Tara Clark may have written a book on parenting, but the author of Modern Mom Probs: A Survival Guide for 21st Century Mothers knows better than to call herself an expert on the subject.
"Just when you think you've got it — I got it, I got this parenting thing, it's down, I'm good — the kids change," Clark, mom to an 8-year-old son named Jack, tells Yahoo Life. "It happens every time. You're like, This is good, he's sleeping in his own bed, he's sleeping until 7 a.m., we're doing really well. And then two weeks later — boom, not anymore."
Sleep is just one of the issues covered in Clark's book, which was inspired by the popular Instagram account where she documents relatable struggles like car naps, online mommy shaming, screen time and toddlers who refuse to eat anything other than mac and cheese (things older generations would "scoff at.") Inspired by Clark's own experience with pregnancy loss, the book also covers weightier topics such as infertility, postpartum depression and the mental load moms take on.
Here, she opens up about the importance of normalizing once-taboo topics surrounding motherhood, and why, when it comes to parenting, sometimes you need to "be like Elsa and let it go."
What makes something a "Modern Mom Prob"?
A "Modern Mom Prob" is one of those first-world problems that we deal with, whether it's your kid jumping in on you while you're on a Zoom call and interrupting you — that's a very new "Modern Mom Prob." It's funny, because in the course of the last couple of years, "Modern Mom Probs" have really shifted from where they had been. It was more like, a laundry thing, or a dishwasher thing, or they didn't have what you wanted at Target or something like that. But now in the last year or so, it shifted to the Zoom call pop-ins — the photobombs during Zoom — and that sort of thing.
Pandemic notwithstanding, do you feel like there's more pressure on modern-day moms? You mention in the book how the sense of community in terms of raising children has dramatically changed, and social media has, for better or worse, stepped in.
That absolutely is a "Modern Mom Prob." Our in-person village has moved online. Years ago, families were bigger, they lived closer together. You had more sisters to go to, or maybe more cousins to ask for babysitting help, that sort of thing. You would go to your neighbor's house and ask for a cup of milk or sugar. People wouldn't even think to do that kind of stuff nowadays.
Our villages have moved and now they're online, which is wonderful. We can talk [with people] halfway across the country. Some of my best friends are other mothers all over the country and all over the world. We're lucky enough now that. with social media, we have these platforms that do connect us. And I like to think that they connect us in a positive way, because 10 years ago, before I had my son, I had suffered some miscarriages and no one was talking about that. And now people are finally normalizing that conversation.
Yes, we have mom shaming and a lot of judgment on social media, but then we're still able to normalize these experiences and share our stories. And so I'm so grateful for that, because if you think about 10 years ago, what were you doing on Facebook? You were checking in at the gym, taking a picture of your lunch or your latte or something like that... We weren't having these conversations on postpartum depression and loneliness. New motherhood can be so lonely sometimes and people weren't having those conversations like we do now...
I'm just really grateful that we have these platforms now where we can be honest and truthful. I think it's really important that we now live in a generation of women, and parents in general, who can be honest about this stuff. We don't push it down. Maybe our mothers and grandmothers felt the same thing, but they suppressed it and pushed those feelings down. But now we can be honest about it and say, "Not every day is rainbows and butterflies." Most days, maybe, but not every single day.
What's a "sanctimommy"?
The sanctimommies are people who want to push their judgment on — and I'm using this in quotes — the "right way" to parent, whether that's eating a certain way, sleep training in a certain way, not co-sleeping, all of the different decisions that we're faced with as modern moms. And trust me, there are an overwhelming amount of decisions that we go through in the course of a given week for modern moms. But the sanctimommies are the ones that put in a little bit extra judgment, clutching their pearls and tending to lose their sense of humor in the process.
Your book breaks down a lot of "Modern Mom Probs" that, in the moment, can feel super-important but ultimately aren't worth stressing over. Gender reveal parties, newborn pictures...
There are so many things that we think are really huge deals. I've been a mom for eight, almost nine, years, and when I look back at that time, there were so many decisions. And now, I'm not joking, none of it seems to matter. With my son, I was adamant about cooking my own homemade baby food. I steamed it. I put it in the blender, the organic sweet potatoes and carrots and all of that kind of stuff. He actually used to eat a carton of blueberries a day. Now he's the most selective eater you would ever meet. He will only eat maybe five or six things. And it's so funny to think how obsessed I was with putting my best foot forward by feeding him all of the stuff, introducing him to all the different tastes and all the different healthy, brightly colored foods. And now he doesn't want anything to do with any of those...
I'm not saying don't try... but when you realize how important you think certain things are, and then a couple of years down the line, you [think otherwise]... Go easy on yourself. Give yourself grace, because some of the stuff just doesn't even matter.
What's the big takeaway you hope readers get from your book?
One, you're not alone in your experiences. You're not the only person who has been cleaning poop out of the bathtub or the only one that's suffered from infertility. You're not alone in your experiences. There are millions of women all over the world who are going through a similar thing; everyone's journey is different and experiences are different, but we get it. Just know that, that we get it.
Another thing is to let go of the judgment, let go of the anger. Everyone's journey is different, so it's really important that we support each other in our experiences. And then lastly, it's important to laugh. When you are cleaning poop out of the bathtub, it's important to laugh about these situations. Because if not, then you might be crying.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
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