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The psychology of clutter: Why we hold onto ‘stuff’—and what that may be teaching our kids

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It’s been a long day. And whether we have just walked in the door from work, or we have just braved a poorly timed late afternoon grocery store run with three tots in tow, the feeling is all too familiar and the same each time we get home.


Instead of walking in the door and exhaling into relief, the calm we hope for is met with even more stress as our eyes set upon a garage stuffed with mega-store mega-items, current and stale sports equipment, and boxes full of I-have-no-idea-but-I’ll-get-to-it-later.

We feel our stomach tighten as we walk through the door and our eyes are met with piles of laundry, magazines we don’t have time to read, a constant rotation of dishes on the table, on the counter, in the sink, in the dishwasher, and toys—so many toys—on the floor.

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It’s all. too. much. And we wonder, "Is it just me?”

Just as working in an environment that is crowded, messy, too loud and full of artificial light has been proven to affect mood and health, so too does living in a space that is stuffed with things that bring us neither joy nor use.

With a modicum of knowledge of why we clutter and what it does to our psyches, plus a little self-awareness, we can learn to set the limits that can liberate us from the tyranny of the “too much” that prevents us from having the home we desire and the freedom to be our best mama.

We are not alone

Being overwhelmed by and in one’s own home is not as singular a situation as one might think. According to a study by UCLA's Center on Everyday Lives of Families (CELF) the amount of stress we experience at home is directly proportional to the amount of stuff we and our family have accumulated.

In the study, a team of professional archaeologists, anthropologists and other social scientists conducted a systematic study of home life in 32 middle-class, dual-income families with 2-3 kids of ages 7-12 in Los Angeles.

The scientists examined the amount of their stuff and found that women who feel their homes are cluttered tend to:

  • Be less happy with their marriages
  • Have unhealthy patterns of the stress hormone cortisol
  • Have difficulty managing every day tasks
  • Feel ineffectual
  • Have a harder time transitioning from work to home
  • Get increasingly depressed throughout the day
  • Having greater fatigue in the evenings.

The study also found that those unfinished home projects fall into the category of clutter and generate the same kind of stress that clutter does. Housework and home repairs compete for the attention of time and resource-strapped parents, turning home into more a place of increased demands than a haven from stressors.

Wives were found to be more affected by these stressors than husbands. Other research has shown that wives assume more of the responsibility for maintaining a home than husbands do, which may be more closely linked to how they see the home environment, and so they are particularly stressed out by the presence of clutter.

What about the kids?

If creating for ourselves a more restful home environment is not a big enough reason to declutter, perhaps the knowledge that our habits can be passed along to our kids will be.

"Our ability to organize begins at a young age through the modeling and messages we receive from our parents," says professional organizer, Regina Leeds. "Being raised in a home where we weren't taught the skills to maintain order, we inadvertently may fall into the habits of disorder and unfortunately pass along these non-serving habits to our children, rendering them incapable of organization until they take it upon themselves to learn the essential organizational skills, to eliminate, categorize, and organize."

Our stuff adds up

In our materialistic society, we are exposed to ads all day long that tell us what need to have to be healthy, handsome, happy, and successful. This can make it easy to accumulate all sorts of stuff we don’t really need and difficult to get rid of it due to the associated emotional baggage.

For many reasons, we can find ourselves emotionally paralyzed when it comes to deciding what to keep or get rid of, and that stuff winds up controlling us rather than benefiting our lives.

We can have sentimental attachments to things, or we may believe our things have hidden monetary value, but the main reason we hang on to things is fear. However misguided, we can fear the loss of security, status, comfort, and love when we throw things out.

Additionally, our possessions embody our memories, our hopes and our dreams, representing who we believe we are now, and who we believe the better version of ourselves will be in the future. So it comes as no surprise that it can be difficult to let go. "Tidying lets you stare in the face all of your core beliefs and what you’re living your life based on,” says Sue Rasmussen, a Minneapolis life coach and decluttering professional.

Others propose that discarding things we’ve purchased can be an admission of our failings, and holding on to them can also be toxic reminders of what we have not accomplished.

“You hold onto things based on hope,” says June Saruwatari, author of Behind the Clutter, a book that looks at not just the physical stuff that takes up room in our lives, but the mental clutter that keeps us from feeling productive and happy. "We hope to lose weight, hope to catch up on reading, hope to finish that abandoned project. But when we don’t, it’s hard not to feel like a failure about it…how many items do you need to hold onto before it starts controlling your life?”

Or, we may feel guilty for wasting money on things, so we hold onto them to justify our purchase. And especiallly, we are afraid of regret. We have all tossed something, only to wish we hadn’t later. But holding onto stuff by rationalizing we may need it one day is a recipe for just. too. much. stuff... Eventually everything piles up and cannot be ignored.

In a vicious cycle, the clutter that results from a reaction to feelings of emptiness, fear, guilt and anxiety can cause us to clutter more and can "compound into the reactive emotional pain” of more guilt and shame, fear, anxiety—and ultimately result in preoccupation and depression.

If clutter is the physical manifestation of emotions, then decluttering, believes Saruwatari, isn’t simply about getting our desk and closet in order, "It’s about relieving yourself of all the stuff you’re hanging onto from past careers, relationships, and unfinished business."

Our clutter tells a story

Just as our stuff can signify different emotional messages, it can also represent our identity. According to a 2011 study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the things we struggle to get rid of the most are likely tied to our self-worth, as evidenced by the findings that, "People struggle the most to part with possessions that lack monetary or functional value."

This is why we may mourn the loss of our possessions from a fire but not necessarily their monetary value. The study found that parting with possessions that make us feel worthy can cause us to experience real loss and real grief—even depression.

Some of us find self-worth in our physical appearance, while others find it in approval.

Usually, whatever we hold onto the most represents what defines our self-worth. For instance, if we place a lot of value on success, it can be hard to let go of the things that comprise tangible evidence of our achievements, like awards or college transcripts. Tossing these things might make us feel less successful.

Or, if we value our relationships above all, it may be more difficult to get rid of gifts from people. Tossing unwanted or unused gifts can make us feel like we are being disloyal to the giver. This can apply to birthday and greeting cards as well, which can represent to us that we are loved and appreciated, proving that we mean something to others.

Clutter is not just a representation of our emotions, memories, worth and identity, but it also can be distraction from tackling deeper issues—and a buffer from pain.

"In addition to what we keep,” clinical psychologist Noah Mankowski says, "where we put our clutter usually corresponds to different emotional events." According to Mankowski, clutter in the attic or the basement might indicate an inability to let go of the past.

Or a cluttered bathroom might reveal body image issues, since this is where we’re most likely to be standing in front of a mirror naked.

And clutter in the living room might suggest blockages in our social life, while a cluttered bedroom might relate to issues surrounding our sexual self, fears of intimacy or gender roles. “When you clutter things, … you can’t see the surroundings. Which actually allows you to not deal with it—it’s a way of coping.”

It’s not what we have, but what we do

Decluttering can be hard to begin when we are at the end of a long day or the end of an even longer week. So, approach it with an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful that we can give to others our unused belongings—especially those in good condition—not only benefits others, but can help us rewrite the story of who we are.

In a series of studies recently published in the Journal of Marketing, researchers tested ways to help people donate items that were meaningful to them. They discovered that people would experience less identity loss from donating a cherished item if they photographed it.

Echoed in another study by Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business, associate professor of marketing Rebecca Reczek and her colleagues found that, "People are more willing to give up possessions if we offer them a way to keep the memory and the identity associated with that memory."

The results of the study demonstrate that, "It may be relatively easy to break old habits of clinging to possessions with sentimental value by photographing items to preserve the memories associated with them, making people more likely to donate those items by keeping the memories they represent intact."

In related experiments, other researchers confirmed that it wasn't just the memories associated with possessions that were keeping people from donating, "it was the identities linked to those memories.

For example, older parents may still feel connected to their identities as new mothers and fathers so not want to part with their infant’s clothes, the memories of their child’s infancy being connected to the clothing that helps to define who they are. “It is this reluctance to give up a piece of our identity that is driving our reluctance to donate," Reczek said.

So taking pictures can help us part with all those boxes of old baby clothes we no longer need, not to mention all the preschool artwork that comes home and stacks up. Even better, this strategy can also be implemented to help our kids pass along toys and books they have outgrown.

Our stuff in control

More than 75% of families use their garages solely to store the overflow of possessions (Arnold & Lang, 2007). Understanding the gateways of accumulation and the thinking behind them can help us recognize useless stuff when we see it, making it so much easier to get rid of it before it becomes clutter and a problem.

  • Set boundaries. Storing other people’s things can be a signal that we need to be more assertive about our space and set appropriate boundaries to not allow other people to clutter up our home with their stuff. This includes holding on to family heirlooms. Keeping dear Aunt Lillian’s china set might be sentimental, but it just becomes clutter if it is not going to be used and we don’t really want it.
  • Let go of the past. It’s okay to be nostalgic, but hanging onto dusty dried corsages from our high school proms or our too-small jeans from pre-baby days can be unhelpful reminders of the past and can prevent us from taking responsibility for creating a better tomorrow and moving forward in our life.
  • Trust in the future. Shelves of unopened or unused items can signal “just in case” thinking and a lack of trust in the future. They can also signal an aspiration to do or be something we’re not. Donating these items can free up space in our homes, hearts and heads and help us move on.
  • Tame the unfinished. 
Incomplete projects and half-finished remodels can suggest an unsustainable perfectionism, provoking a sense of failure. Prioritizing completion or scheduling removal of the abandoned helps us respect and accept who we are here and now, which can be empowering.

Home, sweet, neat home

The more we declutter, the better we get at it and the more aware we become of choosing what to keep, dump and seek in our lives. A little empty space helps makes room for a new way of living that enables stronger relationships and a stronger us through better physical and mental health.

Think of it this way: Getting rid of clutter is the ultimate form of self-care.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was as prepared as I could be for my body to run the marathon that is childbirth, yet it turned out to be more like a sprint.

You see, I gave birth in a car—and I felt invincible.

During pregnancy, I chose to create a positive experience. I sought all the research I could. I watched birth videos and documentaries, read birth stories, learned about the stages of labor, recorded coping techniques, drank red raspberry leaf tea, and ate all the dates. I sought care, prepared my cookies and teas, gathered breastfeeding cream, a pump, and belly bind. I folded baby's diapers and clothes, praying for those important first weeks.

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Perhaps the most important thing I did was to join a due date group with like-minded mamas to learn and grow with, and to share all the information, research and tips we could.

Much of my preparation was mental and spiritual prep-work. I read tons of books about birth, including faith-based books about labor, a practical guide to an "emergency" birth, and a natural pregnancy and childbirth guidebook. (And yes, I did end up using knowledge of each of these resources!)

Each of my two births were very different. With my first child's birth, I did not know much about birth or my options. My water broke at the onset of labor and I labored grudgingly in the one hour car ride to the hospital. Once there, I begged for an epidural.

This time around, though, I approached labor differently.

I chose to experience unmedicated labor, even though it isn't an easily understood decision. There were so many unsolicited opinions from people about what I should do with my body, and it was hard to not feel bombarded with all of the negative talk surrounding birth. But by having the support of the due date group and learning the wisdom that has been passed down in generations about childbirth, I wasn't deterred in my decision.

I knew that I needed to focus on not being overtaken by the potential overwhelm of birth. I remembered that I had a right to informed consent and that I could find kind of positive help I needed to give birth the way I knew I needed to. I chose to memorize biblical and positive affirmations to recite during birth to help calm myself through the contractions, and focus on what's at hand, rather than panic.

Labor began

The day my son came, I woke up before the sun at 4am and headed for the bathroom. I felt nauseous and achy like I was going to throw up and have diarrhea all at once. It was a very distinct, disgusting feeling throughout my body. Yet even with that feeling, I was in denial that labor was really starting.

My water was intact, and I was expecting my water to break at the onset of labor, as it did with my first. I was having some contractions, although extremely erratic. They were not consistent with clockwork, but they didn't stop, either. I would have a contraction that lasted five seconds, then a break for 20 minutes. Another contraction, this time for 20 seconds, and a break for seven minutes. I tried using an app to track and time the contractions for a bit, but ultimately that proved to cause more anxiety than peace.

So I turned the app off, and focused on being present. I was so calm. I let the contractions come and go. My family didn't even know I was in labor until they woke up with the sunrise! (I didn't want to wake everyone up—silly me, being in active labor!)

I was grateful to labor on my own in a quiet house in the early pre-dawn hours before the house and outside world woke up. I kept my composure, breathed through contractions, read and prayed, and let the birth process happen on its own.

When the contractions did not stop, I realized this was the real thing.

Once everyone was awake, I realized that I should probably be doing more to prepare, like get to help! We haphazardly packed a bag and rushed out the door to drive an hour to the place chosen to have our baby. I was not excited for that long car ride. I remember laboring in the car before, and it was miserable for me. I also knew how quick my past labor had been, and had this deep feeling, perhaps a mother's intuition, that we wouldn't make it to our destination in time.

I knew that this labor was progressing very quickly, and the baby was going to be born soon. Yet we went.

Giving birth in the car

My family got into the car and we drove, planning to meet more family at the hospital to take over the care of our toddler for a few days.

I labored in the car for 40 minutes until the ring of fire came. I knew what this meant: He was crowning, and we had to park. I tried to get into the best squat position I could, facing the seat, relieved that the car had stopped at this point. I repeated my affirmations over and over, and tried to focus on staying as calm as possible.

And he was born in the car, in the back of a small town grocery parking lot.

My baby was 6 pounds and 6 ounces, born at 9:15 in the morning, as I was facing the seat backward and squatting in the passenger seat of the car.

I didn't really push. A combination of by body's contractions and gravity seemed to do all the work. I was squatting upright, and the baby to just sort of plopped out. Head first into the car seat, with my hand to guide his head down, and a bit of the cord and fluids followed.

I attempted to squat fairly awkwardly in the seat to hold my fresh son and rub the vernix into his sweet skin. We were in love, and I felt invincible. I immediately felt relief of all the pain and tension. The rush of oxytocin and hormones from birth made me feel on top of the world. (In that moment, I almost forgot that my toddler was in the backseat watching, eyes wide open—he was so quiet!)

The ambulance was called, we were checked out, and all was well. I waddled to the ambulance while the EMTs held towels around me and baby. They needed to take me to the hospital to make sure we were okay. I sat in the back of the ambulance stroking my baby, relieved to have more space to stretch out.

At the hospital, we sat in a room for a while until they figured out what to do with us, since the baby was already here. We stayed overnight and I reflected on the birth as I could.

Reflecting on my car birth

In some ways, I was sad. This is not what I wanted first moments with my son to be like. Although I was prepared for birth and felt incredible afterward, I felt sort of exposed to the world during the process. My body was depleted—and ultimately, my baby was born in the car (not exactly something that was on my bucket list).

I felt grief for the way (or rather, place) that my labor happened. But I was also thankful for a powerful, unmedicated birth. I grieved the loss of expectations, while being thankful for the reality. And that's okay.

I did it. We did it. This birth was a sprint, not the marathon so many women talk about.

Nothing about my labor and contractions were predictable. I did not have much knowledge about birth before I was pregnant, but the preparation during my pregnancy helped me feel more at ease. Despite the situation, I didn't feel that it was challenging. I felt able, or at least as able or prepared as any mother can be, for labor.

The feeling of being in labor is indescribable—the juxtaposition between pregnancy and postpartum, the time in labor where you are in the hyphen of here and there, a time that forever changes your life and family.

It was truly vulnerable and powerful—an unusual presence of two feelings that left me over-the-moon. As soon as my son was born, the feeling of pain was gone, just like that. And in its place was exhilaration; a rush of adrenaline and awe. I did it completely on my own, in the front passenger seat of the car!

Our bodies are absolute miracles. I grew into a mother of two that day, and with that, my new mission was born: to help other mothers learn and experience the feeling of being empowered by your birth and labor, not in fear of it. I decided to become a birth and postpartum doula, to empower, coach and be alongside other mothers in their own journey in birth and motherhood.

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Life

For starters, this article is not to be confused with 10 ways to win a power struggle. I know, I'm disappointed too, but there is no way to win a power struggle with a 3-year-old. They can refuse to put on their shoes all day—they have nowhere better to be!

More importantly, you don't necessarily want to win a power struggle. Sure, you may occasionally triumph in a battle of the wills with your child, but I doubt either of you will emerge from the experience feeling good about yourselves or your relationship.

Plus, as nice as it would be to have our children just do what we ask without argument, our goal isn't to raise little people who blindly follow orders. Rather, we want to raise children who are able to compromise, accept advice and guidance and follow a trusted authority.

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What we can think about is how to make the most of the inevitable power struggles we find ourselves in with young children, and how to come out of them with our relationship intact.

Here are 10 ways to turn power struggles with your toddler into a win:

1. Demonstrate how to compromise

One of the best ways to teach children how to be kind and reasonable in their interactions with others is through modeling. I know, no pressure, right?

Instead of standing over them and yelling at them to pick up their toys while they sit there with their arms crossed giving you the evil eye, try offering to put away the blocks while they put away the dolls. Or, try offering them five more minutes before clean up time. Extend the olive branch and see if you can gain their cooperation rather than their obedience.

In time, you can involve your child more in coming up with the solution. Say something like, "I want you to clean up your toys and you don't want to. What's a compromise we could use here?"

2. Model empathy

It can be really hard to show empathy for something that seems completely ridiculous to us. Can you really have empathy for someone refusing to eat their breakfast because you gave them the blue spoon? Maybe not.

But you can show empathy for how hard it is to not get what you want, or to not have the control you wish you had over your own life. You can say something like, "I know the red spoon is your favorite. It's hard for you when it isn't clean."

This shows our children that we see and care about how they're feeling, and it is often enough to help them move on.

3. Show the strength of your relationship

Perhaps the most important win that can come out of a power struggle is a stronger relationship. Power struggles are incredibly draining for us and for our children, and it can be hard not to emerge from it angry and tired.

Once you've recovered, spend some time repairing your relationship and let your child know that, no matter what, you still love them for exactly who they are.

4. Model how to apologize

At some point you will inevitably lose your temper over a power struggle you have with your child. It's almost impossible not to. When this happens, it is a great opportunity to show your child how to apologize.

While making children say "I'm sorry," doesn't teach them remorse, when we apologize it teaches the importance of admitting when we do something wrong.

You might say something like, "I'm sorry I yelled at you earlier. I was so frustrated when you wouldn't put on your shoes and we needed to leave, but yelling wasn't a good choice. May I give you a hug?"

5. Teach them to read their bodies

Children frequently become argumentative when they're tired, hungry or thirsty. They are not good at reading their own body's signals, yet the way they feel physically dramatically affects their behavior.

When you find your child buckling down and refusing everything you ask them to do, teach them how to pause and scan their body. Explain to them that when they are feeling this way, it is sometimes because they haven't eaten or rested in a while.

Teaching your child to be in tune with their body is a lesson that will last well beyond the stage of power struggles.

6. Let them learn from natural consequences

Many power struggles center around things we ask our children to do for their own good. We ask them to bring a coat so they won't be cold. We ask them to use the potty so they'll be comfortable. We ask them to do their homework so they don't get in trouble at school.

Next time you feel a power struggle coming on, ask yourself what would happen if your child didn't do what you asked. Is there a natural consequence that would be meaningful, but not harmful? If so, let the situation unfold.

You might say something like, "I think you should wear a coat so that you're not cold, but it's your body, you can decide."

Later, when they're too cold and have to leave the park, you can talk about what happened. Sure, your child will be mildly uncomfortable for a while, but you will avoid a daily power struggle about coats.

7. Show them it's okay to change your mind

Some rules are really important and we simply cannot back down. Other times, you may make a minor request in passing, only to set off a monumental power struggle. Do you have to stick to what you said simply to avoid backing down to your unreasonable child?

No, of course not, what message would that send?

If something isn't important to you, simply tell your child that you've changed your mind, not out of exasperation, but simply because it's not important to you.

Say something like, "Wow, I can see this is really important to you. You know what, now that I think about it, I'm okay with it if you wear your princess dress to the park, if you're okay with it getting dirty."

This demonstrates that it's okay to give in to what someone else wants sometimes, we don't have to be in a power struggle just to avoid backing down at all costs.

8. Teach respectful disagreement

Power struggles can be an excellent opportunity to teach our children how to disagree, respectfully. After all, there is nothing wrong with our children having a different opinion, we just don't want them to express it by flat out refusal or laying on the floor screaming. You can explain this to your child, offering them an alternative way of expressing their opinion.

Say something like, "Wow, I asked you to get dressed and you really don't want to. You could say 'I'm not ready Mom, may I wait five minutes?'" If your child is already emotional, try having this discussion later when they've calmed down.

9. Practice problem solving skills

Involve your child in coming up with a solution for ongoing power struggles. Do they argue every day about what's for breakfast? Invite them to look through a healthy cookbook with you and choose a new recipe to try.

Do they say no and run away every time it's time to leave the park? Sit down with a pen and paper and involve them in coming up with a good solution for when it's time to go.

This is a great exercise in creative problem solving and children are far more likely to go along with a solution they helped create.

10. Show them they can trust you

In the midst of a battle of wills, it is generally useless to use logic, to explain your reasoning to a child who has already decided that they are, under no circumstances, backing down.

Later though, when all is calm and you have both recovered, sit down with your child and explain why you were asking them to do something.

Explain that you asked them to get in their car seat because it's so important for safety and you care about them. Explain that you asked them to put their toys away because it's important for your family to have a nice and tidy home to live in.

Explain to them that you always, always, have their best interests at heart, that they can trust you.

The best way to handle power struggles is to avoid them. Still, you are human, and you are likely to get dragged into some power struggles from time to time. When that happens, just try to make the best of it.Your child will likely try to initiate many power struggles, but you don't have to actually join the fight every time. Remember that protecting and repairing your relationship is more important than winning any battle.

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Learn + Play

Meghan Markle is opening up about some of the challenges of pregnancy and life as a new mom. While most of us can't relate to her status as a royal we can totally relate to some of her feelings about motherhood.

Markle was recently interviewed by ITV News at Ten anchor Tom Bradby—and when Bradby asked her how she was doing she kept it real.

"Thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I'm OK, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes," Markle said.

ITV News on Instagram: “'Not many people have asked if I’m ok... it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.' Meghan reveals to ITV’s @tom.bradby…”

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Many moms can relate to this, and it's something we at Motherly have often commented on. People always ask how the baby is doing, but don't always think to ask mama how she is. Of course, we want the people around us to care how our babies are doing, but mom needs to be cared for, too.

Bradby pressed on, asking Markle if it would be fair to say she is " not really OK?"

"Yes," she replied.

The most famous new mom in the world is saying that she is not okay. We applaud her for that because by telling her truth she is no doubt inspiring other mothers to do the same. We don't have to pretend that motherhood is free from stress and struggle. It is hard, even for someone with the resources Markle has.

The Duchess of Sussex has a lot of financial resources, but she has also been highly scrutinized during her pregnancy and early motherhood, which has added to her stress.

"Any woman, especially when they're pregnant, you're really vulnerable, and so that was made really challenging," Markle says. "And then when you have a newborn, you know. And especially as a woman, it's a lot. So you add this on top of just trying to be a new mom or trying to be a newlywed. It's um… yeah. I guess, also thank you for asking because not many people have asked if I'm okay, but it's a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes."

Media coverage of Markle's pregnancy and personal life were a factor in Prince Harry releasing a statement on the matter earlier this month.

"My wife has become one of the latest victims of a British tabloid press that wages campaigns against individuals with no thought to the consequences—a ruthless campaign that has escalated over the past year, throughout her pregnancy and while raising our newborn son," it reads, in part. "There is a human cost to this relentless propaganda, specifically when it is knowingly false and malicious, and though we have continued to put on a brave face—as so many of you can relate to—I cannot begin to describe how painful it has been."

As Prince Harry suggests, there are certain things about Markle's struggle that many of us can relate to. Pregnancy and life with a newborn are hard, and trying to pretend you're okay when you're not (or as Harry calls it, putting on a brave face) can make it even more stressful.

Here's to it being okay for a new mom to say she's not okay.

The rest of Bradby's interview with Markle (and conversations with Harry) will air during the upcoming ITV documentary Harry & Meghan: An African Journey, this Sunday in the UK. Stateside, the doc will air Wednesday, Oct. 23, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC.

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Johnson & Johnson announced on Friday that it's initiating a voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of Johnson's Baby Powder due to low levels of asbestos contamination. In a statement posted to its website the company explained this is a "voluntary recall in the United States of a single lot of its Johnson's Baby Powder in response to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) test indicating the presence of sub-trace levels of chrysotile asbestos contamination (no greater than 0.00002%) in samples from a single bottle purchased from an online retailer."

The recall is only for one lot of 33,000 bottles of baby powder. If you have a bottle of Johnson's Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB stop using it and contact the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Care Center at www.johnsonsbaby.com or by calling +1 (866) 565-2229.

Johnson & Johnson stresses that this recall is a precaution and that it can't yet confirm if the product tested was genuine or whether cross-contamination occurred. The voluntary recall comes after years of allegations about asbestos contamination in Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder-based baby powder.

As Bloomberg reported in July, the Justice Department and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating Johnson & Johnson due to concerns about alleged asbestos contamination in its baby powder. This came after numerous lawsuits, including a case that saw Johnson & Johnson ordered to pay almost $4.7 billion to 22 women who sued, alleging baby powder caused their ovarian cancer. In July 2018, St. Louis jury ruled the women were right, but what does The American Academy of Pediatrics say about baby powder?

It was classified "a hazard" before many of today's parents were even born

The organization has actually been recommending against baby powder for years, but not due to cancer risks, but inhalation risks. Way back in 1981, the AAP declared baby powder "a hazard," issuing a report pointing out the frequency of babies aspirating the powder, which can be dangerous and even fatal in the most severe cases.

That warning didn't stop all parents from using the powder though, as its continued presence on store shelves to this day indicates. In 1998, Dr. Hugh MacDonald, then the director of neonatology at Santa Monica Hospital and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Fetus and Newborn, told the Los Angeles Times "Most pediatricians recommend that it not be used," adding that the consensus at the time was that "anybody using talcum powder be aware that it could cause inhalation of the talc, resulting in a pneumonic reaction."

Recent updates

A 2015 update to the AAP's Healthy Children website suggests the organization was even very recently still more concerned about the risk of aspiration than cancer risks like those alleged in the lawsuit. It suggests that parents who choose to use baby powder "pour it out carefully and keep the powder away from baby's face [as] published reports indicate that talc or cornstarch in baby powder can injure a baby's lungs."

In a 2017 interview with USA Today, Dr. David Soma, a pediatrician with the Mayo Clinic Children's Hospital, explained that baby powder use had decreased a lot over the previous five to eight years, but he didn't believe it was going to disappear from baby shower gift baskets any time soon.

"There are a lot of things that are used out of a matter of tradition, or the fact it seems to work for specific children," he said. "I'm not sure if it will get phased out or not, until we know more about the details of other powders and creams and what works best for skin conditions—I think it will stick around for a while."

Talc-based baby powder is the variety of baby powder involved in the The Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission's investigations and the lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, but corn starch varieties of baby powder are also available and not linked to increased cancer risks.

In a statement on its website, Johnson & Johnson states that "talc is accepted as safe for use in cosmetic and personal care products throughout the world."

When Motherly requested comment on the recall and the safety of talc a spokesperson for the company issued the following statement:

"[Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc] has a rigorous testing standard in place to ensure its cosmetic talc is safe and years of testing, including the FDA's own testing on prior occasions--and as recently as last month--found no asbestos. Thousands of tests over the past 40 years repeatedly confirm that our consumer talc products do not contain asbestos."

Bottom line: If you have one of the 33,000 bottles of Johnson's Baby Powder from Lot #22318RB, stop using it.

If you are going to use baby powder other than the recalled lot on your baby's bottom, make sure they're not getting a cloud of baby powder in their face, and if you're concerned, talk to your health care provider about alternative methods and products to use on your baby's delicate skin.

[A version of this post was originally published July 13, 2018. It has been updated.]

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