Hi there, welcome back to the thoughtful counselor, I am joined today by Dr. Madeline Clark, Associate Professor at the University of Toledo Mati, how are you?
I am well, thank you for having me.
Of course, this is a conversation I know, that we have been talking about more casually for quite some time. And I'm looking forward to hearing more about your thoughts, your experiences, and what advice you have for counselors, educators, counselors, and just general folks to support people who are parents preparing to be parents, or individuals who have children and are trying to balance academia. So tell me a little bit about your experience as a new parent, and what thoughts come to mind when you think about some challenges that parents do face.
So I am a pretty new parent, I have a four month old as of this past weekend, daughter, her name is Max. My road to parenthood is different, I think, than many people, we adopted our daughter for a variety of reasons. So I didn't birth this baby. So that I think makes my conversation about parental leave. And my challenge is different. So I don't want to not say that people have physical challenges with birth, and the healthcare system, and childcare and all of these things that I just didn't experience the physical process of childbirth. So I won't talk a lot about those challenges. But I know that they're, they're breastfeeding, those sort of things, something that I didn't do, she's a bottle fed baby, on the solids. Now. I'll probably just brag about her. Fine case, please, we need some good news. So my journey has been a little bit different. So I think that does take some of my experiences. But as a, as a counselor, I've worked with a lot of people who were parents, from a variety of different walks of life. And I've also had a lot of students as a professor become parents, especially doctoral students. In our doctoral program, I've been their dissertation chair. So I think I've seen this from a variety of angles. And now that I am a parent, I certainly do see it from a very, very different perspective. So I think when I start to think about challenges, with specifically being a counselor, educator, or really even being a counselor is when you are in an environment that is so focused on productivity, how can you take a break from that, to do the necessary work not only for your child, to you know, care for them as a very small person, and Stacey and I were just talking about what it's like to have a newborn and a really young baby before we started recording. But also take care of yourself? And how do you do both of those things in an environment that requires a lot of you and a lot of your energy, and in a lot of situations and environment that there will never be enough of you to go around? Right? The University of Toledo will never tell me, Maddie, you've done enough. Take arrest, that's not going to happen. Clients are not probably going to tell us you've done enough for me to arrest. Maybe they would I haven't had that client or student yet. So you have to really learn how to set that boundary for yourself. That looks probably really different for everybody. But I think as academics, as counselors, people who are trained to give a lot of themselves to other people that's like a really intrinsic, probably motivator that led us to this profession in the first place. That's a That's a harder lesson to learn. And I think there's probably gender dynamics to that, too. that come into play. I don't know if that answered your question. I kind of took that off on a Segway. That
was brilliant. And yeah, absolutely. Right. And part of the reason why I was so excited to bring you on was because your experience of becoming a new parent is unique and each way that we become new parents are unique. So whether it's through adoption, whether it's through, going through you know your own person A labor and delivery process. And that comes with its own unique challenges and often some kinds of trauma. And one of the challenges that I heard you describe is being able to set those boundaries and being able to recognize when you've done enough and how to piece apart your identities to give resources to your child, to yourself to perhaps your partner, or partners, and also your roles as a counselor, educator and a counselor, and how hard that truly can be. Yeah, I
think it's been a really steep learning curve. For me, I absolutely did not know about what I didn't know about being a parent or becoming a parent before I came became one. And a lot of times, I think I have like, post hoc guilt about the way I wasn't a good friend, or a good colleague, or a good peer to people who had children before me, because you just simply can't understand. And I don't think this conversation would necessarily solve that for people who don't have children, because there is something like, you know, until somebody throws up in your mouth at 3am, do you really know? Beautiful, it's wonderful. So, um, yeah, I think there's just been so much to learn at the same time. Another part of my challenge, and Stacy knows this is that because my child is adopted, my university's policies were such that I couldn't take parental leave and the semester in which she was born. So I'm actually on parental leave now, through the end of May, which is pretty generous at 16 weeks, that's wonderful. We can talk about a lack of paid parental leave in this country, like 60% of academics don't have parental leave at all period. I simply am nauseated that we live in this society and air quotes that allows those things to happen. So those are certainly a part of this conversation and things that I think about. So I'm privileged in a lot of ways, but I did find it interesting that because my daughter, she's open adoption, I've been in contact with her birth parents, and I'm still still in contact with their birth parents. But if birth parents had decided not to go through with the placement in September, when she was born, I would have had to pay, you know, all my salary and benefits for the fall semester back. And that speaks to one of those really specific challenges as an academic is when do you go on leave? If your baby is due on November 1, as a parent, do you only take like the four weeks? Or do you wait to take the other time that you're entitled to because you're in a mid semester, and our lives revolve around these 15 or 16 week semester periods? You know, for many people, it's just like, Well, my baby's due on October 1, and that's when I'm going on parental leave. That's not necessarily the case for people who would be adopting a baby, or for people who are in this academic fall, spring, summer, pick and choose when you're going to have your time. So there's just you know, that's been challenging, I was fortunate, my partner had parental leave a generous amount, you know, so he did a lot of the care on the front end. But balancing was still really challenging. So I, I think, a thing that people should know, is one, if you don't know already, that we live in a society that doesn't have any sort of parental leave policy. And maybe you have not been paying attention to the news lately, because it's a pretty big political hot button issue right now, but also, in what ways does that impact the people that you're serving your students, your clients, and the decisions and hard decisions that they have to make about their life? And more often than not, those are experienced by women? In a when we think about childbearing, and the people who are people, excuse me, people who are pregnant and deliver babies. So absolutely.
So one of the most important parts that I heard you say is, is how critical it is to engage in advocacy, advocacy at any level, whether that is for your clients, for your students, or for your colleagues, and how how little there is, as far as support in academia, especially when perhaps that young baby comes into your life mid semester, and what safety nets do we have in place to ensure that you are protected and safe and taken care of as a counselor or counselor educator?
No, I just think it's really important to early on, identify who your allies are in the situation. And it's not going to be everybody. Unfortunately, you know, I think especially as a young girl, stem presenting person, especially if you have been quote on air, quote, career focus prior to having a child people have made comments me like, well, it's gonna change how your career goes, like. Yeah, it is. Anything could change how my career goes. I've been really fortunate. Again, the partner head leaves. I had really great doc students supporting me and some of my co teaching this semester, and I have really solid colleagues who were like, got it, like, take your space and no one ever felt offended in my immediate program, right that this is what I needed to do. So it's okay to ask for help and tell people what it is that you expect that you will need? Or how that might change for you, too? Right? I think that's something that colleagues need to be prepared for, to hear, and being open to helping as much as possible.
Yes. So if you are a counselor, educator or a counselor who has it called Preparing to start a family or expand that family, one thing that would be really helpful is to be proactive and offering support and asking, How can I help take some responsibilities off your plate, and recognize that not everyone is going to feel comfortable asking for help. So how do I align myself right, as your ally to empower you to succeed as a person, as a mother as a partner, and also perhaps as a counselor and a counselor educator?
Yeah, I read something the other day that says like, we shouldn't ever make an assumption that or, or we shouldn't assume that a parent isn't struggling, because a parent is probably not going to tell you that they're struggling, there's a lot of societal reasons for that the pressure around motherhood for me has been astronomical, I'm already a perfectionist, I'm an academic so. So it's just so high. So that fear of like being looked at by others, I don't have it together. Or I'm not a good parent, if I can't handle x, y, or z. Let me know about parenting in a pandemic, which is just like, it's that fire level in Mario was like the spinning, you have the lava is raising from the floor. Yes, that. So I think you should just approach parents always that parents probably have a need for support in some kind of way. And it might not necessarily be I need you to tangibly watch my children. We're not asking you to do that. But sometimes it's like, yeah, this is really hard for me. And that catharsis is important to know, when you have somebody in your kind of work constellation that you can rely on for those conversations, especially for people who don't have children. And so I found myself more uncomfortable having those conversations with people who do not have children. If that makes sense.
It does. There's a certain bond, I think that happens when when two parents connect and their children are the same age or they've had a similar experience. Absolutely. There's just another level, it's almost like another way of knowing has been unlocked. Yes. If you are, again, a faculty member, just being honest and open about, you know, how important is it that we meet on this day? Am I able to be flexible to accommodate the needs of other folks with other identities? And speaking of identities, how have you found that parenthood impacts who you are as a counselor, educator and counselor, and especially in your shiny new role as an associate professor?
Um, yeah, I think it makes me better in a lot of ways. Um, it makes me worse in the ways to some people I'm certainly less productive than I used to be, I don't stay up late writing anymore. When she goes to bed at seven, I'm done for the day. And I have a baby who likes this lady was bless her. Um, I'm done. Like, I have to do Duolingo French, that's the only thing I have energy for anymore at that time of day. So it's definitely changed how I have engaged with my work schedule, which has really changed my understanding of being a counselor educator. A lot of my identity, with a lot of things that I do is about being very good at things that I do that comes across in a crossfitter. I love that I love to be the strongest and fastest at all the things that I do in the gym, I like to be the strongest and fastest. So work to for lack of a better term, I'm just not able to do that anymore. And I kind of came to terms with that before Max came along, because you just like, theoretically know that that's going to change. But it really does change. But I don't think it's in a bad way. I've become so much more intentional about how I use my time. I say no to so much more now than I don't think I ever felt so empowered to say no to things that were not a good use of my time. So in some ways, it's been really positive. And I'm still learning as I go. Like I'm still going through parental leave now until May so I haven't even really had the opportunity to like fully unplug yet. And that has been challenging in its own right for sure. But now I'm dealing with like FOMO work FOMO you know,
how valuable thing that's a real thing. And it sounds so counterintuitive because as counselors we preach such self care, and yet when we're not actively engaged in the profession, there's a part of us there's a part of me that feels like oh my am I going to be irrelevant. Am I going
to fall behind Am I left out which is such an I know this This is a that's a toxic way to think about work. Your work is not your family. But really pro label, like pro union person, I need to set boundaries with work, the University of Toledo counselor program existed before I was born, it will exist probably after I die. So I really have to think about work in that way. That doesn't mean I don't do my best while I'm there and try to make the impact to the sense that I can, you know, my world can't revolve around that. So I really know that on like, the surface level, how toxic that drive for productivity is and how that extrinsic motivation can just bite you in the ass because it makes you value yourself for productivity, not for real human qualities. Like, you're funny, you're kind, you're a good friend, you're a good listener, it's all become a how many Impact Factor publications did I have last year, it's really easy to get caught up in that in academia. And I'm not saying we shouldn't have those goals for our career, but at the expense of what I think that cost benefit is something you have to constantly negotiate. So on one hand, I know that that the thought process is bad. On the other hand, I'm having trouble, like, deprogramming myself from that process, I guess is what I'm trying to say.
Absolutely. And I think it takes time. And I suspect that for all of us, it's a work in progress. Because these things that we accomplish these publication is awards, these recognitions these grants, they are so extrinsically, motivating, it's difficult to have that BD program altogether. And I think it's just waves, right? It's waves of some days, it's gonna be like this, and some days, and I'm gonna be more focused in my role as a mother and there are some days I don't even get an email out, and how challenging that is for me and how challenging it has been, it continues to be in taking those moments to reflect and ask myself, how important is this really, how important is it really, for me to send this email, write this grant, do this revision because this tiny little baby is going to be small one time and I I don't want to miss that either. And so perhaps the antidote for this difficulty in balancing is is mindfulness, right. So when we're, when we're parents be parents enjoy what that means, and the messiness and the joy and the confusion and the frustration of parenthood, and then when we're working, really be in that role. And it takes practice. But I think with radical acceptance and ongoing experiences, it's something that I suspect we as new parents can learn to navigate a little bit more flexibly.
Yeah, yeah. Two things that came up for me that one, like radical acceptance, that is such a needed thing for parenthood, because you govern the hospital with this little tiny thing. They're going to incarcerate, you know, all snugged up and you're like, what are what do we do now? There's no book, you've not you don't know yourself, as a parent, you don't know your partner, as a parent yet, if you have a partner, there's so much to learn. The hill is so so steep, and what would you expect of someone else? So just be nice to yourself. I think that's a challenge for everybody. But I also want to think about like, you know, there's individual responsibility here, radical acceptance, mindfulness, where we also have a systemic responsibility in the way that I think the Academy has failed a lot of people. And we can think about how who is the academy built for? Well, it's built for the people who built it, who were married white cisgender, upper middle class men, who typically had white female partners who stayed home, and did their laundry and often type their manuscripts for them. You know, like, we hear all these stories about how these great scientists had their wives just typing outside and they were dictating to them. I should allow if I had a cook, a laundry person, some a typist, man, a lot better about my life, too. So, you know, I think academia often tries to make people feel like they don't fit in because they don't fit the original, like mold of who an academic is. You know, and I think when you become a parent, you challenge the mold of who an academic is. Because academics are supposed to be people who are, have absolutely devoted to their work their work alone, you should die at your desk. There's a culture of that, and I know there's people who want to do that and like, go off if that's for you. That's not for me. I don't think it's for many academics. So we're also rewriting a challenging a narrative that exists in the academy in a way that we kind of, we don't we don't fit. So yes, there's a responsibility to yourself, there's responsibility, your family, but there's also this kind of systemic failure. And that's also my philosophy about imposter syndrome to imposter syndrome is a real individual experience that people feel but it's not because of your own fault. It's because the system wasn't built for somebody as radical as you are, and they are making you feel uncomfortable, because you make them uncomfortable, right or your needs make them uncomfortable. So, and I think there's a lot of imposter syndrome that you experience as a parent period, because you really don't know what you're doing. But then as a parent who's an academic, right, because you're still expected to perform in the way you're performing before, which isn't really physically possible, there's only 24 hours in a day. But also like, I'll be honest, this is a cute baby I have at home, like, nobody's smiling at me like that cute baby at work, and I want to be with her, I want to be with her, she is the center of my world. And I have to be comfortable saying that, I think now, that's where my heart is, in a lot of ways.
And so here's evidence that With practice, you are setting those boundaries, and you are giving yourself space to cultivate that role as a mom. And letting that FOMO voice die down just the little bit every day. And every smile, it gets easier. It's better. As I'm hearing your talk, I'm just feeling really connected and empowered in hoping to impart at least some guidance to young doc students or other folks who are interested in starting a family not quite sure when when I was a student, I got advice from someone I looked up to, and this person told me, number one, don't even think about starting a family until you're tenured. And number two, don't tell folks that you want to have a family when you're applying for jobs. And I think about how unhelpful that was. And I think about how that
is problematic. It'd be problematic that we think that
it's that systemic oppression, systemic toxic messaging that is so part of the academy institution, and how do we, as you know, educated on some level privileged by education folks deconstruct the expectations that are embedded in hegemonic masculinity and all these other issues that continue to negatively impact us as people and people who perhaps want to have families?
Yeah, I mean, I think a lot of that goes back to what I think about, like from an intersectional feminist perspective in the ways that feminism has failed many women is that it has put its proximity to power. Is to I want to be that not I want to change that. Right. So I think that's what we have to really think about is I was also given very, very similar advice. I was engaged when I went don't wear your engagement ring on your job interview, which is very interesting. Now they think about it interesting advice. At the same time, I know why I got it. And it's not necessarily wrong. Because I would have been thought of in a certain way, if I brought those things up. But it doesn't mean that it's right, that I that we perceive people in that way, it was a benevolent intention, not a malevolent intention. Yes. So back to your question. I'm getting too theoretical and not practical enough. What would I tell someone is, I think, if you're in a position where you're looking for a job, you're looking for a doc program, you're looking for an advisor, those are questions that you should ask and hold people accountable for answering, because until we start answering, asking those questions, and making people answer, well, how do you treat parents in your program? Who are students? How does that impact assistantships? How will I be provided with the time off necessary from my teaching assistantship or my graduate assistantship? To do what I need to do? No one's going to think about how to answer that question. If they don't know how to answer it, or they're angry, and they don't want you to come to the program, because you asked, Do not Grace them with your presence and might be but that is not the place for you to be fulfilled. Right, I think we can put on like the trappings of academia and make it look sparkly and good. But if you're in a program or in a job, that doesn't respect who you are as a person, holy, you, you won't be as successful as you could be there.
It sounds like what is also really important is making sure that in this space where we exist, we're accepted and more celebrated were affirmed, and that it's a place that is mutually beneficial and not so toxic that we can't lean into other parts of ourselves. Yeah.
And I know as a program director, I know how much my doc students do for my program. And, you know, I read a little bit like MLM energy in the way that we take advantage of sometimes our most vulnerable members of the academy, right? Doc students work very hard, but they're nowhere near compensators supported like a faculty member, but they're teaching and in a lot of ways being expected to do similar roles. So we can talk about workplace equity and labor and all sorts of things like that. But what that comes down to is we often make the sell that our programs will be Like, this is what we're going to do for you. Right? You're also going to do a lot for them. You're giving them your labor, you're giving them your time, the really the one thing and our health that we can't get back in, in this experience. So always remember that you're giving something to them, too. They're not giving you everything. They're hopefully they're giving you something to make that trade worthwhile. But they don't own you. Right. Absolutely. That's important for a faculty member to know too as we navigate parental leave and those other things. So,
yes, absolutely. So as we think about, you know, these experiences of being new parents, so Max is just a little over four months, at the time of this recording. Kit is, he'll be six months on the 25th. Like, this is a brand new, shiny, sparkly, and also like slightly exhausting to Earth like we're exhausting, terrifying experience. And we're just learning navigate this. And one of the things I know we've talked about is, wow, I didn't know what I didn't know. And the guilt that I feel when my sister in law, or my cousin, or my best friend had their first baby, and they were suddenly unavailable to me. And they were upset about things that I didn't know how to respond to. And they were heartbroken over, you know, painful sex, and changes to sex drive and losing hair and postpartum anxiety and depression and breastfeeding challenges and, you know, struggles with birth parents and boundary issues. And these are all things that I think people don't know, until they perhaps become parents themselves. So when we think about how do we use this information to support counselors, to empower clients? So thinking about what you now know, what are some examples or topics or questions or issues that counselors should consider when working with clients who are preparing for parenthood or who I'm parents?
I think the for this, there's kind of the two things for me is like counselor characteristics, what would I want a counselor to be able to do? And then interventions and things that I think would be useful in a session? And what I think first I think about personal characteristics are how are we handling, you know, transference countertransference, in this relationship, what's interesting about all of us, as we all have been children and had a parental figure in our life at some point. So we all have these experiences and thoughts in air quotes about what childhood is and looks like or what it is or should be, and what parenthood is, or looks like or what it should be. And I often think maybe sometimes the most judgmental people have parents or people who don't have children, like I can't believe she's letting her kid look at the iPad in the grocery store, like, now, I'm just like, bro, bro, she just got to get some groceries, right? Like this woman is doing her best. So I think it's really about challenging yourself about what you know, think and how you judge parents already. Parents do. And I've only been doing this for four months, we feel really judged, we feel very vulnerable. People have an opinion about everything that we do, don't be that person, as the counselor, right, you have to maintain some cultural sensitivity towards the construct of parenthood. And that's going to look different across different types of Family Constellations, that's gonna look different across cultures. So this is a multicultural competency issue to just be on parenting as an identity, or being a parent as an identity. So how are you managing your stuff, as a counselor, I think you have to reflect on that, spend time with it, I think it'd be great to talk to other counselors who do have children about how you present to them, kind of do a Johari Window about your identity dealing with parents, right. Um, I think that's really important. I wish I had done more of that myself. I'm guilty of not being, as you said, as understanding as I could have been, when I think about what clients need, it's gonna look different. Everybody's parenting journey is so different. Some people are going to be financially struggling, you know, there's going to be basic needs, there's going to be cultural expectations of parenting that are going to look different across people. I think. The one thing that I think is really important, regardless of the parent, regardless of their gender, social class, whatever is helping that person practice setting boundaries, and identifying a support system in which will be most affirming to them. Because if you have a mother in law, who wants to be over at your house every day, I'm picking a random person, and they're not affirming and supportive. That will not be great for you or baby, right. So helping clients kind of develop not only it's kind of like, what's your postpartum plan, and that could be for people who are mothers, people who are fathers, people who have different identities as parents, it doesn't just have to be the person whose birth the baby that needs a postpartum plan. It could be working with couples, it's like, okay, so it sounds like, you know, your mom tends to be overbearing, how can you set better boundaries, so your partner feels open and affirmed when they have a five day old baby. So I think, you know, helping people set some structure, but not so strict. Because there's no way you can have a plan to do anything. In the first four to eight weeks of your child's life. It's vary day by day, but with the flow, so that might be also preparing clients with mindfulness, stress reducing activities. I think psychoeducation for many folks is really important. Like, if you're feeling overwhelmed by a crying baby, who won't stop for a few hours, I had one of those for just a few days, I didn't have a colicky Baby, what do you do? Who do you call? How do you walk away and set your baby down, so everybody feel safe? I think those are also good safety conversations to have with clients. I didn't think about those things before my baby was born, because I just simply didn't know how intense those moments would be. Because again, it goes back to what you don't know what you don't know. Before you're a parent,
I think those are fantastic ideas and helpful guidance for counselors. So number one, during that personal work that reflection or Johari Window of how do I respond when I'm around new parents or babies? Or what reactions do I have, you know, either somatically, or in my mind, when I see a young parent and a crying baby in how might that perhaps manifest in a counseling setting that could be really detrimental and harmful to your client. I heard you say, when working with clients who are new parents or preparing to become parents, helping them to put together a postpartum plan that's structured, but also flexible. And part of that, I think, is making sure that we as counselors are accessible and available and being mindful that if a client is late, or does not show up that it's not personal, and something can come up that is truly unexpected. blowout, it's happened right before you're about to leave the house. It's never really at a two o'clock on a Tuesday afternoon, you know, it's like we're all dressed up. Yep. I think it was really helpful. Questions, issues, topics to remember, as counselors. We've broadly touched on this, but I'm wondering if there's more here, that would be really a flushing out of how do people without children help folks who do have children across that stage of parenthood?
Yeah, I, I think suspend judgment up to the point. And we were mandated reporters, right? So I'm not asking you to suspend judgment beyond that. But suspend judgment, and approach people with curiosity and all the narrative therapist, and I think that's a great way to approach people tell me what it's like for you right now. I'm willing to hear it. I know that I love you and support you. And let's start there. Because every every single parent story is so, so different. But so important, and wonderful. And I think we want to be heard. I'm feeling a little misty as I talked about it, but I think start there. Yeah.
I got chills when I heard you say that. I think it's something that myself as a new parent that I suspect all parents, you know, really want to hear and deserve to hear and perhaps don't hear enough. Yeah. And I
think we're talking about this from people who have infants, right? We're gonna need to have this conversation at every age and stage. I don't, I can't imagine a part of my life where I don't like, my child is the son of my solar system, right? She's the center of my world. So when she goes away to college, I'm going to be Misty for whole different reasons. I'm going to need people to ask me those same questions. It's just going to be different. Hopefully, she's not waking me up at 3am. Probably for different reasons at that age, I guess. Like, hold space for parents across the lifespan, because the day you become a parent, you're a parent for the rest of your life. It's just going to ebb and flow and change and the needs of your child and the needs of yourself are going to change.
Yes. And I love that question. That narratively grounded question of tell me what it's like for you in this moment. Help me understand your lived experience of how it's impacting your life, your quality of life, your relationships, and how important it is not to make those assumptions and to suspend judgment. I feel like we talked about a lot of things before even hit record, because I have to go back and hear more about these intersectional issues. For other parents and how people are treated differently, specifically fathers or two dads, two moms, you know, poly families what? What might that look like?
Yeah, I, you know, I could really speak to my experience. So my partner to paternity leave. He's a cisgender, white guy downstairs with a baby right now for the first 10 weeks. And everyone said, wow, he's like, he's like a hero. And like, it is great that he did that. But he's like, not Sojourner Truth. Like he's a hero. He's a fuzzer. I don't know. So there is this complete disparity, the way we treat dads, and the way we treat people who Mom, I'm femme presenting a non binary person, but I'm done presenting. So I'm a mom to people, right. And, like, if he carries her in the carrier, it's like, angels and haloing. You know, it's just like, it's great. It is cute. I love that I love them together. But like, if I do something, and she makes a noise out of line, I gave Stacey a story. But we were at Target. And she cried until someone told me to tell my baby be quiet, which, if you've had a baby, you cannot make them do anything they don't want to do. I'm just like, I just can't help but think that that's not a comment that would be directed to somebody who presented as a different gender than I do. Right. So I think there's the pressure of motherhood, as a construct for femme presenting people that is just we could that's a whole other people research, this is a that is a, that's a something that's a whirlpool, we could go really deep with that. But when I think about intersectional issues is like my experiences as a white, upper middle class, married, heterosexual presenting relationship are very, very different than it would be for as you said, queer couples, poly couples, couples of color, single parents, the journey is so so different, that's going to be impacted by societal oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, those all those things are going to impact different families in different ways. And I think that question of like, what what is hitting for you right now as a parent, is really important to ask, because for me, my challenge has been how do I navigate continuing to work, parental leave, and those sorts of things and bring up some of this gendered base stuff that I've shared with you. But, you know, I have peers who come from culturally very traditional families, maybe immigrant families, people of color who have him was like, Well, we really want you to have more children, once you have a very, very large family. And they're like, who, but this is, this is all I got in me, you know, right is to do this one time. So the story is so different. And we can't neglect the intersectional components of this. And I would say that about anything I talked about that when I talk about social class, which is my research interests, right social class, it's different for white people, and how it impacts people of color, and queer people and trans people and all these other things. Parenting is such a cultural thing, though, and parenting values are so cultural. And those are in a lot of ways passed down by generational trauma and those sort of things to, you really have to spend time with a person's culture and get to know what that looks like to help them understand even how they're going to be as a parent. Because the wild thing about this is I have a great idea of how I was going to be as a parent, in theory, but then there is how I am as a parent in practice, and managing those two things, which are often discrepant is a challenge, I think,
beautifully said. And yes, those intersectional identities and being mindful and curious about how those impacts our clients. And also being mindful not to make assumptions that a client who does present with multiple oppressed and marginalized identities are coming to counseling because of those right? identities and just being curious, and treating them with compassion and kindness. So we touched on this earlier as well, but the importance of setting important boundaries will on parental leave. I know this is something that you are getting better and better at and really dive into that in the spring semester. What are some pieces of advice or guidance you have for people to think about as they consider what that might look like for them? How did you do that successfully?
We were we are in practice of that right now. First of all, what I leaned back on what a privilege it is to have this time. So when I think about that, I need to be mindful what this time is for and that's to bond with my child and learn more about who I am as a parent. So people who know me know that I tend to be pretty like I will respond to you in six minutes. If you email me, let me know That's hyperbolic. But also maybe not, I'm pretty good at turning things around when I need to be, and knowing what isn't a good use of my time, and how it's not in alignment with the season of life that I'm in now. So I'm on parental leave now. And before I went, I had conversations with people, the stakeholders were involved in my career, I guess, and told them what to expect. This actually goes all the way back to when we finished our adoption home study. The first people who knew were the students who I'm sharing their dissertation, I feel like I have the biggest impact on their timeline for their life. So having clear conversations from the beginning, about what people can expect, to the extent that you feel comfortable, they don't feel like everybody is owed information for your entire life. And that will look different for people who are birthing a baby versus people who are adopting a baby adoption requires a lot more flexibility from everybody, because it's not I never had a hard and fast due date, until we were matched. And even then, things can change and can be flexible. So having those conversations with important stakeholders, and beginning and letting your supervisors know, when you feel comfortable, and within kind of the ground rules of what you need to do for your position, I understand why a lot of people don't want to tell people in power over them that they're expecting to have a child. People treat you differently. And people believe it's going to impact their career. And in some cases that may and I want to validate those pressures. So I think telling people to the extent that you feel comfortable, and taking advantage of every benefit that's offered to you, I read it, I think it was a New York Times it was right when Victor when my partner went on maternity leave, like that most men don't take all their paternity leave, because like their workplace, pressures them into not taking it or they feel like if they take it, they'll be behind. Just kind of what you were talking about with setting boundaries. Take the time, because if you don't take the time, will your students ever take the time, you know, I'm thinking I am a model for how my students will go through their career. And all of them deserve to have the time they need to be an excellent parent. And if I can't model that for them, they're going to think that this is how this has to be. And I don't want to be that person, right? Who makes them think that work is more important than anything else in your life. So in the ways that I feel like I can model being holistic and flexible, I think that shows that others can also be holistic and flexible with themselves. Boundaries I'm learning, talk to the people you need to, and you'll have a follow along the way. I think that's normal.
I think it is, I think, certainly to an extent, it is especially like how you mentioned earlier, we don't know what we're doing, I think parents, we just get better at faking it and pretend that we know why we're doing the things we're doing. But we're all just doing the best we can. I really liked what you said about being a role model for our students about what this can look like and how important it is to balance your identity as a as a mother or a father or a caregiver or parent, with your identity as a professional counselor, and how we are exhibiting the behaviors that we hope to impart to create a more systemic, equitable environment that's devoid of these toxic underlying dispositions that have been part of our world for so long. So how then can mental health professionals begin to increase their competency to work with new parents or even postpartum clients? Are there guys resources, ideas you have that folks can leverage to be able to be more culturally competent in this area?
Yeah, I think, first, as we talked about the act of like, becoming a parent, and then you are a parent, right? So there's a lot of ways people choose to create families, that that's biologically, if it's through fertility, if it's through adoption, if it's through kinship, adoption, there's a lot of ways people can even chosen family because you know, there's responsibilities of caregiving, and some of that as well, right. So understanding the variety of paths that people can take to get to this point of, here you go, you're a parent, this moment happens to you. And being open that we can learn about 1001 different ways and there's always gonna be 1002 1003 1004 that we don't know about. So having a level of knowledge and awareness of what the possibilities are. And I would say that about anything, right, any anything where so making yourself available and understanding to that and then understanding I think talking about resources, especially as counselors we often think, Oh, well, we're going to see clients after they've had a child because they have postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, which is true. And there needs to be more resources for those under research all sorts of things. And part of that is systemic. Of course, we have postpartum anxiety if you have to go back to work two days, or two weeks after you've given birth, like, holy cow, you know, so some of this stuff is systemic. And I won't negate that. But we think about that in that very clinical sense. But how do we integrate understanding challenges of parenthood into treatment plans that aren't directly tied to postpartum depression diagnosis, and then getting third party billing and the challenges with that, but Parenting is hard. And it might not be diagnostically, clinically significant for you to I need to give them the diagnosis. Certainly adjustment disorder would work. But how do we expand our understanding of how do we work with parents? Who may we're already seeing we have other diagnoses already? You know, and how does it integrate into their life as a person? So resources, there's tons and tons of information about how to work with mostly women, after they've had children physically had children? Because we're looking at women who are birth parents, right? And that's kind of a common, I'm using air quotes understanding of how to become a parent, but also opening ourselves up to how do we work with parents who are also mothers but not the birth parent, either through adoption, or because their partner was the birth parent? Or how do we work with fathers? Or how do we work with two men who have had a surrogate deliver their baby, right? So I think understanding that there's a lack of resources and a lot of ways that queer families, we look at families that are formed in different ways. So that again, there's 100,001 paths, and not a ton of resources for many of those paths. that folks have chosen to be parents, I think that includes competency across cultures, it talks, cultural, competency, learning, LGBTQA plus communities, all of those things come into having knowledgeable, meaningful counseling relationships with people who become parents.
that very much felt like the limitations and future areas of research, like piece of art discussion, and I see you know, the importance of this work and perhaps that's it that you and I can, you know, lean into at some point, we're getting enough sleep, we can, you know, more into our academic selves. Any other pieces of advice for our listeners as we think about this journey together and this importance of engaging in role modeling and boundary setting and compassion and kindness and radical acceptance and all of these, these wonderful things. Any other final thoughts?
Um, I think that's important if you are a parent, or you're working with someone who is a parent. So that's pretty much everyone. We add those inclusion criteria is to have compassion for yourself and have compassion for others. It's a pandemic, we're overworked. All of us are clinically burnout to some level I think under the current state of affairs. So life's hard out there and you don't know what journey other people are on to just being open to be supportive. Not closed. Yeah,
that's wonderful. And how can listeners get in touch with you if they want to learn more about your work or touch base about anything related to the topic?
My email is My name is Madeline Clark and maybe li n e dot CLA RK at you Toledo to ldo.edu Please email me, I might not be super quickly are going to get me out of office, but I'm happy to collaborate. My main research interest is poverty and social class stuff. But I was on a thoughtful counselor a few years ago if you want to listen to that one. So yeah.
Wonderful. Well, Maddy, thank you again for your time. You're someone that I care about deeply as not just a colleague but a dear friend, and someone who I consider absolutely prolific in our field. So thank you for your time, especially given the fact that you have an infant I appreciate how difficult it can be to cultivate a whole hour to just sit and be away. So thank you for this conversation and listeners. If you want to learn more, I'll put some information in the landing page of the website. And hope you enjoy this episode. Talk to you soon. Take care.
The Thoughtful Counselor is Desa Daniel, Raissa Miller, Aaron Smith, Jessica Tyler, Stacey Diane Arañez Litam,
and me, Megan Speciale find us online at the thoughtful counselor calm. Our funding is provided by Palo Alto University's Division of Continuing and Professional Studies. Learn more about them at concept.paloaltou.edu. The views and opinions expressed on The Thoughtful Counselor are those of the individual authors and contributors and don't necessarily represent the views of other authors and contributors, nor of our sponsor, Palo Alto University. So, if you have an idea for an episode, general feedback about the podcast, or just want to reach out to us, please drop us a line at email@example.com Thanks for tuning in and we hope to hear from you soon.