We have had the pleasure of getting to know our next featured mom over the years at The Dailey Method in the Marina. This mama is fiercely dedicated to her own physical and mental wellbeing, attending regular Barre classes and at times, utilizing the childcare at the studio for her 4 and 5 year old boys.
When she is not busy being mom, this woman is pursuing her passion to become a psychotherapist, a healer, and is on the road to recieving her license as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist.
We always knew there was something really special about this mom… warm, kind, nuturing and community are just some words that spring to mind… and that amazing quality to really see you. We can’t wait for you to get to know this woman and her honest portrayal of motherhood. We know we will be bookmarking this one…
Meet Britta Shiels
Britta, can you share with our mamas a little about your work and your journey to getting to where you are today?
In 2011, I intuitively felt that it was time to change careers and follow the path I always knew was right for me. I studied Political Science during my undergrad at UCLA and then my first job out of college was in the wine industry, which was fun but ultimately unsatisfying to my soul. Ever since I was a kid I knew I wanted to be a Psychotherapist. As a kid I was acutely aware of what could not be seen, especially regarding emotions and behavior and wondering if there was more behind why someone was acting the way they were acting. So in 2012 I started graduate school at JFK University and embarked on a three year journey that would result in a degree in Somatic Counseling Psychology, and two kids! I birthed my career as a healer at the exact same time that I birthed myself as a mother. I strongly believe these two transformations both drove and informed each other. This time in my life pushed me to my edges, and the work of both still do. I am so grateful that I answered the two callings I have had in my life for healing through these privileged roles that I hold.
“ I birthed my career as a healer at the exact same time that I birthed myself as a mother. I strongly believe these two transformations both drove and informed each other. “
What has been your biggest lesson you have learned since becoming a mother?
There are so many...and they keep coming! If I had to distill down one bit of wisdom that captures what I have learned through becoming a mother it would be that your own mindfulness of your experience needs to be ranked as “top priority” on the dynamic to-do list that is the mother’s brain. I know through my work as a therapist that the first 3 to 5 years of a child’s life is when they learn through their experiences if the world is safe and nurturing or unsafe and threatening. These felt experiences come through the relationships they have with their caregivers. So, how the caregivers respond to their children’s needs really lays the foundation inside of them for how to respond to relationships, change and so on. This is knowledge that I can not turn away from, and is a lingering pressure to perform at my best at all times. But as my own personal therapist wisely said to me recently, “All parents nowadays are trying to do an impossible thing. So have compassion for yourself”. So my answer is that I have learned the paramount importance of caring for my needs to stay calm, present and grounded so that I can care for the needs of my children and family. With the understanding that our current set up of parenting and pace of life are stress-creating and we will fail. And we are also wholeheartedly doing the best we can and should stay committed to our own self-nurturing and care for us, the caregivers.
What do you do for self-care? What are some non-negotiables for your own personal wellbeing?
My toolbox has and always will revolve on basic needs of all humans: REST and sleep. Fueling my body with nourishing and simple, mostly plant based food. Breathing and meditation..fitting in mindfulness in the morning for as long as is permitted with young kids around and then throughout the day to manage stress and tune in to my body. Exercise! The Dailey Method, yoga, walking in nature, swimming and more recently, spinning. I want to note something important around exercise because based on tuning in with myself and my particular needs of the day, I need my exercise choice to support me. If I’m really tired and I feel I’ve been pushing myself, I do a 30 minute gentle yoga sequence at home. I focus first, always, on calming my system down, being aligned with what my body is telling me and not white-knuckling through anything that will not serve me. It is a radical act for us women to tune in to ourselves and our needs and make choices based on those needs and not the expectations of others. Creative expression...I play piano and recently have been taking lessons again. This is another meditative practice that gives the management part of my brain a break and lets me just BE without doing. It feeds my soul. Community and connection is a huge one. Staying connected to fellow moms who you feel safe with to share the vulnerability of motherhood. The more we share, the less isolated and alone we feel in our struggles. We’re all in this together as moms.
“Our kids need our presence, not perfection.”
Mental health and a sense of lost identity are just some of the struggles moms are faced with postpartum. Can you share any advice from your experience on how to feel connected, safe and balanced while juggling all that comes with being a mom?
Motherhood is such a journey. My kids are 4 and 5 now so my baseline is much stronger than when I had a 4 month old and a 2 year old! It is a real jolt to realize that your priorities change the second your child joins your family. Needs are a collective responsibility. So much responsibility that can feel oppressive at times. We all come around motherhood differently and in my experience the shift of identity was ok, but the restriction on freedom and spontaneity was really hard. What I’ve learned is that it’s our responsibility as mothers to know our own limits, know our capacities, our strengths and limitations and from that understanding ask for the help we need. Get help from as many people as you possibly can given your circumstances! No one will carve out time to recharge except YOU. No one will know that you’re overwhelmed and need a break, like yesterday, except YOU. So while it can feel like another responsibility we have to take care of, it is only in service of your ability to stay balanced and happy for the good of the whole family. Our kids need our presence, not perfection. Every day I rank the to-do list in order of what really needs to happen and then I tackle that 5% and let the rest fall away. That’s life; it’s messy, imperfect and wonderful.
If you could give one gift to all the mothers in the world, what would it be?
The gift of self-compassion. This is the gateway to feeling good enough. Mothers are the most caring, open-hearted, giving and powerful beings. We try our best, we don’t give ourselves enough credit and really take in the magnitude of what our role entails. I have learned to practice taking in, breathing in, all that is good and whole that I’ve “done”. I celebrate my own successes by saying, “Wow you tried so hard today. Even when you were irritated with the kids, you apologized. Well done!”. I can not stress the importance of care for the caregivers. We are parenting our children, and we need to parent ourselves with a loving, gentle voice that cheers us on and motivates us by noticing and giving specific feedback. I have needed help with this...most do. Therapy helps :)
Finally, where can our mamas find you?
I am still on the road to licensure as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist. I work at an elementary school as well as a hospital and by the spring of 2020 I will have completed my 3,000 hours of clinical training and then study to take my final exam to get licensed! While I work out my next steps which may include a private practice, I can be reached via email at brittastherapy. Or you can find me in the studio and say hi. I love to connect and can always give referrals.
We hope you love Britta’s honest answers on motherhood, mental health and relationships as much as we do.
We are super excited to announce a VERY exciting collaboration we are working on with Britta and the team at CircleMoms. We can’t say much more right now but stay tuned over at movingmomsf for all the details coming very soon.
As always keep moving, mamas!