on a real woman with real curves.

I’m on it once a week. I look, and I smile because that is healthy, real, and beautifully imperfect. Images like that make us all feel normal because we all share the truth of imperfection. We can celebrate that and smile at it. For this mom to be able to say, “Maybe all of my friends look like they have it together.”

A, likely they don’t because they’re human. B, why use your energy comparing yourself to these pictures or people or whatever they’re driving or doing, and turn it back and use that energy to love yourself and your two little ones? Your book, Mother Matters, is such a beautiful, grounding, holistic guide. It’s not La La Land. It’s real. What are some of your favorite tips in that book that would speak to this reader’s question? It sounds like she’s suffering from some overwhelm, a word I use carefully.

It’s a fairly widespread experience for women feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities, the obligations, and the lack of time and resources. In my book, Mother Matters, I offer up a list of tools, if you will, that are evidence-based and steeped in science. Most of them are free and easily accessible. They’re intended to bolster one’s own holistic health, mind, body, and spirit. I’m partial to all of them because I selected each one for a specific reason or reasons.

In the case of this reader, the one that bubbled to the top for me was the idea of being in a community with like-minded women and finding a sense of support. That could be in the form of a new mom’s group, which is often available free of charge at the local rec center. The reason that I would suggest that for her is because it might help to normalize the experience of how messy and imperfect motherhood can be. I suspect she would have her feelings and experiences mirrored back to her by other women in a similar situation. That normalization can work wonders against feeling isolated, alienated, and alone. That comes to mind as a useful resource for her.

It helps to normalize the experience of how messy and imperfect motherhood can be. Click To Tweet

I’m a psychotherapist. I’m a huge proponent of psychotherapy and talk therapy as a healing modality. I am a practitioner of it. I am on the other side of it. I’m a client as well. I know what I speak. Psychotherapy or some talk therapy can be important for all of us, but particularly for mothers because I see this in my practice all the time. It’s often the one setting, the one time during the week, the one environment in her whole life where the focus is solely on her and what she needs, what she wants, and how she feels. For 45 minutes, once a week, everything gets to be about her. That is an invaluable asset for all of us, especially for new moms.

Coming back to the support group, I agree with you. I love that you came right out of the gate with that one because support groups, whether it’s through your hospital, a lot of hospitals, a lot of pediatricians’ offices, community centers, or junior colleges, all of those resources are often low cost or free.

There are lots of support groups online.

I’ve run support groups before. They can be incredible because it’s different from individual therapy, but nothing is validating as sitting with a group of women, whether it’s 8, 20, or 5 women, and having other women nodding their heads and saying, “Yes, I get that. I’ve been there,” or hearing a woman speak and the other person saying, “I would’ve never had the courage to say that, but thank you for bringing that up. I finally heard someone else say what’s been on my heart that I was afraid.”

It’s an incredible benefit that we often don’t realize. I’ve participated in support groups. I’ve been on both ends. It’s amazing to sometimes sit and soak up the wisdom, the frailty, and the challenges that come to enrich body, mind, and spirit because these groups don’t just get us emotional. They help us mentally. Everything that happens in the mind going to affect the body and vice versa.

We want to be able to see how important those support groups are and to have a date with yourself and a date with these other women that, “This is my hour or my hour and a half where I’m going to drive to this support group. That’ll take me 15 or 20 minutes. That’s me time. I’m going to be there for an hour,” or if it’s by Zoom, as long as you’re able to craft a safe enough space where you don’t have kids walking over your shoulders and a cat on your head.

A quick caveat to that is in terms of making sure you have a safe space to be in the community with these groups. I would say that not all support groups are created equal. If one tries a group and you don’t feel it, don’t give up on groups. Try another one. I’ll share my own experience when I joined a new mom’s group when my son was a baby. The first group I joined was not for me. It wasn’t for me. I didn’t feel supported and understood. I left and tried a second one. It changed my life. Keep at it if the first one doesn’t fit.

Not all support groups are created equal. If you try a group and you just don't feel it, don't give up on groups. Try another one. Click To Tweet

I have a question on the fit no fit. Unless there’s something that happens in a toxic way on that first session, I’m a big proponent of giving a group two tries, partly because that first one, if you’ve never done a group before, everything can seem awful, scary, and not a good fit. Sometimes, when you go back that second or third time, you’ve now relaxed. You can be a little more objective and sit. What do you think about giving it at least a second try?

It’s an excellent point. Thank you for adding a caveat to my caveat. Unless it’s abominable the first time, I would give it another chance. It’s about dating. My clients were like, “Unless it’s a total disaster, give it a second go.” I also believe in the power of the gut. We need to trust our instincts. If your instinct doesn’t have a strong read, give it a second or a third. By then, the gut usually knows what’s happening. I would check in with that.

It’s the same thing with individual psychotherapy. When you’re meeting a new therapist, sometimes it’s nope, this isn’t going to work. Other times, it might take a session, especially if you’re a newbie. It is that first time. I remember my first time in a support group. I was like, “No, there are many people and personalities.” I did go back and thought, “I might be able to do this.”

The third time was easier. Not that it’s always easy, it’s not always easy being in a support group or individual therapy because sometimes you’re looking at things or needing to make changes, whether in your relationship dynamics or your skillset that feel uncomfortable and a little anxiety-inducing. That’s the nature of change. Even healthy change is not always comfortable.

That’s the nature of life. Most things in life that are truly worth doing, including mothering, are not easy.

The most difficult things in life are the ones that have the biggest payoff if we’re paying attention to them and we’re using them as growth opportunities. Otherwise, it’s a challenge. We made it through the challenge to the other side, but we didn’t grow and learn. That’s a big piece of what you’re offering to this reader, which is don’t make it through the mothering challenges.

 

IAOL 40 | Motherhood

 

Make it through them with greater wisdom and ease with a greater sense of what you want from motherhood, what you want to give, and how you want to parent your little boys, which is different from the old way of doing motherhood, which is power through. Before you know it, the kids are eighteen, and they’re out of the house. You’re looking and saying, “They’re gone.” They are both excellent tips. I know we’ve been talking for a long time, but one more thing you might offer to this sleep-deprived, exercise-deprived, self-care-deprived woman.

Everything changes, and nothing stays the same. I wish someone had reminded me of that when she was sleep-deprived, overwhelmed, and feeling like I couldn’t get a handle on things. I wish someone had said, “This’ll change. Nothing stays the same.” If I knew that the situation was finite and that my feelings about the situation were finite and they would pass as feelings do, I would’ve been able to tolerate the discomfort with greater strength. When we’re in it, it can be hard to have that perspective. We can lose it. I would let her know. It may even have passed by the time she read this. Who knows.

 

 

The other part is when we put the tips together and realize, “Yes, these difficult stages pass.” When you are doing something to help them pass more easily, such as a support group or a visit to a psychotherapist where you get to vent for 45 minutes if that’s what you want, you get to be heard, cared for, seen, and validated. That also helps those times pass and not seem devastatingly stuck.

Thank you, Dayna. I know you have so much more to offer. Readers, you can find it in her beautiful, timeless book. It’s grounding. It’s not foof. It’s research-backed, evidence-based strategies for making that journey not only easier but more enjoyable and validating. It validates womanhood. You know, womanhood. It validates being a mother. It validates the importance of raising yourself as you’re raising little ones because the two go together. Dayna, as we draw to a close, where can our readers find you?

You can always reach me on my website, DaynaMKurtz.com. You can find information about Mother Matters, the book there as well. You can get it on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can get ahold of me there.

Thank you again so much for sharing your time, heart, and expertise with us. I’m grateful.

Thank you, Carla. It’s been a pleasure.

 

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About Dayna M. Kurtz

IAOL 40 | MotherhoodDayna M. Kurtz, LCSW, CPT is the former Director of the Anna Keefe Women’s Center in Manhattan. She has facilitated psycho-educational support groups at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center and The Hospital for Special Surgery.

She earned her Masters in Social Work from Columbia University, her undergraduate degree from Brandeis University, and completed postgraduate studies at The Training Institute for Mental Health. With a particular interest in the intersection between emotional and physical health, she also holds a personal training certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Dayna is the author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom (Familius Press) and The Total Body Cure for Women (Hearst), and a contributor to The Doctor’s Book of Natural Remedies (Rodale). Additional writing has appeared in The Washington Post and The Huffington Post. She has been consulted as an expert for media outlets including The Boston Globe, The Today Show, and Sirius XM radio.

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