Welcome to Filled Up Cup The Podcast. My name is Ashley Cau and I am your host. I aim to have real conversations about mental health and self-care. Self-care has become this annoying buzzword lately that wants us to believe that bubble baths and solo trips to the grocery store are supposed to fill up our cup. While I do love a scolding hot bubble bath, I truly believe that self-care is so much more than that. 

I don’t believe that there is a one-fits-all mold of what self-care is. I feel like it is different for each individual and can vary day to day. I really hope the podcast and blog will be a place you tune in to experience real conversations that can be relatable. I also really hope that this will be a place to help de-stigmatize being able to say that you need help, or that you are suffering, tackle insecurities and be open about mental health struggles. 

I am not an expert or trained professional at all or in any capacity. All my knowledge comes from living through an experience so please take any advice or opinion I may share as just that.

I am an almost 37-year old single mother living in suburbia near Vancouver, BC Canada. I am Caucasian and straight. I try my best to be anti-racist and I support the LGBTQ2S+ community. I am prone to anxiety, drink way too much coffee and easily get distracted. If I have an opinion you will always see it written on my face. I do not shy away from speaking out and can be very stubborn. I am a big fan of horror movies and bad reality TV. I have an irrational fear of the dentist. I have two cats, Hero and Hardin, who are much more willing to be photographed than my daughter so you will see frequent pictures of them on my Instagram. I have 8 tattoos and counting. I believe how I decorate my body helps not only express myself but helps serve as a reminder of lived experiences so I count them as part of my self-care practices. I have a psychic I see annually. I am an orphan, which feels like a weird title to use. I lost both of my parents unexpectedly. If you don’t have a will I highly recommend making one. 

I have had some really unhealthy relationships where I dated much older men and really healthy relationships with men who are very kind and thoughtful who remain close friends to this day. I don’t believe that one man can tarnish the value of all other men and that it is truly possible to heal from abuse. Just know that if the family court system has failed you or you’ve had a relationship with an emotionally abusive narcissist with alcohol or drug issues I can completely relate. I credit my therapist for helping understand what role generational trauma can play into these choices and helping me heal from them.

That being said I have had some pretty interesting ex’s and I will almost always win at the game who’s ex had the worst mother. I would describe my worst one as being the personality twin of Eleanor Crisp from Kindergarten Cop mixed with the incestual Gemma Teller vibes from Sons of Anarchy. IYKYK.

Disneyland w/Smee

My daughter is going to be 15 years old in 2022. We share very similar personalities so I truly created a miniature version of myself to argue with. While my daughter was growing up I was mainly a stay at home Mom. I had the ability to volunteer at her school regularly, I attended every field trip and school assembly. I went to every dance class and watched every recital. I threw big birthdays and we had big Halloween parties annually. Now that she is getting older, my role has switched to being an ATM and a taxi.

I am left to re-introduce myself to myself and figure out who I am if not “just a Mom.” I let the role become my whole existence for all of my twenties. Now that I am almost 40 I feel like I am ready to be a new version of myself. It is very exciting. I am letting myself daydream about what could be next (whether it be relationships, travel, moving and what the next phase of my life could look like).

But first I have to get through the current phase and for any parents with teens this can be a really challenging season where they still need us more than ever but really at a distance and more as a guide. I feel like they are like less cute toddlers but with extra emotions, curse words and hormones. They warn you before you have children of the teething phase or the terrible two’s but never of the teen years where they love you and hate you every other minute and you have to constantly remind yourself to be patient and not take their words personally because teenagers are mean AF. Generally speaking it takes so little for Mom’s to get blamed, criticized and judged while it takes so little for Dad’s to be praised as good. 

I am grateful that my daughter and I are very close. While I am not naïve enough to believe that she tells me everything that goes on in her life I do believe that I get about 75-80% of what is going on depending on the day. I have created the space that she knows that if she gets herself in a bad situation and it’s likely that at some point she will, that she can call me to come pick her up and I won’t be mad. I recommend having tough honest conversations with your kids and often you need to be the one to initiate it. I let her ask me questions about topics I don’t necessarily want to give her the answers about, but try to do so in the most honest and informative way possible, without making it awkward. It brings me a huge amount of peace of mind that she knows that she can come to me with anything. It is also hard watching your teen make mistakes, or not be able to save them from mistakes you made and not really being able to do anything to help them avoid it. The only way through is through it unfortunately. I definitely am appreciative that my teen years were before the social media generation. Not only do they have to worry about being judged by their friends in real life, but there’s worrying about succeeding on the internet as well. I think it has caused such a disconnect between kids today and maybe prevented them from creating deeper relationships that our generation had through boredom and having to have conversations on the phone.

Raising a teenage girl has definitely shown me how very little sexism within our school system has changed since I was in high school. The fact that school dress codes still exist annoys me beyond belief. I think it promotes rape culture to all students. I think they need to be reviewed and updated. I have had grown men within the school make more inappropriate conversations about her clothing whether it be tight or loose fitting than her peers. To ban crop tops when you can barely enter a store and find a non-crop top shirt that is also considered fashionable is a challenge. In a time where it is almost impossible to find a kid 100% comfortable in their own skin, they should be given the autonomy to express themselves in whatever they feel comfortable in. We need to teach children that regardless of their gender that their clothing doesn’t label who they are as a person or give you a right to treat them a certain way because of it. Any teenager with access to the internet has access to porn. Spaghetti straps and belly buttons are not as risque as they may have been previously. And I don’t know if they ever really were previously.

My grandmother has lived with my daughter and I for the last 11 years and will most likely live with us for the rest of her life. I am beyond grateful for her and the help she provided when my daughter was growing up. I had the privilege of having her as, an Early Childhood Educator, as my free childcare provider. I do wish sometimes I could make her 30 years younger so we could have her with us longer. Although living with a senior has its challenges. The last few years she has had some non-covid related health issues and it has been incredibly eye opening at how many things are not covered under medical and how expensive some essentials can be. She has experienced so much ageism within our medical system and it has been incredibly terrifying at how much the short staffing within our hospitals is causing potentially fatal mistakes. We had a doctor repeatedly give her medication she was allergic to that caused her to get extremely sick in the hospital after a surgery and then the same doctor gave her a prescription to the same medication to take home, that thankfully the pharmacist caught prior to filling. We could have lost her and with how things are in our climate and the limited access caregivers have it is extremely difficult to advocate for our loved ones that may not be in a position to advocate for themselves. 

I am a big advocate for boundaries and cutting ties with people that don’t respect them. I completely relate to the quote: I would rather adjust my life to your absence than adjust my boundaries to accommodate your disrespect. I have often been criticized for this but really value my time and energy. I know how short life can be. I think that you should tell the people you love that you love them regularly. I am also a big supporter of therapy and counseling. I think that it is beyond unfair that this can be an expensive option and isn’t readily available for all. I feel like getting help shouldn’t be embarrassing or stigmatized or unaffordable. 

I was born into a family where the majority of its members I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy so I am truly lucky to have friends that have become family. I have known my best friend since high school but we really became super close when we were pregnant with our daughters in our early twenties. We hadn’t seen each other in years, she ran into me when I was working in a restaurant when I was pregnant, she said something rude to me, the look on my face made her terrified to eat her food and then she got pregnant too and we have been inseparable ever since. We are the exact opposite of each other which is probably why our friendship works so well. I am stubborn and outspoken and she has a big heart and is quick to forgive. I could debate about politics for hours and she couldn’t care less who our officials are. I am very Type A and she couldn’t go more with the flow if she tried. We have never tried to change the other’s mind about something and have never been competitive or have to be right in our relationship. We try to see the other’s point and support each other no matter what. We have matching best friend tattoos that we got last year for my birthday. I would be completely lost without her, her husband and kids. Female friendships can be challenging but are so rewarding and essential in my opinion. I think there has been so much societal pressure to see women as competition or a threat when it’s such bullshit. 

One of my favourite self-care practices is to travel. I was very fortunate as a child to be taken to so many destinations within North America. I have traveled alone to Europe and have had many big trips with my daughter within North America as well. My favourite vacation was a spontaneous road trip to Disneyland when she was 3. I believe that the more places we see the more our opinions of the world and humanity changes, usually for the better. I think exploring new places can change us in ways that no other experience can. That being said I do believe that the more we know, the better we should do. Just because we have a desire to go somewhere doesn’t mean we have the right to go there. There are so many places that having tourists colonize it has left resources depleted for the people that live there. I wouldn’t want my vacation to mean that someone else potentially doesn’t have access to long term drinking water or if an experience was so dangerous that a guide was required and had the potential to lose their lives just for me to have the experience. The internet in some ways and the ability to access so many travel documentaries have given us the ability to visit some of the places that might not be beneficial for us to actually go to and while it wouldn’t give us the full experience it still gives us a moment to get a peek of what it is like there. Obviously with our current global health crisis it has eliminated this option for us to go anywhere but I do look forward to being able to explore again sooner than later. I have fantasies of selling everything I own and buying one of those Italian villas that they advertise for being less expensive than you could rent a parking stall for here in Vancouver.

I hope that you enjoyed getting to know me a bit better. I look forward to having more conversations with you and sharing this space together. New podcast episodes will drop on Wednesdays. I can also be found on instagram at @filledupcup_ or at www.filledupcup.com