Bay Area Therapist Writes New Book About Motherhood

Deciding to write a book at the beginning of the pandemic, with three kids under age 6 at home and underfoot, may seem decidedly crazy.
But therapist Kaitlin Soulé says taking on more – at a time when mothers were already handling so much – was actually her saving grace.
“I think it was definitely my own life raft in a lot of ways, getting this space to create and write in a time when moms had no time and space to ourselves. I think it saved me during that time,” says Soulé, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in women’s mental health and anxiety, and sees clients at her Petaluma private practice and virtually. “The idea that when we have our identity outside of motherhood, it’s empowering and it helps us cope with uncertainty and, gosh, we’ve had so much uncertainty.”
Not losing one’s identity to motherhood is a central theme of Soulé’s recently published book, A Little Less of a Hot Mess: The Modern Mom’s Guide to Growth & Evolution (The Collective Book Studio, 2022).
It’s a cross between a D.I.Y. therapy workbook – with writing prompts and space for reflections and goals – and a heart-to-heart with a good mom friend, if that friend were a straight-talking, sometimes foul-mouthed therapist willing to shine a light on herself and her own struggles.
Soulé spoke to Bay Area Parent about her book and advice for moms on how to get “unstuck” and pursue what she calls “imperfect growth.” For more information, visit wellnotesforher.com.
Why do moms feel the need to be perfect, and what can we do about it?
We get these unhealthy messages at a young age that our worth is tied to what we’re providing to other people or what we look like. Fast forward to becoming a mom and we have these children that we love more than anything in the world, and it really dials up that perfectionism – the idea that I love them so much, I want to be perfect at this.
And then we realize that’s impossible, and we feel bad or ashamed that we can’t meet the standards that our society or family of origin set – because parenting is really hard.
What I want women to know is that we can start with ourselves, and it starts with challenging those old narratives and beliefs we hold that in order to be a good mom you have to do it all and be it all.
A way to do that is getting really clear on “When did I first learn that, why did I come to believe that and is it serving me anymore in my values and the life I want to lead? (For instance,) I don’t actually think it matters that my kids are perfectly dressed every day and the house is perfectly clean. What I value is time for creativity and connection, and when I worry about whether the house is perfect, I don’t have time for that.”
You write that many moms feel that “now that I’m a mother, pursuing my big dreams can only be done so long as it doesn’t inconvenience them (my family).” Why is that harmful?
It’s harmful for ourselves because it doesn’t allow us the space to be whole. Mental health hinges on being an integrated whole person. It’s harmful for our children because it’s modeling to them that we’re not worth it, that we don’t deserve to be whole or pursue our own dreams outside of motherhood – or if we are going to, that we should do it in a way that doesn’t take away from anything else.
I experienced it writing the book: we’re in a global pandemic and here I am taking time away from my family to write a book. I definitely experienced my own moments of guilt and shame, and from comments other people made. But I thought, this is a book I’ve always wants to write, and I’m going to do it.
There’s this myth that moms’ time is endless and dads’ time needs to be protected. We don’t have that dynamic in our family. My husband is a firefighter and when he’s home, he’s home. We set up a schedule during the pandemic of when he would be home doing childcare. It’s probably the most organized with my time I have ever been in my life. To be fair, I had to leave the house. When I tried writing at home, it rarely went well.
You also write about your own struggles with anxiety and your diagnosis, as an adult, with ADHD. What advice do you have for moms who may face similar challenges?
Motherhood is so often … the time when we figure out things about ourselves that were hidden or underneath the surface … (and) there’s nothing like a global pandemic to force us to see all the parts of ourselves. … The most important thing is to communicate with the people who want to support you, whether it’s your friends, family or therapist, and say: I need some help. Help me figure out what tools I should use.
If you can’t go to your family or anyone in your direct circle, reach out to the community. Maybe there’s a mom at school you’ve heard open up about her anxiety. Talk to her about it. Really pay attention to who you’re allowing to have the front row in your life. … Stop going to the people who aren’t going to support you, looking for support. … Social media can be really great. It’s been hard at times for me to find moms I can connect with. I’ve connected with a lot of like-minded women on Facebook or Instagram.
How can moms stop caring about what other people think and set boundaries?
It’s all about considering the source. It’s so easy to fall into that trap of turning outward before we turn inward, pleasing others before we please ourselves. We end up feeling resentful and depleted.
It’s almost like setting up your own personal advisory board: Who are the people who really see me for who I am – not just the mom me or career me but the whole me? When we do turn outward, make sure we’re turning to people who see us accurately.
That’s how we let go of the belief that we have to be the most popular or the favorite.
Once you get clear on your values, set your boundaries from there. … Most of us know what boundaries we should have or would be helpful to have, but sticking with them is hard.
Start small. We learn about boundary setting and say: “I’m going to set all the boundaries at once and completely change my life.” Start with one specific area of your life, whether it’s friendship, family, relationships, marriage. What’s a boundary you can set there and stick to before moving on? It’s a practice.

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