Modern motherhood has some major problems.

Don’t get me wrong—I’m a mom myself, and the rewards of parenting can be amazing and tender.  The job also involves a lot of poop, a fair amount of sleeplessness, and no scheduled time off.

Add to that all of the invisible work that you do—the work that can’t be evenly divided (hello, biology!), the work your partner was raised not to notice, the mutant to-do list that never quits.  Oh, and toss in a career, if you dare, and you have the makings of major burnout just waiting to happen.

The worst part?  You think it’s your fault, and if you could just manage your time/depression/anxiety/low motivation/low sex drive better, everything would be fine.

So.  It’s no wonder women are going nuts.  There’s barely time to do the laundry, let alone to make a thoughtful analysis about how you ended up here.  But your resentment tells the story.  You’re overworked, unappreciated, and exhausted. Not tonight, honey.  I am so OVER this gig.

And changing this dynamic isn’t as simple as having a conversation with your partner.  (I’m guessing you’ve already tried that.)  Even if things change for a little while, before long you’re back into old patterns.  And the cycle continues.

Knowing is half the battle—but having support exploring and putting new standards into practice is crucial.  That’s how therapy can help.

Challenge the broken standards

Girls learn from very young about what’s proper and ladylike.  Even if you grew up in a pretty progressive family, you’ve still been schooled about what qualities make a woman worthy and desirable:  thin, white, young, pretty, sweet, generous, and endlessly agreeable.

Moms get the same stuff, just packaged a bit differently—“good” moms are self-sacrificing, appreciate every moment of motherhood, are blissed out & intuitive & wise with all aspects of their new role, and are masters at doing ALL THE THINGS.  Also, they left the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans.

You’ve had decades to soak up these messages, even if you consciously reject them.  And guess what?  Your partner has taken these messages in, too.  In order to make changes, we have to challenge the assumption that everyone is entitled to your time and attention.  We have to bust up the supermom and good girl myths of people-pleasing and niceness and martyrdom.

We have to heal where these messages come from, make room for your fears in challenging the status quo, and explore where you need relief and what those boundaries are gonna look like in practice.  The culture game may be rigged, but you don’t have to play.  You can do motherhood your way.  You can slow down, make different choices, and put yourself first sometimes.

Make your own kind of motherhood

Motherhood can be different when you’re willing to slow down and do the big work of challenging, questioning, and experimenting.  When you give yourself permission to question culture and convention, you influence the course of your life (and your children’s lives, too).

You can say no without feeling guilty.  You can regain your passion and vitality in life because you aren’t scraping by on leftovers.  And here’s the irony:  you actually can take better care of others because you’re taken care of yourself!

When you make your own kind of motherhood, you actually experiment with developing sustainable methods of self-care because you realize that a legacy of self-neglect is not something you want to teach your daughters and sons.  They deserve better—and so do you.

By loving yourself in this way—and DOING it, not just talking about it– you teach your children how to do the same.  You teach your sons to respect women as equal partners.  You teach your daughters self-respect.

Self-love and self-respect.  I can think of no lesson more important for any child—can you?  More to the point:  as good as this all is for your kiddo(s), don’t you deserve those lessons, too?

It’s never too late to learn.

Okay, I’m down to learn more.  But who the heck are you?

I’m Ann.  I knew I wanted to be a therapist ever since I was 13 years old.  Middle school was hell for me, and I hated myself and pretty much everyone else, too.  So, I ended up in therapy.  And there I was, at 13, sitting in a therapist’s office, looking at her big shelf of books and thinking,

“Really?  Some people get to do this for a living?  Listen to and help others solve their problems and heal?  It’s like nursing, but without the blood and vomit.  I’m in!”

And that vision has never wavered for me.  In college, I got to combine my two big loves—psychology and women’s studies.

I’m a feminist, and I offer feminist counseling—counseling that’s sensitive to the needs of women, aware of dynamics of power in relationships and the world at large, wise to the pressures we face, and challenging the cultural beliefs and systems that make us unhappy and exhausted all the time.

I worked for the first 5-6 years in private practice working with people-pleasers—men and women who are “allergic” to saying no.  95% of my practice was filled with women.

Over time, I began to connect the dots and realize that while people-pleasing is a problem for men, too, it is part and parcel of what it means to be a woman in this society.  Women are trained from very early to be pleasing to others, to silence their voices in order to earn love, to put others’ needs before their own.  Women who manage to escape this legacy do so while being branded bitches or unfeminine.  There are costs whether you meet the ideal standard, fall short, or defy it.  I want us to have more options than that.

Once I became a mother, I really started to see the problem of people-pleasing, martyrdom, and gender dynamics in three dimensions.  I began to see in my own life all the added work and responsibility that came with children, and how I was often the assumed, default provider of most of these added pieces of work.  I felt it impact my business, my energy level and my own mental health.

Truth be told, I’m still in the weeds, trying to figure this stuff out.  And I realize more and more that new moms are in a pretty vulnerable position—facing down a change in identity and loads of new work that often gets “distributed” without any kind of conscious discussion.  So, my practice has evolved over time to really reflect not just the needs of women, but the needs of new mothers in particular.  It’s really hard to sort out and challenge all this stuff when you’re sleep deprived and leaking milk on yourself.

I saw my first client back in 2005.  My practice continues to evolve and grow as I do, and I maintain that my clients are my greatest teachers.  I am here to help you remember that you do not have to come last in your own life.  I am here to help you do the hard work of setting boundaries and keeping them, so that you retain some sense of selfhood even through the wild ride of motherhood.  And I am here to be with you when things are hard and you are struggling, when all the planning and support in the world just can’t touch the hard stuff that life sometimes brings.  I’m here for all of these pieces, to share and hold them tenderly with you.

Right now, I live in south Austin with my husband, toddler son, and two very mouthy cats.  When I’m not at work, I’m probably at home playing video games or eating chocolate in the bathroom so I don’t have to share it.

My street cred…

I’m a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor (LPC-S) in Texas, License #65595.  I have an MS in Clinical Psychology from Pennsylvania State University.  I earned my BA in Psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies at Emory University.  I wrote a thesis—twice—for undergrad and grad school, looking at the impact of trauma on women and how they adapt from that hardship.  High honors with both of those (yes, I’m a total nerd and I have no shame about that.)

I’ve done a lot of my own therapy… I estimate I’ve been in counseling off and on for 7-8 years of my life, with several different therapists.  I walk the walk and I’ve learned a lot through participating in my own healing.  Generally speaking, I won’t elbow you in the eye with my “stuff” and if I do, I’m usually quick to catch and own it.

I use talk therapy and EMDR in my work.  My biggest theoretical influences are interpersonal neurobiology, attachment theory, mindfulness, and more recently, body-based ways of working.  Bonnie Badenoch, Dan Siegel and Juliane Taylor Shore are my biggest guides and academic crushes.

In addition to running my own private practice, I direct a sliding scale clinic of counselors-in-training that I supervise over at Counseling South Austin.  I teach beginning therapists how to start their own practices at a local training clinic.  And I mentor counseling students in how to prepare for life after graduation over at CounselingInterns.com.

Do you want to add your story to mine?  Call me at 512-850-6781 or send me a quick email to set up your appointment.