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How to Find (and listen to!) Your Instincts as a Parent

Episode Summary:

“You really encourage families to follow their instincts, but how do they find these instincts?”

This was a question that was asked to me recently and I wanted to come on the podcast to answer because I think the answer is really important. For new parents, especially mamas, it can feel like you’re walking blind. If someone tells you to follow your instincts, it probably feels hard because you’re so disconnected from yourself and your instincts. My job is literally based upon encouraging families to follow their instincts, to tune out the noise. I am 110% confident most days in how I’m parenting and the decisions I’m making. But it wasn’t always like this, especially in that first year. So throughout this episode I’m going to walk you through the steps you can take today to start reconnecting with yourself and your instincts. In doing so you’ll feel more confident as a parent, less triggered, and you will find it easier to connect with your children, too. I can’t wait to hear your takeaways!

Topics:

  • The way that waking up earlier is helping Brittni to feel more rested in motherhood
  • How parenthood, especially motherhood, is a great invitation to reconnect with ourselves
  • The different ways your birth experience can feel you disconnected as a mother
  • Leaning into primal activities to connect back to yourself and find your instincts
  • How we can be better parents and connect on a deeper level to our children when we reconnect to ourselves
  • How Brittni uses her journaling practice to help her discover her instincts

Resources:

Read a raw, unedited transcript of this episode.

Brittni (00:00.494)
Hi friend, how are you today? How are you feeling? How was your night last night? If it was a rough night, I am sending you a lot of love and just a reminder that rest is productive. If all you do today is snuggle your child, that is enough. So I will jump right in. First, as I always do, I’ll share how I’m currently finding rest in motherhood.

which is, it’s actually kind of funny, I was chuckling to myself before I started recording this because how I am currently finding rest in motherhood is I am waking up earlier, which yes, you’re like, how is that finding more rest in motherhood? But bear with me. And I’m not doing it every day. I’m being really mindful of also not burning myself out, waking up really early. But I have found that I am just feeling like there are not enough hours in the day.

and I, if you’ve listened to the most recent episode of the podcast, you know that Lila is now falling asleep independently, which means I am getting from like 8 30 to when I go to bed between 10 and 10 30 to myself. But I like to really use that time in the evening to just do something for me. So usually I just read or occasionally I’ll watch a TV show, but watching TV at night has, is not the norm for me anymore.

just because I am really… What’s the word I’m looking for?

I really take my sleep seriously too. I wanna make sure that I’m getting good sleep quality, so I really try to not have the screen before bed. So in those two hours before bed or before I go to sleep, I really do just try to read. And I’m really mindful of keeping that time for myself because some nights I will go work and then I feel even more burnt out. So if I can really carve out those two hours in the evening before I go to bed to just do something that…

Brittni (01:59.47)
I was gonna say mindless. Reading isn’t necessarily mindless, but something that’s for me, I can actually relax. I’m not doing a job or caring for someone else, right? I’m just caring for me is really important. But what I’m finding then is I’m feeling like then I spend those two hours on myself, which is very important and I’m not going to give it up. But then I feel like I’m kind of starting the day behind.

And I know that sounds a little bit hustle culture, which I am not, I am not about hustle culture, but I’m just feeling, like I said, there’s not enough hours in my day right now. And so I was thinking about it. Well, how could I, what could I do? Because my child, I always chuckle, who didn’t sleep for the first two years of her life, now will sleep in until eight, 8.30 some days. And so if I sleep in with her,

then I feel like we’re not even downstairs eating breakfast until nine, 9.30, because she loves a good snuggle in bed for like 30 minutes in the morning. So I’m just, I feel like I’m not even starting our day until 10 o’clock. And then in parenting, depending on the day, I’m running errands, all of this stuff that goes into our daily lives that we all know. And I have found that I’m just not finding time to kind of be quiet in the morning.

I love to journal, which I feel like I haven’t had time to do that lately. And so I decided what’s one way that I could add some time into my life, time that I’m not going to feel guilty if I’m like, Laila, I need to go journal so you can play, right? Like, and by the way, we shouldn’t feel guilty if we’re, if we do need to get something done and our child is playing next to us, but it just didn’t feel, I felt like I needed this time in the morning. So I’ve been setting my alarm for like 6 45.

two to three days a week so I can just get up before Lila. And honestly, I haven’t even started journaling yet. It’s just time for me to like, get up, maybe go downstairs and get a cup of tea, just be quiet and still in the morning, which is allowing me to rest in motherhood in the sense that I’m feeling more at ease, I’m feeling less stressed. I do want to say that I remember, I can specifically remember when Lila was like nine months old.

Brittni (04:19.534)
I saw this post on Instagram that was talking about how it’s essential for a mom to start her day before her kids so that she can start the day calm. And I was so triggered because I was not, I couldn’t, like if you bed share, you know that usually as soon as you roll out of bed, your baby is up. They are not going to let you get up before them.

And so I felt like, oh my gosh, like I’m a failure as a mom because I can’t get up and start my day before my child. Which I wanna say, I wanna speak to that if you’re feeling that way with me saying this and say, I didn’t do this until Lila. And like, some weeks I’ll do it like, just because I need to get something done, I know before she wakes up, but I’m being more intentional now. But I’ve been able to like wake up before Lila probably since she was three years old.

up until that point, if I got out of bed, that girl was up and wide awake and was starting her day with me. So I just wanna speak to that, Mama, if you’re like, I can’t wake up before my child, maybe that’s not currently how you’re meant to find rest in motherhood and that’s okay. The time will come. Everything and truly, I mean, everything in motherhood is a season. So as always.

This is a time for you to reflect on how you’re currently finding rest in motherhood. If you aren’t currently finding rest in motherhood, what could you do this week or even today to give yourself a little bit of rest?

So I’ll jump right into what I wanna talk about today, which is it’s kind of just this thought that’s been hanging out in my head. And I knew that I needed to like get it out onto the podcast because I think it’ll be really helpful. But earlier this week, I was actually a guest on a like a summit chat, a motherhood summit chat. And she asked me, you really encourage families to follow their instincts.

Brittni (06:28.462)
And how do they find these instincts? And I think this is such a good question, right? Because I do often talk a lot about trust your instincts, tune into yourself, tune into your baby. And I will get messages from moms that are like, I feel like I don’t have any instincts. I feel like I am walking blind. And it was a really good reminder for me because I think here I am four and a half years into my motherhood journey.

My job is literally based upon encouraging families to follow their instincts, tune out the noise. I am 110% confident on most days in how I’m parenting, right? Like I still have those days of guilt or doubt. They still come in, I’m a human. But for the most part, I am very confident about all of my choices that I’ve made in motherhood. And so to me, when I say like trust those instincts,

Now it’s second nature to me. But if I think back to that early, early mama, Brittany, I didn’t know, right? Like I knew that what I was hearing either didn’t sit right with me or wasn’t working for my baby, but I was so stressed about being a good mom. And this is how everyone else is doing it and how everyone else is saying that I need to be doing it, that I ignored those instincts. And so that’s the thing is,

Well, actually let me back up here and say that we all have those instincts, but I think that as a society, we live in a society that is very, we’re very disconnected from ourselves. We live in a fast paced world, we’re in front of screens most of the day, we’re not in nature like we used to be, right? It’s just, it’s our 21st century lives. And so I think that we tend.

And there are many enlightened, mindful people, right? But as a whole, I would say, or a majority, as a society, we are very disconnected from ourselves. And I think back to like pre-Mama Brittany, right? And I don’t even recognize her because I think that motherhood truly has opened up this path for me.

Brittni (08:49.454)
to become the truest version of myself. And I’ll get into kind of what, like how that happened. But I think we really need to focus on the fact that I think that a lot of us are disconnected from who we really are, what’s going on inside of us, what are our feelings, what are our triggers, right? Like a lot of us are kind of just like going through life and not really realizing this. And I think motherhood, parenthood in general, is a great…

opportunity and a great invitation to really reconnect with ourselves and kind of shut out that noise. And another thing I was thinking about as I sat down to chat with you is in addition to just kind of being disconnected because of our like our lives, we’re busy, we’re on the go all the time. We, I talked about hustle culture, that hustle culture is very prominent. Like you need to be busy, you need to be going to all the social outings and…

While that can be great if that feels good for you, it really disconnects us from ourselves because we don’t have time to sit and connect with ourselves. But in addition to that, most of us grew up in homes where, or just collectively as a society as well, where we were really disconnected from our feelings. Oh, don’t be sad, don’t be so emotional.

It’s not a big deal. It’s okay, right? So when we were feeling these feelings, it was like an immediate disconnection from ourselves because we were essentially being told that our feelings weren’t valid or we shouldn’t be feeling these feelings. So we’re, we usually arrive into early parenthood, early motherhood, really disconnected from ourselves. But I do think that motherhood, parenthood really kind of

opens those doors to reconnect to ourselves. Starting with pregnancy, right? If you are a mama who carried your children, birthed your children, that is… And I will also say if you had a surrogate, you’re also watching your child grow, right? And so there are those moments. But my thought here being when we are pregnant, we really are kind of taken inwards to our body, right? Like we’re tuning in more. We’re feeling those kicks.

Brittni (11:09.774)
We’re ultra worried, most of us, about taking care of our bodies, limiting our stress. We really kind of start connecting with our bodies because our body is growing our child. And I think a lot of us didn’t, we don’t have that connection before, right? And so then we birth our babies, which is another great connection to our bodies of like, wow, I did this, I birthed my baby, I felt everything.

if we didn’t have an epidural, I did have an epidural that I didn’t want, but that’s a story for another day. But I think that that’s a good point to stop there too and say that sometimes our birth history or our birth experience can actually disconnect us as mothers as well and disconnect us from ourselves because we go into birth feeling like we can’t do it. Oftentimes the way we’re treated by the hospital staff makes us feel, I don’t know.

like an experiment, right? Or like, we don’t know our body best, we don’t know what feels right. And so that’s another place that we’re being disconnected. So this is a long winded way for me to really talk about how we really are disconnected from ourselves. And so how do we tune into these instincts when we are so disconnected and then we’re surrounded by noise? So I think first just recognizing that a lot of us and

And I’m not like pointing fingers because like I said, me, I was really disconnected from like who I was. And I really didn’t start that path of like true self discovery, really connecting with myself until I was a mom. And it didn’t happen right when she was born, right? Like I would say in the last two and a half, maybe three years of her life, I’ve really grown. I feel like I’ve really.

become more mindful of my mind-body connection, what’s going on. And so I think it’s important to kind of tune into yourself and ask yourself, like, do I know who I am? Do I know how I’m feeling? And I talked about the triggers piece earlier. Do I know what triggers me? And that’s where parenthood is such a beautiful invitation to reconnect with ourselves because these triggers come.

Brittni (13:33.582)
And now we are left to either respond on autopilot, which like as a parent of a toddler often means like yelling at them, right? Because we’re so frustrated and triggered in the moment that we don’t take a second to like think before we act and we yell or we do something else. So these are great opportunities in motherhood to kind of reconnect to ourselves and say, ooh, I was really triggered by that. Could I go a little bit deeper and think about like,

What feelings that brought up? Did I feel helpless? Did I feel like I wasn’t being respected or listened to? And then go a little bit deeper Okay, I was feeling disrespected I know my child is not Sometimes this is where it’s hard, right? Because you’re like they were being really mean and disrespectful but Developmentally, we know that our children are not capable of really taking into consideration our emotions and our feelings. So

Digging deep, right? And I will say that a lot of this reconnection to myself came through therapy. So I’m a huge supporter of therapy. I think that we all should go to therapy. But so if you’re, this conversation about triggers is really kind of making you think, hmm, I’ve never really thought about that. Get curious. And like I said, if you don’t go to therapy, maybe this is a perfect time to go to therapy.

So there’s these little invitations in motherhood, right? Throughout pregnancy, giving birth is a huge invitation to really kind of connect to ourselves and really connect to our instincts because our body is just kind of in this primal state, right? Like we’re growing a child, we’re birthing a child. Like this is our biology, right? And so these are great opportunities. And then breastfeeding, if you breastfeed is another great one because it’s your body.

It’s such a primal thing. Our body is feeding our babies. Our body is doing exactly what it is designed to do for our babies. And so we have all these opportunities to connect to ourselves, but I think that we miss them a lot because we are so concerned that we’re doing it wrong, that we don’t know what we’re doing. We have so much noise from the outside, whether it be from Facebook groups.

Brittni (15:59.566)
Instagram content, our pediatrician, our mom, our best friend, our sister, somebody at the grocery store. Like there’s so much noise. There’s Google. I have a love-hate relationship with Google, right? Because I don’t want you to go down a Google rabbit hole at 2 a.m. So we’re disconnected.

We are told to follow our instincts and I am guilty of telling you to follow your instincts, but I don’t wanna say guilty because I want you to, but how do we get there? How do I follow my instincts when I have no idea? And that’s where it really becomes about connecting to yourself. Maybe that means five minutes somewhere during the day where you are just kind of closing your eyes and maybe five minutes is too much. Maybe it’s 30 seconds to start with.

doing some deep breath, how am I feeling? How did I feel yesterday, right? Or just kind of tuning in to yourself, but taking just a moment to connect with yourself. When somebody gives you some parenting advice, let’s say unsolicited parenting advice, what does that first voice in your head say? Like, oh yeah, I should do that. Or, that doesn’t feel right because

We often say like, we don’t have these instincts, but they’re there, we just override them, or we’re so disconnected from ourselves that we’re not really listening to them. So I think the first step in kind of reconnecting to yourself, finding that intuition, finding those instincts is to disconnect from all the noise. And I know that’s really hard. I mean, how do you disconnect from all the noise in our 21st century lives?

Maybe that means unfollowing accounts that stress you out. Maybe that means when somebody asks you about your baby’s sleep, you just simply say like, oh, they’re sleeping great, they’re sleeping like a baby. Maybe it means curating your Instagram feed so that it’s accounts that when you read the information they’re providing, it actually makes you feel more aligned in what you’re doing, it gives you confidence, it doesn’t stress you out.

Brittni (18:19.374)
Maybe it means knowing who you’re talking to, right? Like, and this is no shade against moms because I know not all moms are like this, but maybe it means like if, or mother-in-laws, if a parenting topic gets brought up in front of your mom or mother-in-law or whoever, and you know that what they’re going to say is going to trigger you or make you feel like you’re failing, maybe it means avoiding that conversation or just saying like, yeah, it’s not something we really wanna talk about right now.

or just being very vague in your answer. So really tuning out that noise and kind of that’s gonna open the way to kind of start tuning into yourself. And then I got ahead of myself because I brought up the like 30 seconds to five minutes of mindfulness during the day. And then that’s where you can tune into your mindfulness. Like I said, I think when we can be actively doing that, that helps because then little by little, we’re gonna know our voice and know our instincts better and then it’s just gonna flow in.

And that’s where it comes in, right? Like with baby naps. Oh my gosh, my baby is skipping their nap. What do I do? Do I sit here in a dark room or do I go out of the room, go play for a little bit? Maybe I go for a walk. We just take a deep breath and then we reset. Tune into that voice because that voice inside of you is probably going to say, we’re sitting in a dark room. I’ve been here for 30 minutes. This makes no sense. I’m not going to force this. I’m gonna go.

take care of myself, not make sleep stressful, right? So those moments when you’re like, what do I do? Calm down, take a deep breath, and then just kind of listen or choose inaction, right? Maybe you’re just gonna sit for a little bit and just, and see what comes. So the more we can tune out that noise, reconnect with ourselves, the easier it’s gonna be to tune into that intuition.

Another thing that I love doing, and I also want to say that again, I am in later motherhood. I mean, not super later. I don’t have a teenager, but I have a four and a half year old. And so my life now compared to what my life was like when she was in her first year of life is completely different. So I want to acknowledge that. But journaling has been, apart from therapy, has been…

Brittni (20:45.902)
the biggest way that I have really reconnected with myself and my instincts, because there’s something so therapeutic and grounding about getting that pen to paper and getting it out of you. And I will say, I was actually thinking about this yesterday because I knew I was gonna be chatting about this today. And I was like, okay, well, what would I tell a busy mom who is in that first year of life? Let’s say she just doesn’t have the time to journal.

Maybe that looks like if you work, maybe that looks like on your way to work, you just like pretend you’re talking to your best friend in the car and you’re like saying everything that you’re feeling and everything that’s coming out. Maybe it means like having a rundown of your day with your partner at the end of the day and just saying like, this is how I’m feeling today. This is what went well, this is what was really stressful or this is where I struggled. Maybe it looks like having a best friend where you send voice memos back and forth to each other.

throughout the day and just really kind of getting that out. I do think if you can make the time for journaling, like pen to paper, that it truly is the most therapeutic, but I also know that it’s not going to be realistic for all of us. Another thing I thought of when I was thinking about this was actually on my walk, which is another time I really try to be intentional about not listening to podcasts. I just take that time to like let my brain flow and think. This was a walk without Lila. So.

Also, that is a luxury again that I have. I didn’t have her with me, but while I was on my walk thinking about, okay, what are some other things? Another thing you could do is just like keep a note section in your phone and just like stream of conscious, right? Like, okay, what’s going on right now? How did I feel? Maybe at the end of the day, you’re jotting down like five thoughts or something like that. Anything to just take that time to like connect with yourself is huge. And so,

Once we are able to kind of reconnect and tune out that noise, those instincts come. They start coming stronger and then it just becomes our second nature. And there’s something also really beautiful about this because we tend to really, we don’t tend, I think it happens to all of us, lose ourselves in early motherhood. We were this person who then had a baby and the day our baby was born, the person who we were before

Brittni (23:14.542)
is essentially dead. And actually, this is a topic I’m going to be having an amazing therapist come on and we’re going to actually talk about like death to self. So stay tuned for that. But so you had your baby and that person before isn’t like their life is completely changed. It’s a new life with a new baby. And so we really have this hard time finding ourselves after motherhood. Who am I?

what do I like, right? Like I fundamentally changed as a person when I became a mother. Like my family always laughs at me. Like, did you ever think that this was going to be Brittany? No, no one did, right? Like motherhood, as I said earlier, truly opened up the pathway for me to be my truest self. And it took a lot of stress. It took a lot of low moments, but ultimately it took really reconnecting with myself.

figure out and finding those instincts to find myself. And then I was able to really nourish myself. So not only is reconnecting to yourself going to help you find your instincts, it’s going to help you find yourself in motherhood. And I will say I didn’t start feeling like myself until about 18 months postpartum and that was just starting to feel like myself. I don’t feel like I really started feeling like I was thriving.

probably until Lila was like two and a half, three years old. Now, another aspect of that is I was in a marriage that wasn’t fulfilling. It wasn’t, it was causing stress in my life too, right? So maybe if I had a very supportive partner, we had a great partnership, a great team that I would have like that 18 month mark maybe would have hit sooner, like feeling like myself and that feeling of thriving would have come earlier as well. I don’t know. I can’t go back in time.

And I wouldn’t because my life right I’m right where I’m supposed to be in this moment and you’re right where you’re supposed to be in this moment so I Think that Finding our instincts obviously is so important But I also want to encourage you to focus on yourself to focus on if you’re feeling totally disconnected from yourself To figure out who you are

Brittni (25:33.23)
And I know that feels scary, right? And that you’re not gonna figure it out in one day. It took me a long time. I feel like I’m still like finding new things that I like, right? Finding new things that calm me down. And it’s an ever, we’re humans, we’re ever evolving. So it’s always, you’re always going to be growing, but reconnecting to yourself is key in finding that confidence and trusting your instincts and motherhood. And another beautiful piece of that.

is when we reconnect to ourselves and we tune out that noise, we’re better able to connect to our children. Because if you’re not connected to yourself, how are you gonna truly connect to your child? You know, we hear the saying in relationships like, you have to love yourself first before you can love anybody else, or you have to love yourself first before anybody will love you.

It’s kind of the same thing, right? Like we really need to be connected to ourselves so that we can better connect to our children and lean into, okay, they’re communicating this to me. What feels right in this moment and how I need to respond or where do I need to go from here? And so.

It’s a beautiful relationship that flourishes. And I also don’t want this to stress you out by thinking, like if you’re in the first year of motherhood or the second year of motherhood and you’re like, I’m not connected to myself. I don’t know my instincts. Does that mean I’m not connected to my child? No. Take a deep breath. It’s okay. I, like I said, it took me 18 months to even start to feel like myself and really kind of start.

connecting more deeply to who I was, what was going on in my life, what I was feeling. So every day is an opportunity for a tiny bit of growth. And it’s all about just really being mindful of not forgetting that your experience matters and that you, just like your child, needs to be taken care of, you need to be taken care of too. And so taking care of yourself, reconnecting.

Brittni (27:37.838)
is a path to finding yourself and also a path to connecting deeper to your child. So I know this is kind of heavy, but sending you away today, I encourage you to, if you don’t already do this, start incorporating like a mindfulness practice into your day. Whether it be, like I said, 30 seconds in the morning, if you wake up before your child, even if you’re laying in bed, right? Or after they go to bed or during a contact nap or on a walk.

30 seconds of how am I feeling? What, what do I, where am I at, right? Just checking in with yourself like you would with a friend. What sensations are coming up in my body? Am I feeling happy today? Am I feeling stressed? Am I feeling tired? And then maybe those 30 seconds become a minute and then two minutes and then you’re spending, I don’t know, five minutes during the day kind of thinking about that. Maybe it is journaling, which is my absolute favorite, but something.

to take the time to just connect to yourself. And I’m also going to encourage you, if you know, like when I brought up accounts that stress you out, if there’s accounts that stress you out on Instagram, I am, what am I trying to say? Urging you, I am giving you a friendly push to go unfollow accounts that stress you out, or maybe mute accounts that stress you out, if it’s a friend, right? If it’s a friend who keeps posting about how her.

Six month old baby is sleeping through the night every night. Good for you, congratulations. I’m so happy for you, but I need to mute you. And you don’t need to actually tell her that, right? But it might mean muting accounts that are friends even that are just not serving your mental health right now that are allowing false narratives or narratives that aren’t serving you and your child into your life. So take a deep breath. Maybe you take two minutes after this podcast and you go journal it out.

And one last thing I do want to say about journaling is I used to feel so intimidated about journaling because I felt like I like, what do I write about? Right. When we’re disconnected from ourselves, we, what do we write about? I don’t, you know, and so it kind of, for me, you started out as just like a stream of consciousness. And sometimes that’s still like, I will, I’m, oh my, I was looking over cause usually I have my journal right next to my desk where like I could be in the middle of writing a client email and I’ll have this thought and I’ll be like, I need to get this out in my journal.

Brittni (30:01.934)
I need this feeling out of me, I need this thought out of me, and then I can come back to it. So it’s literally, it could just be that stream of consciousness, like I need to get this out of me. Or I know like a lot of really good accounts on Instagram have journal prompts if there’s something that we’re like we want to focus on. So you could also kind of or even just google like good journal prompts, but I would say just to start like how are you feeling?

what thoughts are coming to your mind, what was hard today, right? Anything to kind of start getting that pen on paper and just get feelings flowing. Because another thing about journaling that I love is if we’re leaving these thoughts and feelings inside of us, they have nowhere to go. Whereas when we get them out on paper, or if we get them out in a conversation with a friend or our partner, or we say them out loud while we’re driving alone in the car, they are out of us. And they are taking up less space.

and they’re allowing more room for us to connect to ourselves, more room for peace, more room for confidence. I hope you have a wonderful day.

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