Friends, I would love to introduce you to Lindsay and her happy home in Greenville, South Carolina. While you read this interview, keep in mind that Lindsay had a baby last week. As we were communicating via email I knew she had a baby due and was trying to get everything wrapped up before the little one arrived, but he made his appearance between taking the photos and answering the interview questions. Huge congrats to Lindsay!
After getting to know her, I’m guessing you are going to wish she lived on your street. She works as a Perinatal therapist, which means she deals with all types of people in various stages of starting and creating families, and the advice she shares is smart and thoughtful and usable. She’s the kind of friend who’s house you want to swing by when you had a rough day and you just need someone to listen. Welcome, Lindsay!
We are a brand new family of four! Our baby, Will, was born on November 2nd — between me taking these pictures and writing out this interview. Our first child, Beck, is almost three and in the midst of the terrible-two-to-threenager transition. She started school this year and comes home with wild stories almost every day. Potty training is very interesting to her, although she isn’t doing any of it herself yet, and the other day informed me that “today James peed all the way down into his shoes.” We figure witnessing potty training is useful in the long run, and her interpretation of events is hilarious.
We bought our house about 7 years ago, before we got married and had kids. It was juuuuuust out of our price range and a big leap, but we love where we live and have done a lot to the house since we bought it. My husband, Jay, was a comedian in his 20s and was “back” in undergrad after a 10-year hiatus at the same school (Clemson University) where I was doing grad school for counseling. We met through a coworker of mine at the time, and have been laughing together ever since.
We live in Greenville, South Carolina, right near our little downtown. Greenville makes lists of “best of” each year — best restaurants, place to live for xx group of humans, the works. Lots of businesses are setting up shop here, but a decent tourism economy makes it a great place to work and play.
We bought the house for $150k for about 1400 square feet and have since expanded the house to almost 2000 square feet. We didn’t add a ton of space square-footage-wise, but we added a mud room, half bath, laundry room, office, and tons of outdoor entertaining space. When we added on to the house we had to be careful with what we spent our budget on, and worked really hard to add things that would be valuable to us and potential future buyers without taking up a ton of money or space. It was HARD, and I think we did the best we could with what we had at the time.
We slid into our neighborhood, a historic transitional neighborhood, right as house prices were skyrocketing — if we had bought a year or so later I don’t know if we could have afforded it. Since we moved in, almost all of the houses on our street have been flipped or renovated, and we have several families on our street who have young children and are similar to us in age. We adore our street and neighborhood; it’s diverse, has a long Greenville history, and is the total opposite of cookie-cutter suburbia, something I frankly can’t stand. Our neighbor two houses up is also an MD and having a doctor on the street with little kids is something that honestly should be advertised — she accepts pictures of random rashes regularly, and we adore having her close.
Even before we were in the “little kid years” of marriage and parenting, one of our favorite things about our location was its walkability. We are close enough to downtown to walk to the farmer’s market, tons of restaurants, and outdoor music, but far enough that we aren’t bogged down with traffic or crazy high real estate prices. Our house is still on the small size for our family and the fact that we both work half from home, but we haven’t yet come up with a neighborhood that would give us anywhere close to what we have where we currently live.
This was actually the third house we made an offer on when we were in the process of buying! It was our first home purchase and very stressful. At the time Jay had just finished undergrad and I was working full time while in grad school at night. We lived in a one bedroom apartment with two apartments worth of stuff and two large dogs, and we knew we had to make a change. It was a good time to buy so we went that route instead of renting something larger.
It was a leap — Jay was really unsure about buying and we weren’t married yet, but I for whatever reason plowed ahead confidently with about 70% of the confidence that I actually displayed. This house was WAY better than the other houses we tried to buy, but it was, at the time, out of our price range. I noticed that it had been on the market for some time, though, and figured it couldn’t hurt to make a low-ball offer.
There wasn’t anyone living in it and it had been flipped by some dudes who, we didn’t know at the time, half-assed a good portion of the work and were trying to vastly overcharge for the house. BUT, they wanted out and didn’t want the house to sit empty, so we made an offer almost $30k lower than the listing price. They went for it, and closing/actually purchasing the thing was a comedy of errors. The flippers hadn’t disclosed some things so we ended up not qualifying for the loan we wanted, the house was in a flood plain so we had to take extra steps to be sure the thing wouldn’t flood, and on the closing date, as we were packing up our tiny apartment, we got a call that they had messed up the paperwork and we couldn’t close due a clerical error.
We eventually did, a week later, but it was quite a process! I think there was a little bit of universe intervention with the first two houses — we weren’t meant to live in them but we couldn’t afford this house, but somehow it all worked out.
Most days I honestly feel like I have zero style. If someone asks what my design inspiration is, I’m all “keeping the dog hair to a minimum while not letting the vacuum suck up too many pacis and swaddles.” It’s very glamorous, and my method involves Keeping Plastic At A Minimum.
I don’t love a ton of clutter BUT kid stuff is, by definition, cluttery, loud, and ugly (holy bright plastic toys, Batman). So, we keep the adult stuff to a minimum. Bare walls, light colors, white/wood, and hardly any knick-knacks, which I feel serve zero purpose on this earth. That way the kid stuff doesn’t feel like it’s competing with regular decor, at least in my mind.
I mix things up with patterns on things that can change easily like pillows or throws, and my big stuff is all neutral colors and patterns. I also find that helps non-matching things go together — our main kitchen items are white and gray, but nothing strictly matches. It feels like it goes together somehow, and I like the method of having a few colors without being married to patterns or anything that feels overly matchy-matchy, in the kitchen or elsewhere.
I work as a perinatal therapist. Perinatal therapy encompasses almost every aspect of family-building. I mostly work with families preparing to have children, pregnant women, and postpartum women and their families. That can include families adopting, birth trauma, infant loss, same-sex couples, and partner/couples therapy before and after children.
A lot of people who I see professionally end up being my age and in similar life situation — late 20s/30s (I’m 32), with young children, juggling marriage and work and parenting. There are pros and cons to working with your own demographic. On the one hand, I am wildly empathetic to this type of client because I’m living some of these things alongside them. On the other hand, it can be hard to avoid comparison — me to them, and them to me, no matter how much I try to avoid it or point out over and over again that we have different situations.
I overall adore what I do and envision myself working with this population long after I’m done having children. I work a lot with people on the idea that increasing simple mechanisms such as exercise, diet, sleep, and social support can make hard things like depression, anxiety, and overcoming trauma easier. I also am very transparent with what I’m doing — there’s no secret to therapy and I want my clients to be very involved in the process. I’m not nodding silently and tricking people into change, and while I very much wish I could read minds, I can’t.
I tell people why I make certain suggestions, and I encourage them to try things and then let them go if they don’t work — just because I think something might be helpful doesn’t mean it will be! I’ve also learned that people fare so much better in the world when they know risks to themselves. For example, there are some pretty basic risk factors to having postpartum depression: former loss or traumatic birth, history of anxiety and depression, lack of social support. If people know in advance that they are at risk for certain things, they can work to avoid them and work against those risk factors, rather than being blindsided when a mental illness pops up seemingly out of nowhere.
I can’t count the number of times new moms have said to me “I had no idea this would feel like x/y/z, I wish I had known so I could have been prepared.” I’m on a mission to educate the masses about parenting and motherhood so we can better care for ourselves and each other.
One bit of advice that I share all the time is: Lower your standards! Seriously. Pinterest and Instagram are obviously huge issues with this idea of doing it all, having it all, maintaining it all. Of course, behind those shiny filtered images is maybe someone who feels just as crazy as you and I do, but it’s so hard to remember that in the moment, isn’t it?
I have a few methods that I use for myself and clients to help with perspective. First, it’s the deathbed speech: when I’m dying, will this matter? Will I wish I had worked harder, had more money, had cleaner floors, or had better-dressed kids? Usually, honestly, no.
I also encourage people to think about WHY these things are so important to us. Do I need more money to pay for food or healthcare or the mortgage, or do I need to re-assess how much money I need and where it’s going? Do I actually gain happiness from certain new or expensive things, or is that happiness somewhat short-lived?
Spending time asking questions about why we think the way we think can really uncover some important and maybe uncomfortable truths about ourselves.
When it comes to the little kid days and years, I really hammer hard the idea of a reverse list. At the end of each day, we have a tendency to think back on what we didn’t do. I started laundry but didn’t finish it (true story, I am so good at doing laundry all in one day, but I literally started a load of laundry three days ago, started folding it, forgot about it, the dog ATE HALF OF IT and gnawed on the rest, and now I have to re-wash the half load that is still, you know, intact), I didn’t finish a work assignment, I didn’t meal prep, I forgot to get the mail.
Instead, what did you do? I got dressed (maybe, maybe not, who cares), I brushed my teeth, my children were fed and safe and happy all day, I texted my mom. Whatever it is, at the end of terrible-seeming days I guarantee that you did more important things than you think you did.
Embracing that is wildly important. It doesn’t mean you’ll never do laundry again or you’re giving up, it instead means that you’re making an active choice to focus on what you DID do rather than what you didn’t, and that can feel very liberating. You will literally never have a day where you get “it” all done, no matter what phase of life you’re in, so you may as well try your best and let the rest go.
I like to think that I’m good at talking to children (and humans, I guess) in a way that they can understand. I find that people often either dumb down things for kids or talk so far above their heads that they tune out, and I try really hard to meet kids where they are so that we can communicate as well as possible. I read a ton about this and of course have a little bit of an upper hand due to my job. My kids will likely loathe having a mom who talks about feelings for a living and I’m completely fine with that. I’m also a very good hair braider.
Let’s do the forgetting first — that’s the most uncomfortable part, facing things you know aren’t great about your parenting style, right? I hope my kids don’t have a ton of memories of me losing my cool. I don’t often, but when I do it’s usually because I’ve been holding in a LOT for a LONG time, and it’s not pretty. I’m normal, it happens, I obviously don’t hit them or yell for entire days or tell them I wish they didn’t exist, but I HATE screaming at my child (the baby is literally a week old so he hasn’t dealt with that yet). I always make sure to apologize because I think it’s so important for children to see their parents react to failure in adult ways: apologize, try harder next time, move on.
I hope they remember being happy at home. I hope we are allowing for enough silly time that they remember that. I really hope they remember feeling safe and secure and loved so much even when we are enforcing rules or boundaries.
I hope they remember the back of the house, too. This sounds weird, stay with me. We spent a ridiculous amount (why is it so expensive to move dirt that you already own?) to clear out and flatten land behind our house when we renovated this year, and paved a big extension to the driveway behind the house. It’s for water tables, running, sidewalk chalk, all kid stuff. We got lots of use out of it this summer and I hope that will continue for years to come. We did it specifically for children, to have a safe spot to run not in front of the house on the main street.
My husband says that his favorite thing about living with kids this age is “waking up to them still breathing every day,” which is funny and morbid and I agree. I love seeing Beck experience new things, try on new words (she has recently been referring to us as Sweetie and Honey and reminding us to be “so very careful so you don’t fall” when we are on ladders and things. I can’t get enough.), and figure out how to exist in a household with us, as a participant instead of someone we dictate everything to. We do almost everything together, and it’s just the most fun to watch her figure it out and learn to do things on her own.
I’m not sure I miss anything just yet because I have two kids in diapers and am just restarting with a newborn, but honestly I miss the bonding that came with my first child — having no toddler running around made that a very different experience, and I’m still working on bonding with this baby while not neglecting my big baby. I don’t feel bad saying it, either, that some days I wish I could send Beck to Happy Toddler Camp for three months to get some sleep with this new little person and allow her to be in a place where she isn’t constantly being shushed — she hates it, and having a newborn and a toddler is tough.
I love living with children because their innocence is just so freeing sometimes. Children live in the present and gravitate toward joy because they don’t know any better, and how lucky they are! I’m more than happy to carry the burden of financial worries and family stress and the fact that OH SURPRISE people die, as long as possible so that my kids can be free and childlike for as long as I can manage.
I wish someone had told me that feeling things very deeply is a gift, not a weakness. My parents are incredible, but they were raised by parents that weren’t particularly emotional, and that was passed on to us. We weren’t shamed out of being sensitive or anything like that, but I’ve felt my entire life like I’m too sensitive, too weak, too tearful.
Of course, flash forward to me making a career out of emotions, but I wish that I hadn’t spent so many years feeling bad about myself for taking breakups and letdowns hard, that sort of thing. Glennon Doyle recently said, “right, it’s because I’m paying attention,” and, oh how I wish I’d thought of that first, because it’s so true. People feel things and emote differently, but it’s taken me 32 years to feel confident in the way that I feel and the fact that I can be useful to others in that way.
Even now, if I get a negative comment on my blog or social media I will spend HOURS hemming and hawing, crafting mean or sad or snarky or emotional responses in my head, and reminding myself that feeling doesn’t always require a response — maybe go to bed, meanness doesn’t have to wash over you like oil you can’t get off.
A pastor at a church I used to go to said all the time that the greater the capacity for love, the greater the capacity for hurt. I think it’s a good thing to have a great capacity for feelings of all kinds, I just wish the rest of the world did too.
Thank you, Lindsay! So many great pieces of advice in there. I have long been a fan of the “lower your standards” model of parenting. Do the things that are really, truly, important to you and let the rest go. If having a clean home makes you happier, then have a clean home. But if you can live with a little clutter and that gives you more time to spend on homework or meals or whatever, then do it. I also love (and need to listen to) the advice about simple mechanical things being big mood boosters. When times get crazy it feels like it is often sleep, eating right, getting outside, etc., that get left by the wayside. But those things can be such influences on our moods.
I think the thing I am really going to take home from this interview is the idea of a reverse list. It’s so simple and brilliant, as the best ideas often are. Really spending time recognizing what you did do that day instead of what you didn’t. I am sure it applies to gratitude too — thinking first of what you have instead of what you lack.
Are you good at focusing on hits instead of misses? Have you thought in terms of a reverse list before? What are the small victories you have and do celebrate on a daily basis?
Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org