The Mother Load, Surviving Motherhood | with Meredith Ethington | MomCave Live

Meredith Ethington, author of “The Mother Load,” and Jen discuss the weight of the mental load and societal expectations that mothers carry. Ethington talks about how she came up with the name “Perfection Pending” and how being a recovering perfectionist made it difficult for her to become a mother. Jen and Ethington discuss the unrealistic expectations placed on mothers and how they can be harmful to their mental health while surviving motherhood. They also touch upon how no book or advice can prepare a mother for every scenario and that every child is unique.

Watch the full episode of “The Mother Load, Surviving Motherhood | with Meredith Ethington | MomCave Live” on MomCave TV’s YouTube channel.

The Mother Load, Surviving Motherhood | with Meredith Ethington | MomCave Live

Jen and Meredith discuss “The Mother Load”, Surviving Motherhood.

Jen:  Welcome to Momcave Live, where we may have lost our minds, but we haven’t lost our sense of humor. I’m Jen and my guest tonight and my guest is Meredith Ethington. You may know Meredith as “Perfection Pending.” And she has a new book out called “The Mother Load.” (Affiliate Link) And we’re talking load, not “lode”.

Meredith Ethington:  Correct.

Jen:  Yeah. What’s the book about Meredith?

Meredith Ethington:  So it’s about what you would expect it would be about with the title. I mean, cover everything from the heaviness of the mental load that all moms carry to mental illness. I talk about toxic positivity in there and how that’s harmful to us as moms. And also just all the expectations that society puts on us as moms and how harmful that can be, so kind of, it’s kind of divided up into those four sections, where I kind of tackle it all.

Jen:  That’s awesome. Okay, so we’re gonna give away a copy. Yeah. So we’ll give it away to somebody who comments. And we’ll also; I’ll put up the link for the book, and for the first five people that order Meredith is going to sign one?

Meredith Ethington: I’m gonna send a signed bookplate, which is nice. You can stick it in your book. 

Jen:  An autograph, man. Yeah, yeah. Awesome. So um, well, first of all, we, you know, you’ve talked before, let’s see, I’m a mess.

Meredith Ethington:  Don’t worry, 

There is no such thing as perfection in parenting.

Jen:  Clearly, I was a mess before becoming a mother, but becoming a mother just intensifies all of the mess. And yeah, I have always loved your blog. I guess it started out as your blog name. 

Meredith Ethington:  Yeah. Actually. Yeah. So, I think I gave it that name because I am a recovering perfectionist. I have always kind of had that type-A personality. You know, trying high-achiever kind of kid growing up, wanting to do everything just right, obey all the rules, I was kind of that, that kid. And that did really well in some areas of my life, you know, with going to college and moving out of my house and being independent.

But where it kind of started to rear its ugly head was when I became a mom. And I became a parent realizing that there is no such thing as perfection, in parenting, or really, in anything that we try to do as human beings because we’re flawed and imperfect. But specifically in parenting, it was like just putting a spotlight on that idea that, like, I can’t do this. Right. Like, at least I can’t do it perfectly. I shouldn’t say can’t do this because I was doing it. And 16 years later, I’m still doing it. Right. Wow. Yeah, my oldest, actually, she’ll be 17 next month. So I’ve been doing it a long time now.

We want the best as parents.

Jen:  I think that a lot of us have that sort of like growing up wanting to please and be a good girl and not get into trouble, get straight A’s, do all the things. And that like it? It looks good from the outside. Right. But that is a lot of pressure to feel on the inside.

Meredith Ethington:  Yeah, absolutely. I mean, it is stressful. And when you add in like trying, you know, your focus totally goes towards trying to do everything right for your kids. Like, I think the intention is good. Like, we want to be the best parents we can be because we don’t want to screw up our kids, right. But I think it can be damaging to our mental health if we’re not careful. Because what happens is we put so much focus on them we forget to even think about ourselves and what we might need.

Jen:  When before we had kids, we could study, and we could follow, like, here are the rules. Here are the steps. Here’s the book. Here’s what you do. And we try that as moms, and even if you read every parenting book, first of all, you go insane because they all say different things. But no book is about your kid and you. Nothing is individualized enough to tell you what to do all the time.

Making yourself crazy reading motherhood books, while trying to survive motherhood.

Meredith Ethington:  Exactly. And you can make yourself crazy reading all the books. I mean, with my first kid, I was totally, you know, one that wanted to read like What to Expect so I knew exactly what was gonna happen every week in pregnancy, and I want to do things like just right but like, like you said, there’s nothing that’s going to tell you every single scenario that is is going to happen in your life as a parent. You know, I’ve had commenters on my Instagram page say to me, “Well, why are you complaining? You knew what you were getting into when you had kids.” And I hate that because no one knows what they’re getting into, no one knows the mother load.

Jen:  You don’t know!

Meredith Ethington:  Because even someone that maybe grew up with 12 younger siblings and saw their mom do it when they become a parent, it’s gonna be a totally different experience than what their parent went through. Even if you babysat at 10, come on, that’s not an experience.

Jen:  You get to go home and give them back, and people give you money. So that is totally different.

We are the best judge of what we need to do as parents because we know the best.

Meredith Ethington:  Even if you’re a dog mom, that is not preparing you for parenting. I’m a dog mom. I love my dog. She is my fourth child. Put her in a cage if I need to.

Jen:  I wish that was okay, sometimes.

Meredith Ethington:  Right? I can’t do that with my human children. Right. So yeah, I mean, we got we’ve got to be careful about what voices we’re listening to, what experts we are reading and books because, ultimately, we are the best judge of what we need to do as parents and the best kind of parents we’re going to be for our kids because we know them best.

Jen:   Yeah, yeah, we’re the ones that know them best. If you’re just joining us. This is Meredith Ethington, who has written a new book called “The Mother Load,” and she’s giving away a copy to somebody who comments.

Meredith Ethington:  Right? So tell us where you are!

Meredith Ethington:  I have a copy, but it’s out of reach in the whole setup all over. So I’m not gonna grab it?

Jen:   Well, I think I just sent it to the comments, but we’ll see. It’s linked in the description on Facebook. We’re on all the places, so you know, yeah, on every platform, we can do that. Okay, so we know the problem, right? We know the problem is that we try to be perfect and that we’re overloaded. Blah blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. 

Meredith Ethington:  We’ve heard this story,

Jen:  We’ve heard the story. Help! What can we do? What can we do?

The importance of self-care during motherhood.

Meredith Ethington:  So I talked a lot about self-care in my book, which is funny to me, because when I first became a mom, I had like zero self-care. It took me a long time to realize that it actually was really important. You know, I think we kind of, as moms, we kind of roll our eyes at self-care because we’re like, oh, that’s one more thing I have to do. I really encourage moms to try to figure out what their self-care really is and not to shortchange themselves. A lot of times, we want to say like, taking a shower is my self-care. I’m like, no, no, that’s the basic. Yeah, that’s like basic hygiene, basic human rights.

Come on, like, you should be able to take a shower whenever you want to take a shower. Well, maybe not whenever you want, if you’ve got a newborn or something. But that should be your right as a human being to have a hot shower and to sit down and eat a meal for a minute. And so often, we kind of try to count those things as self-care when in reality, they’re not. So we’ve got to find something that refuels us and rejuvenates us and makes us feel alive. We were humans before we became moms.

And after our kids leave the nest, we are going to sit there and be like, who was I? At least that would have been my experience a few years ago because I wasn’t prioritizing anything that I cared about whatsoever. Instead, I was just kind of floating along and hoping one day I would figure it out.

Check out “The Motherload” Below.

The Mother Load book, by Meredith Ethington

Meredith Ethington’s journey to advocating for mothers’ mental health.

Jen:  We know you have writing. Like your book “The Motherload”. So that’s something that you do. What other kinds of things do you do?

Meredith Ethington:  Well, I’m currently in school right now getting my master’s degree. So that is a brand new thing that I got my undergrad degree in psychology. So I’ve always been interested in mental health. And that my original plan back in my 20s was to go to grad school. And I didn’t do it because I put my husband through grad school, and I had kids, and I kind of just thought, oh, maybe that’s not that important.

But in the past couple of years, especially with the pandemic, it has been like eating away at me, like you need to go back to school and you need to do this thing. And I told myself no for a long time. Because I thought, oh, you know, I made all the excuses. It’s too much money. It’s too much time, and how are my kids can survive if I suddenly start working outside of the home? So writing was this great thing for me because it was flexible, and can do it at home. And it made, you know, some money.

Helping mothers survive motherhood and take care of their mental health

But really, what I’m passionate about is helping mothers understand how important it is to take care of their mental health. And that’s kind of how this book was born. I wrote it during the pandemic. I wrote it during a really dark time. For everyone, everyone, for sure, you know, like everybody, somebody was crying in my house every day. It was usually me. It was very stressful in the beginning of the pandemic.

And I had written about mental health a long time, you know, I had been writing about it for years. But I realized that that’s what really, moms really resonated with were all my posts that shared kind of like the darker sides of how we sometimes feel parenting and shedding light on that and giving hope that it can get better. And so that’s where the mother load kind of came about is I wrote it during this dark time. It’s kind of dark in its first version. It morphed into something beautiful and hopeful, which is that we can all make mental health a priority, even busy moms. It is possible. It’s a very good time to be talking about this because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so.

Jen: Is it? I did not know I was not aware enough, apparently. 

Meredith Ethington:  Well, now, you know!

Jen:   Too busy trying to keep my mental health, right? Yeah, 

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We all have problems, and we all have struggles.

There’s the part of it, though, that’s like. Also, there are sometimes some times you feel kind of shameful to be the one that says oh, you know, I have a great life. I have these healthy kids, and my husband and I live in a house, and you know, we have food to eat. And so, why am I feeling like this? And how embarrassing to admit to others that you know what I do? Like, do you struggle with that?

Meredith Ethington:   Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think if we look at the world as a whole, we can go, okay, like, my worries are not that important. My suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of someone else. However, my argument against that is this is not the suffering Olympics. That’s not, that’s not what humanity is about. I talk a lot about empathy in my book and how important it is to just show up for people no matter what their circumstances are, and be empathetic, and you know, show them that you can sit with them in that dark time.

They’re okay to feel that way. And, you know, maybe all you can do is just sit with them. And maybe you can’t do anything more than that. But we all have problems. We all have struggles. And for me, you know, I have been shamed about talking about some of this stuff. And it doesn’t feel good when that happens. Although I will say, I’ve been writing long enough that I’ve built up a pretty thick skin. So it doesn’t mean it doesn’t get under my skin like it used to. However, I mean, I do recognize that I have privileges that other people don’t have. I have material things that other people don’t have. I have a lot of good things going for me that even wealthy rich, privileged people get depressed.

Jen:   Have you seen What the White Lotus?

Meredith Ethington:   No, I have not.

Jen:   I’m just starting. But this is the whole thing that keeps saying, You know what? They’re really wealthy. And they’re really sad.

Breaking the stigma surrounding motherhood.

Meredith Ethington:    Yeah, yeah. And I mean, we could go down that whole path, too, for sure. Like, you know, think of all the famous people that have, you know, died by suicide because they were so depressed, and silencing it and not speaking about it. And so, for me, over the years, speaking about it has given me the freedom to kind of let it go. Yeah. And now that’s not for everybody.

I mean, I know that we can’t all, you know, not all of us feel comfortable. Speaking about our mental illness on social media like it’s a vulnerable thing. But we can speak about it to people that are close to us, and we can share with a friend, share with our partner, we can talk to someone and say, Look, I’m not feeling like myself. What are you seeing from the outside? We can get therapy, you know, there are so many ways that we can reach out to our network and speak about things that we’re struggling with.

Speaking up about mental health struggles.

And yeah, there will be people out there that will shame us, and there’ll be people, they’ll be like, they’ll do the whole silver lining thing. Well, at least x, y, or z, right. And I hate that. Because really, what most people need is connection, and they need to be heard. That really boils down to kind of those two things.

I’m a big fan of Brene Brown, so I’m stealing that idea from her. But I mean, it’s true. Like when you think about it, when you feel heard, whether it’s by your partner or a friend or whatever, you feel so much better afterward. And so being able to talk about these hard things, and the things we struggle with in parenting is a way for us to kind of, like, just let it go and feel validated and feel like somebody understands us, feel less alone.

What’s the one item every mom should carry in her purse during motherhood?

Jen:  Yeah, yeah, I think the, the women I’ve become most close with are the women where we’ve just said, “Okay, I’m a mess today, or Yeah, I can’t. I’m sorry. I said I was gonna bring the paper plates to the class party, and I couldn’t even get that together. Yeah, I feel stupid.” And then they’re all everyone’s like, it’s fine.

Meredith Ethington:   Because people, I think most people are going to come from a place of nonjudgment and embrace you because they have flaws and imperfections. And if they don’t, they’re not your people. 

Jen:  No, no, definitely not.

So if anyone has a question for Meredith, author of “The Motherload, leave it in the comments, and someone’s going to win a copy of the book. I’m trying to think, Okay, I’m gonna ask you some silly questions. Okay, real quick. What is the one item every mom should carry in her purse?

Meredith Ethington: The first thing that came to my head was hand sanitizer.

Jen:  Yeah, it’s pretty germy out there.

Meredith Ethington:   I am a germaphobe. I was a germaphobe before COVID. So that’s just me. But I would say some sort of like hand sanitizer or wipe.

Surviving Motherhood, Woman putting hand sanitizer on her hands.

Jen:  Yeah, yeah, definitely.

From wipes to memoirs of motherhood.

Meredith Ethington:  Even big kids need wipes.

Jen:  So my son, My son’s almost 13. And they had their first school dance last Friday. But they also had a baseball game directly before the dance. And I made sure to bring the wipes. Yeah, all the 13-year-olds were very appreciative that even though they weren’t babies, we had wipes.

Meredith Ethington:   Yeah, because you get sticky hands no matter how old you are!

Jen:  They’re good for so many things! So many things. Um, do you have a favorite book that other than your own? Of course.

Meredith Ethington: No, I wouldn’t call my own my favorite anyway. Although you should all buy it.

Jen:  Definitely go on to Amazon.

Meredith Ethington:  Gosh, a favorite book. That’s hard for me because I love books and I love to read. And yet I don’t read very often because right now, here’s my current page-turner that I’m reading which is a school book.

Jen:  Definitely going to keep me awake.

Meredith Ethington:  This and counseling theories. Those are the books I’m reading right now. I love memoirs. memoirs are really great. 

My favorite book besides “The Motherload”.

Oh, well, I mean, I love “Educated,” “The Glass Castle,” and books like that. Or I just read one called “Loose Cannons.” That’s a new one that probably a lot of people haven’t heard about. That’s really good. But probably my favorite book, if I had to pick one, I would say and it’s kind of an obscure one that maybe a lot of people don’t know about is “I Know This Much is True” by Wally Lamb.

Jen:  Yes. I love that book. It’s so long ago that I don’t really remember much of what it was about. But I remember loving it.

Meredith Ethington:  It’s also about mental health, oddly enough. So it’s about two brothers, two twin brothers, where one is schizophrenic, and one is not. And kind of this one brother’s journey towards like understanding his family dynamics and stuff. It’s a big huge book. Don’t be intimidated by it. Oh, so good. So that’s probably one of my favorites. And one that I’ve read multiple times. Yeah. 

Jen:  Oh, wow. Multiple times. NowI have started to read things multiple times. And realize, as I’m like, halfway through the first chapter, I’ve read this book before.

Online friendships and finding your people to share the motherload

Meredith Ethington:   And so you just ditch it? Oh, that’s how I can read more. I’m the same way as movies. I’m like, Have I seen this before? I can’t remember, and then I’ll watch it. I’m like, I have, but then I forget. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. Yeah, so I’ll just watch it again. So that our brains are too full.

Jen:  Right. So we have this load. Let me bring it back on the screen. The mother load as we’re talking about, which is Meredith’s new book, which you can find on Amazon. Um, yeah, it’s about all of these things. And I just want to encourage everybody to read it. And to, you know, if you don’t have moms in your life that you can be, um, real with, like we are right here, then there’s something to be said for an online network of friends. You can make friends with people that are far away that you’ve never even met, develop friendships, you know, things you have in common. We’ve both done it.

Meredith Ethington:   I say sometimes, like, my best friends live on the internet, but they don’t. They’re real people. I’ve met them, and yeah, and I spend time with them. And it’s been just like this beautiful friendship, and it takes effort and takes travel sometimes. And that’s not easy for everyone. But I do I would encourage, and I talked about this in my book, too, like finding your people, finding that network of that can be your kind of whether it’s just somebody to vent to or someone that you, that can watch your kids, and you can swap, you know, childcare with.

Motherhood books and online communities for moms.

That’s the dream, right? Lovely. Yeah. But, um, yeah, just finding people that understand you and get you it’s so much easier now with the internet like you really can. So you’re in your little house or wherever feeling alone and sad and like you don’t have a friend that you trust. Trust me, there’s someone else that feels that way too. And there’s someone out there that you can be friends with.

Jen:  Totally, and that’s what I wanted Momcave to be all about when I first started it. And so we’re all here for each other. I hope that you all will go and get this book because it’s awesome, and it will make you feel better about life even if you just read it like 30 seconds at a time on the toilet because…

Meredith Ethington:  Yeah, it’s actually broken up in a way that makes it really digestible that way. 

Jen:  Digestable, No pun intended. Yes. It’s good toilet reading. 

Meredith Ethington:  I missed that!

Jen:   See, great. Love that. Yeah, so check it out, everybody, and oh, there goes the earbud again. Thank you so much. Get Meredith’s book and check her out.

Meredith Ethington:   Thanks for having me, 

Find Meredith on The Web, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

The Motherload, Surviving Motherhood is out now! Get your copy here “The MotherLoad” (Affiliate Link)

Jen:  Of course. Great talking with you.

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Listen to this episode about The Motherload Surviving Motherhood, with Guest Meredith Ethington, as a podcast here:

Meredith Ethington The motherload author

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