The Parenting Well
Such an important topic. Unfortunately, it’s one that often gets overlooked, especially with regard to parenthood.
I remember when I was pregnant, everyone kept telling me, “the first 3-4 weeks are really tough but then you’ll turn a corner and it’ll just keep getting better and easier.” Well, my first three weeks were fine. In fact, I thought they were a breeze. My baby woke up a lot at night, sure, but I’d just feed him and put him back down, and he slept most of the day, and I was so in love, and… things were great! I kept wondering why everyone was saying this motherhood thing was so challenging. Was I just that awesome or what?!
And then week five and six rolled around and my little guy woke up. And suddenly he was cluster feeding and I had to use a nipple shield, and he was no longer napping and the sleep deprivation had caught up with me and…
It was like someone spun me around ‘til I was too dizzy to stand straight, and then punched me in the face and stole my lunch. I was like, WTF just happened?!?!?
My hardest weeks were weeks 5-8. I wondered how I could manage being myself with such a needy being clinging to me all day. Or how I could balance my various roles: mother, wife, entrepreneur…. And the worst part about it was that I felt like something was wrong with me since this was happening during the time I thought things “should” have been getting better and easier. This made it even more isolating.
Then, thankfully, we did turn a corner and things started getting better. That’s not to say things aren’t still hard, or that I don’t struggle with my new role from time to time, but I feel more like me and the juggling thing, well, that’s a constant battle and some days I win and some days I lose, and I think that’s just how it is.
But my point in telling you this is simply to say that everyone’s motherhood journey is different. And if I hadn’t had family coming by to help, or friends bringing me meals and relating to my feelings, I don’t know how I would’ve survived it. Which is why I’m so thankful and excited about a new resource for parents and parents-to-be:
The Parenting Well
Individual and group therapy specializing in family planning, pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood. Dr. Hentschel and The Parenting Well can help you navigate challenges throughout your parenting journey, from the moment you consider growing your family onward.
I have known Dr. Hentschel since Freshman year of high school–back before we had professional titles or new last names. When she told me she was launching The Parenting Well I was SO excited. This is a resource that is desperately needed. So, of course I told her I needed to interview her ASAP so that all of you could get to know her and her amazing practice as well:
A Conversation with Dr. Hentschel
Tell us a little about yourself and what led you to psychology.
My name is Elizabeth Hentschel. I am a psychologist and the founder of The Parenting Well. I grew up in Houston, moved away for college, went to graduate school in Austin, and moved back as soon as I could. Now that I’m married with two young boys, I, like most people, am looking for more minutes in the day. I’m getting pretty good at meal prepping and trying to get better at shopping online.
I love psychology for being a field that uses good science to help people make important changes. When I was completing my doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin, I learned the importance of integrating psychology into healthcare. I completed a clinical internship and postdoctoral residency at the Houston VA, began The Parenting Well, and have never looked back.
Why did you choose to focus your practice on conception/pregnancy/family?
I chose to open a practice focused on reproductive health and parenting because I saw a real need in the community. Parents-to-be and new parents struggle, yet people often feel uncomfortable talking honestly about the process of parenting, including difficulty conceiving, losses, and daily challenges. Mental health treatment complements or adds to your existing support, enhances your strengths, and teaches you skills you can use forever. And it uses well-researched methods to do that as efficiently as possible.
What do you think is one of the most unexpected, difficult things about becoming a parent?
For some, the baby blues, worries, or depression surprise them most or, at least, feel most challenging. It may not be unexpected, but one of the greatest challenges for new parents is redefining their roles. What does it mean to be a mommy or daddy and partner and employee and family member and friend and community member and…? Values may be changing, and energy is limited, so it becomes challenging to decide how to invest yourself to meet demands and still stay true to what matters most. Folks struggle with both the big picture, like “What are my values now?” and the nitty gritty, like “How do I fit it all in?”
On a personal note, for me the greatest challenge as a brand new parent was breastfeeding, hands down. I sure did ask for a lot of support during that time, and I could not be more thankful for my wonderful lactation consultant and investment in extra pumping supplies to reduce the nightly dishwashing time!
Regardless of what feels difficult, I think it’s so important to ask for help. People definitely aren’t alone in the struggle.
What is the most important piece of advice you can give someone who is thinking of starting a family soon?
I believe in the value of living mindfully – in the present moment, without judgment – for everyone. Someone who is considering starting a family likely feels swirls of emotion, from joy and hope, to anxiety and stress. Many people think they don’t have time to stop and feel, but things find their own ways of bubbling up, usually inconveniently. I would recommend paying attention to your experience, acknowledging your ups and downs, and finding ways to keep you pointed toward the things that matter most to you. All of that’s easier said than done, and it takes a lot of practice. Reach out to your supportive friends or family, or find a professional who can help you stay on track.
What are your goals for The Parenting Well?
I want people to feel supported during one of the most important, stressful, and rewarding transitions of adulthood. That way, they can focus their energy on the things and people that matter most to them. The Parenting Well offers a variety of services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and workshops. I use video conferencing for individual therapy because it’s effective, convenient for my busy clients, and allows me to work with people across Texas. Clients can schedule a session during a work break or when children are napping, saving them time, money, and hassle. Groups help folks learn and practice new skills while building a community of their own. Finally, I plan to continue offering services, like workshops, to the greater community. We live in the greatest healthcare city in the world, and I will work with both providers and individuals to increase the chances that parents-to-be and parents receive the support they need.
The Parenting Well offers free 15 minute consultations and video conferencing, which is awesome because let’s be real, leaving the house when you have a baby can be tough!
Whether or not you feel like Dr. Hentschel and The Parenting Well are a good fit for you, if you’re feeling alone or struggling, please reach out–to a friend, family member, or even to us! Work & Mother is here for you and what you’re experiencing is totally normal.