how i get it done

Even the Parenting Whisperer Has Help

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Melanie Dunea

Since launching a direct-to-follower counseling practice in early 2020, Dr. Becky Kennedy — a clinical psychologist living in Manhattan and mother of three — has developed a reputation as the “parenting whisperer” of Instagram. Frazzled moms and dads report finding calm in Kennedy’s polished yet off-the-cuff videos, which typically advise them to regulate their own emotions and understand their own boundaries before attempting to do the same for their kids. Those videos have now spawned a 1.2 million-follower Instagram account, a newsletter, a podcast, workshops, and, on September 13, a book — all under the banner of her new brand, Good Inside. That’s also the name of her membership-based counseling platform, which she wants to help bridge the “massive gap” between the story parents are sold about what it means to raise kids and the reality. So many people “internalize the difference as ‘my fault,’ ‘something’s wrong with me,’ ‘I’m not a good parent,’” she says, “rather than in some ways feeling activated and almost enraged, like, ‘Who gave me this narrative?’” Kennedy spoke with the Cut about how she hopes to change that script, and how she gets it done.

On her morning routine: I am an early riser. I do not set an alarm. I generally wake on my own body clock around 5:30 in the morning. The first thing I do is go press the button on my coffee pot, where I have preset my coffee the night before. After that, I sit down at the table in my living room, in my favorite chair, and open up my computer. I usually go to the Good Inside membership community and check out the conversation there and put in some thoughts. Sometimes I’ll make an early-morning video, even though I’m just there in my pajamas with my hair all over the place. I also do my best writing during that time. My breakfast is 5 percent Fage yogurt with Early Bird granola. Maybe one or two mornings a week, I’ll add in a workout. I love doing Peloton yoga. I just started doing a few Barry’s Bootcamp classes with fellow early-rising friends. And then, seven o’clock approaches and my kids are awake, and if it’s during the school year, we have this very, very busy breakfast routine before they get on a bus.

On child care: We have the most amazing, full-time babysitter, and she’s instrumental to our family’s functioning. I think that’s really important to include. I would love to disabuse anyone of the notion that anyone is some “super parent” who “does it all.” My babysitter sometimes comes in the morning to help with the school routine. If she doesn’t come in the morning, she’s there in the day when I’m working, helping prepare for the kids coming home and helping with bedtime, other pressure points during the day. And my parents live nearby: They are very involved in helping our family run, especially my mom.

On a typical workday: I’m in my office in midtown Manhattan anywhere between 8 and 9 a.m. No two days are the same, but essentially, they consist of running meetings for my company, creating content for all the social platforms we’re on, writing the newsletter, and making a podcast. The content production is what drew me to start the company in the first place. I’m thinking about something, or I see someone’s DM, and I want to create the video. So if it seems like, Wow, Becky looks like she was just in the middle of something and then had to go make a video, that’s actually what happened. If it’s a two-minute video, it probably took me two minutes to make. But that feels like the most fun, easy, natural part of my job. I’ve also learned that one of my strengths is that I can be hyperproductive in a really short amount of time. So if I’m commuting to work and have five minutes on the subway, I’m writing down a thought or responding to someone in the community, or even starting a thought for the newsletter, because something happened that morning in my house and it sparked an idea. If I’m between meetings or waiting for someone on Zoom, I can jump into the community and write back to someone.

On finding inspiration for her videos: I do get a lot of inspiration (that would be the most generous term) from my own children and my own family life. I am a mom of three young kids, and my family life is complicated and messy, like anyone’s is. I always find it interesting when I put up a post and people are like, “Wow, it’s like you had a camera in my home.” People reach out saying, “Hey, I’m really struggling with this,” or “Do you think you could make a post on this?” If someone’s DMing me about it, it means thousands, millions of parents probably struggle with that thing.

Everything I’m writing on and focusing on, I’m working on myself. I’m all about sitting with distress and uncertainty. I put up so many videos about how to sit instead of run away from it. That’s not because I’m an expert at sitting with it, that’s because I’m a student of sitting with it. I’m working on it. There are times I’m struggling and I read an old post of mine and I’m like, I’m going to work on that, I’m going to try that mantra. 

On defending boundaries between work and personal life: I started my life as a major people pleaser, and then I learned how to honor and meet my own needs. I used to be in private practice two days a week, and now I work full-time and run a company, so it’s very different. One of the things I know is very important for me is carving out personal time in my calendar. So for example, every Thursday morning I work out with my close friends, then one of us cooks breakfast in our apartments. I get to work that day at 11, and the company knows that. Starting work at 5:30 a.m. most days also allows me to say, “I am leaving my office at 3:30; I want to be home when my kids get off the bus and take my daughter to soccer.” Blocking out time on my calendar for my own needs, rather than having a calendar that’s essentially all appointments and things other people have dictated, has been critical to balance.

On stress management: I have a weekly therapy appointment, which is a critical part of managing the stresses of life. And I talk to people. I talk to my husband a lot about my stress; he’s a really good antidote. He’s really helped me put my feet on the ground and realize I can break things into manageable parts. Exercise definitely helps me as well. Then — I talk about this a lot but it’s something I really do — connecting with my body, putting my hand on my heart, putting my feet on the ground, and centering on myself in the moment. It doesn’t make me do a complete 180, but it makes something that currently feels impossible just feel hard, and that’s a good trade sometimes.

On what drives her: The idea that parenthood doesn’t have to be martyrdom, that parenthood can be a way we access ourselves, our sturdiness, our wants and needs, and in doing that, end up showing up in a fuller, sturdier way for our kids, that literally lights me up inside. It’s what makes it hard for me to stay in bed past 5:30 in the morning.

On dealing with criticism: I really wouldn’t want to be doing something without criticism or skepticism around me. I think that’s the way that we understand a wider range of things. I don’t own the truth about anything, so I love when people point out, “Hey, what about this?” Or “Hey, did you consider how this might be relevant for another group of people?” I don’t consider that criticism so much as an invitation to learn.

On winding down at the end of the day: I want to tell you that I have an amazing wind-down routine and I put my phone away and I meditate and all the things, but I don’t. What I try to do is: I try to stop scrolling, I try to put my phone away, and instead, talk to my husband, watch a TV show with him, or read my book in bed. Currently, I am reading KC Davis’s How to Keep House While Drowning, and I love it, so my wind-down routine is a little bit more successful these days because her book is so compelling.

On the advice she’d give her younger self: I don’t know if I would give her advice, or if I would just sit with her when she was in such a perfectionist, hard-driving place. I might have told her, “You can pause, you can slow down, you’re good and worthy and enough, even when you’re not accomplishing anything.”

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Even the Parenting Whisperer Has Help