#54 - How to show up as the best version of yourself for your kids with Heather MacFadyen

January 30, 2024
Heather MacFadyen

Episode Summary

This week on The Aro Podcast, Joey has an insightful conversation with Heather MacFadyen, the host of the widely popular Don't Mom Alone podcast, which has reached over 21 million downloads. Heather shares the story behind her podcast and opens up about her personal journey in motherhood, sharing how she struggled and isolated herself. Heather and Joey navigate the stages of childhood, discussing the isolating feelings mothers may encounter, and Joey poses the question of what practical advice could Heather give to a mom working to build adult friendships. Heather also highlights a profound insight—that a child's resilience is tied to a parent's resilience, which, in turn, depends on the support they receive. With a subtle touch of Christian faith throughout, she highlights the importance of working through internal struggles to be the best version of yourself for your kids.

Spotify Icon- Radio Webflow TemplateApple Podcast Icon - Radio Webflow Template

Watch the Conversation

Episode Transcript

Heather MacFadyen (00:00):

The main thing I think we really have to lean into is what if heart is just part of the story? What if it's not like, what if this challenge my child is going through or the frustration I'm experiencing is part of my journey of becoming? And it's not like easy, breezy, beautiful is what we should expect every single day and to just release that ideal that we're all holding hands and singing kumbaya every day. I mean, there's going to be fights. There's going to be sibling clashes that is part of our reality.

Joey Odom (00:45):

Welcome back to The Aro Podcast. Hey, it's Joey Odom, Co-Founder of Aro, and today I learned about being a mom. I learned from a mom expert, Heather MacFadyen. She hosts the Don't Mom Alone podcast. She's written several books. She's been in the game for I think 15 years or so just talking about mom stuff. And she's gone through a real journey, which has been fun. She very sheepishly told us after I pressed her that she has had 21 million downloads of her podcast. Don't Mom Alone, and she's learned a bunch. We talked a little bit off air as well of she just feels like she's been able to come along and learn so much from other moms with this idea really that as is the name of her podcast, but to not do it alone, that we get isolated that moms, it's very easily to get isolated and begin applying pressure to yourself and taking in frankly these lies that come to you that tell you all the things you should be.

We talk about the concept and that word should and how the pressure that adds. One thing I really like that she did for us is she has four boys, so ages 11 to 18. And so we went through three stages being a mom, so kind of the baby toddler, preschool years, and then the elementary to middle school years, then the high school years. And I asked her in each one of those, what the prominent isolating ideas, those lies the main lie that it's easy to listen to as a mom there that isolates you from others. What's the isolating idea? But then what's the antithesis? What's the connecting truth there that you need to listen? There's a through line in all of them, but each one, there's a little more of a distinct pattern depending on where you are in your child's development, where they are in age.

So I really, really like that. I think you're going to enjoy hearing what that's like. And here's what I would encourage too. If you are a mom listening, share this with your husband, share this, and if you're a dad listening, share this with your wife. It's important I think for us to have some empathy and understand what the others are going through. And if you're not a parent, that's fine as well. There's so much good in here. Now, Heather, she comes from a biblical point of view. She's a Christian author, Christian podcaster, and so you'll love that if you share the same faith, even if you don't though there's just so much good here, practical truth that you can hear and listen to. For now, please just sit back, relax, enjoy my great conversation with Heather Macfadyen.

Jim Gaffigan famously said that having four kids is a lot like drowning, and then someone handing you a baby. Our guest can relate to that, but the good news for us is she's taken her near drowning experience to let 16 million people know they don't have to mom alone. She loves Fred Astaire and she loves to sit and stare at a Texas sunset with her husband Bruce, her favorite movie may be Little Women, but she's made some big nine and a half Pound boys. She's friends with DJ Tanner, and to prove it, she's got a full house with Qua Price. Watts and Knox Gang. Settle in because you're right where you belong. Listening to my friend Heather MacFadyen. Hey Heather.

Heather MacFadyen (04:10):

Oh my stars, I am tickled. You are correct. That was awesome. Best intro of

Joey Odom (04:17):

My life. Come on, come on. Don't just say that.

Heather MacFadyen (04:20):

Don't say those things lightly. That was amazing. Yes,

Joey Odom (04:24):


Heather MacFadyen (04:25):

Goal from one podcast or to another, you did your research. I

Joey Odom (04:27):

Did it. I did it. I was very excited about that. I was talking with my wife about this. I went and I read the intro to my wife before and my natural inclination is to want to debrief it immediately after. Just so I can feel good about myself. I'm going to resist the urge. Let's do fact check it though real quick.

Heather MacFadyen (04:43):

They all check.

Joey Odom (04:44):

You do love Fred Astaire. Yeah, I made up that you love to sit and stare at Texas sunsets, but I bet you Bruce like to do that. My

Heather MacFadyen (04:51):

Favorite favorite thing is the sunset, and I'm very sad that most nights I can't see it from my house.

Joey Odom (04:57):

Alright, so we nailed that. You are friends. You are friends with DJ Tanner.

Heather MacFadyen (05:02):

It's a weird long, crazy story, but yes,

Joey Odom (05:06):

Amazing C ccb herself. Candace Cameron Bure.

Heather MacFadyen (05:10):

Ccb. That's right. Candace Kane. Love it. The Queen of Christmas.

Joey Odom (05:15):

Yes, the Queen of Christmas. Well, I'm super excited to talk to you and here's why, Heather, because I think that I am one of many husbands who doesn't have any idea what their wives are going through, and so I think today, I think it's just you just educating us silly men who maybe lack a little empathy and understanding. So I want you, I'd love for you to bring it today. Thank you. Let's talk. So Don't, mom Alone is your podcast. You've written a book called Don't Mom Alone, you've had 16 million downloads at last count, or do we pop

Heather MacFadyen (05:56):

A higher? This makes me very uncomfortable. Can we just say that because

Joey Odom (06:00):

Now let's lean into that then.

Heather MacFadyen (06:02):

I don't like talking numbers, but I do have, let's Talk an agency that asked me to give them numbers and they book ads for me, nevermind. Yep. So I have to know. So it's actually 21 million

Joey Odom (06:16):

Now. 20. Gosh, I know. That is amazing.

Heather MacFadyen (06:22):

I mean, that is not something I would ever correct anybody on because honestly you can toggle a little switch and the numbers change. So to me it's just like what are numbers? And didn't David get in trouble for counting? I just don't ever want to.

Joey Odom (06:36):

That's a good point.

Heather MacFadyen (06:37):

Keep track of things that God's like, I don't care. I care about the one. I had a great conversation with a gal yesterday at an event. She wrote me this. I'm going to put it on the video, but you're like a whole note. Wow, this is her family and this is all that I've meant to her. That's what I care about, not 21 million. I don't care the one

Joey Odom (06:57):

That's amazing. Well, but the cool thing is that is representative of many others. I mean someone who actually takes the time to write a letter that means it's really impactful, which represents it has to be thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands who didn't write a letter, who really has been so impactful in that letter. I'm not asking you to tell us the content of the letter, but what's the thing you've been doing this between blogging and podcast. What's the thing that you hear a bunch when people just say, oh, I just this, thank you for filling the blank. What is that thing?

Heather MacFadyen (07:30):

Well, this one in particular, she has four boys. So I think that all moms are carrying a really heavy mental load, and I think that conversation is coming to the forefront more. And it's definitely when you said, help us husbands understand, I do think husbands in this generation are so helpful comparatively to their dads and their grandfathers as far as presence, as far as contributing around the home and just sharing workload. But I don't think we could ever fully share the mental load. And so what I hear encouragement about is that I'm honest about when I'm having a hard time or feeling less than, and then I also keep the conversation focused on Christ and God and the Holy Spirit, the full Trinity maybe of

Keeping fixed on that versus you need to do this so you get this outcome, which is what they hear a lot on social media and from other friends. And I just think compared to other generations, we get more input on what we should be doing than any other. And so there's a constant weight of maybe today was hard, maybe my kid is misbehaving because I'm not doing X, Y, and Z. And so I think they feel relief when they listen to me say, there isn't a formula. God is bigger than all of it. You can trust that he loves your kids more than you do, which is hard to imagine that no mistakes too far for him to redeem and restore these messages. I hope quiet their mind that is overworking and then help them just grab that truth. If one little truth pops in their head that they can clinging on to in the midst of that self-flagellating moment. Right.

Joey Odom (09:39):

You said something, you said the inputs of all the things they should do, and it's interesting that word should is just, I have a friend who says, he says, don't should your pants, which I think is always pretty funny and don't

Heather MacFadyen (09:50):

Should on me. That's what

Joey Odom (09:51):

Somebody, don't shit on me like that, don't shit on me. And whether somebody is saying, this is what's interesting, and I ask you to fact check this, but I think especially to females, all here are the things you could do. All the brain here is these are the things I should do. All of a sudden a piece of advice becomes a should, and then of course you can't fulfill all of those. And so all you're viewing is a gap between who you are and the things in your mind that you should be doing. Is that right? Is that how the brain takes it in?

Heather MacFadyen (10:23):

Yeah, and I think, I believe women bring order to chaos and we bring beauty and these wonderful things to community and culture, whether it's in the workplace, whether it's in the home, family life. But I think that what can happen is when I see a chaos or disorder in my family and I'm looking for a solution, I often will go to the internet or to a friend for advice, which is fine, but at the same time, I'm trying to get women to ask the Holy Spirit, get promptings from God, help me with this child because one thing I have learned with four boys, I have four different versions of a boy. So in each journey that they've been on is unique because they have different classmates than the other one had class. I mean they have a different teacher, even if it's at the same school. It's like I need my personal guidance from the one who made them. And if I take, let's say Joey, you say, oh yeah, my 10-year-old struggled with that and this is what we did. I'm like, oh, okay. So I go home and I try that with my 10-year-old and it doesn't work. I feel like I failed or my child failed not, well, you know what? I tried something and it didn't work. That's not the message I hear. It's like, see there I failed again.

Versus if I ask God and I get his insight, then I might be like, maybe I'll second guess and say maybe I heard wrong. But the main thing I think we really have to lean into is what if heart is just part of the story? What if it's not like, what if this challenge my child is going through or the frustration I'm experiencing is part of my journey of becoming? And it's not like easy, breezy, beautiful is what we should expect every single day, and to just release that ideal that we're all holding hands and singing kumbaya every day. I mean there's going to be fights. They're going to be these sibling clashes that is part of our reality.

Joey Odom (12:33):

It's funny, you wish, and I've said this before on the podcast, you hope for, you say, oh, I hope for hard things for my kids. I want 'em to be resilient. And then when you get in the middle of it, it's terrible, right? It's just like you only want to wish it away. And Sissy Gfu, we both know Sissy said on our podcast, she said, the worry is an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of ourselves. And there's such a payoff for our kids when they do overcome something difficult and we know from experience funny, we act like we don't, but we know that they'll get through it, right? And when they do, that's a great thing for them to have gone through that. And so that whole concept of going through hard things is so silly that we wish it away, but we know how much better it makes us and makes us so much better to so much more qualified to take the nest test on, and not just for our kids, but for ourselves as parents as well.

Heather MacFadyen (13:26):

And speaking of resilience, I saw, do you know Lisa Damour? She's a counselor, but she's been writing some books on teens and girls. Anyway, she had a guest on her show and she was just talking about a child's resilience is based on the parents' resilience and the parents' resilience, particularly the mom comes from how supported she is.

And so ultimately, it goes back to my heart for moms is that you are connected to one. It doesn't have to be 20 friends, 1, 2, 3 people mouse that really you could go to in a moment of shame. You may have done something wrong as a mom, that's guilt, but shame is I am wrong. As a mom and someone you could go to, they know your heart, you feel safe. They're not going to beat you up with advice or condemnation. They're going to say, me too, if that's what you're looking for, identification. But they are your go-to people. So when you have that heavy mental load, you can offload some of it and community and that builds your resilience, which ultimately is what you want, which is your child's resilience. So to me, that's the motivator because sometimes moms won't do things or won't lean into why they're isolating from community unless the motivator is, well, this makes my kid better, unfortunately. It's like, okay, well if this makes my kid better, then I'll do the work to figure out why am I not talking to people about my hard stuff or sharing or hiding in shame. Could I dig into that a little bit more?

Joey Odom (15:08):

Well, this goes back to your story, which I was fascinated to learn about because you started blocking, I think in 2009, and then you started podcast in 2013 and you didn't rebrand to Don't Mom Alone until, was it I believe 2017? Is that right? Yeah, 18. And I would love to, so my perception Heather was, okay, you've been in the game, you've been riding, you've been dispensing wisdom, but you had already had four boys when you realized this very big thing that you just talked about when you had, I want to tell you, waiting for chicken strips. I'll let you tell the story when this all happened. But the fact that even for somebody who was a best of the best dispensing wisdom, encouraging people, all of a sudden you realize, okay, there's something really missing here. Will you tell a little bit of that story?

Heather MacFadyen (15:54):

Yeah. I'd been writing online on God-centered mom. I mean, how weighty is that?

Joey Odom (16:02):

I'm the gay. Did you introduce yourself aside, hi, I'm God-centered mom.

Heather MacFadyen (16:05):

Well, people started calling me that. I was thinking it was this humility posture of I'm not child-centered, not self-centered. I'm going to choose to center my mothering on God. Instead, I even have a friend who jokingly would call me mother of God as a joke, but that's how heavy that felt. We're talking about

Add to the load of normal motherhood pressures, and then I'm writing on a blog called God-centered bomb. Okay, it's too much. So in that vein, I slowly isolated. I also had four young boys who you cannot control, can't control one, you can never control any children, but you boys. There's an exponential energy factor that happens when men and boys get together, and it's just overwhelming. I couldn't be in public with them. And then even if I was with a group of girlfriends without kids, I just didn't talk about what was hard or where I was feeling shame. And so yeah, I was in a chicken it, it was Sunday here in Dallas, but I had a full panic attack. I know we're laughing, but what else can you do? You got to laugh, and this is,

Joey Odom (17:21):

If you don't laugh, you'll

Heather MacFadyen (17:22):

Cry. Yeah. I was listening to something the other day. People didn't talk about this for so many years. So to normalize it, when you just have this overwhelming feeling of anxiety and it doesn't make sense based on your environment, I was in a car, safe, safe in my car. All my kids were safe, but I was so overwhelmed and crippled with anxiety that I just felt like I had to get out. My whole body was in or flight and I needed to do something. And so I started seeing a counselor. I started digging into this, why am I isolating? And slowly just rebuilt community, safe community, did the work through 12 Step with my community group, did some inner healing prayer with some great friends, and just a lot of those pieces came together to get to a point where I could be okay saying I'm not okay,

Joey Odom (18:16):

Which had to have been, which is hard for anybody, but you're God-centered mom, so right. I mean, that had to be, was that difficult? I mean, you're very authentic, you're very honest and you don't hide much. But was that hard to finally say, I'm not okay?

Heather MacFadyen (18:32):

Well, it was this season of blogging where sometimes it felt like people were creating problems so they could write about 'em and get attention. So there was a little bit of, are people even going to believe me? And then I did have a friend, she was like, call me whenever you feel like yourself again, or your depression is better or whatever. Dismissed the whole thing as if

Joey Odom (18:57):


Heather MacFadyen (18:58):

Fun. It made up, yeah, that was a hard, I'm putting myself out here and then it's actually making things worse. But I had to realize pushing through the healing, gathering people who are on this similar journey or interest of a growth mindset that has been worth it, recognizing, oh, that friendship actually wasn't the depth or what I needed. That was just a fun show pony of a friendship. And so the depth that I've found in other friendships has been so much more meaningful 12 years later. Yeah.

Joey Odom (19:35):

What is it like just very super, super practically for, I think a lot of people want the results of community and doing things with other people, but it's a hard first step for maybe a mom who's listening who says, Hey, I want that, but I don't know how to go about it. What's a very practical way to go make adult friendships for moms out there who may feel a little bit isolated, but recognize they need some community?

Heather MacFadyen (20:01):

I do think we need to evaluate what's going on in us. I do think we have to say, take inventory of past friendships and relationships and look for themes, look for feelings and thoughts and actions and own our part in friendships. Because until we heal that piece, we'll continue to follow those same patterns, and that's 12 step language, whether it's addictions, just take all of that and put it on relationships. We have to own our peace. And then we also have to say, what am I expecting out of these relationships that maybe I am not going to God for and centering myself and his love and his acceptance and my worth and identity Him. I think if we over need from people that's like red flag city for, I mean, right,

Joey Odom (20:55):

And you were a little bit on the opposite side where it was you were fully, I mean, spent a bunch of time with God, the very centered on God, but you needed, but you lacked that community side, right?

Heather MacFadyen (21:06):

Well, I just think I really cared a lot what people thought of me. And so the hiding was, I can't let you see. I have faults and I have failures. And so I masked and I hid. And so I had to come to grips with, even though I was spending time with God, I hadn't healed the belief I had about who I am and needing my identity and worth to come from him alone and not from other people's opinions and approval of me. And so I had to do that deep work so that I could be a more set free friend who we can have a conversation and you may be in a hard place and I can be okay, but I don't need all of my needs met by you. I get to be with you. I get to connect with you. I think we don't often do that work to figure out what's going on in us.

Joey Odom (22:03):

And I loved this. We're going to talk about stages of mothering, but you recently said, you talked about your greatest lesson over the last 18 years, and I thought this was really, it's actually encompasses a bunch of what you've said. You said this is your greatest lesson over 18 years of being a mom. You said, do what you can to heal your past and present wounds so that you can be the healthiest version of yourself, not necessarily so your kids will turn out better, but so you can enjoy the motherhood journey as much as possible. So again, not an outcome-based approach. There's so much about self-help there that I want to talk about. And then going back to some of your wounds, will you tell us about that and maybe the self-care that you need to go back and heal those past and present wounds and then what it really means to enjoy that? The motherhood journey?

Heather MacFadyen (22:57):

I tell people that the gift of motherhood is that it brings all your junk to the surface.

And it may be with your first kid, it may be in the first month. It may not be until your seventh kid. I have talked to moms who it was, okay, I had my seventh kid and I finally hit the end of myself. But it's leaning into that. If you're like, man, I have hit the end of myself and I don't know what's going on in me, that's when we get curious and include others. I mean, I am such a proponent of the healing work that God has to offer through prayer, but some of that has to be brought to the surface through counsel, whether it's EMDR or whether it's a 12 step program, whether it is just sitting with community and talking these things through if you have those safe people. But I heard someone say, now, I have no scientific proof. I have no journal reference here, but 35, there's some layer in your brain that thins that brings any kind of past harm or trauma to the surface.

Interesting. So you may have been plowing through life marriage, and then you're hitting this stage of parenting and all this stuff is coming up. Where's this coming up? You're like, where is this coming from? Why am I so depressed? Why am I so anxious? Whatever the extreme emotion that you're feeling is, it's like, let's get curious about that because feelings are indicators. They don't get to be dictators. We need to analyze why is this feeling so predominant? Sadness, pain, anger, what is behind it? And I think as moms, because all of our energy gets put into the little people and making them happy and making sure everything's copacetic and beautiful on Instagram, and you've got the family pick for the Christmas card that we just keep shoving the emotions down instead of saying, huh, this keeps coming up, or this thought keeps coming up, or this feeling keeps coming up.

I wonder why. And when I say do the work, I mean I think that's very individual, but it takes, there's usually a barrier to entry for people of whether it's they have the phone number of a counselor, but they just haven't dialed it yet or scheduled that appointment or gone to that meeting. I mean is you have to get to the point where you are personally motivated to take action to get that help and healing. And this is not even in that quote you just did of what I learned in 18 years. It says, healed my wounds. And someone commented, I think it's an ongoing process. I'm like, absolutely. I wasn't saying, duh, done and fixed. Everything's perfect. Your kids get older and even more stuff comes up. Things that you thought, oh, I dealt with that.

Joey Odom (26:01):

Yeah, still keeps coming back.

Aro Member (26:08):

What are we scrolling to when we're on our phones is we're generally scrolling either other moms who make it look like they're doing it so easily that they've got it together or we're learning from these accounts that are teaching us how to parent our children, how to get our children to sleep, how to do all these things. And then you're on information overload. And so then it's this comparison overlearning over educating. It's just a surplus of thoughts and knowledge. And yes, is some of it good? Of course it is. But it's in that moment when all of a sudden now we're taking that thought of, wow, she made it look. She just is so intentional with her child. Or they're on a vacation with their child and their family and it looks wonderful and they're at the beach. And anybody who has kids that's been to the beach knows that it's never as great as it looks. And that's okay. Let's just not pretend that it's all, nobody gets sand inside their bathing suit. That's so real. And that's okay.

Joey Odom (27:05):

We love hearing stories from the Aro community. The one you just heard actually comes from our Voices of Aro episodes where I sit down with Aro members and they share about their stories and their lives with Aro. Make sure to check out the Voices of Aro episodes, and if you're a member who would like to share your own story with Aro, please email us stories@goaro.com. And then what is it like as you're, again, not that there's this magical other side, but you say at the end, so you can enjoy the motherhood journey as much as possible, which I like as much as possible. It's just extracting what you can. It's the difficult stuff that you may not appreciate in the moment. You may actually enjoy that in retrospect, but what is that like to enjoy that motherhood journey?

Heather MacFadyen (27:54):

I think again, it is relieving that load when your mental, the weight of, they're just things that have to be done. I mean, the emails that I get, I have four boys in three different schools. They are just things that have to be done. But if on top of just the to-dos, I also have, I'm failing, we're missing out. I am not doing everything I could be doing. Like, oh my gosh, did you see how she looked at me? I think that she just made a comment that I'm a bad mom because I'm not at so-and-so's game and I'm at this game. I have to stop those thoughts, take 'em captive. We're going to use biblical vernacular and I have to replace 'em with truth right then. And that practice helps me then be fully present at whatever I'm at instead of beating myself up or future thinking. Or I've talked to so many moms of 4-year-old boys who are like, oh my gosh, he's going to go to prison.

Okay, let me give you some truth. I've interviewed David Thomas, and he says he meets with more parents of 14 and 14-year-old boys than any other age group. And that it's very normal for you to see extreme behaviors in 4-year-old boys. And if you think about it, it wasn't until the last few generations that boys were required to go to restaurants at four years old or be in these places where they're supposed to sit and be quiet. Four-year-old boys could just go be. And so there's nothing wrong with, I mean, kids could have differences that we get diagnosed, but on the norm, there's nothing wrong with him If he has struggles with impulse control and aggression and angry outbursts and raging, that is all within and maybe even more because he's overstimulated by all the things that are in the world anyway, it just helps to calm that mom's brain down so then she can enjoy the journey more because she's not thinking Something's wrong with my child, I'm doing something wrong. Because it's like learning those developmental norms just quiets that voice and then you can enjoy him a little bit more. Oh, look how wild he's being such a wild little 4-year-old boy. Yeah.

Joey Odom (30:21):

Well, it is so comforting to know, oh, okay, this is just what it is. And I think we're both big fans of David and Sissy, but their resources are fantastic. Where you walk through be like, oh, that's why they talk about, sissy talks about the narcissistic years as a teenage girl. And I thought, okay, I have a daughter who's 13. I relate to what she's saying there. This is not her. This is something that she's, not only that she's going through, but something that she actually needs to go through. This is part of her process. This is a very good thing for her to be well adjusted as she grows. You mentioned the thought of the isolating ideas, and so your book Don't Mom Alone in 2021, which was, I think this Heather was just such, the way you laid this out was so brilliant in talking about these isolating ideas and these connecting truths. Will you tell us a little bit of that? But before I get into the question, will you tell us a little bit about that concept as a mom, this whole concept of an isolating idea, but then the connecting truth that goes with it?

Heather MacFadyen (31:30):

Yeah. So when I asked God, should I write the right where you belong, book First or Don't Home Alone, and this was in 2019, and I drew up some boundary lines that I explained and write Where you Belong, that concept of decision making. And he was like, you have all these podcast episodes, but you don't have a resource. You could hand a weary mom. And so I thought, okay, I'll write Don't Mom Alone. Well, I hadn't written a book proposal on this book. I hadn't thought about it. I just had all these episodes. I was like, well, what is this going to be in this book? And then I thought, okay, I can't have coffee with every mom, so what would I tell her over coffee? So I started sharing my stories and I realized, okay, I don't have all the answers, but I could analyze why did I choose to isolate from community?

And a lot of it was my thinking, which we've discussed in this episode. What was I thinking that was saying You can't be with these people. And so then I broke it down into different relationships. So my relationship with God, my relationship with others, my relationship with my kids, because that's an important relationship that we're often ignoring, that we actually might want to be in right relationship and not mom alone, and they become this idol slash trophy instead of a relationship. Anyway, so when I was thinking through it, I was like, okay, let's have these ideas I was thinking, and then what would actually be true that would bring connection. And so yeah, those just came to mind. I love that. And then we went through a pandemic. I was writing about it and the whole world was isolated. I was like, well, here we go. I guess God knew something when I asked them.

Joey Odom (33:27):

Imagine. I do love that thought of, because we just accept things as they come to us, these thoughts that come to you. And I love when you talk about feelings. I'd never heard the way you said it. They're indicators, not dictators, which I really, really like that. But we get these ideas that come to us that we just accept, oh, these are true. Oh, this is just how it is. And so I like how you take that. Let's give a name to that isolating idea, then connect to truth with it. And again, especially this I think for husbands to listen to. So why send this on to your husbands here? Because I want to talk about three stages of motherhood, and you're in a very unique position where your oldest is Quaid, right? Yeah. So Qua is 18, correct. And he's a senior. He is applying to colleges. We're all praying that he didn't go to the University of Texas, which would be a travesty if he did, that's okay.

Heather MacFadyen (34:21):

It would be a miracle. It would be a miracle if he gets there, we'll have to be like, wow, God really has something for

Joey Odom (34:25):

You there. Really. Yeah, yeah. Just get closer to Norman, Oklahoma than Austin, Texas maybe. But I want to go through, so you've seen different stages. You're in that stage of the high school years and the senior year. So will you talk through maybe three stages? The first, the baby, the toddler, the preschool years, and then I want to hear about the elementary to middle school years and then the high school years, but maybe in each of those stages, the prominent isolating idea that moms may be going through, and then what's that connecting truth that goes along with that? So let's start in those kind of baby to preschool years. What is the prominent isolating idea that you think that moms experience?

Heather MacFadyen (35:12):

It is a physical time, really physical, physically exhausting. And so often if you have more than one, you might be pregnant and have a baby toddler or preschoolers. So you're juggling a lot of physical needs, a lot of noise. There's a ton of love, lots of affection, but just everybody needing you all at once. And I said, it's like that song, there's a hole in my bucket.

Everyone's like, just meet with God and fill up your bucket and then you can just pour out all day with your kids. I'm like, there's not a bucket big enough. And so the imagery that a mentor gave me, she says, if you get a chance to have time with God, even if your kids are watching a cartoon and you read a verse or you say upright, it's not to fill up your bucket to remind yourself that there is an ever flowing limitless river of love, that you get to stand in today and you get to invite your kids to join you. You get to invite the stranger, the neighbor, your husband. This is not a source. You are not the source. You are a part of being filled by the limitless source. And so I would say the isolating idea that keeps moms from going on dates with their spouse, from getting together with friends, from doing things that remind them of who God made them to be is I have nothing left to give. I am completely depleted. And here's the truth. Yeah, you are a limited human being.

Joey Odom (36:54):


Heather MacFadyen (36:54):

Have, this is again, 12 step, step one or two. I'm a limited human being. I have my limits, and that's okay. And so I have to recognize I cannot do all of the things what one of my missions is to help moms of kids in this stage to not feel like they have to start a non-for-profit. Right Now, you don't need to have a podcast. You don't need a line of children's clothing if God has assigned you that or if there's choice for a lot of people, but there's not choice for a lot of people. Some people, this is not a choice whether we have a job or not, but if you feel pressure from a culture that you are falling short of the measure of being this millennial woman because you don't have three businesses while you're mothering, I want to relieve that pressure.

Joey Odom (37:50):

That's so good

Heather MacFadyen (37:51):

If you want to do it or that's a hobby or whatever, but don't do it because you think you should. And if you are like, man, this is enough for me. That's great,

Joey Odom (37:59):

Man. That's really good. Yeah. I just hope maybe for mom listening right now who's in that stage, just like you said, Heather, just relieve that pressure a little bit. That's what an important thing to just acknowledge, Hey, this is exhausting. Yes, it

Heather MacFadyen (38:15):

Is. And I didn't finish the truth. I guess I should say the whole thing. I'm a limited human being dependent on a limitless God. That's awesome. So leaving and leaving the rest to him that you're not missing out. You don't have to do all the things. Ask him that day, what do I need? This is from Jamie who's my new favorite crush. I mean, I'm a happily married woman, but he is an amazing, if I had a spiritual crush right now, it's Jamie. He would pray to God when he was a police officer, when he was a cia, a agent. What do I need to know? What do I need to do?

Joey Odom (38:52):

I've heard about him. Someone was telling me about that.

Heather MacFadyen (38:55):

Unbelievable. Such good, what do I need to know? What do I need to do? God, you are limitless. You know what my future holds, you know what blowout my child's about to have or tantrum? What do I need to know? What do I need to do?

Joey Odom (39:09):

I love

Heather MacFadyen (39:09):

That. Yeah.

Joey Odom (39:11):

Alright, let's segue into the school years, the elementary and middle school years for moms. You've been through, you're in it right now too. So Knox is 11, is that right?

Heather MacFadyen (39:21):

I mean, I feel like more than Bruce on this situation

Joey Odom (39:25):

Went down. I do know one of was born on two 12. Right? I knew that. That's Knox. Look at that. Yeah, it's getting a little creepy. I'm sorry. May. It's getting

Heather MacFadyen (39:34):

Weird. He turned double digits when it was 2 22 22.

Joey Odom (39:38):

Oh, that's

Heather MacFadyen (39:39):

Amazing. It was a Tuesday.

Joey Odom (39:41):

Come on now. You can't up. Can't make that up.

Heather MacFadyen (39:43):

Can't make that. So I would say this stage again, if all your kids are in the elementary, middle school years, this is your time to take a vacation. Remember it. You won't have nap times because it'll be such a bonding time. It's such a sweet time of connection. And I think it can be a sleeper time where we don't recognize how important the connection is. And so we busy ourselves with activities and we miss out on the chance that we have the most influence in these years of our words, of our character development. And if we're going and blowing and trying to get, Hey, Bobby, get your shoes. There's not connection time. And so we miss that. And I think what happens is we think we should do all the things once again. So the isolating idea is I'm falling short of the good mom formula. There's a good mom formula where we have to be in this soccer league so that then he gets on this soccer team so that then he gets a scholarship. It's like, what if

Your child's on his own unique journey with God? And what if his identity is to be a world famous soccer player? Nothing's going to stop God from making that happen. And that's another Jamie Winship story that you'll have to look up is his son was a skateboarder and they were in Baghdad, and God made a way for him to be able to skateboard in the middle of the war in Baghdad. He can do anything. It's not a formula. So leaning into like God, what is your identity for this child? And so then you can release all of the cultural expectations and busyness to be helping that child with whatever unique path they're on. So instead of isolating yourself because you're so busy with keeping up this formula, connect the truth of I embrace my intention and I release this fear of imperfection. And I just am like, God, what do you have for our family and what matters to us? And lean into your family values in that season and kind of release all of those fears of, I think even fears of missing out fears of messing it up.

Joey Odom (42:03):

Yeah, you're right. I've thought you can think lately about this idea of full presence and you can mess a lot of things up and cover all of it with just your full presence. You know what I mean? Or you can do a lot of things and you can actually mess that up without you being fully present. You know what I mean? It's almost like in the conversation, we think about, obviously phone's a bunch over here, but in the middle of a great conversation with your kid, a glance at your phone while they're opening up to, you can just crush that moment. But it's also okay, you mess a bunch up. But if you're really fully present with them, which I think what you're really talking about, just not missing those years for the sake of busyness. And we've gotten, of course, we've gotten all caught in this trap. We've gotten caught. Maybe I'm caught in this trap at present, but

Heather MacFadyen (42:53):

Well, and we have to analyze how are we in this trap? Okay, let's look at our calendar. Why are we doing all these things? Is this something that, can we all just take a second and pray like, Lord, what do you want for, what do you want us to put our time and energy into? And is this a yes or is this a no? Or is this, I'm doing this because I'm afraid that we'll miss something if we do it.

Joey Odom (43:15):

That's a very dangerous exercise, Heather, to take an honest look at your calendar, force some things, it all feels necessary. And again, we're in it. I am challenged by you. I don't really want to take an honest look at my calendar. It's a scary

Heather MacFadyen (43:31):

Thing when I always tell the boys I'm like, one yes is actually three or four yeses. So right. And when I say no to maybe a speaking thing or a event or something, I don't really look back.

Joey Odom (43:41):

Yeah, exactly.

Heather MacFadyen (43:44):

And by me not taking that seat, it might be a yes for someone else who that was really meaningful for them. I don't have to feel the weight and responsibility that all ministry is up to me.

Joey Odom (43:53):

Yeah, that's right. Yeah. It's all on you.

Heather MacFadyen (43:56):


Joey Odom (43:56):

Not, I've noticed lately, this has been probably a very telling thing for me. I've had a couple people cancel on things on me over the last couple of weeks. And after they canceled, I thought, this is awesome. I just got an hour I didn't know I had. And that's an indicator of overscheduling, right? Is that when you're relieved when someone cancels? Yeah, no margin. Exactly. Alright, so high school, this may be the easiest or this may be the hardest question of all of these for you. In the thick of it, you got a senior, I was talking with Heath Wilson, our co-founder this morning. He has two seniors. And I just, that's a hard, it's, I'm sure it's very easy to be like every meal. Well, this is the last October 26th that you have french toast before you go to college. You know what I mean? So what is

Heather MacFadyen (44:43):

The last, I think this season, if I look at the whole season of high school as far as if we're talking about community and isolating, I think what is really hard in this season and the load that moms carry is it's your kid's story. And you can no longer be over coffee. Like, oh my gosh, you won't believe what Bobby did.

You can't, and my friends can't to me. And so I tell moms, and this is not the isolating idea, I'm starting to tear up, but I'm like, this is when my, you need mentors. You need women who have perspective, who have walked through it to the other side because high school years are hard for them. I mean, they're under way more pressure than we ever were. I just even saw another statistic. I'm like, oh my gosh, these poor kids and the phones are a huge part of it. We need Aro. I'm going to sign up soon. Okay, come on. And then the other key relationship I think that has really served me in these years is the moms behind me, to be honest, because they are closer to remembering what it was like to be a high schooler. And they can share stories of, oh, this is what I did in high school and this is how I got through it. And it's like, and they're such a voice of encouragement. And I think having those perspectives holding onto hope, the isolating idea that I think is great for the entire season of motherhood even into raising adult children is, well, this isn't a good idea, but this is what we think. I am fully responsible for my child's outcome.

And the culture reinforces this. When something bad happens, whether it's a shooting or a horrible event, we often want to know about the child's parents

Because they're the source of how a human could do this. Evil, not evil is the source of how this human could do this evil. The parents did something wrong. Or you think of the classic therapist line, tell me about your mother. The joke is, our moms are the cause of all of our problems. So I am fully responsible for my child's outcome and any issues they have and any future therapy conversations they have. And as I leaned into people's stories and as I analyzed it more, I realized, no, the connecting truth is I am important. This relationship matters obviously, or else even in the secular world, they wouldn't see the connection between moms and kids. But I'm not essential. And I know that word was used a lot during Covid, but I really truly am not essential in the good plans God has for my child because I have friends and I have one friend in particular, I think of Kat. Her mom passed away when she was eight months old now. So her biological mom is no longer in her life. Did that mean okay, story's over,

Joey Odom (47:44):


Heather MacFadyen (47:45):

God can't work in your life. He can't do anything in your life. Your biological mom's not there. We grant the fact that, oh, other people can step in. Whether it was her aunts or her grandparents or a stepmother we're like, yeah, of course they would all step in. Why don't we give ourself that same grace when we haven't passed away? Why do we say, oh, well, I'm here so I've got to do it all, and it's all up to me. It's like, can we release that and recognize we will do our part? And it's super important. And we do leave a mark. And also the God of the universe that made our kids who has a story for them, just like they have a story for you is bigger than your failings and your wins. And he sees the whole thing and he's going to use everything what he does. Can we release that piece? And so I think in high school years when a lot's hitting the fan, you're like, you got to remember you're important but not essential.

Joey Odom (48:47):

That's so great. Again, all of the, I think a through line in all this is relieving a little bit of that pressure. Just take some pressure off. It's okay. We know we perform better when we're relaxed and we don't have the pressure. So I think you, I say perform, I'm be careful that word, but at the same time feels like that. Yeah, you'll be more like who you would like to be as the pressure moves. It's kind of a paradox you have to work through. Last question for you. I didn't prep you for this, but I'm curious. The podcast is all about intentionality. How to give people inspiration and tools to live out an intentional life. So with four boys, you have a an 11-year-old on the other side. What is some within your home, within the McFadden home, what's an intentionality practice, whether you call it that or not, but something that all that other people could listen to. And so I'd like to implement that in our life. Something that you do to implement intentionality in your family.

Heather MacFadyen (49:43):

Well, I'm a big fan of not giving a formula, but I like it. I will say lean into what matters to your family. So what matters to Bruce and I that we've leaned into is fun communication and creativity and a thing that was a part of his family growing up and was a part of my family growing up that we've implemented our family. So again, it's not forcing your spouse to do something that you think is important. Don't, this is like a communal decision is we're big on family dinners and when we can with high school schedules and middle school schedules, I don't know that we've had one this week, to be honest. It's Thursday, but I have it on the calendar for tonight. I am like, okay, well actually though it's not going to work because the high schoolers game got moved to tonight.

You got to flex with it. But at the same time, it's like, I think our boys are very familiar with us all being around the table and sitting and talking. This isn't just like a meal. This is a time together. And because it's important to my extended family and Bruce's extended family, they've experienced that. But whatever your thing is, it may be sports or everything, or it may be reading books. A mom sent out an invite. She was like, Hey, we love watching baseball. But how we watch it is we really watch it and we might have a puzzle going, but everyone's quiet and we're watching it. I'm like, you know what? That's not going to work for our family. But that's how you do it. And you are inviting people in who do that similarly, fantastic. But just know your people and what matters to you. And that's my biggest tip on intentionality.

Joey Odom (51:19):

I agree the whole, I love that because it's a shared experience you're all having together whatever, again, whether it's watching baseball or a family meal or whatever it may be. So I like that and I like that. The fun connection, fun communication and creativity. Was that off the cuff or is that a thing you have?

Heather MacFadyen (51:34):

Well, when we sat down and said, what is our family about? Those are the things that kind of popped up that we realized if we put time and energy towards, that's what we put.

Joey Odom (51:44):

Yeah. That's great, Heather. Thank you. I want people to go to heathermacfadyen.com. We'll put all this in the show notes. Please listen to Don't Mom Alone podcast. By the way, I got more from when we were on Don't Mom Alone. I had more texts from people said, oh my gosh, I heard you on Heather's podcast. Of all of the ones we've been on. That was the number one. You have a great listener base. They're so

Heather MacFadyen (52:06):

Kind. Yeah,

Joey Odom (52:07):

Well, that was by far the most go get. Don't Mom Alone the book and Write Where You Belong. The book that came out earlier this year, Heather, I'm so grateful for your message, for your work. I'm excited for people to hear this Moms in all stages where they can relieve that pressure to eliminate some of those isolating ideas, replace 'em with truths. So thank you for everything you're doing, and thank you for hanging out with us for a little bit.

Heather MacFadyen (52:30):

Thank you for having me very much.

Joey Odom (52:36):

I want to go to the isolating idea that Heather gave us for when you're a mom of a high schooler, and that was just this thought, this isolating idea, this fallacy that says, I am fully responsible for my child's outcome. That's a weight that is not for us, that full weight. Now, we all have stewardship, we all have responsibility for our kids, absolutely. But you are not fully responsible for your child's outcome. So I want to encourage every parent, just continue to do your best and stay away from the shoulds. This is very difficult to do. This is easy for me to say right now, but as I think about it for myself as a dad, I know that's what I take on that concept of that. And Felicia Wang on our episode a few times ago, she talked about this concept of us not really fully having control.

And what's cool is when you release the pressure, when you release the control, you actually are more free to do it in the way you would like to, and you actually find that you're more effective and you're more like the parent you'd like to be. So I'd encourage you to share this episode. Please do. Please go give us a five star rating wherever you listen to podcasts. And many thanks to Heather MacFadyen for joining us. We can't wait to see you next week for the next episode of The Aro Podcast. The Aro Podcast is produced and edited by the team at Palm Tree Pod Co. Special thanks to Emily Miles for video and digital support, and to our executive producer, Aro's own, Katelyn Farley.