Healing Our Perfectionism (with Emma Nadler)

Emma Nadler is a psychotherapist, author, and parent whose life was changed forever when doctors informed her that her second child, Eden, had a rare genetic condition. As she became familiar with the complexities of her daughter’s diagnosis, Emma had to confront her preconceptions of motherhood, self-judgment, and especially her tendency toward perfectionism. In her conversation with Janet, she describes her complex journey through grief, joy, and loneliness as she navigates her unexpected life. Throughout, she shares a powerful message of acceptance when life doesn’t go as planned.

Transcript of “Healing Our Perfectionism (with Emma Nadler)”

Hi, this is Janet Lansbury. Welcome to Unruffled.

Today I have a very special guest: psychotherapist and author Emma Nadler. Emma, like so many of us, has struggled with perfectionism as a parent and a person. And this became intensely challenging for her when her life took an unexpected turn. She and her husband noticed something was a little off with her delightful second baby, Eden. And then at seven months, it was discovered that she had an extremely rare genetic deletion, which would have a major impact on her health and her development. Emma’s recently published memoir, The Unlikely Village of Eden, details her journey with insight, wit, candor. And I believe it will inspire every parent who struggles with perfectionism and self-acceptance. Emma’s story is an empowering example of how, as parents, especially mothers, we can and must retain our sense of self and hope in the midst of parenting challenges.

Hi, Emma. Welcome to Unruffled.

Emma Nadler: Hi, Janet. I’m so glad to be here with you right now.

Janet Lansbury: Me too. I’m really enjoying your book. I’m almost finished with it, I’m about two-thirds through. And I thought actually that was a good thing because you can help share how you’ve come to the acceptance of yourself and your situation and dealing with this perfectionism, which I think so many of us have. How you are moving through that, what’s helping you, what isn’t helping you. I think there’s something there for every parent, even though you’re in an extraordinary situation. So I would love to talk about that.

And I thought we would start with where you say, early on in the book, “For me, the type of parenting perfectionism that set in—even before Avi was in the world—wasn’t easily discernible.” Can you talk about this?

Emma Nadler: What I think I was trying to say there is that the kind of perfectionism that I grapple with —and I’m not putting it in the past because I don’t believe that I’ve just arrived at some beautiful pinnacle of healing from this or working with this, but that this is all sort of in progress— but that it was not your classic perfectionism, not necessarily what you might look at and think, Wow, that person is really perfectionistic. But it had to do more with my own internal experience of high expectations for myself, that ultimately was unsustainable for me.

Janet Lansbury: So you’re saying it wasn’t necessarily societal expectations, but what you valued, what you thought was important, what you thought you needed to be?

Emma Nadler: Yeah, and I think it is always mixed with some societal expectations and cultural norms because we’re never outside of culture. I’m still a part of that, so I think it is informed. And I think all mothers are really affected by the enormous standards of pressure on us to be everything to everyone, to hold so many roles at one time, to make it all seem effortless. Which I think might be a Taylor Swift quote. But there’s so many pressures that I think, yes, I absorbed about that mothering standard, but I don’t know if looking in, if people would’ve identified me as a perfectionist because of the way that I kind of had more of this working-mom-creative thing going on that isn’t maybe necessarily your cookie-cutter perfectionist model.

Janet Lansbury: Well, but I think that is a modern perfectionist model. That we’re supposed to not just be the perfect parent that makes it all look easy, but we’re supposed to also have a career and be creative.

Emma Nadler: Yeah, I really hear you in that. How many roles we are supposed to have. And yeah, there can be so many nuances to it.

Janet Lansbury: And in a way I think that’s even harder to achieve than where one partner went off to work and mom just stayed home and that was the only responsibility. And they weren’t supposed to self-actualize anymore, they were supposed to stop and now it all becomes around the children. And in a way that’s simpler than what people are taking on these days.

Emma Nadler: Yeah, it’s clearer, right? And now there’s so much to negotiate and there’s so many standards and just sort of endless expectations culturally for mothers and what we can and should do and how easy we should make it all look. And yeah, I mean, we could talk about this the rest of our lives, what the expectations are culturally for mothers right now. And I’m so interested in challenging those. And in my memoir, I talk about a goal that my friend actually shared with me that resonated so much. She was like, “I want to be World’s Best Dad. That’s my standard.” And in a way, I found that liberating because if we think about the standards for dads in parenting, to me that seems achievable. I feel like I could be a great dad and sometimes it’s really hard to measure up as a mother.

Janet Lansbury: I wonder how we can change this. You talk a lot in your book, your whole book is around this village that you created to get the support that you need —or you sort of found yourself in, you didn’t necessarily intentionally create it— and how necessary that was and how life-giving that was for you. One of the books I’ve been reading has this quote from Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern. She’s a developmental pediatrician and child psychologist and the founder of the Brazelton Centre in Switzerland. And this nailed something that I had not even thought of when I became a mom, I didn’t even consider this. She says:

Bringing a baby into the world is, for the mother, a profound upheaval. For the rest of her life, she will be responsible for him. This is a normal maturational life crisis that is extremely demanding. Her concern for her baby is due to a high level of maternal vigilance, which is probably biologically programmed to protect the infant and ensure his survival. The stress of their personal transformation mobilizes a lot of energy from the parents. They need consideration and strong support. However, the time surrounding birth is commonly considered as one of the happiest times in life. Given the fact that, as time passes, memories of difficulties are often erased, the family and social environment doesn’t appreciate the frailty of the new parents and their necessary adjustment process. The environment often underestimates this very real difficulty and doesn’t offer the needed support. All the ancient rituals around birth and welcoming of the baby have almost disappeared. They served as acts of acknowledgement and support for the new parents.

And anyway, it goes on. But as a new parent, I thought that this is supposed to be a gift, right? I never considered that my insecurities or my difficulties and all the stress and everything was par for the course. And I was in a crisis, for gosh sakes. You know, I never thought of it that way. I thought, Well, wait, this is supposed to be a good thing. So I think it even starts there.

Well, actually, as you say in your book, and so many women feel this, it started with your deliveries of your babies.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. And I think you raised such an interesting question about, how do we change this? We know the standards are too much, too high for mothers, and I would say parents. One of the things that I really think about is, how do we be less alone in this? And how can we reach out and support each other? Like you were just saying from this quote, which I think there’s so much there we could talk about, but the piece about how it used to be, in terms of more of that communal sense. And I think now so many of us felt what I felt when I became a mother, which is just a lot of isolation. This was even before the pandemic. And now even more so, I think people feel often lonely and they’re doing their parenting alone. And so I do think in order to reduce loneliness, we really have to be very conscientious and thoughtful about how we reach out and build things together.

One of the things that I did, when I realized with the birth of my first child that I felt more alone than I imagined, is I did invite a bunch of moms to come over and sit in my yard. And we formed this group called Mamas Group. And we met yesterday. We’ve been meeting for over 10 years. And it’s not the same people that started, it’s ebbed and flowed, we’ve had times where we did not meet as often. It is imperfect, but it is a group of people and group of mothers that came together. And we said, We’re going to do this. We’re going to meet once a month, we’re going to have these conversations, we’re going to try to support each other. And so that’s one example among, we could think of millions of ideas, probably, about ways that people can be creative in relationships to not be alone in it.

Janet Lansbury: Yeah, I read that in your book and I thought that was great. Just these reminders, this education about what a life crisis it is to become a parent. Just acknowledgement of that I think would help. If we all went into this knowing that, we might be able to prepare ourselves even ahead of time.

Emma Nadler: Right. I love that idea, because I agree with you that in those early months, and even years, of parenting, it is hard to say, Okay, I’m struggling now. I’m going to reach out to people. I know that that is not easy to do. So yeah, in a way, this idea that before you have children, can you begin to build some of these things, or maybe even in pregnancy, when people know that they’re pregnant, can you start then connecting and building? Because yeah, it isn’t easy to reach out to people and statistically it really increases the chance that we can feel connected and feel better.

So I knew that from my work as a therapist and just because I’m into connecting with people. And of course so much of research is around relationships. So I was motivated by that. So maybe even if it’s not such a big-scale thing as I’m going to start a group, maybe it’s even just texting a friend and getting a regular walking time together or something like that. That might feel more manageable to someone.

Janet Lansbury: Yes, because it’s not just the support, right, of those other people. The parent groups that I’ve done both as a parent and then as a teacher, you just realize the obvious thing: You’re not alone. And other people have issues. Sometimes some of your issues don’t seem as hard in comparison, but there’s this sense of, Oh, I’m not the only one feeling these things. I’m not the only one that’s having a hard time with being a parent. There are other people. And it does create more of that acceptance.

Emma Nadler: Exactly. It’s such a window into normalizing and just being seen and understood and understanding others. But ultimately, yes, it’s the realization that, This is hard, this is a transition. For everyone who goes from not being a parent to becoming a parent, there is a large adjustment there. And that that is part of the process versus maybe even a problem. So yeah, I’m really with you on, there’s so many benefits there.

Janet Lansbury: Let’s hear more about, if you don’t mind sharing, about your transition that you’ve had to make and— well, you haven’t really made a transition. You’re just in a process of growth and acceptance. It started at another level than most of us have to deal with, when you found out that your daughter had this substantial genetic deletion. And where did you go from there?

Emma Nadler: Well, when we found out the news, my daughter Eden was around 10 months old, and I was sitting on a hard plastic chair in a room that smelled like rubbing alcohol. And the doctor said, “Your daughter has a significant genetic deletion. It’s really going to impact her whole life, but we don’t know how.” And so the team of geneticists gave my husband and I this list of possible problems, like possible serious health conditions like degenerative hearing loss resulting in deafness, a major heart condition, developmental delays, severe behavioral challenges. I’m not going to go on, but it was on and on. It was so many things. They said, “But we don’t know because this is so rare.” And it was a really grim day. I wish we could do a diagnosis like that differently. I wish they could have shared more about the possibilities, about supports, about a lot of other things besides this really negative, grim way that it was communicated.

So after that, I was gutted. We were devastated. So what I did was I cried all over Hennepin County, which is where I lived. I was just grieving, I was grieving for what I thought I would have with my daughter. I thought she would be healthy. I had these expectations I didn’t even know I had. And a lot of that is subconscious, our expectations, until we find out that they’re not going to be the way we thought that they would. So I was really grappling with that. And then I did some therapy— which, I think every good therapist should have a good therapist. I reached out to friends. I started to ask for help. It changed me in so many ways because there was kind of this before Eden, my life before Eden, and then it was my life after Eden.

And she ended up having more than a year in and out of the hospital, she’s on a feeding tube, she has severe autism. So some of these things really did come to fruition, some of the challenges that she’s faced and still faces. So there was grief and there still is grief. And I always like to be open about that.

And then I got to a point where I thought, I’m going to need to find a way to make a good life anyway. And that came through a conversation with my therapist where he said, “I think you could still have a good life and I think your daughter could too.” And no one had ever said that to me up until that point. There was a lot of, you know, “I don’t know how you’re doing this” and well-meaning stuff, but no one had said to me, “I think you can still have a good life.”

Janet Lansbury: And how old was she then?

Emma Nadler: She was a few years old at that point. Maybe around three, four.

Janet Lansbury: Ah, you had to wait all that time to get that.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. People just, they talk about grief, but grief doesn’t encompass a whole life. She’s still a person. She belongs with us. She has so many strengths. She’s got the best knowledge of pop music of anyone I know. She’s a great dancer. And she brings people together. So my daughter is not one thing. She’s had to suffer. I mean, really, she’s had to suffer with a lot of medical challenges, she’s actually in the hospital right now.

Janet Lansbury: Oh no.

Emma Nadler: She’s in the hospital. And this is something that— because when you write a memoir, it’s like, Well, we’re still living this, we’re still doing this. And I’m still trying to figure out all of it. But it just took me off the map of perfectionism in a way because I’m so far away from perfect. But I think we could all take ourselves off the map.

Janet Lansbury: But even just then you said, “I’m so far from perfect.”

Emma Nadler: Mm-hmm.

Janet Lansbury: And it’s your situation, this unexpected life event and events, that are not perfect.

Emma Nadler: Yes.

Janet Lansbury: It’s not you.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. And I think perfectionism is such a complex concept. I just recently read Katherine Morgan Schafler’s book The Perfectionist’s Guide to Losing Control. Are you familiar with that?

Janet Lansbury: No. But I definitely have these tendencies, that’s why I’m relating, that’s why I related to your book so much.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. And I think so many people do. So one of Schafler’s assertions in this book is that perhaps labeling women, especially, who are ambitious as perfectionistic, is a way to control the ambition of women. It’s almost like another way to say, You’re not enough. You shouldn’t be a perfectionist.

Janet Lansbury: Or like, You’re too much.

Emma Nadler: Yes. You’re too much. Exactly— you’re too much. So she labels perfectionism into two categories and then has subcategories, but the categories are adaptive and maladaptive perfectionism. And her argument is that there is adaptive perfectionism. There is a way to live self-compassionately and to work with these impulses in a way that could still be healthy. I just think it’s all really complex to think about these concepts. Because in a way, we are perfect. We are perfect, just because we’re alive.

I’m Jewish. So we have a saying that’s b’tzelem Elohim, which is “made in the image of the divine.” Which, regardless of your spiritual orientation, I think that people can get what that means. It’s like, we all have a piece of the divine within us. That makes us perfect, even with all of our imperfections. Right? So there’s a lot of ways to look at this.

Janet Lansbury: It is true, though, perfectionism, it’s not black or white. I’m just very aware of things I could do better, and maybe some of them I couldn’t. But it’s an awareness of where we can grow, too.

Emma Nadler: Exactly. I wonder, would you be doing what you’re doing if you didn’t have that tendency? That is part of your drive, that’s part of your life force. And you’ve helped so many people. When I told my Mamas Group I was going to be on this podcast, everyone’s like, “Woo! Janet Lansbury, she’s helped me so much.” My dear friend told me how much you had impacted her life. And you have an impulse to go for it, right? And that’s not bad. And so I think it’s even more nuanced, these concepts, than we give it credit for. And I do think part of that is patriarchy.

Janet Lansbury: Yeah, that makes sense.

Well, thank you for saying that. I also feel, because I get feedback from things that I share, I’ll get a comment or somebody will say, “You’re expecting perfection,” or “You’re making me feel like I have to be perfect or a perfectionist.” I’m seen as part of the problem. Actually, all I’m trying to do is help. And if something doesn’t help, if it’s this unattainable thing that you can’t do, then don’t do it. But, yeah, it’s hard for me to say that, I guess. Especially when there’s situations with children that have developmental delays or disabilities or whatever. Sometimes what I teach is taken as, It’s got to work this exact way with every child, instead of that this is a flavor, it’s a way of seeing your child. It’s a way of seeing the abilities in your child, appreciating them as they are, and seeing the person in them.

Which, throughout your book, you see this in Eden. It’s so beautiful the way that you describe it, too. You share each other’s souls. And that seems like part of what has kept you going: even with all the difficulties and all the stuff that you went through, you still connected with her. You saw the person there, and you saw, in a sense, the brave person there that didn’t have these expectations of life that a lot of us have. Because children don’t. When they’re born, they accept, right? They’re in total acceptance of what life is for them. So they can model that to us beautifully if we allow them to. We’re the ones that teach them that it’s supposed to be this way, you know, everything’s about achievement and winning. And we almost can’t help but do that. But that’s not how they come into the world.

Emma Nadler: Right. And I think something that I really admire about my daughter is she’s not interested in being good. And I really struggle with that, and I think that’s such a social norm. And she’s free from that, she’s just in the moment. She doesn’t have that binary type of thinking. I never wanted to raise a pushover and Eden, there’s no problem there. Eden is a fiercely independent person. And there’s a lot to be said for that.

Janet Lansbury: What do you mean, she doesn’t care about being good? Good in what way? Like, good behavior? Good at something?

Emma Nadler: Behavior, being seen as “good” in terms of maybe compliance. I think maybe a better way to say it would be “pleasing.” Pleasing others. She’s not really hooked into pleasing. And I think pleasing is on a spectrum, and I think we all need some amount of pleasing to get along in the world, right? I mean, overdoing it on pleasing can be maladaptive for sure, but also some pleasing is healthy because it helps us stay in relationships with others and care what they want. But she’s low-pleasing and I think in a way that’s very liberating.

Janet Lansbury: She’s, I’m enough. She thinks she’s enough. And that’s the way you’ve raised her as well. So you’ve played a big part in that. But it is this bravery that I see in the babies I work with and toddlers, and just that they don’t expect life to be easy. They don’t expect to be smooth. They don’t have any of those expectations.

Emma Nadler: It’s almost like radical acceptance. Because I think that is an antidote to the high expectations or to having a vision of how things should be, is that radical acceptance, which is something that has been really helpful to me. And babies and toddlers, they’re just, they’re in it.

Janet Lansbury: Yeah. And it’s part of being in the moment. And that’s what we miss when we get too hooked into our perfectionist tendencies. That just takes us out of the moment all the time because we’re always seeing what it could be, what should be. I used to think of it as a judge inside my head, I still kind of do. But the great thing about aging, by the way, is that you naturally move into more acceptance, even if you’re not trying to. So that’s one of the few positives.

Emma Nadler: That’s very cool.

Janet Lansbury: Because I don’t feel that judge so much, but ah, it used to be relentless in my head.

Emma Nadler: What do you think, beyond aging, what do you think has helped you with that?

Janet Lansbury: Finding where I fit. Finding what I uniquely can do and my place in the world, I guess. And also the connections with my children, for sure, that I’ve nurtured. And we still have them, and they’re all adults and we still all love to get together. And it’s everything that I wanted it to be, in that sense. It hasn’t been perfect all the way through, for sure. I’ve made lots of mistakes, things didn’t always turn out the way that I wanted or the way that I’d planned. But it was even better sometimes, you know? Some things they did, choices they made, were way better than, or more interesting than, what I would’ve chosen for them. It’s been just an amazing journey all along.

I want to hear what helped you, because this was another part of your book I wanted to bring up: “Suddenly, somewhere deep inside me, I felt a door to acceptance creaking open.” You say that at the end of this passage where you’re thinking about needing a village and that you were not supposed to do this alone and we shouldn’t be expected to. And then you came to that. And since I didn’t get to read all of the book yet —I’m going to— I didn’t really hear exactly what that led to, that door.

Emma Nadler: The door of acceptance creeping open?

Janet Lansbury: Yes.

Emma Nadler: Well, related to what you were just saying, I think part of the door to acceptance is that we make mistakes. To me, the concept that we can make a lot of mistakes and then make repairs is really liberating. Connected to the concept of making mistakes is a story that happened a few years ago. My son did make a mistake and we processed it, we dealt with it. And when he went to bed, I put a sticky note by his bedside that said, “It’s okay to make mistakes.” And then our dog ate part of the sticky note.

And we always laugh so hard about that repair. And now I don’t even really remember, I remember a little bit of the actual challenging moment, but really it was about the dog ate the post-it note. And it’s even okay for our dog, Benny, to make mistakes. Right? It’s okay. We’re going to get through it, we’re going to figure it out, we’re going to talk through it. We’re going to be in this together.

Janet Lansbury: Yes. That’s great. That permission. I was thinking in your book, as I was reading parts where you were ruminating about what you maybe should have done— and that’s probably something that commonly happens when you are grieving a situation. I mean, any situation, but especially your baby, who we feel so responsible for, right? That their whole world is our responsibility, even though they’re citizens of the world and we can’t control most of it, right?

But it reminded me of what I learned from Magda Gerber. And this is another reason that I’ve been able to let go of some of the perfectionism. This idea that all these dark feelings that we have have to be there for us to feel the joy and the light feelings. And ideally they’ll all be acceptable to us and therefore our children’s will be hopefully acceptable to us. And sometimes we learn it through our children first. But embracing how miserable you were and how difficult it was and how you didn’t want this to be your life, and allowing that to be acceptable. And it sounds like you did that. Yes, you feel this, and you don’t have to feel like you shouldn’t feel whatever you’re feeling. It’s all valid, it’s all perfectly valid. And to be able to say, I don’t want to be here. I don’t want this to be my life right now, or, you know, ever. At this moment, this is how I’m feeling. To make peace with that is key for acceptance, I feel like.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. And I think acceptance is something that we have to return to again and again. I don’t feel like I’ve gotten to a pinnacle of acceptance and now I’m just a hundred percent accepting my situation. And I think that’s just human: that we accept something and then when it’s really difficult, it’s hard to accept. We want to fight against reality. Or we don’t want to, but we do, because it would be relieving if it was easier. And so we have to continually walk through that door. So when the door of acceptance was creaking open, I have to continually walk through that door. Even yesterday, you know, I said my daughter’s in the hospital. She’s really struggling. And so I have to keep working with acceptance. And I think a lot of people are in those situations where something is really heavy or hard or maybe it’s just being alive. But whatever it is, there’s a lot to continually accept and to seek some surrender instead of fighting against reality.

And acceptance can also be connected with action, right? It doesn’t mean we’re only just passively experiencing life. But what it means is we’re doing what we can and then we do rest. Right? And then we accept what we cannot change. I don’t really have a problem with the action part of things, that’s not generally my issue. But the acceptance is an action too, that is an active process of continually returning again. And I think that can be soothing and helpful, just to remember that. That it’s not like other people have just arrived at acceptance and why haven’t you? You know, for any listener here. But it’s more like, when something’s really heavy or difficult sometimes you have to keep returning there and keep working with it.

Janet Lansbury: Yes. But being able to accept that we don’t accept something.

Emma Nadler: Yes. Yes.

Janet Lansbury: I mean, maybe that’s a little too convoluted, but that’s what I was thinking of. I wanted you to accept that you couldn’t accept this.

Emma Nadler: Right. That sometimes we’re not in a place of acceptance.

Janet Lansbury: That it’s okay to feel that way, give yourself permission. Children show me this all the time, and I’m seeing it in myself as well, that that is the way through to feeling better. To let it be okay that we feel jealous or envious or angry or frustrated and all these things that we’re not supposed to feel, because we’re mature adults and they’ve got it so much worse and my poor baby, how can I feel these things? Like, poor her. But that’s what we’ve got to do to be able to find peace in ourselves.

Emma Nadler: I like that. And I’m really aligned with you on that. That anything includes such a range of emotions and when we don’t fight against that, then they can just be those emotions that we feel, it’s not the judgment of the emotion that we also have to tackle.

Janet Lansbury: Yeah. I mean, I felt like that through your book you gave a very clear sense of the rollercoaster of it, just all the feelings. And the part where you shared about talking with your husband, that he was inspired to write music lately around your situation and that you were inspired to write. And how you had all this time before you had children when you could have done all these things, and you didn’t do it then, and why not? And your husband said that Eden has this magic.

The closest that I can relate to this myself is when people I know have gotten very ill, or my mother and her last couple weeks of life, my purpose felt clear. I knew exactly where I was supposed to be. And I had the same sense when I was visiting my friend who got cancer. She ended up surviving, but she didn’t think she would. We were making a video for her to share with her children. And there was a magic in feeling like this is beyond regular life and this is where I’m supposed to be right now, exactly where I’m supposed to be. And it sort of opened something up, more than narrows your vision. It’s hard to explain, but I felt that when I was reading. How you were inspired to create, because you were so focused in on your love/hate of this role that you had. And when you’re trying to help somebody survive, these other silly things that we all worry about just kind of fall away and there’s a freedom in that, is what I’m trying to say.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. And I think it really brought into focus my own mortality. And I’m still there. I’m still living in this finitude of life, that nothing is guaranteed. Here we are and what do I want to do now? How do we want to live this day? So I feel like it’s because, in part, that I’ve been close to some near-death with my daughter and such difficulties and grief, but also so many joyful, healing pieces and amazing people we’ve gotten to meet through just chance, who’ve helped us along the way. I’m just really aware of those elements, which is very generative for creativity, I think.

Janet Lansbury: Yes. Because it’s also making you feel, Well, this is my life. We all have this for a temporary amount of time, and why am I here? What do I want to give? What purpose do I have besides nurturing these children and being in a relationship with a partner? What am I here for? I better do it. I better work on it.

Emma Nadler: Right. And the most desperate times that I’ve had, you know, laying on the floor with my daughter trying to help her in the nights with her feeding tube and this and that, in those moments, I just would think, I’ve got to make this worth it somehow. I want to use this for something. I don’t want this just to end with us and me feeling this way. I hope that I can use the pain that I’ve experienced here and what she’s had to go through to be connected to others and to be contributing to a web of connection. I hope this doesn’t just leave us isolated. To me, that’s not a good life. And I wanted to connect with others. Because there’s so many people who are caregivers or parents who feel alone, we feel unseen. But we’re not alone. We’re not alone. And so I’m just so interested in using these experiences that I’ve had to boost connection in my own life, but then just with others, whoever I get to meet along the way.

Janet Lansbury: Well that’s exactly what you’ve done with your book. I feel very grateful that you’re here. And I’m thinking now just constantly about Eden, and I’m sorry that we’re doing this when she’s in the hospital. I’m thinking of her and thinking of you and hoping that everything was okay.

Emma Nadler: Thank you. And I could have canceled or rescheduled —and there’s many things I did this week— but I really wanted to be here because I’m doing a marathon as a caregiver with Eden. We’re in this long term. And I started this journey and I was kind of a martyr, like, Well, I’ll give up anything, I’ll always be right there for you. And I realized— I mean, right after we end this conversation, I’m going straight to the hospital and I’ll be there with her, but I want to be able to keep living and keep having experiences. And I think that’s important to protect against despair and to protect against burnout.

Janet Lansbury: So important.

Emma Nadler: Yeah. Maybe that seems kind of weird or whatever to still do a conversation, but I’m like, you know what, it’s never going to be an ideal time. There are a lot of things that go on with my life with Eden that I could cancel, like, every day. There’s just a lot of stuff that comes up. And so I want to keep going when I can and it brings me a lot of joy and I’m so glad we got to do this. It’s just not going to be perfect, shall we say.

Janet Lansbury: You gave that message also in your book so many times so beautifully, about how those reviving experiences that you had, just getting away and doing things. That was another part that I felt very viscerally as a parent, how important that is, that oxygen mask, whatever we want to call it. You’ve got to keep doing that because she needs you to, both your children need you to.

Emma Nadler: Right? Some people might call it self-care, or we might call it having a life outside of your children. Whatever that looks like, right? Having a self, having interests, having passions, cultivating those. I don’t want to be dependent on either of my children for my happiness, for my well-being. I don’t want them ever to feel the burden of that, that I sacrifice too much and then now they feel somehow responsible for me. And I think it would be easy in this world to give up so much. Again, coming back to those standards for mothering. And I really started more in that place of giving up too much and then recalibrating from there.

Janet Lansbury: Yeah. Well, I’m so glad that you have and glad that you shared it all for everyone to gain so much from your messages and your beautiful writing. It’s a very fun read, very candid and deeply thought-provoking. Thank you again, Emma, for all that you’re doing, and thanks for talking with us today. And sending big hugs to you and your son and Eden and I’ll be thinking of you.

Emma Nadler: Thank you so much, Janet. Really, this is so, so great to be here. I just really appreciate what you’re doing and I hope our paths cross again.

Janet Lansbury: Me too.

Emma’s memoir The Unlikely Village of Eden is available wherever books are sold, including Amazon.

Also, please checkout some of my other podcasts at janetlansbury.com. website. They’re all indexed by subject and category so you should be able to find whatever topic you’re interested in. And I have books on audio at Audible.com, No Bad Kids, Toddler Discipline Without Shame and Elevating Child Care, A Guide To Respectful Parenting. You can also get them in paperback at Amazon and an ebook at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Apple.com. 

Thanks so much for listening. We can do this.

Please note: Listening to this episode in no way creates a client/therapist relationship with Emma Nadler. This is educational in nature. No legal, counseling, or other professional services are being rendered and nothing is intended to provide such services or advice of any kind. If you are having a mental health emergency, please contact 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. You can also text or call 988 for the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline (in the United States).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

More From Janet

Books & Recommendations