Do LESS and Feel BETTER: Saying Goodbye to Intensive Mothering and the "Perfect Mom" Myth with Erica Djossa





Ever feel like you're doing it ALL and it's never ENOUGH?

My guest today, Erica Djossa is a registered psychotherapist, sought-after maternal mental health specialist, and the founder of wellness company Momwell. Erica is frequently featured in media publications and her popular Momwell podcast has over a million downloads. 


Her book - Releasing the Mother Load: How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood More comes out TODAY (Tuesday, April 9th) and our conversation today highlights so much of the meaningful work inside it.

After she shares her "breakdown to breakthrough", Erica reiterates it’s not just us - MOMS ARE NOT OKAY.  She introduces ideas like the motherload, our motherhood filing cabinet, and an activity called a Values Sort to help us become more conscious of the default patterns we've found ourselves in and how to dig our way out.


  • Where the myth of the "perfect mother" comes from
  • The 5 core beliefs of "intensive mothering" and what to replace them with
  • The measuring stick we should use to evaluate ourselves instead of blood, sweat and tears


  • What it truly means to be a good mom



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Erica Djossa  0:00  
Moms are not okay. And the system isn't designed to make sure they're okay. And it doesn't support them. It's really like, how can we keep moms doing the care work and the unpaid work and keep things moving as they have been? And it's not at all concerned with the mental wellness and well being of mothers and caregivers in these roles.

Danielle Bettmann  0:26  
Ever feel like you suck at this job? Motherhood, I mean, have too much anxiety. Not enough patience. Too much yelling, not enough play. There's no manual, no village, no guarantees. The stakes are high. We want so badly to get it right. This is survival mode. We're just trying to make it to bedtime. So if you're full of mom guilt, your temper scares you. You feel like you're screwing everything up. And you're afraid to admit any of those things out loud. This podcast is for you. This is Failing Motherhood. I'm Danielle Bettmann. And each week we'll chat with a mom ready to be real. Sharing her insecurities, her fears, your failures and her wins. We do not have it all figured out. That's not the goal. The goal is to remind you, you are the mom your kids need. They need what you have. You are good enough and you're not alone. I hope you pop in your buds somehow sneak away and get ready to hear some hope from the trenches. You belong here, friend. We're so glad you're here.

Danielle Bettmann  1:39  
Hey, it's Danielle. This is an episode not to miss. If our worth as moms can't be measured in blood, sweat or tears. How can it be measured? My guest today, Erica Djossa is a registered psychotherapist, a sought after maternal mental health specialist and the founder of the wellness company MomWell, previously at Happy as a Mother. She is one of the OG Instagram accounts I found an early motherhood and is a wealth of knowledge. Erica is frequently featured in media publications, and her popular MomWell podcast has over a million downloads. She lives in Toronto and is a mother of three rambunctious young boys. 

Her book, Releasing The Mother Load, How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood more comes out today, Tuesday, April 9, and our conversation highlights so much of the meaningful work inside it. After she shares her moment of failing motherhood, Erica reiterates that it's not just us moms are not okay. We talked about the mentality of being super moms, and where the pressure of the perfect mother myth comes from. She breaks down the ideology of intensive mothering and it's five core beliefs. She shares what to replace it with, and a tangible exercise to do that today. We end up closing our time offering powerful reframes for each of those five core beliefs of what it truly means to be a good mom that provides more freedom, more capacity, and more joy. I can't wait for you to dive into this one. Without further ado, here is my interview with Erica.

Danielle Bettmann  3:25  
Welcome to Failing Motherhood My name is Danielle Bettmann. And on today's episode, I am joined by Erica Djossa. Hey Erica, thanks so much for being here.

Erica Djossa  3:34  
Thank you so much for having me. 

Danielle Bettmann  3:35  
I'm excited about our chat. Yeah, so I know I already shared your bio, but just go ahead and introduce yourself to my audience. Who are you who's in your family?

Erica Djossa  3:44  
Yeah, I am a Registered Psychotherapist turned content creator turned founder, business owner, author,  an unconventional journey I've had I feel like. But it all really spun out of control when I became a mom to three boys in the span of three and a half years. I had been in the field of counseling and psychology for nearly a decade, didn't know maternal mental health was a specialty, was blindsided by my own struggles and my own experience and felt really like failed by the system, by my education, felt like I was failing myself like just all around, blindsided. And that caused me to niche down in maternal mental health and turn to social media to help spread awareness and educate and the platform really grew and took off and it is a full-fledged maternal mental health platform and support system now at this point.

Danielle Bettmann  4:34  
Yeah, and that's MomWell -  yeah, MomWell, yeah. So if you haven't found that yet, if you're on Instagram, I'd be surprised if you haven't but go ahead and find it. It's a huge resource and I already knew from what I know about you that you are pre-qualified but I always take the time to make sure our guests are not perfect. And you know, we don't put them on a pedestal and you are  one of us. So is there a good example that you would resonate with that feeling of failing motherhood?

Erica Djossa  5:07  
Yes and it's so important because I think this is so counter culture and what we see displayed to us and it's so important for us to call out and see and sort of tear this fail because I remember so distinctly postpartum after my third, it was kind of this like building brewing storm in the background of me just really gritting my teeth and trying to push through and prove to myself and to everybody else, that I could handle three young boys in diapers with ease, like I don't even know why that was an expectation in my mind. But I write about it in my, my book where ultimately it was just building and building to my like rage break down turned to break through one day where it was just sort of my, the straw that broke the camel's back kind of a morning where everything was going wrong. And I was trying to get out of the house with three young children, I was on my way to the gym, got pulled over by the cops who threw the whole book at me in terms of tickets, and I just lost it, like, volcanic meltdown in my driveway, like something out of a movie calling my husband who's downtown Toronto two hours away, like, Well, how do I navigate this situation? And really, it was the first time I think, that I admitted to myself, like, I, I can't be perfect, like, wait a minute, I can't. And when I finally let go of that trying so hard to be perfect and understood that it's just not possible. It opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me personally as an individual outside of motherhood, but then also for my mothering journey, and my relationship with my boys and how I shared things in my home with my partner, because I wasn't trying to embody this idea or perception, I have what it meant to be a good mom at that time.

Danielle Bettmann  7:00  
Oh, so relevant, you are not at all alone in that. And that's exactly what I kind of want to dive into today is that idea of it's a myth, being a perfect mom is a myth. But it's somehow one that we were all kind of saddled with, unknowingly. And then we ended up, you know, realizing it and kind of having a lot of growth in that process. But since I know you are boots on the ground as well, in your professional opinion, are we the only ones feeling this way? Or how are moms doing?

Erica Djossa  7:31  
Yeah, oh, it's such a complex time. We live in the weirdest era where there is so much expectation on mums, but it's almost like covert and subtle, or maybe not so subtle. But it's so normalized that it's almost as though the mums in my community feel like they're drowning in plain sight. And they look around to see if they're the only ones and everybody else is just acting like this is normal. And this is okay. So they're like, I must be the only one struggling, I better pull it together and look like I've got got my shit together, you know. And there's sort of a perfect storm for this. I think that coming out of previous generations where our full time focus was the home, like only 25% of mothers worked outside of the home in 1950, like that was less than 75 years ago. And now 86 to 87% of mom's work outside of the home. But the care and household responsibilities inside the home are still primarily owned by mom and haven't been redistributed to make room for these careers that we carry and the things that we do outside of the home. So there's a pressure cooker that is built there. 

And then there's also intensive mothering, which is sort of the predominant mindset or set of norms in our culture right now. And it's studied by sociologists to define what the expectations and norms are of the motherhood role in our era. And let me tell you, perfection is that bar and that expectation like that is the pervasive myth and expectation that we should be it all do it all. And I know we'll get into those, but it is a perfect storm for like a smothering recipe to try to carry. And I don't know, there's so many contributing factors. I didn't expect to go into maternal mental health and come out an advocate for like division of labor and all of these pieces, because mothers are just so underserved. And there's a lot of components I think that fit into that. Yeah.

Danielle Bettmann  9:31  
And you're absolutely right. And so basically what you're saying is moms are not okay.

Erica Djossa  9:36  
Moms are not okay, and this system isn't designed to make sure they're okay. And it doesn't support them. It's really like, how can we keep mums doing the care work and the unpaid work and keep things moving as they have been? And it's not at all concerned with the mental wellness and well-being of mothers and caregivers in these roles? So no, they're not okay and we're failing them in big amounts. Yeah.

Danielle Bettmann  10:05  
And when we're failing moms of young kids, we're failing those kids.

Erica Djossa  10:09  
Of course. Yeah, it the ripple effects are felt throughout the entire family, right infant mental health, child mental health, the family structure, like when one person in our system isn't well, the whole family feels that impacted is impacted by proxy like everybody. Yeah, the ripple effects impact everybody. Yeah.

Danielle Bettmann  10:27  
But moms are such superheroes. I don't know how they do it.

Erica Djossa  10:32  
I have a post about this. And I get ripped apart every time I share it on Instagram, like challenging. The supermom at the people are like a but I like to be told I'm a supermom, it's a compliment. And it's like, Okay, that's great. Like what we like to feel as acknowledged for all the things that we do and carry that are invisible acknowledgement is valuable and essential and important. But reassuring like, Oh, you're so strong, you're a supermom you can do it all just reinforces that myth that we can and should try to be at all. And then we feel like if we aren't doing it all the time, we're not a supermom, we're not doing it right. And can we ask for help? Or do we just kind of retreat in shame a little bit, you know? But yeah, people like to roast me on the supermom challenging the supermom narrative? It's interesting.

Danielle Bettmann  11:17  
I'm so surprised by that. Because I feel like we're all seeing the disillusion of like, Yeah, well, you could actually just tangibly help us. It could just not be so hard. How about that, instead of like the backhanded compliment of just patting us on the back? I mean, like you keep doing what you're doing. You're amazing.

Erica Djossa  11:38  
Well, it's kind of like the partner who's like, but you're just so much better at it than I am.

Danielle Bettmann  11:42  
Mm hmm.

Erica Djossa  11:43  
Like, I don't know if we're allowed to swear here. But oh, yeah, that's not enough an f-ing excuse for not doing your part and being an equal partner in the home. I'm better at it. Because I've been expected to do it friend, not because I'm inherently better at it. I've just been expected to do it. So it gives that kind of vibe, where it's like, oh, like, you're so good at this. Keep doing it. Because then I don't have to take any responsibility. If you know, you can't carry it all or you don't have to step in if if you know, the weight is too much. So

Danielle Bettmann  12:14  
Yes. And that brings up a side tangent of in your book, you said, you know, shocker. I feel like most tasks are gender neutral. Yes. Speak to that for just a second. And then we'll go back to what we were talking about. Because I there's probably a lot of thoughts that come up in the listeners head of like, oh, I don't know if that's true.

Erica Djossa  12:34  
Yeah - this is something that really surprised me in my own work in my own journey. Because when I talk about that breakdown to breakthrough, and how I was carrying everything in the home, like night, wakings, and all the perfectionism all the pressure that led to this ultimate breakdown. It wasn't like my partner put those expectations on me. And this is the case in some homes, that I'm sure partners do put that expectation. But that wasn't my experience, like my partner was very willing. But I felt that in order to be a good mom, I had to be the one to do so many of these things. And that's because in this intensive mothering ideology, or these myths, there are beliefs about moms being the primary caregiver, or being the best suited biologically to do it being the main one who should be there and care for and nurture. So that has ripple effects in so many areas. And when I really started to unpack and do this, releasing and distribution, like redistribution of tasks, I started to question like, What was gendered and what wasn't. And ultimately, even if I breastfed all three of my boys, even if I was breastfeeding, and it was a task that is, you know, inherently kind of linked to mom in some way, my partner would get up, bring the baby into me to nurse then take the baby away, and burp them, change them settle them back to bed, and that task can be shared. And I don't have to carry it with entirety, even though it is linked to me biologically. But there are only a few tasks like that feeding, labor, delivery birth, like there's a few, but the rest are up for grabs. But when I go through in the book, a little like assessment or a little evaluation of how you've divided out chores in your home, and has it been a conscious conversation? Or were you each defaulted into these roles and responsibilities because of your role and your gender. And traditionally, men and women or fathers or whatever have done these different roles. And it's shocking when you realize, oh, wait, I'm just doing this because I'm mom, and that's what's expected or that's what's been taught or modeled to me.

Danielle Bettmann  14:51  
Yeah and so I know we're going to be circling back a lot. So I'll mention the book that is coming out. It'll be today, the day that this episode airs. So yay, definitely go order that as soon as you're done with this listening to this episode, it's Releasing the Motherload - How to Carry Less and Enjoy Motherhood More. And I noticed right off the bat, you divided the book into two parts. Part one is the origin beliefs and values that form the mother load. And part two, is making that mother load visible. And I already want to send this book to my sister-in-law who's having her first baby in a couple of weeks, because it's all about knowing more sooner. I just wish, I wish I would have seen this for what it is way earlier on. And just the way that you explain everything, I think would be so valuable, right off the bat in motherhood so that you can kind of see the default that you're getting into way before it even like takes over and burns you out and all of those things, but I really want to dive into Part One. So just define what is the mother load? What's your kind of definition of what's included in that. 

Erica Djossa  16:00  
So talking about the mother load, we're really talking about the invisible unseen on acknowledged tasks, which are often mental, cognitive, emotional. So it's the anticipating the researching and planning, it's the ongoing monitoring and managing of a situation. And I like to give the example of just like a simple baby gate. Like if I am the one that monitors my child's you know, mobility and when we need to put a gate up. And then I'm the one that does all the research, talks to the different moms., takes the measurements and you know, reads all the reviews, sources, everything we need orders that tells my partner exactly where to install it. And then I manage it ongoing and troubleshoot any pieces with it. The actual installing of that baby gate was like a drop in the bucket by comparison of all the invisible and mental labor and research that goes on behind the scenes, often on a mom's leisure time, on nap time on break time. So this is the volume of tasks that sit underneath the iceberg, so to speak, that we have a hard time acknowledging and articulating are there, and our partner doesn't see. 

So if we have this like Invisible Backpack that we carry, that we can feel the weight of, but we don't really have the language to articulate it. Because it's no one particular task in itself that is heavy, but it is the combination of all the tasks that makes it so burdensome, then it's hard to share it with our partner and redistributed. So it's all those invisible pieces, which in the book, I aim to do the labor for you of trying to make that visible and not rely on you to do that in our load maps, where I map all of that out, and then provide like downloads on the side for ones that might not be covered in the book. Because once we have that language, and we can see it, it's a great jumping off point for conversation with our support system on who can divvy this up and take ownership over what.

Danielle Bettmann  18:09  
Yea , because a lot of times, it's almost like unconscious, you don't even realize because it is invisible, that it's all this mental and emotional tasks load that is just becoming more and more natural, because you're the one that has been doing it. So having a label and naming the problem to be able to solve it is half the battle, I would say. So that's where, you know, I can really see those activities doing that work for you to pull it out of your brain.

Erica Djossa  18:38  
Yeah. And like, we're primed to carry this load from lying when we're little, you know, like I was, in my home expected to do chores and cook that my brother was never asked to do. Like, there's just, we have these gender norms and these ideals of motherhood that we've observed in so many different areas that we've internalized. And when we stepped into this role, we so desperately tried to embody them, not realizing that we haven't really done a conscious cleanup of like, what we subscribe to, and what we don't. And that's where we're going in. And that's what ultimately led to my big breakdown is like, I'm trying to please everybody in every direction 100% all of the time, and it's just not feasible. And I didn't have an anchor within myself to say, actually, this is just not really me like this doesn't align with my values or what we're trying to accomplish as a family. So it leads us going in all different directions, trying to please people outside of ourselves often.

Danielle Bettmann  19:39  
Yeah, kind of building on that. Where do you feel like the pressure to do more and be more comes from? Is it all in our head? Is it all from society? Was it all kind of conditioning from 25 years ago? Or is it all three? What Where's that coming from? 

Erica Djossa  19:54  
Yeah, okay, so I want to go over and we've mentioned them a few times, I'm gonna go over these five core beliefs of intensive mothering because they play a big role. And then we also have our motherhood filing cabinets. So there's sort of two big components here in my mind. So the intensive mothering ideology has a few core beliefs that are really pervasive that so many of us take in unconsciously, and try to embody because this is what we see, this is the water we're swimming in, the air we're breathing in, terms of what it means to be a good mom, in our culture in our society. Being a good mom means that I should be the primary caregiver to my child, being a good mom means finding all of my fulfillment in my motherhood role, so not desiring things or you know, fulfillment outside of motherhood. Being a good mom means placing my child's needs wants and well being above my own, being a good mom means I have to give all of my emotional energy, time and resources to my child. And being a good mom means I always have to be on and readily accessible for my child. 

And so if we are entering motherhood, having observed these messages and norms, ongoing in every you know, media and social media and families and friendship dynamics, we learn that we come last, we are not important child, baby is everything. And we should be entirely satisfied in being a parent to them. And it can and should come at a cost of everything, essentially, is what this narrative tells us, it should come at a cost of your sleep, it should come at a cost of your needs. And that's what being a good mom looks like to put everybody else first and to put yourself last. But that is a one way ticket to burnout or worse in my situation. And it's just not sustainable. So we've got that. 

And then I also talked about in the book, this kind of idea or concept of this motherhood filing drawer filing cabinet that we have, I kind of envision it like you grab it, and you pull it kind of like infinitely pulls out. There's so many things stuffed in there. And this is really the area in our brain sort of labeled motherhood or like the schema labeled motherhood and everything that we have observed growing up related to a mom and what a mother figure looks like, or what is motherly. It's jammed into and filed into this drawer from the time we could store memories to three years old. And that is the things our mom did that we liked and didn't like, and our you know, grandma, and the things that we saw in movies and TV shows growing up and everything gets stored in this drawer. And then when we become moms, we go to the store to find the manual or sort of source the instructions for our role. But in there are contradictory messages, a bunch of junk mail and things that have been stuffed in there. There's been no curation or real conscious reevaluation of whether we still hold true, those norms and expectations that were shoved in there when we were three, or however many years old. And this is a really like intentional, sort of like thought and belief work, which, you know, isn't the first thing that comes up when we are in survival mode and motherhood, it's not the first place our mind goes to in terms of what is important for us to do the work that is important. But if we are just grappling at trying to fulfill all those expectations, they are all over the place, and they're contradictory. And they're from all these different places. And do we even care? Like who was like, why am I trying so hard to learn how to make sourdough bread when I don't give a shit? Like I really do. I'm quite happy to swing by the bakery and buy sourdough bread. Do I even care? Do I even eat bread? I don't. So why do I feel like this pressure to you know, and so rather than seeing something and taking it on as the new bar that we have to achieve, we stop and reevaluate and say wait a minute, do I intentionally want to put this in my drawer as something I'm trying to measure myself by and live up to?

Danielle Bettmann  24:09  
Yeah cuz how can you possibly feel grounded or confident or, you know, convicted in that what you're doing is right, when the bar is constantly moving? And yeah, there's conflicting thoughts and messages, and you're just spinning your wheels or throwing spaghetti at a wall, day after day. And of course, you're going to feel like you're coming up empty. Of course, you're gonna feel like you're making no progress or, you know, you're not seeing the outcomes or you know, judging your report card and feeling like you have everything checked off or there's a sense of accomplishment there. You're just kind of a whirlwind.

Danielle Bettmann  25:06  
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Danielle Bettmann  27:34  
There was one quote that I saw that you said we must conquer the idea that our worth as moms can be measured in blood, sweat and tears. Talk more about that? Can it be measured at all? And if so by what?

Erica Djossa  27:46  
I think that it's really natural for us to want to have a criteria to evaluate ourselves in our most important role, often, right? Like that is a very natural knee jerk response to want to have. The challenge is that the measuring stick that we are using to evaluate our performance is flawed, we are looking at, you know, is our kid in all the sports or did they not have a tantrum or was I perfectly regulated today and didn't take a tone with the kids at all or get irritated? Like all of these unrealistic standards that actually According to research, have nothing to do with building a secure attachment with our child. And so walking through first, I would say understanding our values as a person and as a mother. And what is important to us as an anchor to then create a new measuring stick to check in on our performance. 

So for example, things that I value, one of the things I really value is presence with the kids. And now that doesn't mean presence all the time, like intensive mothering would take that and exploit that value. That means creating intentional moments for presents each day, even if it's five or ten minutes at bedtime at our tuck in whatever that looks like. And so when I'm taking away those old beliefs, like I need to be perfect, I need to get everything done on my checklist today, I need to all of these things. I look at my values, one of them being present. And on my measuring stick is did I try to carve out some intentional like five minutes of time today with the kids do we get some connectedness. And if we didn't, that's not licensed to bereaved myself. It's like we are most satisfied and happy when we are living and acting our values out. So it's like, what can I do then to try to do that tomorrow? Or is this just a time in life where it's a little bit crazy because it's, you know, book promo time and we're maybe not going to get that all the time. So it's not to use that to be arrayed ourselves in the absence of living out those things. But it's making a measuring stick that actually is personalized and important to you. You and your values without looking externally to measure ourselves and our performance.

Danielle Bettmann  30:06  
Yeah, so powerful. But how? How do we do that? When we're in the midst of an identity crisis? You know, like, if you don't even know who you are, how can you know what's important to you? It's all a blur. 

Erica Djossa  30:19  
Yea, I hear this so much like, I don't even know what I like anymore. I don't even know. Like, if I have free time to carve out the time, it's so uncomfortable, cuz I don't even know how to fill it that like, I don't even know I end up going to check on the kids again, or something like that.

Danielle Bettmann  30:33  
Right? Yeah. Or somebody asked me, What do I need? I have no idea what are my needs, right?

Erica Djossa  30:38  
Because we're so we have lost ourselves or we've, you know, de-prioritized ourselves so much, I actually have a really, I love this exercise, it's free, it's a download pairs with the book or you can download it, if you don't have the book. It's called a  values sort. And it is little values cards with the value term like adventure and a little descriptor of what that means as the value underneath it. And it was like 120 of them, and you cut up these cards, you lay them out on the table. And you by process of elimination, remove the things that are just like not top of mind for you. And then slowly but surely you think about and evaluate and move around and reflect on what is important to get yourself down to like your top 10-15 values. And this is a really great starting point. Because I think often we don't even have the vocabulary or the understanding of what values are to try to sit down and just like a willow list into being you know, like, it's not like a skill set that many of us have, like I do it because I'm a therapist, and that's where my knowledge of it comes from. So that's a really great starting point, I think. And then another great places, the things that you are drawn to or the things that anger you or provoke you like that give you an emotional response, whether it's like in the world or in the things around, you are also like little flags to be like, Oh, what is it about that thing that either, you know, angers me? Or do I feel like that's an injustice? Or do I feel constantly pulled to this thing, like starting to like pay attention to the little whispers so to speak, which takes some conscious effort, because we've been in the habit of ignoring and minimizing those for so long.

Danielle Bettmann  32:21  
We're just super tangible. I love that value cards idea, I did something very similar. When I was doing one on one coaching with families, I just kind of gave them a whole list. And then we started crossing things out and circling things. And they each had a list and then they compared them and then they kind of prioritize them. And that was one of our first things we did together. Because it's like, everything else kind of falls into place once you have that for your family and your kids and what that looks like. And so I think it's incredibly valuable. Everybody should go to that. And now my question is, is there a wrong way to do it, as in, in your book, you kind of mentioned becoming all in on one type of identity of like, the minimalist mom, Facebook group, or the crunchy mom, Facebook group, and like, you know, really deep diving into one, maybe value in particular, what can be harmful about that.

Erica Djossa  33:14  
When we are free falling, and we are getting rid of the messages in external expectations, it almost creates a little bit of a vacuum of space. And that is uncomfortable if we are used to identifying or trying to measure up to or live up to these external expectations. So what I find often happens is we can cling on tightly to an identity or a parenting philosophy. And, I mean, I have probably an eclectic parenting philosophy at this point. But like it's okay to adhere to a parenting philosophy. Like that's not the point here. It's that to fill that gap or that measuring stick with an external set of criteria, once again, without actually really digging into that value system. And what parts of that philosophy fit for you and which parts don't like it's very rare that an entire philosophy and all its aspects and facets will 100% overlap with your beam? Like that's just not usually how it works. Right. Right. And I think that another sort of challenge that can come up with doing and uncovering your values is that these shoulds and expectations are so internalized that it can be hard to identify them in ourselves and they could appear as our values. Does that make sense? Like, yeah, because we don't we haven't really identified the shoulds or the external expectations and we sit down to do a value exercise and I'm like, you know, somehow these perfectionist things make their way into the list. So I think doing that reflect action component, and identifying how we are trying to measure ourselves right now, with also doing our values exercise is so important. Otherwise, we might like the risk is we might miss identifying that actually, I feel so strongly that I have to embody that. Because that's externally the pressure that I felt, but it's not really mine. It doesn't come from something in me that desires that.

Danielle Bettmann  35:26  
Yeah. And we've given a couple of examples of that already with, you know, maybe sourdough bread and early quarantine time of like, that's not for me, that's great for other people, maybe not me, or you know, that your value when your core values is presents, is there other day to day examples of maybe something that used to be important to you and has kind of no longer served you over time?

Erica Djossa  35:50  
Yeah, one of the things that I see come up a lot with mums is food, and nutrition, and like health and well being so like to care about my children's health, somehow, in my mind, equaled being like perfectionist sort of obsessive about what was in labels and the type of food that they were adjusting. And when there's food refusal, or they're not having well balanced meals, somehow, they're not eating equals me failing as a mom, and having these really rigid expectations of food. And this is one of the things actually that I handed over to my partner, and I was a little floored with how he could approach feeding the boys with such functionality rather than perfectionism, like there was not the cloud of obsessive noise around his decision making about putting dinner on the table. And so it's been freeing and difficult. And we've worked back and forth to come to sort of like a common, tolerable standard for what meals should look like. But it took time to get there. And ultimately, me building some tolerance to take my hands off and sort of back away from something that, you know, we get shamed for as mums a lot. And there's just constant noise around.

Danielle Bettmann  37:12  
Oh, yeah, that's such a pervasive example, because it comes up three times a day. 

Erica Djossa  37:16  
Exactly and then it's like lunches. Oh, gosh, if I pack this lunch, what's the school gonna think that it's like all fishies and packaged food. And like, you know, we think we're being surveilled in some way. And it just becomes a lot of pressure.

Danielle Bettmann  37:29  
This is a random anecdote, but one of my clients told me that their preschool finds them, if not all five food groups are present in a cold lunch. 

Erica Djossa  37:39  
Like I beg your pardon. Right? Like, okay, so I live in, in the Greater Toronto Area and groceries are incredibly high and expensive right now, how unequitable, unfair like there are families who cannot afford all five food groups, you know? 

Danielle Bettmann  37:59  
Yeah, they claimed that it was for the value of the food exposure and that by the end of the year, they would be eating more things. So even if they throw them away for the first six months, like, that's what you need to do. And that's what we require and expect out of you.

Erica Djossa  38:13  
That is mind boggling. Oh, my gosh, it makes me angry with the cost of groceries being such an ongoing the the cost of living in Ontario being a very relevant topic right now. I mean, there are families who can barely afford to put food on the table, keep their roof over their head, you know, that they'll be worried about adhering to daycare, lunch rules. That's wild.

Danielle Bettmann  38:35  
Right? So that's just again, one example. That's food, and then there's clothes and laundry. And then there's, you know, the the rooms like my girls just picked out of the room for the first time. And I'm constantly wondering about what needs to be in there. What doesn't, we had to declutter all of their trinkets and little birthday gadgets and artwork, things and rocks. And it was a full day of going through drawers. And you know, their closet, and my husband was like, I couldn't have never done that. Like, that's because I'm the stuff manager and our house, like I have always been the one to go through every season and see what fits and see what they need and then go find it at consignment sales, we could afford it and so much work. So much work. That was just invisible.

Erica Djossa  39:25  
Yeah. And it's, this is one of the things where it is a reflection on us because societally, like we talked about the front door being an example of someone's gonna just like pop by the house. It stresses me out. And then I start to like, you know, frantically put the house together, where my husband's like, chill, it's not a big deal. But they're not going to come to the house and say, Why did your husband leave this mess? They're gonna be like, Why aren't you taking care of the house? And so one of the things in doing this work and redistributing it and trying to let go of these norms is having some bounce theories and some resilience for when society or people in our life try to, like police us back into these roles. Because if the mother in law is gonna say, oh my gosh, like, How could you let him do all of these things he has so much on his plate, he works all day long and all this stuff. And like tries to put you back into the gendered sort of traditional roles and box that can mess with us initially when we're starting to do this work. And we're just trying to get our legs and our confidence about us. Another quick example is with this school, I was so adamant to be taken off of all school correspondence, because I'm in back to back meetings all day friend, if my child hurts himself, you will not get a hold of me call his dad he's available. And the amount of times that they still will call me. And my husband will call and say, like, put my number first. And now the office knows him by name, and I can sneak in and out of the school, and they don't even know who I am. So we've really worked to challenge that norm. But society and the people around us will try to unconsciously not maliciously, but with their comments will reinforce those norms. And we have to have some confidence in some boundary setting to be able to say actually call my husband, I'm in a meeting. 

Danielle Bettmann  41:21  
I hear from clients the most that feedback from extended family of theirs and their spouses, their in laws, like cuts the deepest. And it's so hard to deal with that unsolicited feedback, especially on their parenting, when they are clearly putting a lot of energy and effort and invisible labor into figuring out what is the right way to manage this and trying to override their conditioning and instincts and trying to learn all of these new strategies. And they're just as frustrated that what they're doing isn't, quote, unquote, working. And so it just feels so defeating to get that feedback and to feel like you're back at square one.

Erica Djossa  42:03  
And I think that when we are living for others expectations are to make them proud or to make them happy. Like when that source of validation and reassurance is outside of ourself and not anchored in our values, we are way more susceptible to that type of feedback. If somebody comes to me and says, like, your kids aren't in any sports, it's like, okay, because we value slowness and flexibility in our calendar. And it was a very intentional decision for us to not put our kids in sports. And I don't need to explain that to you. Right. So like, I'm so sure in my decision making, because it's rooted in my values that when question, I have more confidence to stand in my own, like not even needing to explain, but just to not doubt myself. And I think that's what happens when people give these little comments. We spiral because we don't feel anchored and we second guess ourselves and what is right and what isn't right, there is no right way. Like breaking news, there is no singular one right way to do it. It is the right way for you and your family according to your values. And when we get anchored and not. We have a lot of confidence to say you run all over town with your activities. I'm good. We've got we've got it figured out over here.

Danielle Bettmann  43:18  
And it's okay, if you change your mind, or that evolves

Erica Djossa  43:22  
oh yeah, if the next season like allows for us to change our mind on that or to prioritize that one right now, maybe it's not a priority, of course, but like those are within ourselves, and we feel more confident and sure about it. And it builds a trust in ourselves that I feel like a lot of the people in my community when we haven't done any of this work, like we really lack again, we're in that like freefall of just wanting to know we're doing a good job, that we don't have that trust in our own judgment and intuition. But we build that and build that confidence in our decision making when we do it according to our values. 

Danielle Bettmann  43:58  
no, you're so right. And as we wrap up, I would love for you to go back to those five core beliefs that you were reading off earlier. Because they're so toxic. Can you like rewrite them as in what is some type of adjustment you could make to that core belief that would serve us more? 

Erica Djossa  44:18  
Yeah. Oh so much of the book is actually kind of based on this where we go through we take the assumption and we do the reframe so the first one and we're just going to spit ball it because here we are. 

So we've got the being a good mom means that I should be the primary caregiver to my child. Well the reframe on that is my child benefits and thrives by having multiple secure caregivers in their life. And the more I allow those caregivers in the the more full their life is like that's a healthy thing to do. 

Being a good mom means finding all of my fulfillment in my motherhood role. This creates a lot of shame and guilt because if we are feeling resentful or unsatisfied in our role, we feel like there's something wrong with us. But we receive a lot of messaging going into motherhood that we can, you know, break glass ceilings and go and conquer the world. But then we enter into motherhood and more like, actually, no, you need to just be satisfied with your children and what you're doing. So we can find fulfillment in our motherhood role, and an array of other things. It's an and it's not an or it's not an exclusion of or not valuing our children. But we can find fulfillment in a multitude of things. And that's okay. 

Being a good mom means placing my child's needs, wants and well being above my own. What I talk about in the book, and in other conversations is our needs deserve a seat at the table. They don't need to be above our children, we don't need to put our needs first, this is a narrative I hear a lot and a lot of my community and clients are like, ooh, too big of a pendulum swing to go from, you know, last to putting myself first like I can't, I can't make that space, I can make that journey. Can we just put our needs at the table with the rest of our family on equal playing field and what is good for our children is good for us. So prioritizing their hygiene, we prioritize our hygiene, prioritizing their social development, we prioritize our social development, it's not putting ourselves first but just seeing us as equal. 

Being a good mom means I have to give all of my emotional energy, time and resources to my child. The reframe of this is it's actually healthy and okay to have boundaries with our children. That was a really foreign concept to me early on in motherhood, that I could actually close the door and lock it and say, I'm going to have a 15 minute shower in peace without any children. Thank you very much, you know. 

And lastly, being a good mom means I have to always be on and available for my child. I remember having this little mini like panic the first time I reintegrated back into work. And I hadn't thought about my child all day long at work. Because I was in and I was with clients. I was in work. And I was like, Oh my gosh, I like he wasn't top of mind. Like I didn't think about him today. Ah, my thinking about him is doing zero things for him in that moment tangibly. And it's not doing anything for our relationship, because the reliability and dependability of showing up day in and day out. And building that relationship and secure attachment is what makes him a child that will thrive in life. Now how much I am obsessively holding space in my mind for him. And so again, these boundaries with our even most emotional mental capacity, and energy is so important.

Danielle Bettmann  47:40  
I love all of those. So good. So that's a perfect segue into the book. So what else haven't we covered that you wanted to share specifically, about the book coming out today? And how do we get our hands on it?

Erica Djossa  47:53  
I think the biggest message and overall like takeaway from the book is there is no one right way. And when we acknowledge that it is about, okay, how do I carve out my path forward? How do I learn to build and construct my own journey and motherhood? That isn't smothering, that doesn't lead me to resent my role, and that I can actually enjoy and feel confident in. And I don't know that we know that is an option. And so I really act as a guide and take you on a journey to go through that process to uncover what that is, and bring in like lots of tools and skills and stories and things along the way. And it is available, like wherever books are sold. And it's exciting to be out in the world. And for those who are having more sort of significant mental health challenges like anxiety and depression and having trouble, you know, getting through a routine and getting out of the house with the kids and all of the things. is our maternal mental health platform. There's therapy services across Canada and the US there. But there is a slew of free psycho educational content to help you understand your experience as well.

Danielle Bettmann  49:09  
So valuable. Thank you for for writing it. And it's so needed, excited to share that with the world. So the last question that I asked every guest that I have on is how are you the mom your kids need? 

Erica Djossa  49:24  
The first example that comes to my mind is I am modeling for them that everybody in the household has ownership and stake in what goes on in the home. So I'm raising boys that hopefully will not adhere to these traditional gender norms and raising them to be competent, competent individuals in themselves that can take ownership over various aspects of the home and their life so that they can be independent and thrive themselves and in their relationships and marriages in the future. So I feel like modeling being like a badass also is pretty exciting. And encourage women and just the dynamics and how their fathers supports me in the company and stuff, just modeling that they can also play that role for their partner potentially as mom. 

Danielle Bettmann  50:17  
Yeah, how cool they are so lucky to have that example. And they will just grow to expect that which is that's their norm. That's their familiar. So that's so cool. 

Erica Djossa  50:27  
Yeah, thanks. 

Danielle Bettmann  50:28  
Well, thanks again for your time, such a great relevant conversation, such a amazing resource in your book, I will make sure to have all those links in the show notes for people to be able to find all those resources we mentioned. Thanks again, and keep up the hard work. We really, really appreciate it.

Erica Djossa  50:44  
I appreciate you welcoming me into your community. Thank you for having me here.

Danielle Bettmann  50:54  
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of Failing Motherhood. Your kids are so lucky to have you. If you loved this episode, take a screenshot right now and share it in your Instagram stories and tag me. If you're loving the podcast, be sure that you've subscribed and leave a review so we can help more moms know they're not alone if they feel like they're failing motherhood on a daily basis. And if you're ready to transform your relationship with your strong willed child, and invest in the support you need to make it happen. Schedule your free consultation using the link in the shownotes. I can't wait to meet you. Thanks for coming on this journey with me. I believe in you, and I'm cheering you on.



Tuesday, Sept 27th at 1:00 PM CENTRAL

Confidently parent your strong-willed child without caving in or dimming their spark so you can finally break free of power struggles, guilt + self-doubt!