MamaFuel: The Podcast
EP063: Navigating guilt to find fulfilment: Valerie Knopik on brain science, family harmony and chasing your dreams

EP063: Navigating guilt to find fulfilment: Valerie Knopik on brain science, family harmony and chasing your dreams

December 9, 2019

Ever felt conflicted about wanting recognition, fulfilment and challenge outside your family context? Get ready to feel a warm wash over your heart and a burst of inspiration as you get to know my guest this week on the MamaFuel podcast. 

Valerie Knopik has navigated the guilt-ridden conflictual waters of maternal love and personal aspiration and, with her husband and children, has forged a life she and her family love. I love hearing how her she and her post-doctorate thesis advisor got creative to cobble together a maternity leave for her. I love how she and her husband waded through all the ICK they faced individually and as a team to land here, twenty years into their marriage, in a solid, mutually-supportive place.

I love how Valerie, her dreams, her talent and her career get to fully breathe, expand and flourish in the container of her family. A container where everyone’s dreams have a place and enough space to grow.

If all of that wasn’t enough, those of you who are curious about how and why our brains work the way they do will LOVE hearing Valerie talk about epigenetics (her speciality), brain plasticity and how it’s hard but entirely possible to rewire your brain, and in doing so change your life.

If you’d like to connect with any of the resources we mention during our talk or quickly find any of the podcast episodes I mention, click here for all the goodies. And if you’d like to be part of the ongoing conversation about this podcast and so much more, join us in the MamaFuel Virtual Village here.

EP062: Thriving after abuse: Katrina Young on building her life with self-love and empowerment

EP062: Thriving after abuse: Katrina Young on building her life with self-love and empowerment

December 3, 2019

Trigger warning: domestic abuse and gaslighting

Sound quality: the sound on this episode cuts out often, but it’s such an important conversation that I’ve decided to air it anyway because done is better than perfect, and I know someone out there will need to hear this. Thanks for your patience with the sound.

When I met this week’s guest it was like meeting a human energy source. Katrina Young is a self-made woman whose background of domestic abuse has directed the course of her business and her life. 

Now a happy mama of two living safely and thriving in London, Katrina shares her experiences of abuse, how she came to realise that what she was living wasn’t healthy, and how she managed to fight back to regain her voice and her independence. I loved hearing how she’s recently been taking time to listen to herself, how that’s led her to be clearer about her boundaries and has helped her drop her people pleasing habits.

I’m inspired by Katrina’s positivity, energy and her willingness to bravely STOP and hear what her soul and her body are telling her.

If you’re in a situation of domestic abuse, please click this link to be connected to a number of organisations that exist to help. If your country isn’t listed please let us know and we’ll add a resource for your location. 

If you enjoyed this episode and would like to continue the conversation, please click here to join the MamaFuel Virtual Village. It’s a glorious place to connect to other like-minded mamas. 

If you live in any of these countries and are facing domestic abuse of any kind, please reach out to your local support organisations, some of which are listed here by country. Click the following links to learn about where you can find support in Switzerland, in the UK, the National Domestic Violence Hotline in the US and a good resource for local support in Canada, by province.

If you’d like to connect with Katrina, you’ll find her here.

EP061: Lindsay Bong on taking up space and asking for help as a self-love practice

EP061: Lindsay Bong on taking up space and asking for help as a self-love practice

November 28, 2019

Lindsay Bong hurtled head-first into marriage, motherhood and all that comes with both of those big life changes. Now that the dust has settled, she reflects on her early years as a mama living in a new state with a new husband and a new life... while grappling with her identity, her role as a mama and the challenges of creating a vibrant community around her.

I loved our conversation about learning to ask for what you need, and how as you get more comfortable asking for help (and surviving if the answer is no) you get clearer on what you need and how to get those needs met. 

In addition to being a very funny human, a loving mama and an adventurous being, Lindsay is a therapist whose compassion for her patients took some finessing before she could offer it to herself. 

Lindsay now keeps a list of what makes her most herself, and consults it often when she's feeling funky. I'm going to do the same, and wonder if you might join us?

If you liked this conversation and would like to connect with Lindsay, click here to find the full show notes including links to her gorgeous art, her podcast and more. And, if you haven't already, click here to join the MamaFuel Virtual Village so we can keep this conversation going. Have a gorgeous week. 

EP060: This breaks my heart

EP060: This breaks my heart

November 5, 2019

This week I’m celebrating a big milestone: 60 episodes of this podcast, celebrating mamas around the world doing big and small things! To mark the occasion, I want to talk about something that breaks my heart: women who are disappearing under their SuperMama capes.

So many of us do our VERY BEST for our children. We want to give them what we didn’t have, prevent their suffering and plan for every eventuality. It’s not realistic, but we torture our schedules, our bodies and our minds to try and make it possible. We take up less and less space, in hopes of finally satisfying our little humans or giving them THE BEST of us and the world, all the time. 

The problem is, in addition to this not being fun, it's also entirely unsustainable. And it's hurting our mental health, our physical health, our careers and our relationships. It's an epidemic, especially amongst international mamas: we expect high levels of functioning from ourselves, with little or no support, and when something's got to give it usually ends up being us.

It's got to stop. In this episode I’m sharing three ways that you can start taking up more space in your life, and loosening the stranglehold of the SuperMama cape. It'll feel great, I promise. 

If this resonates with you, I’d LOVE to hear from you. You can email me here or join us over in the Virtual Village on Facebook so we can talk about it. It’s free and I’d love to meet you there. Happy 60th, beauty. I’m so grateful you’re listening.

EP059: The power of legacy: Shermain Philip on art as a doorway to conversation

EP059: The power of legacy: Shermain Philip on art as a doorway to conversation

October 28, 2019

Today’s guest is a talented artist, a deeply reflective woman and a conscious mama whose decision to mindfully shepherd her young son through the world has broken many moulds.

Before I’d ever spoken a word to Shermain Philip, I was captivated by her art. Her bold strokes and the way she uses light infuse life into the people she’s painting. When I learned some of the stories behind her work, I was hooked.

Shermain uses her paintings as doorways into conversation with her son; conversations about the American Civil Rights Movement, the Black Panthers, the Windrush Generation in the UK and so much more. By sharing her art with her son, Shermain gently invites him to be curious. Their conversations have covered complex topics like racism, civil rights, naturalisation, inequality and so much more. 

Hearing Shermain talk about the different treatment her son receives in school relative to his white school mates was essential -- those of us who don't have to tell our children that people may assume they're naughty because of what they look like have a duty to listen to the mamas who DO have those conversations. Because we've got to do and be better for every child in the world today and tomorrow.  

As we spoke I was struck by Shermain’s focus on legacy, both as an artist and as a mother. She’s mindful of the impact she’s having on her son, and hopes to have a broader impact with her art long after she’s gone.

I don’t doubt that will happen. To find out more about Shermain and to see her art, click here. That’s where you’ll also find information about the book we talk about and the other podcasts we mention in this week’s episode.

If you'd like to be part of a bigger conversation about the issues we discussed in this week's podcast, head over to the MamaFuel Virtual Village, a free community where we discuss the podcast and so much more. See you there! 

EP058: Living her (un)Scripted Life: Lizzy Russinko on connection, curiosity and creativity in life and mothering

EP058: Living her (un)Scripted Life: Lizzy Russinko on connection, curiosity and creativity in life and mothering

October 22, 2019

What a pleasure it was to have and listen to this week’s conversation again. My guest Lizzy Russinko is a dear soul, a wildly talented artist, a loving and conscious mama of two, and a wise woman whose friendship I cherish in my heart.

If you’ve been listening to the podcast in the past few months you’ll have heard me reference this conversation over and over – so I’m doubly thrilled to share it! Lizzy and I talk about the importance of community, especially when you’re in the thick of the newborn phase. I love her idea of treating everyone she meets as if they’re new… so she never feels isolated because she’s always welcoming everyone else, including in places she’s never been. It’s such an effective way of including yourself and others. I can’t wait to use it!

What most impacted me, though, was when Lizzy illuminated a simple but often-forgotten fact: any time we meet someone, we are only seeing and getting to know them as they are in THAT moment. We have no idea who or how they’ve been in the past, nor how or whom they’ll be in the future. If we approach each other (and ourselves) with curiosity, compassion and forgiveness our relationships will deepen and improve. 

Who were you before? Who are you becoming? How can you forgive yourself for what you may or may not have done to take loving care of yourself at different seasons in your life? There’s so much juice in this conversation that I just want you to get it into your ears NOW. In fact, this episode deserves to be listened to more than once so you can capture all the goodness within.

If you’d like to check out Lizzy’s art or access the other resources we mentioned during our convo, click here. If you’d like to join the conversation we’re having over in the MamaFuel Virtual Village (our free FB community), click here and join us. I’d love to meet you there!

ALSO: if you haven’t done it yet, I’d be mega grateful if you’d leave a review and rating over on Apple Podcasts. It makes the world of difference to know you’re listening, that you’re enjoying what I’m sharing here and that it’s helpful to you. Also, the more ratings the podcast gets, the more widely the funky little algorithm will share it with other mamas. And that would be great. Have a gorgeous week!

EP057: Curious and brave: Emma Stroud on building a made-to-measure family and life

EP057: Curious and brave: Emma Stroud on building a made-to-measure family and life

October 14, 2019

Get ready for a blast of delight in the form of this week’s guest, Emma Stroud. Em is serious about having fun. So much so that she’s made it (part of) her business to teach adults how to laugh and think in ways many of us have forgotten. She also occasionally gets told off by her son for being too silly. That’s a win in my book!

Emma never wanted to be a mum -- until she did. Her journey to holding baby William in her arms was as refreshingly creative as she is. I loved hearing how Emma and her friend and business partner Deon consciously created a family that worked for them. For a while it included two loving couples living in "one big gay house” and sharing coparenting equally.

I was fascinated and a little envious of the set-up Emma had then and still has now. It’s every parent’s dream: having someone else fully share the coparenting and having an entire tribe to raise her son. It's meant that when she's mum, she's mum. And the rest of the time, she's Em. Period. I’d definitely be up for that!

I loved talking to Emma about the power of words, why it drives me bonkers to hear women say they’re “just mum” and what Emma thinks is behind that. I agree fiercely about the importance of bravery, and how it’s the precursor to curious and open connection. 

In fact it’s got me musing, for all of us: where are you curious? Where do you meet other people with preconceived judgements? Where could you be more open? Where could I? Where and how do you put yourself or other women into the "mum box?"

I hope this conversation leaves you wondering about the roles you play of have had foisted upon you. About how you meet yourself and other mothers. And about how you might make big, brave decisions to help bump your life out of conventionality so it starts to look and feel the way you want it to, so you can truly be yourself. 

I’d love to hear what comes up for you as you listen. The conversation will continue over in the MamaFuel Virtual Village, which is our free Facebook home, and I’d love to read your tuppence. Click here to join us. And if you haven’t yet, please leave a review of this podcast wherever you’re listening. It helps so much to know that these conversations are landing, and it makes the little internet robots share conversations like these with more mamas.

If you’d like to learn where to find Emma and discover the resources, films and more that we talk about during this conversation, head over here to the MamaFuel web site for all the goodies.

EP056: Speak your shame: Rebecca Ching on the importance of shame resilience in parenting and life

EP056: Speak your shame: Rebecca Ching on the importance of shame resilience in parenting and life

October 11, 2019

Rebecca Ching didn’t think she wanted children, until she realised she could build a different kind of family than the one she’d known when she was little. But creating a family came at a cost: Rebecca’s body told her in no uncertain terms that her previously work-focused life had to change dramatically for her to be the business owner, partner and mother she wanted to be. 

A few years into parenting and after the birth of their son, Rebecca and her husband learned that their daughter was on the autism spectrum. In that moment, everything shifted again towards finding the best support for their sweet girl and for themselves. It was a bumpy road of shifting relationships, grieving lost friendships and reassessing of every aspect of their lives. But it was made smoother by their absolute conviction that they, and no one else, knew best what their daughter needed. 

They became super intentional about the way they were spending their time, with whom and how they were going to lead their family. There were years of intense loneliness as they felt around to find the people who supported them the way they needed to be helped (and not how other people told them they should want), and found ways of showing up fully in difficult moments with their daughter.

Working with Brené Brown’s research on shame and becoming trained in The Daring Way was key to Rebecca developing shame resilience and being able to navigate the excruciating situations she’d often find herself in.

In this conversation that could have gone on for days, Rebecca and I talk about the insidiousness of comparative suffering, the lies shame tells us to keep us safe, and how deepening isolation makes we mamas so vulnerable. We touch on the tendency so many of us have to numb the tough feelings through service, through being there all the time for others, until we can’t maintain it anymore.  

Rebecca explains how shame, trauma and grief are all intertwined, and how there’s no way to avoid the loneliness of our path as humans learning how to be on this planet. When she talked about the thousand little traumas we all live on a daily basis, I could feel it in my body. The tiny misunderstandings, the glancing blows, the disappointments. They combine to create wounds all over our hearts and souls, and eventually our bodies will scream for us to stop.

The invitation to rethink how we’re doing life, and to face into shame and the feelings associated with it, is a precious one. Rethink who and what is in your life. How you fill your days. Where you’re going and whom you’re going there with. Really. Because streamlining your life might prevent a bigger breakdown.  

When you’ve listened to this episode, go to our Virtual Village to tell us what you thought. I’d love to talk to you about this episode, your experience as an (expat) mama and how shame and isolation have played a part in your life. 

If you’d like to learn more about Rebecca and her work or check out some of the books or podcast episodes we mention, click here for the full show notes

EP055: Decluttering changed her life: Marieke Staub on the magical powers of facing our “stuff”

EP055: Decluttering changed her life: Marieke Staub on the magical powers of facing our “stuff”

October 1, 2019

So many of us feel like we’re drowning in stuff, in expectations, in all the “shoulds” that can weigh upon mothers. Marieke Staub was no exception. While Marieke’s pregnancy and her daughter’s birth were idyllic, she was crippled by post-natal depression for months afterward.

Marieke was able to find her way to a healthier way of being thanks to her family, friends, therapy and lots of support. Even though she was feeling better, something still wasn’t right: her overcrowded apartment, filled with all the objects we’re told we need to be “good” mothers, was a source of frustration.

When her sister gave her The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marieke got to work and changed her whole life. She now lives in a space that supports her in all ways: in living her best life, in a close and happy relationship with her daughter, running a business she adores. She curated her belongings to create the life she wanted, and she couldn’t be happier.

Marieke and I talk about the pressure mothers feel to have all the things for their kids (spoiler: more stuff doesn’t make you better… it usually causes more stress), the disproportionate importance we place on our belongings, how the home we live in can support or hinder our lifestyle and happiness, and how we’re all fully capable of living without so much of the stuff we accumulate.

I was fascinated to hear Marieke talk about how decluttering our stuff is never only about the physical objects – it’s about facing our regrets, our grief, our memories, our guilt, celebrating our joys and making decisions about how we want to live moving forward. She also really struck a chord with me when she said that teaching our kids that they're not defined by what they own is one of the greatest gifts we can give, especially in our consumerist culture. YES to that!

I’ll be calling on Marieke and her sister to help me declutter my house, and I’ll keep you posted on how that goes over in the MamaFuel Virtual Village, our free online community, so make sure you jump in to follow along. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’m feeling nervous, but I’m going to do it! 

To find out more about Marieke and see that photo of my overstuffed house (circa 2010 when my kids were toddlers), click here.

EP054: It’s ok to be happier than your unhappiest child: Barb Klein on love and joy in the face of addiction

EP054: It’s ok to be happier than your unhappiest child: Barb Klein on love and joy in the face of addiction

September 23, 2019

Today’s guest is a mama who’s learned through searing personal experience that despite what we might expect, it IS possible to be happier than our unhappiest child. Barb Klein is a mama to two young men, an entrepreneur and a happily married woman whose family life took a huge turn a decade ago when addiction altered their realities forever. Each member of the family has since been learning how to navigate the waters of addiction and the destruction it causes.

Over that decade, Barb has found ways to love herself no matter what, and she credits her own journey to self-care and self-love as being the reason she stands so strong today. In this week’s episode Barb shares candidly about releasing her expectations around what it means to be “a good mother,” finding her way back to joy despite the hell her son is still living, and how making space and time for her marriage has kept her partnership solid through it all.

Barb’s reflection that we must respect each soul’s journey through good and bad is an invitation to us all to think about how and when we support each other. Barb’s wish that all families of addicted people receive the same support as families of cancer patients went straight to my heart. If you know anyone who is struggling with addiction, or who’s supporting an addicted family member or friend, please reach out. Addiction is not contagious, and people who are watching a loved one suffer can often feel terribly isolated and afraid.  

We’re all walking each other home. Listening to this week’s podcast episode will perhaps give us all the chance to open our hearts a little wider to some of the most difficult situations in life and lead with love.

Barb shared many resources during our conversation. You can access all of the information we discussed by clicking here to get the full details.

In the meantime, I’d love to continue the conversation about today’s podcast over on the MamaFuel Virtual Village free Facebook group. Click here to join us and share your experience with living your full, happy life no matter what.