On this episode of the Mommy Labor Nurse Podcast, I had the opportunity to chat with Erica from Happy as a Mother. She’s a registered psychotherapist with a master’s degree in counseling psychology and postgraduate certificates in couples and family therapy, as well as maternal mental health.
The timing of this episode is perfect because the month of May is mental health awareness month here in the US, so she came on the show to talk about the mental health of mothers, specifically diving into something that’s called “the invisible load of motherhood”.
It was such a treat to have Erica come on the show. She has a wonderful podcast of her own, a rockin’ Instagram page with so much good content for mothers, and a number of other valuable resources over on her website.
So without further ado, here’s a glance at what we talked about in the episode!
- Erica’s transition into motherhood and experience with PPD (4:14)
- What is the invisible load of motherhood? (8:20)
- Getting your spouse to recognize your needs (11:53)
- Maternal gatekeeping, postpartum anxiety, and rage (28:15)
- Understanding our values as a mom (44:00)
- About Erica Djossa from Happy as a Mother
Erica’s transition into motherhood and experience with PPD (4:14)
I kick off the episode by asking Erica to share a bit about herself. We learned that she is a mom of 3 boys that were born back to back, meaning that she spent 5 or 6 years straight either nursing or pregnant! She found herself in the midst of a challenging transition into motherhood and shares that even as a mental health professional she struggled with postpartum depression.
She describes how difficult it felt to use the coping skills and methods that she knew work from her professional training and practice on herself when she was actually in it. Furthermore the shock she felt because she didn’t even know that maternal mental health was a specialty.
All of this lead to the birth of her platform – Happy as a Mother – as a way to empower moms and normalize the challenges of motherhood. She wanted to send the message that struggling does NOT equal failing. And that it’s normal to struggle and need help and support. She wanted to build a place to teach moms to give themselves grace and be more compassionate with themselves.
What is the invisible load of motherhood? (8:20)
I wanted to talk to Erica specifically about the invisible load of motherhood, because it’s something I (and probably most moms!) experience every single day, but I didn’t know how to put a name to it, or label it, before I started see Erica talking about it.
Here’s a little snippet from the episode where she explains what the invisible load of motherhood is all about,
“Well, it makes me think about this very specific moment I had on I think my third maternity leave. I was thinking to myself, okay, I have this mountain of laundry that I need to fold. Why am I actively avoiding doing this task? It seems so simple – fold the laundry, put it away, like what is? Why am I so procrastinating with this?
And when I really sat down and hashed it out and thought about it well, folding the laundry meant putting it away, putting it away meant clearing out all the drawers of all the seasonal clothes that were about to turn over, which meant making sure that kids had clothes that fit, and the appropriate season was in their drawer.
And then before you know it this one seemingly simple task turned into like a whole afternoon’s worth or more of this invisible work from this invisible list that I was keeping in my head. And that experience and just sort of understanding and unpacking that started to give way to these invisible load [Instagram] posts. As I shared them, moms [in the community] were like, ‘Is it any wonder that I, you know, struggle with Sunday’s prepping for Monday?’ Starting the week causes all of this stuff to weigh in the back of our mind, and because it’s invisible, it often goes under-recognized and inbound validated.”
When you listen in you’ll hear more details and examples about this phenomenon, which really sets the stage for the rest of the episode.
Getting your spouse to recognize your needs (11:53)
Next, we start to get more into the communication piece with your spouse. Erica so accurately explains that the idea of our partners reading our minds or telepathically figuring out what we need is romanticized in our culture. The reality for most is that this isn’t the case – and we as mothers have to proactively take steps to get our partners to understand our needs.
You’ll hear me share some specifics about how this plays out with my own husband, and the way that our couples therapy has helped so much with this! Then Erica gives some SUPER actionable advice about ways we can support our partners to better pitch in, but also ways we need to be careful about self-sabotaging the efforts (for example, being overly critical of the WAY they get the job done).
Tune in to hear more, including the power behind creating a list for your invisible mental load and having your partner do the same so that you can better understand what each other is carrying! (18:01)
Maternal gatekeeping, postpartum anxiety, and rage (28:15)
At this point in the episode Erica brings up a new to me term called “maternal gatekeeping”. She says that it is a topic she treads lightly around especially for moms struggling with postpartum anxiety or that are newly transitioning into motherhood.
Basically, it’s the notion where mothers don’t allow their partners to bond with baby or do the routines and how that can lead to self-sabotage for mothers getting the help they need with the invisible load of motherhood.
In other words, it’s SO important that our partners have the opportunity to bond with baby and become knowledgeable and confident in the caretaking tasks so that they CAN carry load and know exactly all that does go into it and what needs to be done.
How rage and anger come into play
We then continue to talk about maternal gatekeeping and the way that it can manifest in the form of control, especially in those struggling with postpartum anxiety. Erica shares about a past podcast episode of hers that directly addresses the difference between new mom worry and when it crosses over into postpartum anxiety.
You can find that episode here: Happy as a Mother Podcast Episode 54: Normal Mom Worry vs. Postpartum Anxiety
You’ll hear the conversation transition to the topic of rage, resentment, and anger, especially during postpartum, and the way that often manifests in people without any history of those feelings or actions!
I actually mention in this part of the episode that I enrolled in one of Erica’s workshops (before I even collaborated with her and got to know her!) and that it helped me so much – you can learn more at the link below:
Understanding our values as a mom (44:00)
The final point that we discuss is the idea of how important it is to tune into our own values as a mom. Erica says that when we do that it can help us draw boundaries and say yes to ourselves more, and not be afraid to say no to others.
She says one of the best ways to do this is to check in with ourselves as a way of weeding out what’s actually our value and what’s an ideal that we’re trying to live up to because of some external factor. She says to ask yourself,
“Am I feeling the pressure to do this as a mom because others are doing it? And I see them doing it? Or am I feeling pressure to do this or a pull to do this because I sincerely value it?
[For example], do I really need to put my kid in some crazy costume for spirit day? Does he even want to, does he really care? Or did I just see all these other moms doing these wildly creative things that I feel like I should be doing it? So that’s a really big favor you can do for yourself.”
From there we wrap up the conversation and Erica talks a bit about where you can find and connect with her, which I’ll list in her about section below!
About Erica Djossa from Happy as a Mother
Erica Djossa is a registered psychotherapist, sought-after maternal mental health specialist, and is the founder of Happy as a Mother. She has been practicing for over 10 years and is a regular media contributor. Erica helps women adjust to and manage the load of motherhood with her popular Happy as a Mother podcast, Instagram platform, and online therapy services.
She is passionate about supporting moms and helping them embrace their motherhood journey. Erica is a Toronto based mother to three rambunctious young boys that can often be found sharing insights in her Instagram stories.
Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. Her graphics have been shared by celebrities like Snoop Dogg, Ashley Graham, Nia Long, Hilaria Baldwin, Christy Turlington, and Adrienne Bosh.
Connect with her: