Ashley: I am so excited to have Julie Peters join us today on Filled Up Cup. Julie Peters is a yoga teacher, tarot card reader, and author of Want: 8 Steps to Recovering Passion and Pleasure After Sexual Assault, as well as Secrets of the Internal Moon Phase Goddesses. Today we’re going to be talking about a prenatal yoga program that she has as well as Baby Math, which you can find on her website as part of the reading nook.
Julie: Thank you so much for having me. Yeah. I heard about your your podcast and what you do quite a while ago, and it’s really nice to be here. I just love the, the work that you’re doing.
A: Thank you so much for saying that. How long have you been doing yoga and working with families?
BRINGING THE MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT TOGETHER
J: I have been doing yoga since I was 12, so that’s a really, really long time. I’ve been teaching yoga since 2009. I wasn’t really working with families in particular before I had my own baby. So I have a 14 month old boy. I really like working with people on a really holistic level when I’m working with them in terms of yoga. So it’s not just a fitness class, or something like that. It’s really much more so bringing in the body and the mind and the spirit into the same environment. I feel like a lot of things really expanded from there. When I did start, my family, become pregnant, go through childbirth, like all of those experiences that you go through I think it was just a really fascinating experience on so many levels. It was something that I really wanted to be able to share, my perspective on that and include other other people who were going through that and having some of the same questions that I had or feeling some of the same pressures that I was feeling or feeling frustrated by some of the same things I’m feeling frustrated by and just really bringing that into community. So the Baby Math, part of my reading nook on my website is a part of that. I write articles there, kind of about my perspective on what that’s like, but I also have the prenatal course on my website and I actually do a weekly class as well called the postpartum body, which is really meant to be for people who have had a baby, like pretty much ever. So that you can kind of think about what’s happening to your body not only in terms of things like, pelvic floor, back pain, stuff like that, but also, the postpartum spirit, like the things that you’re going through as a parent, you know, as a person who’s had a baby so it’s coming from that holistic perspective too.
A: I think sometimes yoga gets a bad rep. I think sometimes people just think it’s a very crunchy granola and it really can help us whether it’s breathing, whether it’s connecting with our body, whether it’s just having a calm moment, sort of to yourself as you’re trying to focus on your movement. Doing that physical and mental piece of it while also finding a community is great, because I know after you have a baby, you really do feel like you’re on an island sort of by yourself. It is such an individual experience that it can be hard to find people to relate to. I think having a community like that is so important, especially as a first-time mom, because moms can be really mean, and we can be very judgmental of ourselves whether we’re trying to be or not.
J: Yeah. I mean, I think for me, having started my yoga practice when I was 12, it’s been a resource for me for a really long time, but the way I have used that resource has really changed over that period of time. I’ve really found that, all yoga classes are not the same. All the teachers are not the same. I actually wrote about this in my book about sexual assault recovery too, because that was a resource that I was trying to access to help me, but I actually found it harmful in some ways because sometimes within the yoga community or the wellness community, you get this idea that, you should be able to just let go and like empty your mind and, not have any anger in your body or struggle with any kind of healing thing. It was interesting cause coming around to you know, pregnancy birth all those things, I had kind of a difficult experience with my childbirth. I feel like it was really from the kind of. Wellness side of things that I got this idea that like, I should be able to have a totally like quote unquote, natural birth. I shouldn’t meet any pain management. I shouldn’t have any negative feelings about, what I went through in the childbirth experience. There’s just there’s pressure really coming from all sides, I think when it comes to stuff like that. I think the way that I like to teach about it is that it’s an opportunity to connect with yourself especially with yourself as the expert on your own experience, so if you’re feeling cranky today, that’s okay. You can have that in your yoga practice. You can move with that. You don’t have to try to make it go away and be like all sunshine and flowers. If you don’t want to, for me, I think it’s, really evolved in a lot of ways I say that because I know people have had really mixed experiences with yoga and it can be really helpful, but only if it’s in an environment where like you really feel comfortable with the teacher and it’s a style that works for you. For me, it’s really all about having a lot of space to just kind of explore what you’re feeling, that day and that be okay instead of feeling like, oh, I should be more, this, I should be more that like whether physically or internally.
A: “Shoulds” get us every single time, because then you start to feel shame or you start to feel guilt or you start to feel like there must be something wrong with me. Just generalizing, a lot of the self care and wellness industry does focus on this toxic positivity of we can just wish it away and then everything will be great. And that just isn’t always the case. We do have human emotions for a reason. We’re supposed to feel these things. We have to let ourselves off the hook and be okay with having good days and bad days and all of it being collectively a part of the ride. I do think that that’s important and good that you’re honoring that for your clients that are coming in.
ANGER PROTECTS OUR BOUNDARIES
J: Anger is one of those things that I feel like gets a bad rep actually is good in a way. Because we’re so anti-anger, I think, especially for women, it’s like, there’s this pressure to never be angry, to like always be calm and grateful but you know, we don’t necessarily always think about how anger is the emotion that protects our boundaries. Anger is the emotion that helps us to find the energy we need to stand up for ourselves and say what we need. That was a big, big lesson for me in my sexual assault recovery. Like in my book about that there’s a whole chapter called rage because it was really me connecting with my anger and trying to figure out not so much how to get rid of it or tame. It is often the messaging that you’ll see like how to tame your anger, but more so like, how do I channel the energy of this anger so that it’s actually helping me to live a life that’s more integrated where there’s more space for me to be myself and to be the person that I want to be actually allow that anger to be like a healthy part of my day-to-day life. I work with a lot of women in my, I have a one-on-one program called pathfinding, which is you know, I call it sometimes mindfulness coaching or body-based counseling. We really focus on like what’s happening in your body. How is your body experiencing your world? You know, what patterns do you want to work with in your body? I feel like anger is something that comes up for so many of us, it’s just like, what do I do with this? How do I connect to it? How do I use it to help me? I think so many people come in just feeling like it’s bad that they have that anger in the first place, or they can’t access it where I was like, I had a hard time feeling my anger for a long time. It’s a really transformative and healing, experience to be able to let your anger teach you something instead of trying to make it go away all the time.
A: Regardless of which emotion it is, I think if we try to suppress any of them, they’ll just bottle up and manifest in different ways. There’s that saying that the only way through is through, and that really is I find so genuine because the more that we avoid stuff, the bigger that it gets. Have you ever seen that cartoon by Disney, I think it’s called inside out? It’s this tweenage girl and all the emotions live in her head. You think that joy is going to be the protagonist in a way. She kind of ends up being the villain because we focus too much on how we have to be happy and joyful then if sadness or anger or any of them kind of creep up, then we almost have to feel like we have to swat them away and just sort of tunnel vision, focus on our happiness and joy.
J: I also love the phrase. You can’t heal what you can’t feel. And also, but even that it’s like, once you feel that that doesn’t mean you’re not going to feel it anymore like you can keep feeling those things and that can be healthy. I love that movie actually. I think it’s so great. Partly because I think in general, our culture has like a pretty bad emotional education. We’re not really taught very well how to have our emotions, what they mean, what to do with them and all of those core emotions, you know, sadness, anger, disgust, and joy and there are others, but they’re all there for a reason. They all have a purpose. You know, mostly they’re a survival purpose. When we can understand what they’re there for, what they’re trying to teach us, how to use them it just, it makes life easier among other things.
WANT: 8 STEPS TO RECOVERING PASSION AND PLEASURE AFTER SEXUAL ASSAULT
A: For sure it does. Do you mind if I ask you about your book that you wrote and a little bit about what led you to, to write Want?
J: Absolutely. Yeah, we can definitely talk about that for sure.
A: It was based on your own personal experience with sexual assault?
J: Yeah, it was so I experienced sexual assault many years ago now, and it was quite a long journey for me to heal from that and specifically to come back to a safe and healthy feeling sexuality. When I was going through it and when I finally started to sort of deal with it and go to counseling and all those things, it was really a question I had, like how am I supposed to get back to having a healthy sexuality? How am I supposed to get back to living a full life and just feeling really like myself? I just couldn’t get a good answer. There just wasn’t really a lot out there in that way. There were a few things that I did you know, that really helped me and I started to compile those things into a book and I started to do some research about it. It was interesting because even in the research, I noticed most books about sexual assault, recovery are written by clinicians and they just have case studies. A lot of the time you, get this message that you can heal from sexual assault, but I feel like it’s so much more focused on the damage of the trauma, which is important to talk about. Like, of course. It can damage you when you go through that experience but I feel like there was so much conversation about like, okay, but what does healing actually look like? You know, what does it look like on the other side? I just never gotten anything like that before. So for me, this book is really a celebration of survival and a celebration of the possibilities that are on the other side of recovering, really from any kind of trauma. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sexual trauma, but when we go through a really difficult experience in our lives, a lot of the time we get this idea and I had this idea certainly at the time, how do I go back to what I was before? Or how do I kind of erase this experience from my life? But, you know, really what I found that the truth was I was never going to go back to what it was before. That actually was a beautiful thing once I could figure out what was possible on the other side of that so there are these gems and riches that you get from going through the recovery process, you have to learn a lot of stuff about yourself. I had to really look at the internalized belief I had about what it meant to be a woman in this society, what it meant to be a sexual person, what sexuality meant to me, what consent meant to me. A lot of these things are kind of simplified in our culture and you sort of pick up whatever meaning it is that you pick out like from your parents or your peers or wherever you get it but we don’t necessarily always sit down and really inquire into why do I believe that to be the case? And what’s really true for me and what feels right for me. The book really became this experience for me going through all of the stages that I went through in that healing process and just the beauty that I found on the other side, there’s so many things I like about myself that I don’t think I would’ve necessarily discovered in the same way if hadn’t gone through that, I want to be clear. I’m not saying that phrase, everything happens for a reason. You know, I’m not saying like this thing happened to me so that I could write this book or so that I could learn this, you know, these things happen and it’s no one’s fault and it’s not for any reason. I think that the recovery process can have some real gifts for us that can come along with just the difficulties of going through that experience as well.
A: There’s nobody that deserves to have an attack, or there’s nobody that deserves to have trauma, but it is really important and really beautiful to know that there is happiness and joy and pleasure and all of these other things that we don’t have to get stuck in sort of the worst thing that ever has happened to us. It can sometimes feel like we have to suffer, go through trauma alone, and then it does become that I don’t know if I should say this or, you know, what if somebody thinks a certain way, because I did go through this or I do feel this, but I think the more that we can reach out and try to help people in any capacity I think that’s fantastic.
J: Yeah. You know, one of the things that I learned about trauma that I found so interesting is that, trauma, isn’t the experience itself that you had. It’s how does that experience continue to live in your body. My favorite definition of trauma is any unhealed wound and so one of the things I talk about is sometimes people have these experiences that stick with them and they feel like, well, other people have at worst. So, I don’t have a right to feel that that was a trauma, for example. But it’s really not about what happened. It’s about how you feel about what happened. It’s about what’s on the other side of that for you. It’s about the aftermath, you know? Another thing that I found really fascinating is that a lot of the time trauma happens because people are unsupported after a difficult experience. So if you have a really horrible experience, but you find that people are there for you, people agree that it was a horrible experience. You’re believed, when you talk about what happened to you you’re much less likely to have an experience of trauma than if something happened. That was maybe not even necessarily that dramatic but people aren’t believing you, which so many people have that experience after sexual traumas is not being believed or being blamed. One of the things that, really happens there, I think, and maybe not even so much about the experience, but about that feeling of lack of support is that the thing you lose is your understanding of what the world is of who’s supposed to support you. I think especially around being not believed it makes you really doubt yourself. I think one of the things that you have to really work with after an experience like that is re imagining who you could be. Re-imagining what the world is in a way. You know, that feels realistic, but not unsafe all the time, because trauma is really an experience of feeling unsafe all the time. If you’re constantly doubting yourself, you don’t trust your instincts, you don’t know who’s going to believe you. It feels like the world is very scary if you feel that way. You kind of have to figure out a way of like, okay, so what does this mean? How do I come back to an experience of trust in myself? And that’s really the journey.
SEXUAL ASSAULT HAPPENS TO ALL GENDERS
A: Well, and it is really hard because it’s like, women sort of have this reputation, our society believes that we’re supposed to, you know, be the bosses that go, oh no, you know, boys will be boys, but women will say no, or that we’re supposed to be like, you know, saints and if we enjoy sex or want sex, then we are like, get labeled sluts or all of those other negative things that it’s so black and white from a societal perspective versus like women are people and we’re allowed to be all of the things that we want to be without judgment or shame. I do think from our generation to the next generation, that is changing a little bit in that perspective.
J: One of the things that I wrote about in my book too, was you know of course we think about sexual assault for women a lot. It’s very common for women to have experiences of sexual assault, but it happens to men too. There’s even less conversation about that. There’s limited resources really for men who found have gone an experience like that and for trans and non binary people it’s even more common to go through that, but there aren’t a ton of resources out there about that that was something that I wanted to speak to you is that there is a gendered thing that happens around those conversations and like how we think about it and you know, how we think men are supposed to be and how we think women are supposed to be. And what it means to be a trans and non binary person going through this and not even knowing like, okay, where do I go to get the resources I need for this. There are some resources that are really wonderful as are for sure but in general, it’s a conversation that’s not being had enough, especially not in a way that’s just really open and welcoming. That was sort of what I intended my book to be was a place that whatever your gender, you can read this book and then just learn about what it was like for me. And to maybe know that you’re not so alone in what it is that you might be experiencing.
A: I think that’s such a fantastic point because we have this sort of idea that men are supposed to want sex all of the time. So then if somebody is taking advantage of them or they’re being assaulted that it’s supposed to be like, still like high-five why didn’t you want this and that mentality of it, which is just so messed up. And then with trans and non-binary people that there has been debate in different rape centers of whether they’re welcome there, because if there is a biological female and somebody who maybe is still biologically male, being able to share the same space instead of it really just being a safe space for all.
J: That’s the thing is like, what does it mean to have a safe space and who is it safe for and who are we including or excluding when we have those kinds of conversations.
A: We need to be creating more safe spaces instead of divisive in the safe spaces that we have.
ALL PARTICIPANTS SHOULD BE FULLY PRESENT IN THEIR MINDS AND BODIES TO GIVE CONCENT
J: Absolutely. Yeah. I agree. One of the things that I thought about was this idea of consent and consent, you often get this kind of simplified answer to what it is, where it’s like, consent means someone saying yes or no but that’s so complicated because there’s so many reasons why a person might not feel comfortable saying no or, might not even be able to notice that in their body, it’s a no and, explicitly think like, well, I should want this. I’m supposed to want this because say, you know, I’m a man or I’ve been, been raised to be a man and so I’m supposed to have this constant desire. Obviously, I should want to have sex right now, even though I actually deeply don’t want to, but I’m not going to communicate that. Women are taught you are the one that is the gatekeeper to sexuality. You’re the one that either says yes or no and if you want to, or you don’t want to, doesn’t really play into that because you’re supposed to not want to, like, I don’t know. It’s just like this whole sort of messed up way that we think about sex. So for me, my definition of consent now is that, all parties involved are fully present in their bodies and in their minds and able to feel safe enough to be able to communicate. That is a high standard in our society because many of us are not fully present in our bodies. We actually don’t know how we feel a lot of the time. Being able to feel safe enough to communicate like, oh, I like this, but I’m not sure about that. Or like, oh, I feel a little bit uncomfortable. Can we take a pause or, oh, I noticed that you tensed up a little bit there. Are you okay? You know, or do you want to like, how’s this going? Is this good for you or not ? Or do you want to slow down. Yes. It was great. Whatever, like having those conversations, like it’s very uncomfortable for a lot of us to even think about being able to communicate on that level. So I think for me, my definition of consent, it’s almost like we need to change our society to be able to even access that.
A: I definitely agree. There’s a lot of going through the motions because it’s like you’d rather be polite than have those discussions and that isn’t the ideal either.
PORN ISN’T AN IDEAL TOOL TO LEARN ABOUT SEX
J: I talk a bit in my book about this group that I have in Vancouver called Man-o-logy and it’s this group of men and sometimes other genders who get together to have conversations about like masculinity in modern society and what it means. I just learned so much from these men and from this group, and I’ll never forget this one story I heard that I think is so common which is that you know, a lot of men and boys learn about sex from porn, which is very performative. It’s not really so close to the reality of what sexuality is usually like for normal people. This person’s first sexual experience was this, the way he phrased it with something like, you know, I was so focused on trying to do the techniques I had learned from the porn that I was watching. I don’t think I felt anything, you know? And it’s like, probably neither did your partner. I mean there’s so much performing that we’re doing and trying to be like, oh, it’s supposed to be like this, and this is what you’re supposed to like and what I’m supposed to like and so everybody’s just performing so much that nobody’s actually there, which like sexuality for me in the way I think about sex it’s like unstructured adult play. It should just be fun, you know, it’s fluid and open but of course, you need to have that foundation of safety there for sure. Which is a little bit harder to get to and we live in a society like the one we do.
A: It is really hard now, especially with young people, like my daughter is going to be 15 basically every single kid that has a cell phone has porn right in their palms. I know that there was a friend of hers that had experienced that literally the boy had never seen pubic hair on anybody and was like shocked that her body looked that way. So even just the totally unrealistic idea of what naked bodies on either side are supposed to look like is kind of a terrifying thing, because there’s no way to really block it. Like as parents we can put safety blocks on, but there’s always different ways around it or other people’s phones or things like that. It’s really important to have these conversations with our kids and with our teenagers to be like sex is okay and use condoms and have these discussions and make it sort of a safe, normal thing for them so that they don’t have to, turn to the internet for all of their answers.
J: I think it would be so intimidating to try to raise a teen in an era where they have porn in their pockets. I mean, I’m sort of dreading that when that time comes for my little guy, cause wow. They’re curious, like they want to know. There’s this massive resource that it seems like they can get information from and yeah, they do need to know, like this isn’t a good representation of reality in terms of sexuality and there’s a real responsibility for parents to kind of work out their own crap around sexuality so that they can talk about it with their kids. Like that’s a tall order, you know?
A: It happens way faster than you think that it’s going to. And granted, not my daughter, but in my daughter’s fourth grade class, they were already sending nudes back and forth to each other. As somebody who has an older kid, that would be my advice. Like it’s going to start way earlier than you think so it’s framing those conversations of what that could look like in all different stages.
PARENTING CAN BE VERY TRIGGERING TO UNHEALED CHILDHOOD TRAUMA
A: I think anybody with young kids or is potentially pregnant it is a really good thing to kind of stress and tell yourself that you aren’t giving birth to the next version of yourself. You’re really giving birth to somebody that you are to guide them along their journey.
J: I think also it’s really important to acknowledge that having a child is going to trigger all of your childhood stuff, everything that you remember, or even the things you don’t remember, like from being a baby can come up. The practice as well of like being married and co-parenting of baby is very interesting because I think that there are times when both my partner and I are like, oh my gosh, that was my dad’s voice coming out of my mouth or whatever it is. Like, you’re not expecting that. You’re just like, oh my gosh, I didn’t know that I picked that up but obviously I did. You see the ways that you’re similar to your parents, which depending on your relationship with your parents might be a mixed blessing. I think from what I hear and this totally makes sense to me, every stage that your kid goes through, it just reminds you of whatever you were going through at that stage even the things that are held in your body that aren’t consciously remembered. I do think about marriage, co-parenting, and parenting as really practices that are places where I really have to learn about myself. I have to stay honest with myself about that. You know, like what’s happening for me here? What’s getting triggered for me here? I had someone say to me once, like about arguments with your partner, it’s like my trauma is yelling at your trauma, was just yelling at my back at my trauma. It’s like, sometimes you’re not even your full adult self it’s like these old things are kind of coming up when you’re having those issues. I think that’s one of the reasons why having children can be so challenging on a relationship, but I think it can also be incredibly evolving for our relationship. If you are able to stay present with it and be humble about the ways that you’re probably not doing it great. You know, as much as you think it’s all your partner’s fault or whatever if you go to couples therapy or whatever it is that you do like to let it really be an opportunity to deepen your relationship and your understanding of yourself because, I mean, this is the thing like having kids is hard. It’s an understatement, it’s not the right word for it, right? Like it’s challenging on so many levels. It also brings joy into your life. This is one of the reasons I’m writing this Baby Math section of my blog is like this is real. This is a real experience, it’s not something that you should do because it’s been sold to you as like the way to fix your marriage or like the one thing that will give you joy, it will if that’s the thing that you want, but if you don’t want it, it’s probably not gonna bring you that joy. I really wanted to create a space where we could talk really honestly, about the things that come up around having a kid, because for me, it’s like wow, what an amazing opportunity to grow as a person? Like what an amazing opportunity to learn about myself even some of the things that I talk about in my book about recovering from trauma, it’s interesting because you know, the childbirth was somewhat traumatic for me and I felt some things coming back up again, that I’ve had to sort of cycle back and sort of go back to some of those lessons that I learned then because it it’s a whole new circumstance to be dealing with as a new mom and I think forever, I mean, from what I understand, being a parent, that’s changing forever, in really beautiful ways and in really difficult ways. It’s a practice to stay there with it.
A: We sort of look at parenting like, I’m the boss, and this is my mini person, instead of framing it as this is a relationship that I have to work on every single day for the rest of my life because there is some days that you love them like crazy. And then there’s other days where I hate them like crazy. Like just, just stop. I do think that that, like you’re driving me crazy phase does sort of hit as soon as puberty hits where they do become a little bit more like monsters, like in the best possible way. I wouldn’t envy a teenager having to go through it all over again. I think it’s also important to kind of realize that just because you’re the mom and they’re the child or you’re the dad and they’re the child, doesn’t fuse this relationship forever that I think it’s something that you have to practice. You have to get to know them. They have to get to know you and constantly be working on it. It’s not a prearranged perfect relationship all the time.
A: I think having the honest conversations, because moms can be so judgy and so in their heads, maybe scared to do something. So then they don’t want to open up to somebody else that they’re struggling with it or that it isn’t easy. Parenthood is not for the faint of heart. That I do think that it’s really important that people feel like there’s a safe space, that isn’t going to be judgemental for them and can have those real conversations that Baby Math is having.
PARENTS NEED MORE AFFORDABLE RESOURCES
J: One of patterns that I’ve really seen is that it’s just coming back to support and resources, right? I think for a lot of moms it’s really, really hard. I mean, it’s hard for everybody. If you have maternity leave, for example, you have access to affordable counseling. If you have a partner who’s able to take care of the kid long enough that you can do your yoga class or whatever it is that gives you some space to yourself. These things can be the difference between just having that patience that you need to stay present in that relationship and kind of flying off the handle and not being able to stay present with your kids. We’re in a society where the expectation on moms is sacrifice, absolutely everything about your body and your mind, whoever you were before, anything that you’d want to do in your life, like your needs are absolutely at the last bottom rung of the ladder and everything about your kid has to come first. I think when we do that and when we don’t access childcare or we can’t access to help. We never get a break to remember who we are as just a person. It makes it incredibly hard to have the energy, to be willing to be in the practice that you need to have. I’m very lucky in terms of the resources that I have. I know a lot of moms it’s not possible to have those same resources, but I think that if it is coming from social pressure and a feeling that you’re not allowed to get a babysitter sometimes, or you’re not allowed to ask your partner, like I actually want you to take the baby of this afternoon, I’m going to go see a friend or whatever it is that you need to do. It has to be okay for us to do that, just to take those moments because I deeply believe what allows us to be better parents and to stay present when we have our own, when we’re working on ourselves, we have to be working on ourselves in this because if we’re not we’re just inevitably going to be repeating the same old patterns that are unresolved with. This Baby Math is intended to be one of those possible resources for sure.
There’s so many more that that women, that moms need and the dads need to, and I mean, we’re living in this kind of funny situation where also the expectation on families is that where these little nuclear ones, especially in the pandemic it’s like these families never see any other face except each other. It’s gonna drive you crazy. I’ve been thinking lately about playdates. My kid is old enough now to have play dates, but that’s not really an option or it hasn’t been such an option during the pandemic and like to go like have a coffee or a glass of wine with another mom while the kids play with each other. Like, yes, that sounds amazing. I would really love to do that. You know, that sounds really fun but we haven’t been able to access even things like that. So of course we’re all having mental health issues and having physical symptoms and stuff in our bodies because we’re not able to be in the community that we’re meant to be in, like we’re meant to be in villages, the load of raising our children in this society where that’s not really the reality. So the pressure ends up getting put on moms to just stay home and do the work and never ask for help and never have a problem with it and always have a smile on their face. There’s an article I wrote in, in Baby Math about quality affordable childcare and the issues with that accessibility and what that does to our psyche, why that pressure has been put on moms instead of putting put on the government, which is the pressure should be, and it is actually improving a little bit that way, which is great. But then we need help. You know, you can’t do it on your own. It’s hard.
A: I do like that. It’s shifting that we are realizing that we cannot be the taxi, maid, chef, personal trainer, mental health worker, mom, wife, and person all at the same time. There’s only 24 hours in the day. Like there’s just not enough time or the expectation really just shouldn’t be, even if there was enough time, it’s unfair that we should have to do it all. I do think it’s important top if you have a partner to realize that they’re in it with you, dads aren’t babysitters. . The dads are just as much of an importance in parenting as moms are in most cases, not in all cases, obviously,
J: I’ve been a feminist for a very long time and I think my feminism has really changed from becoming a mom because before I had a baby, I felt like it was a little easier for me to feel that I had the same time-space, money, power as a man. I was just sort of like we’re over gender doesn’t mean everything and I’m a feminist and I’m just going to live my life the way I want and when I have a baby I’ll just get childcare and everything will be exactly the same as it was before for me. It was an interesting experience like being in a female body and there’s just a lot of like material realities that you have to deal with around being pregnant. If that’s something that you go through you can’t function at the same level that you were before for so many different reasons. You know, the societal pressures are insane. The second people find out you’re pregnant, there’s a lot of opinions about what you’re eating and not eating what you’re doing. Just the guilt is so immediate, it’s kind of hard to describe. I think, especially when it’s a little bit better now that he’s a bit older and you know, he’s not nursing anymore and he can go to daycare all day. I know that other people are taking care of him, but I think there was just, there was something that felt very like probably hormonal to me or around my bonds with the baby and just my unwillingness to like, let anyone else really be with him for a while. That did change, but I feel like it took me a while to feel like it was okay to let my partner deal with him. I think, looking at the situation with childcare, like so many women, I think discovered the cost of childcare is so prohibitive that it’s cheaper for you to quit your job and stay at home and be a full-time mom because women tend to be the lower earners and heterosexual partnerships because of inequalities in our society, including this one, if you can have affordable childcare, women can stay in the workforce longer if they want to. Which of course, there’s nothing wrong with not wanting to, but if that’s something that you want to do, you can but if childcare is so expensive, but that women are just quitting their jobs to be stay at home moms when they don’t want to. That’s deeply unfair. That was just something that like, I don’t know. I thought we were a little bit beyond that as a society, but once you become a mom, it’s like, oh no now my sex and gender mean a lot more in terms of my material reality and my finances and my power and all of these things that like I kind of naively didn’t really realize that that was going to be such an issue when I stepped into that new role.
A: Sometimes from the outside, looking in, there’s a lot of headlines about, $10 a day child’s care so until you’re really in the thick of it, sometimes you just don’t know. I know I was 22 when I had my daughter. I was fortunate enough that my grandmother was a early childhood educator, that I was able to use her as my sort of nanny otherwise, there is no way that I would have been able to work on the income that I was making at the time to be able to afford it. I essentially one full paycheck, if not both would have been the equivalent of childcare.
THERE’S NO PERFECT TIME TO GET PREGNANT
J: Oh yeah, absolutely. I think it’s also the case that a lot of people are having babies later, probably for that reason, you know? Like I had my baby when I was 37, I think. There were a lot of things that I couldn’t have been able to do if I had had a kid earlier, I think especially, you know, this is a whole other thing you get into this thing of like, oh your eggs getting old, you have a fertility cliff at 35. Like all this stuff is just not true. We do have more time to have babies, but when we’re feeling pressured to have babies, like before we turn 30, that’s like right at the time when our career careers actually starting to get going, it’s like in your thirties, usually depending on your career. So I feel like there are all these insidious ways that women just sort of prevented from accessing power in that range because of the way our society is set up around childbearing.
A: Well, even that they call 30 year old’s that have kids like geriatric pregnancy is like, we couldn’t come up with a nicer way of potentially labeling that. Like, it’s pretty much just saying like at 30 year over the hill. I don’t even know why you’re leaving the house. Like just stop existing. I think that there’s really no ideal time if you’re choosing to have kids. I think you potentially have more energy when you’re younger, but the money isn’t there. And then when you’re older, potentially it’s trying to balance more things.
J: Yeah. And wouldn’t it be nice if it just felt like that, you know, like there’s lots of time and you can do it early if you want to, or you can do it later if you want to, and we’re not going to judge you choose. Right. If only.
A: So potentially that’s another thing that we can put on society to maybe remove that judgment and to know that whether you’re 40 having a kid or whether you’re 19, that all is going to be okay.
J: Yeah. And that you’re supported. Right? Like that would be so nice to know that you’re going to have help coming from somewhere. And I mean, it’s amazing if you have family around that can help you, but a lot of us don’t for whatever reason have family around them. So having more resources around. Okay. So who’s going to help you, there should be more supports for families in these ways.
A: Absolutely. It isn’t necessarily just mom and dad and baby alone, trying to figure it out that we do need childcare. We do need play dates and friends and somebody to communicate our day with that isn’t necessarily just our husband, our spouse, that it’s like, we do need friends that become family and a doctor that you can call, if you have questions or any of those services that we do need to create a safe space for all, to be able to have that. I think just in general, all of our own biases that sometimes we really need to, do the work like you said, and wonder, why do I feel this way? Why is this triggering me? Why do I even care what that mom down the street is doing? If they aren’t harming their baby, breastfeeding versus bottle feeding, sleep training versus not sleep training, like all of it, if it doesn’t affect you and your child, like just mind your own business and keep your opinion to yourself that I think that’s one thing we just need to be more kind to each other and more helpful and less mean and bitchy
J: Well, and that’s a classic strategy for disempowering people is turning them against each other. Right. So, you know, people who’ve been raised to be women, you know, gestational parents. You know, these are, these are a group of people in our society that tends to be a little bit disempowered. You know, women are often the ones too are saddled with these issues and so turning against each other is really a way to maintain that lack of power. Instead of turning it against, for example, the government to say like, no, we are demanding affordable childcare or, you know, wherever it is that that’s, that energy should really be going, turning it against each other. That’s not the place to put it. And all of these controversies about sleep training and breastfeeding and stuff like that. I would love for us to be having more space, to just be trusting in people’s own decisions and that like, you know, your body best and you know, your kids best. You’re gonna figure that out, especially with a lot of resources and like supportive resources where you’re not being judged for whatever decisions you make.
A: Yeah, all of our kids are individual and say what worked for mine wouldn’t necessarily work for yours. We do need to take care of each other, regardless of our race, gender, any of it that it’s like, we just need to work on kindness and compassion and empathy versus that division and really question why the division is coming in, in the first place.
REFRAMING MOM GUILT
J: Yeah, compassion for ourselves as well as each other. For sure. You know, I think again, like a lot of things are going to get triggered when you’re in this situation. And for so many of us, when something’s triggered, including judgment against someone else, the thing that’s really happening is that core belief that, I’m not good enough. I don’t know what I’m doing, you know, whatever it is. Just noticing that and like noticing that you’re in that pattern and taking a moment to just like, whoa, I’m being really mean to myself. Like, can I actually take a breath and just let it be okay. Which is easier said than done to me. I don’t think I don’t experience mom guilt. I do. You know, but so we just, it’s a practice, right?
A: Well, and that Mom guilt, I’m really sorry to say it never, ever goes away and I really do think sometimes it’s just as simple as like the mom guilt really is that our love for them is so big that it’s like it manifests as guilt.
J: Guilt is another thing that I find comes up a lot with the clients that I work with. One of the things guilt can do is protect us from deeper emotions, and one of the things that I’ve really learned about the experience of loving my child. That love that I have for him is sometimes really painful. Like sometimes it’s really uncomfortable the first few months of his life, the only word I could use to describe how I felt about him was unbearable. We often think of like loving people as just being really joyful and happy and like that’s a part of it, but it’s also, it can feel so deep and so scary and vulnerable to love someone that much, that the guilt can come in to help to protect us from feeling that because it’s like a place that you can put it, it feels a little bit more familiar or a little bit more comfortable. I think the other thing I like to do is maintain the status quo. A lot of the time I find depends on the situation, but if guilt is coming up a lot sometimes what guilt is doing is signaling that you’re doing something for yourself, right? And in a society where specifically moms are taught, even though you have to sacrifice everything, you’re not allowed to want anything for yourself. You’re not allowed to have any of your own needs when we do switch from breastfeeding to bottle, for example, because that’s better for us in the moment. It’s like this insane guilt, even though we know we’re doing the right thing for ourselves and our baby in our heads, the guilt comes up because it’s saying like, you’re not allowed to make a choice that’s good for you. You’re not allowed to do that because what society wants from you is to kind of be suffering in this sacrifice so I do this for myself and I often sort of coach people to do this too, is like when guilt comes up, see if you can notice it as a signal that you’re changing something and let it be like a friend in that moment, because it’s letting you know that you’re making a decision that is right for you and you’re putting your health.
A: That’s a good way of thinking of it. That’s a really good way of reframing that thought.
J: Yeah, because, I mean, you can have guilt, but still make that choice, that’s right for you. It’s usually what’s right for the parents is right for the child as well. Most of the time, like the happier and calmer and more patient, the parents either time to kids will have as well. So we have to remember that too, but
A: I think it’s important that we do have to take care of ourselves first and then our families and everybody else second, because the more happy and content we are, the more that’s going to spread to everybody else.
J: Absolutely. So that’s why I think, like doing that work, going to that counseling, working on your triggers, taking time out for yourself, like these are political stresses, you know they’re not just choices that you’re doing cause you’re a selfish mom and you should feel guilty about it, but rather, you’re pushing against the status quo by making this work for you and asking for help and insisting on getting those resources. Like it’s, it’s a radical act, to be doing that work. I think it’s important to remember that, especially when that guilt comes up and tries to get you to stop. It’s like, well, that guilt is there because it’s afraid that you’re changing.
A: Now I know one of the blogs that I read that I totally related to was when you were pregnant with your son, wrapping your mind around having a boy. I really wanted a girl and I had convinced myself my whole entire pregnancy that I was having a boy so that I could find different ways to get excited about that and granted I would have been excited either way.
J: I found out the sex of my baby during my pregnancy because I had really noticed how attached I was to having a girl, which really surprised me because, I feel like I’ve done a fair amount of work on gender and what it means, sort of not being so attached to sex and what it means about gender and all those things. But I just really noticed that was what I was thinking about, but that was what I was hoping for, that was what I was expecting, when I imagined myself with a child, it was always with a girl. Specifically as a feminist, I had a lot of things that I wanted to talk to her about. I had these big plans. And so I was like, oh, I better find out what’s going on because if it is a boy, I’m going to need some time to wrap my head around that before he actually gets here. And sure enough, it was a boy. I cried, which it’s really surprised me that I cried, but I was just like, oh my gosh, I don’t know what to do about this. It’s been a really interesting experience. You know just doing that practice and kind of noticing what it’s all about cause I think part of it is really that we put a lot of expectations on our children and I think we really expect them to be like us, you know? I think maybe that’s part of the reason why so many women expect to have girls, right. It’s sort of this like, well, I know what to do with that because I was one and that’s like what to do, but even if you have a girl and that’s what you wanted, she’s not going to be like you, I mean she’s going to be her own person and you’re going to have to figure that out. Anyway, she may not want to learn the things that you’re planning to teach her, and so I think a lot of what happens around it’s called gender disappointment, even though it’s really like sex disappointment, because you don’t know their gender until they’re older. But I think really just that one of the first places where we start putting expectations on our children and having to be in that practice of letting go of that and trying to just really get to know them for who they are. I think for me I had such a sweet lesson for myself around that because my baby whose name is Grant is just like the sweetest, funniest, cuddliest, just loveliest little human. What really occurred to me is that like, oh, some of these qualities that I love about him the most, like the cuddliness and just the sweetness and how present, and he is with his emotions and his body, because like, that’s what we do as the children. These are the things that this society is going to try to teach him not to do because he’s male, right? Like this society, it might be getting better in this current generation. I hope so. But you know, certainly the way I think many of us grew up is this idea of like, well men and boys, they’re like this boys will be boys like their little hellions and we have all these expectations about what that’s gonna mean. They’re not really supposed to be these like sweet, loving affectionate, emotionally present beings so it occurred to me that like as his mom, I have the privilege of protecting those parts of him. I have the privilege of witnessing that and knowing him in this way so that even when and if he gets older and he starts to want to hide those parts for himself, I’ll always know that they were there, and I’ll always trust that he has that part of himself within him. Try to talk to him for sure about like those gendered expectations and what they mean but I think that was really the gift that I wasn’t expecting to get is just this privilege that I have to be this, little humans mom, and to know him as a human, rather than as a boy, and all of the expectations that that comes with that.
EMOTIONAL EDUCATION FOR MEN AND MALE PRESENTING PEOPLE
A: I think that that is so true that we really do put this expectation on men that they have to have this like toxic masculinity. We do really have to evolve as a society and give men a break.
J: I have a friend who the phrase that she used was emotional privilege to talk about how women and people raised to be women are generally taught like a lot of skills around emotions, like how to talk about your feelings, you know, it’s okay to cry. We were talking before about how with women, it’s often that like you can express any emotion you want except anger that one’s not allowed. And then with men, it’s the opposite. It’s like, you can’t express any emotion, except anger is the one that might be okay. Now we’re in a generation where actually anger is also not okay. Men are kind of in this moment of like how am I supposed to express any of this? That emotional education is truly not there. I’m hoping that that’s improving with this generation. I think we are getting better around some of these things. People who are raised to be women have that emotional privilege, they tend to have more like close relationships with other people that they talk about their feelings with them and men and boys don’t necessarily have that as much. There’s a massive health consequence around having people that you can talk to about your feelings. Like having it be not as such a social stigma to like get therapy, for example, or get help from different places. It’s a lot harder for men to reach out to those kinds of resources and suicide rates are higher for men. There’s a lot of health issues that are higher for men that are stress-related because there’s. not a lot of support around, like what do you do with your anger now? Like what do you do with your sadness? What do you do with your grief? How do you process this divorce? You know, women have a lot more so like, oh I’ll call my therapist. There’s a lot of resources that we can access them that way. And people voiced to me, men don’t tend to have as many of those.
MENTAL HEALTH ACCESSIBLITY FOR ALL
A: No. I think mental health funding and mental health facility and access, we have a long, long way to go. A lot of workers program you might get three sessions. Well, as much as three sessions may be helpful, six months worth of sessions might be better. So I do think that maybe back in the sixties that war on drugs would have maybe been better as a framework for healthcare for all, and put more of our funding on that side of the fence versus prisons.
J: What a different world we would live in if we all had a lot more mental health support, just in general for everyone. Not like once people are so far down the line that they’re really at risk, but like what if it was okay for everyone to get these resources whenever they needed them, it would be a different kind of world.
A: I think a lot of the times we’re dealing with the aftermath of something. There’s not a lot of preemptive self care.
J: Yeah, absolutely.
A: I do hope that that eventually changes because it shouldn’t be only accessed through certain jobs are only accessed for wealthy people or have somebody sort of for everybody.
J: I love the idea of the counselor for everyone, no matter where you’re coming from. I mean, it’s a difficult thing as someone who I counsels people. It’s a difficult thing because I do have some financial assistance supports and things like that but it is difficult when it’s not necessarily always covered and even if it is covered, it’s not fully covered. Or like you said, it’s only for a few sessions. A lot of the time I find, you know, waiting, you’re really working on these things of your life. Sometimes you can get through it quite quickly, but sometimes you never know how long you need to be working with someone on whatever it is that you’re working with them on. It would be really great if everyone had access to. And yeah, our society is just currently not set up to help people with that. I think as bleak as the world looks right now, when you’re reading the news, I think it is really important to remember, like we are learning a lot from the difficult things that we’re going through and, there is a lot more data out there there’s a lot more technology or just techniques that are accessible. And I mean, with the massive change in how we communicate around things like social media, they’re massive dangers around that, but it also means that, there are certain things that are also a lot more accessible. Like you can, just find out about resources a lot more easily, you know, you can find communities of people that are going through the same thing that you’re going through without really like a large cost to that. I mean, there’s even online. Actually currently all of my counselors are online and my tarot reading as well. But you know, there’s Better Health and stuff like that. Like you can do it through text if you wanted to, these are big changes in our technologies that actually do have really good potential to them. I think as much as we see that things are going badly, there are things that are, going in the right direction too.
A: Oh, I definitely think that there’s so many positive. Things like you said, you can YouTube or Instagram, you can find communities of people that are going through the same thing. There’s those memes that it’s like my social media friend is like the drunk girl in the bathroom when you’re twenties. You do have people that are hyping you up and things like that. So we do think that we really are moving towards positive things you had mentioned that you do a group for men. Is that still something that people can actively sign up for?
J: So Manology is a group that is organized by David Hatfield. It’s in Vancouver I think there are some in-person ones and some online ones. I think it’s usually men and maybe it’s people who identify as male or I think non-binary people are welcome to that group as well. I think it’s just, it’s pretty open in terms of that, but the conversation was really about men and masculinity. Occasionally they have all gender sessions where I would come in as a co-facilitator. We would talk about this specific thing in a group with both David and me or someone else that he’s working with. I’m not doing it as much anymore because I’m in Edmonton now but if there’s anyone out there who’s male or non-binary are kind of leaning towards that masculine side of things that wants to access that group, it’s really, really wonderful. It’s just a beautiful, supportive group of humans who really are doing that work. It’s been absolutely transformative for me. Anytime I’ve attended, one of those events or co-facilitated like they’re really a group that I’ve learned so much from. I highly recommend that if that’s something that interests you.
A: If somebody was wanting to work with you, where would they find information about the services that you offer?
J: Yeah. So my website is juliepeters.ca. I have an online yoga studio there. So I teach three and sometimes four, sometimes five classes a week in different styles, but all with this kind of energy and intention of like feeling into your own body, seeing what feels right for you in that day, it’s trauma-informed for the most part, every other Saturday we do a moon ritual, which involves tarot and some meditation and some journaling and some movement depending on the moon. So that’s one aspect of it I’ve also got this reading nook that has lots and lots of different articles that you can read on different aspects of parenting the Baby Math side of it. I also have a wellness category there’s guided meditations on there. I recently wrote a piece as well about finding empathy, sort of in a really divisive moment in politics at the time. I also offer this pathfinding program, which is this body based sort of mindfulness coaching counseling sort of work that you can do. One-on-one, that’s usually done over eight weeks, but I also do tarot reading, which is process oriented tarot. So it’s not so much telling the future is like using the cards as a tool to help you to tap into your own intuition about something, to work on, trusting yourself around, for example, making a decision or just wanting some guidance in general for what’s going on in your life. So that’s also a really lovely thing that you can just do as a one off. So I have tons of offerings on that website. There’s lots of content that you can look through. I have a newsletter where I share that stuff every other week. So take a peek at JuliePeters.ca, lots to look at there.
A: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for having this conversation.
J: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been really lovely to chat with you about all this. I just really appreciate that you’re creating a space for folks to, think about and talk about these things in a really real way. So I appreciate that.