As we continue to reflect on #bekind21 and our commitment to kindness, we are talking with parents, community leaders, and caregiving experts of all walks to understand the role of kindness in their lives, work, and families.
Our Sales Director and mama of one, Sarah Moore, connected with The Mama Coach founder and registered nurse lactation consultant, Carrie Bruno, and learned what it means to "fill your bucket." They also talk about Sarah's out-of-body experiences while becoming a new mom, how social media distorts motherhood, and why showers don't count as self-care.
Here are some highlights* from their chat! Check out the full convo on IGTV.
*interview edited and organized for clarity
Taking The Pressure off Ourselves & Our Little Humans
Bumkins: First, I want to hear about how your #bekind21 month is going?
Carrie: Oh, it's going so, so good. I was so thrilled to be invited to meet up with you guys today because this resonates with me, and what I do every day in my practice, on so many levels. And I love that it talks about being kind to others because that is so important, but also, and this is the part, I'm just...oh. It's so good — it starts with being kind to yourself.
Carrie: You're a boy mom. Right, Sarah?
Bumkins: I am a boy mom. I have a little four-year-old. His name is Jack. How about yourself?
Carrie: I have two little boys. I call them little. I call them babies, but they're twelve and eight.
I think that our approach to kindness is shifting a little bit. And I don't mean that the way we were taught is bad; I grew up saying you have to be kind to others -- And obviously, that's key, but I think the first step in teaching your children to do those things is to look within themselves first and teach them to be kind to themselves.
Carrie: They're little, and they're going to make mistakes -- I've seen increasing numbers of childhood anxiety and so forth. And I think a lot of this comes down to the pressures that these little people are putting on themselves. I think that we're missing something if we ignore that piece. We give them the message to be kind to others versus teaching them that it's okay to look after themselves [as well].
Stop Comparing, You Are Exactly What Your Little Needs
Bumkins: I love that you brought up self-care because this has been a big thing for me this month — redirecting that little voice in my head to stop being so negative on myself. To give myself grace, not just as a parent, but as a working parent. Because, as a first-time mom, I can tell you the changes I went through, my body went through, my mind went through -- I did not feel confident in myself.
I didn't feel like the glowing mother -- Beyond the sickness, I wasn't swollen or had any other side effects. I truly feel like I couldn't have had a better pregnancy experience, but I still felt like an alien in my own body.
Bumkins: And I want to speak a little bit to that because I know you have a lot of prenatal education. How can expecting mamas practice kindness with self-care?
Carrie: I think the first step is to be really cognizant of comparing. Whether you are comparing yourself to someone specific on the internet, maybe on your Instagram feed, or you're comparing yourself to the vision you had in your head of how this was going to look or how pregnancy was going to be for you.
Carrie: I get goosebumps talking about it because -- whether you're pregnant or your baby is two days old, two months old, two years, 22, whatever -- you are exactly what your baby needs.
Carrie: I think if you do one thing in these 21 days — if you can wrap your head around that -- that you are enough. You are what your baby needs. You as a woman are exactly who you're supposed to be. Then you will have filled your bucket. It will spill over and serve others and other moms. I feel like sometimes that's the missing link.
Carrie: I don't know if I answered your question, but so much about whether we're doing enough or, you know, maybe I don't feel like I should in pregnancy. I don't feel as excited as I thought I would feel — there are lots of emotions that come with that. And then we're left with guilt, it kind of strips all that joy away, from just accepting that you are right where you need to be.
Bumkins: Totally. You 100% answered my question. And I also feel like that comparison rolls into even motherhood. When I'm crying at 4:00 a.m., attempting to nurse because I'm looking at Instagram at all these women taking beautiful photos of themselves nursing and why can't I keep up? So, I think there's something to be said about that message going forward, you are exactly who you need to be for them at this moment. I love that.
Carrie: Every day, our practicing nurses and mama coaches, we work with women that are moving through that brand new stage of learning how to feed their babies. And I feel for them. And my first message is, you are doing exactly what your baby needs from you. It isn't up to me as a health professional or anybody else -- your mom, your aunt, the internet to tell you what your baby needs because you innately know, right?
Bumkins: It's an instinct. You totally do. You may question the instinct and the little voice, but it's always right. It totally is always right.
Choosing What's Best For You & Your Family
Carrie: I think about making a choice that works best for your entire family unit.
Carrie: What I mean by that -- I'm a lactation consultant. So, I will go to the end of the earth with a mom who wants to breastfeed -- but sometimes life happens. Sometimes circumstances feel out of our control. I encourage women to shut out the noise around them and look within the family unit.
What is best for their baby? Because the best thing that their baby needs is a mama who feels good about herself, who has the ability and the capacity to love on that baby. And that is honestly the biggest piece of the puzzle.
Carrie: Sometimes, the amount of guilt that comes along with breastfeeding and becoming a new mom is high, right? And when it comes to breastfeeding, I think social media has complicated that a bit. Because like you said, at four in the morning, you see this beautiful picture of this mother nursing this baby, which is fantastic, but it potentially could be her highlight reel.
Bumkins: It's 0.2% of her day. Definitely. Definitely.
Carrie: And the other thing is that sometimes we confuse the words “natural” and “easy.” Yes, breastfeeding is natural. That makes complete sense to me, but no, it isn't always easy, and circumstances are different for each family. I would encourage mamas during these 21 days and hopefully beyond, to make choices that are best for their mental health because that will only spill over into the people around them.
Why Showers Don't Count As Self-Care
Bumkins: We can't fully take care of our littles without fully taking care of ourselves and keeping our cups full. 100%. I truly feel like this is a takeaway I am taking away from these 21 days majorly. It's the message that I keep hearing. So, little note in my head.
Carrie: And the other thing that I think we should touch on — The word “self-care.” I feel like it's a bit of a buzzword, right? Moms know, I need to take care of myself.
But I want you to know that having a shower, meeting your basic needs as a woman is not self-care. That is something you should get anyway.
Carrie: There are mamas who have a shower in the evening, and they feel good about it. This is so good that we're talking about this because we can hopefully start to change things.
Littles Learn Self-Care By Watching How Kind Your Are To Yourself
Carrie: Another way to teach our children about kindness to model it.
Carrie: I have two boys. They're back at school, which is a big change. Yesterday, I had a really busy day, and at the end of the day, we had dinner, but then I left because I needed an hour of space for myself. I live close to a park. I went for a run. And, you know, I could have felt guilty about that [and I have in the past] because I hadn't really talked a lot about their day yet, and I had supper dishes, etcetera. But I also modeled to them--and this is how I’m flipping the dialogue in my head--I would encourage all the moms watching to try this:
Carrie: They're watching me take care of myself. And then I came home, after an hour, and I felt so good. And yeah, I was sweaty, but I got to do the bedtime routine with them, and I felt present and happy, and they felt it, versus the mom that feels so guilty she doesn't do it. And I think as moms we sometimes do this too: the guilt gets the best of you, where you feel like you need to be with them, but they don’t get the best of you.
Teaching Little Humans How To Express Their Feelings
Bumkins: When my son started school, it was a big change for him with preschool. He was coming home and having tantrums like I have never seen him have before. I would get so bothered by it and try to redirect the tantrums instead of asking what's going on, you know?
Bumkins: I started thinking of him as a human being because I need that time to check in with myself after work. Why doesn't my four-year-old need the same time? So, after a day of work, after a day of school, we come home -- he spends some time checking in with himself, seeing how he's feeling, what he wants to do next, or the activity that we do together. But each of us having that own separate time for ourselves puts us together. And we have a much better time afterward.
Carrie: I love that you've considered that. Sometimes we forget that our little people are humans too. I think that there are a variety of strategies to help kids address their day, and it sounds like you and Jack are on the right track. For example, maybe you journal, right? Maybe he loves to color, and he'll draw to share about his day because it needs to be age-appropriate.
Carrie: We as adults sometimes struggle to take five minutes and think, what is it about my day? He probably can't exactly process the parts that are bugging him, but through different strategies, you'll see it. Maybe he builds LEGO, and then you talk to him about it. Maybe he paints a picture -- giving them that space, but then coming together, and I call it filling their bucket.
Sometimes Connection Means Exchanging a Messy Kitchen For a Bedtime Story
Carrie: Another strategy for moms — Sometimes, our days are wild, right? As parents, I feel like we're really busy checking the boxes. Sometimes the outcome of that is sleep disturbances for toddlers and older school-aged kids. And the missing link is connection.
To give you an example, I got home last night -- instead of rushing to say, you need to brush your teeth and la la la, it's bedtime. It goes so far to take 30 minutes, depending on how old your baby is, and fill their bucket. What do they want to do with you? It's not so much directing questions on how are they doing -- It's, they love to play LEGO, let's play LEGO. My little guy loves to read; let me read to you.
Carrie: My oldest, he's 12. I have my best discussions with him in the car. If I'm like, “hey, do you want to get ice cream?” You know, talk to me without that pressure.
Also relieving yourself of the guilt. Like, whatever, the kitchen's torched, but I will feel so good, he will feel so good if we can connect.
Bumkins: It is just about making sure those connections are strong. And definitely, as we're raising men in this world in today's world, you know?
How Our Reactions Affect How Safe Littles Feel Expressing Themselves
Carrie: Yeah, it's true. We talked about being kind to ourselves and teaching our children that, but the other really cool part about being purposeful and finding connection with kids is that they'll start to care about their day as they grow. And through that, you can help coach them with their relationships -- that even comes with how you react to them.
Carrie: If your child tells you something and your first reaction is, oh my goodness or Why did you say that? -- Instead, [asking] how were you feeling when that happened? Tell me about it. Did you feel embarrassed at that moment? Did you feel scared? Helping, listening first, and then re-teaching him about what happened and what he could try next time, is what grows kind people, kind little people. It also encourages them to keep talking to you — they're learning, ya know? This communication thing is new to them.
Bumkins: Yes. Learning, developing, and taking it all in like sponges.
Carrie: The funny part is, we are the adults, but we're still learning. I haven't parented a 12-year-old before. It's my first go at it. I'm doing the best I can, and I'm going to make mistakes. I'm going to give myself grace as I move through that, and he's going to see it. But I'm also going to give him grace too.
Bumkins: I love the grace comment. Truthfully. I'm going to take that back into my life because I definitely need to be showing myself more grace. Absolutely.
Carrie: Yes, you should, because you are exactly what your child needs. Even on the days that feel the crappiest, I guarantee he goes to bed feeling loved. You [might] go to bed, thinking ugh! That was such a hard day. You are his person.
Modeling Kindness Means Being Conscious of How You Talk About Others
Bumkins I am going to hit you with a hard hitter here. So, how do you show 'em? How do you teach kindness to your sons?
Carrie I model it. What I mean by that is, I'm really careful in the conversations that they hear me have. Even when they can't hear me, I'm really mindful of this because I think, in a world full of noise with social media and comparison -- I am not interested in teaching my son to talk about people. They can tell me the beautiful parts, something that happened that made them feel good -- but I do not want to talk about gossip, and I don't do it in my adult life.
And so, when I'm talking to a friend or when I'm talking to my husband in front of my children -- I would never talk about somebody else because I feel like that's a really toxic space and it doesn't teach kindness.
Carrie It teaches children that it is okay, that as long as you're not in front of somebody, you can talk meanly about them, which isn't kind. The true root of kindness is being kind even when somebody can't hear you.
Grace: Filling Up Your Cup And Letting It Tip Over
Carrie And you know, I think it's messy, and it's beautiful. Like motherhood, I feel like it's just this pendulum that swings back and forth -- I got this, this is so good. I can teach them how to be kind to, who gave me this job?
It doesn't matter if you're pregnant, or he's two, 12 or 22. As women and as moms, we're always working through, and the beautiful part is that moms want to do the best thing for their babies. And that's what I mean about grace.
I talk to women every day, 'You booked a call with me, look how much you love your baby!' You are trying to find the solution. You're incredible for even trying.
That's why this whole campaign is so cool because it gives us an opportunity to reflect on, are we kind to ourselves? Fill that cup inside of you and then let it spill over to other people.
Making Kindness The New Normal For Your Little One
Carrie And that is such a good idea [#bekind21] To get their wheels turning about being kind -- that's going to be his normal. He's making a list with you now, but that will stick with him.
Bumkins It will be his new normal. I actually brought that up to one of our coworkers here. For us, it's really retraining our brain, creating a habit that we might not necessarily have had there.
But for teaching our children, our littles that have sponges for minds, it's going to be normal for them. They're not going to know any different than keeping waters in the car to hand out to homeless people, you know? And I think that's really awesome. He doesn't know any different. And that's what I hope to raise.
Carrie You're teaching him that he can make a difference at four years old or my boy at eight without any dollars. And that's what's so beautiful about this campaign -- it has a ripple effect. If we all commit to doing this, it doesn't have to cost us a ton of money, but these small acts of kindness to ourselves and others will improve the quality of life for those everywhere.
Did this resonate with you? Share what struck a chord in the comments, follow Carrie, and check out more conversations on kindness, wellness, and parenting!