Full Show Notes
The “Uncool” Parent
Teens are really good at letting parents know how completely and utterly uncool we are at every chance they get. And if that’s not enough, the media does a great job at exaggerating our uncoolness. Pretty much all the characters we see in movies and TV, like Phil Dunphy on Modern Family and Amy Polar in Mean Girls, are stereotyped as out of touch with their teenagers and clueless about popular culture and modern technology. While these stereotypes are largely exaggerated, it’s not a stretch to say that most parents wouldn’t put coolness at the top of their skills list.
As a parent it can be easy to feel beat down and exhausted when your teen scoffs at every out of date reference you make. But what your teen doesn’t realize is that unlike them, parents simply don’t have time to keep up with the latest trends. You’re the one picking them up and driving them from place to place, preparing their meals, keeping the house clean, making sure they stay on top of their homework—all while trying to have some sense of what’s going on in their social life. It can be near impossible to simultaneously figure out the ever-changing world of technology and listen to the music they think is cool. The list of requirements for maintaining coolness and mastering the art of parenting like a badass is something you don’t seem to have time for—there’s already an endless to-do list many parents have barely scratched the surface of.
Maybe you’ve accepted that your teen is never going to think you’re cool. In the grand scheme of things, you know “coolness” is not so important, yet you’re sick of hearing, “You don’t know who [insert popular singer/actor here] is?” It’s like you and your teen speak a different language and unfortunately, they don’t sell teen-to-parent translators on Amazon yet.
Somewhere in the process of raising kids, many parents have lost touch with their inner badass. Any speck of “badassery” you once had has been sacrificed for the sake of being a responsible parent. So how do you go about parenting like a badass and regaining the dignity you once had prior to having kids?
This week’s podcast guest, Biz Ellis, has the answer. She is the co-host of popular podcast “One Bad Mother” and author of the book, You’re Doing a Great Job- 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting. Biz experienced a “parent identity crisis” when she realized that after becoming a mother, she no longer felt cool. After a process of self-discovery and finding inspiration in a t-shirt her husband made that said “One Bad Mother,” she found her inner parenting badass. In this episode Biz tells her story and reveals insights into parenting like a badass, a skill she has mastered by hosting over 200 episodes of one of the most popular parenting podcasts on the planet
Finding Your Inner Badass
Before having kids, Biz thought she had it all—she lived in Brooklyn, did sketch comedy, and went to clubs every weekend. She thought of herself as being pretty cool—until she went on maternity leave for her first child. Then, when people would ask what she did for a living, Biz would feel ashamed to say she was a stay-at-home mom. She felt that many of the labels or identities given to mothers––like Soccer Mom—were inherently uncool. She realized that maintaining the same coolness she once had was a lot less effortless than expected. Transitioning into parenting like a badass was going to take soul searching.
Though Biz longed for the coolness she felt prior to motherhood, she soon realized that wanting to return to your “old self” is a toxic idea. It’s unrealistic to expect things like your pre-kid social life and pre-kid body to remain the same once you’ve had children. But instead of denying this and yearning for a time that you’ll never get back, Biz suggests focusing on all you’ve gained from becoming a parent. Everything you’ve sacrificed has paved the way for you to become a better, tougher, and wiser person with a beautiful child to show for it. For Biz, forgetting the past and moving forward was the first step to parenting like a badass.
Biz reveals that the next hurdle to parenting like a badass is feeling like life is constantly passing you by. One day you’re teaching your baby to walk and before you know it, that baby is a teenager embarking on their first day of high school. As lame as it may be to your teens, it’s hard to keep composure when you think about the days when they needed your help to cross the street or tie their shoes. Now that they’ve grown up and become more independent they need you less and less—which is quite honestly the most devastating yet rewarding part of parenthood.
Biz understands that parenting like a badass is easier said than done. It’s hard to be the cool, laissez-faire parent your teen wants you to be when you’ve gotten so used to making decisions for them. Your teen craves independence and may take any parental attempt to correct their behavior as you babying them. In this episode, Biz discusses how to face conflicting feelings that moments like these bring about with understanding rather than avoidance.
That Damn To-Do List!
Badassness is usually marked by not playing by the rules. One rule Biz thinks parents should avoid is living life by your to-do list. While these lists can be helpful at times, it’s important to question whether they’re preventing you from parenting like a badass. Are they helping you accomplish things or are they making you focus too much on what you aren’t accomplishing? Biz firmly believes that parents need to give themselves a break. She says that as a parent, you’re often overly fixated on the things you’re doing wrong and fail to notice all the ways you’re Winning at Parenting.
Rather than feeling bad for not finishing everything on your to-do list, celebrate what you have accomplished. Biz reminds parents that though most of the things you achieve in a day aren’t list-worthy, they’re still worth praising. You’re such a master at parenting like a badass that you didn’t even need help remembering them! Biz reminds parents that small, but important, accomplishments like finishing three loads of laundry or getting both your kids to and from practice are what make you a badass.
“It’s Just Cake” Mentality
Biz recognizes that pressures to be like other parents can prevent you from parenting like a badass. For example, you may think that because another parent shows up for an event dressed to the nines or goes all out for their kids birthday party, they are judging you for not doing the same. Biz provides the example of a parent who makes a beautiful, delicious cake to bring to a PTA banquet. Maybe all you brought was plastic utensils and napkins. In moments like this, it’s easy to think “Is everyone I’m surrounded by trying to prove that they’re better than me?”
Biz points out that as parents, it’s easy to think that there’s always an ulterior motive when another parent does something nice. But rather than torturing yourself to figure out their motive, she says to live by the motto “It’s just cake!” This parent isn’t purposefully trying to make you feel bad. They’re not intending to come off as superior to all the other parents—they’re simply bringing a delicious treat for everyone to enjoy. Biz states that the less you compare yourself to other parents and read into the often untrue intentions of other people, the better you’ll be at mastering the art of parenting like a badass.
In this podcast, Biz discusses how parenting like a badass can help you tackle the many hurdles of raising teens like…
- Using Humor to Talk to Your Teens About Hard Issues
- How to Teach Your Kids to Effectively Stand Up to Bullies
- How to Combat a Teen Meltdown
I had a blast interviewing the hilarious Biz Ellis about parenting like a badass. I hope her unique take on how to be a more confident, relaxed parent helps you focus more on recognizing all the many ways you’re excelling in life.
Word-for-word examples of what to say to your teen
1. When some other kids were picking on your teenager:
“Well, that’s really not a very good insult. How did it make you feel? Maybe he needs to work on his insults a bit more. What do you think? Should we come up with some things you could say back to him next time?”-Biz Ellis
Step-by-step guides for applying the ideas from this interview
1. Find Your “Badass” Parenting Mojo:It was a simple t-shirt with yellow letters on the front that finally helped Biz Ellis feel badass as a parent again. She told me that she was feeling uncool and un-fun and really beat-down and was struggling to find her parenting mojo. Then her husband, a graphic designer, made her a t-shirt with the words “One Bad Mother” on the front and she suddenly felt cool again as a mom. This might sound strange coming from a researcher, but I believe coolness is important for parents. One of the most common things teens complain about is that their parents are “lame” and “embarrassing” and “don’t get it”. To thrive as a parent of a teenager, you need to be a little bit of a badass. You don’t need to be Brad Pitt, but you’ve got to be comfortable in your hipness. Take a moment to write a few words that make you feel like a badass as a parent. See if you can get it down to a single line or sentence that makes you feel cool. Now jump online and get it printed on a coffee mug or magnet or sticker so you can be inspired by it every day!
2. Make A “Did It” List to Remind Yourself About Everything You Do:(Members Only)
3. Find a Way to Remind Your Teen of Your Unconditional Love:(Members Only)
Complete Interview Transcript
Andy: All right. I listened to recently, to an episode that you guys had about teenagers and kind of making predictions about what your kids would be doing when they were teenagers. And it was funny to listen to you guys, kind of thinking about your kids, listening to these podcasts years from now, and going back, and it’s almost like a record of their lives from your perspective in this really interesting way. But there’s something fun about being able to go back and listen to these hundreds of podcast episodes that you guys have created and this kind of narrative that exists and going back to kind of what started it all, which was this T-shirt. I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about the One Bad Mother T-shirt and what kind of propelled that into existence and was the impetus for this whole thing?
Biz: Yes. So I had been living in Brooklyn in New York and I had just had our daughter, Katie Bell. And I definitely, I definitely was having a moment of before and after motherhood moments where I thought I was pretty cool then. I did sketch comedy, I went to clubs, I lived in Brooklyn.
Andy: And you’re a single person in New York.
Biz: Yeah, single. But even when I was married, we were cool. We’d do stuff. And then I had my daughter and I was like, “I am not cool.” In fact, we had gone to go see Stephen Colbert, and the warmup, the guy who warms up the crowd was asking people what they did. And they asked my husband first and he had this total answer ready for them. And then I had this panic attack, they’re going to ask me, and I don’t know what to say, because, I’m sort of on maternity leave. Do I say I’m a mom? Oh my God! Feels suddenly so uncool to say. And I was really feeling like my only options out there were soccer mom or these sort of crazy mom labels that didn’t feel cool. And so, my husband made me a T-shirt that was just black V-neck T-shirt with these yellow letters going across it, that said, “One Bad Mother,” and I suddenly felt cool about being a mom a little bit. It didn’t fix all my problems.
Biz: I’ve spent the last eight years still not settled in like the identity crisis I had, but the T-shirt really helped. And I just kind of thought, well, this makes me feel cool being on a subway with a kid, I feel like nothing else out there about parenting does that. So how do I make something that makes parents still feel cool about being who they are in the same way. That the T-shirts sort of stemmed the whole idea.
Andy: So I love that so much. And I read through your book, which is hilarious, and it’s such a blast to read. And there’s one thing in here on page 84 that really hit me and felt like it summed up that same thing as what you were talking about with the T-shirt. And it says, “Can we stop talking about trying to get back to our old selves? There’s nothing like pining for our pre-kid bodies, pre-kid social lives or pre-kid creativity to make us feel depressed about parenthood. Think about it. Why would you want to go back to the person you were before? You’ve been there before? You’re past that now. All that stuff from before, that’s part of you, that’s in you only now thanks to your children you’re better, wiser and tougher. You’re amazing. Let’s move forward.”
Andy: That was my favorite piece from the book for some reason. And it’s something that I have been thinking about for awhile. This idea that parents need to find their inner badass a little bit, and especially, because what we deal with here as teenagers and I’m a researcher. So I come at all this from like a scientific perspective and I’m struggling with how do I put this into words? But a lot of the parents that I work with, it’s like, well, what I want to tell you is that you need to just be a little more of a badass and I didn’t quite have the words for it until I found your podcast and your book. So I was wondering if we could talk about that a little more.
Biz: Yeah. I kind of want to jump right in and say, I hear you say, when you’re dealing with teens, you have to find your inner bad-ass. But I think what I struggle with is, by the time my kids are going to be teenagers, which with my oldest is not too far off, I feel so-
Andy: Yeah, she’s eight now?
Biz: Yeah, she’s eight. I feel so beaten down by all the baby and toddler and sort of preschool and elementary years are all about, we were just talking on the show about you want to give your kids independence, but there’s a stage where they just developmentally don’t understand independence. And then by the time you’re ready to start letting them do the independence you want them to do it. You’re so habitually trained to say, “Put on a coat for God’s sakes.” I don’t understand how, by the time you have teenagers, I could still feel cool because I would just be like, I’m so tired. Are they sleeping? I’m so happy. I’m so tired. I feel like I’ve spent the last X amount of years trying to let them be independent while at the same time, help them figure out how not to be uncomfortable in the world. That’s a lot. How’s it working out for you? That’s a lot for me to think about.
Andy: But, isn’t that life Biz, that it’s every phase is, has you feeling like you just had it figured out a second ago and now this new wrench just got thrown in? And God darn it. And I feel like that kind of is parenting and especially kind of teenage years here. So I thought it was interesting that sometimes something external can really change how we feel internally. And I love this image of you finding this T-shirt, that then solidified this kind of identity for you or something, or made it okay to be a mom and to be kind of like your own version of it. There’s another thing in your book that was a cool about being you. I think it’s just such a healthy message that finding your inner badass needs to come from a place of empowerment and confidence.
Andy: And so, one of the things that you guys do consistently on the podcast and all throughout the book is recognize when parents are doing a great job and kind of give them prompts about, you know those day-to-day things that we do every day? You got a great idea in your book about, hey, instead of making a to-do list today, make a did-it list.
Biz: Yeah. Yeah. Then we’re wondering at the end of the day, why we’re so tired and why we didn’t get anything done. And it’s like, well, you did a million other things that we just take for granted is not countable is not worthy of being counted when remembering the ticket, the groceries, remembering all the appointments, remember getting your kids to all the events they’ve got to get to. But we don’t put that on the to-do list that we’re remembering all those things and that we’re balancing all those things. And then we beat ourselves up for not calling the cable company or not making that doctor’s appointment for ourselves when instead we should be like, “Oh man, nailed it. I nailed all this stuff today.” And eventually I’ll go get a health check for myself.
Andy: Right? Because if you have a to-do list and then stuff comes up during the day, then there’s an aspect of it feeling like you failed to get this stuff done.
Biz: We just don’t put most of it on the list. That’s just it. The things that make it to the list are sort of really the C-level things that have to get done, because everything else we’re just doing so much of. We just don’t write it down.
Andy: Because we’re not, not going to feed the kids. It’s just, I don’t have to write that down. I got that.
Biz: Yeah. Somebody’s going to pick them up, right?
Andy: Check. In fact, you are so competent at these things that you don’t even have to write it down.
Biz: That’s right.
Andy: That is, you have graduated from the to-do list.
Biz: Yeah, that’s why I feel like Theresa and I are constantly saying, people should just be high-fiving each other and target or wherever all the time. I’ll watch, I’ll be in the car and I’ll see a parent with the kid and all the groceries. And I just think, I don’t know why, but to me, that image is always like, that was the hardest thing that person had to do today. Good job. You’ve got all the stuff-
Andy: You go mom.
Biz: And you did it with somebody with you, and you did it and it’s not what you wanted to do at all today. Good job. No one’s going to the cocktail parties or hanging out with their friends and saying, “You know what I did today? I went to the store and I got everything on my list. I didn’t forget everything. And I, I actually had my wallet with me. That was a big plus. I didn’t accidentally steal something because I forgot it was in the bottom of the car.” That whole list. Everybody would be like, “You’re the worst? Why are you talking about this?”
Andy: Right. My kid did not throw a tantrum in any of the aisles. I just want to throw that out there.
Biz: Yeah. But when I think about teens, I do have this hilarious image of teens and I know mine are going to be the worst. That everybody can go back and listen to this later and be, yeah, you like the idea of the selling team, slamming a door in your face and calling you the worst, you think that’s going to be a lot of fun? But yeah. It’s the same thing where I was like, I’m going to love newborns. I hated newborns. Just got to be.
Andy: Oh, really?
Biz: I was not a good, I mean, I was fine. Everybody’s alive. And I love my children and stuff, but I didn’t naturally take to newborns into little babies. I’m better with slightly older kids. Everybody’s got their thing I think. But that’s just it, is that the pressure is you’re supposed to enjoy all the parts of it. And that I just think that’s one of the biggest myths that we have to deal with is that I think you can be happy with your choices about having a kid in your house and at the same time, not like it all the time and that they can exist at the same time. And I think that’s sort of the heart of what we try and get at, at the show is that you get to be both. You get to like it and not like it at the same time. And it’s okay.
Andy: Yeah. That is what it is. And it’s like that you don’t feel apologetic about anything, right? Or because you’re doing the best you can and you don’t need to feel bad, right? There’s so many ways that parents just beat themselves up. I think-
Biz: We do. How many times have you started a conversation, “I love my kids, but…”? Or you know what it’s like? Of course, you love your kids. We shouldn’t even have to apologize. We make a huge list of things before we talk about what’s bothering us. I’m so tired or, you know what? I haven’t gotten enough sleep. But the assumption should be, everybody’s doing their best and loves their kids and didn’t marry a jerk. And we’re all trying our best. Now, it’s okay to also say, you’re not having a good time with assuming that you’re a monster. And, one of the things we talk about is just how easy it is to feel like somebody is doing it at you. If they’re doing really well at something that somehow it’s a reflection that you’re not doing a good job, or if they’re doing a bad job, but it’s reflection that you are the best and they’re a monster.
Biz: And it’s not either of those, even though that’s a voice that’s easy to get stuck in your head. And so as listeners, we have to be, it’s okay for you to say that you just want to go out for milk and maybe not come back right now. I know that doesn’t mean you’re actually going to do it. It’s okay.
Andy: There is a fantastic scene in the movie Bridesmaids, where she goes to a party at her arch-rival’s house and she just wants to hate the whole thing. And she pulls up, “Ooh, these cute little things that she’s got set up… And okay, fine. I’ll have some lemonade,” and then takes a sip of the lemonade. And then she’s just like, “Oh, that is so good.” This is like, just look on her face, like I just hate you so much and love you at the same time, because wow, that’s just incredible lemonade. It really is what it made me think about when I read this part of your book about doing it at you. And she didn’t throw this big party, because she hates you,” right? It’s to be nice to the girl who’s getting married. We just make everything about us and it’s hard not to, but we do, right? We feel like the delicious cake that we ate at the party that the mom baked herself, that we don’t have time to bake a cake ourself. And so what, well, you got to do that lady.
Biz: Yeah, it’s just cake. Cake is delicious. It’s just cake.
Andy: Maybe she’ll enjoy baking cake. Yeah.
Biz: Enjoy the cake guys. It’s just cake, but it’s really hard again, you’re so tired man. And the thing is, is that parenting can be super-isolating. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the idea that all the small stuff, all your day-to-day stuff can feel really big and we’re all struggling with stuff. And so when you then go on a Facebook or go out in the world, it’s really easy for the guilt to be triggered or to feel judged or to be judgy. Or that’s just like, I think it’s like a really natural thing that we do. So we shouldn’t beat ourselves up about that either. But we also should have that extra voice that says, “It’s just cake it’s okay.” And whatever that applies to apply it. Because we just can’t beat ourselves up for those very natural feelings. And we also have to try and be mindful, but those feelings probably aren’t real and it never stops. Kids are just always there aren’t they?
Andy: And you know, we can just remind ourselves, Hey, I look really good on Instagram too.
Biz: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. You can curate your life however you want out in the world guys?
Andy: Yeah. Thinking about social media brings up this topic that I am really interested in. I mean, we kind of just touched on it a second ago, but I just had my first memoirist on the podcast recently. And it was really, he’s a father who was really interesting to talk to him about the process of making his family life, public knowledge in this book. And because there’s really personal stuff in there about his struggles with his marriage and his kids, and drugs, and vandalism and all this stuff that they get kind of wrapped up in. And I hadn’t really thought about it before I talked to him about it, but this conversation that he had to have with his family and going through drafts of the manuscript. And it makes me wonder about this podcast that you guys do a lot of times you talk about very personal things from within your family, and you guys have a kind of cheeky, little like intro to the podcast that kind of is a disclaimer, a little bit.
Andy: I was interested in just if there’s other conversations that you’ve had with your family or what else you’ve done to sort of address that?
Biz: I think early on we had the initial conversation, Theresa, my cohost and I about do we change our kids’ names? And at the time we both just had one kid and Theresa’s husband had been doing a podcast and a show for years and had already said their child’s name. So it felt like you couldn’t just suddenly go on and be like, “But no we’re talk…” I mean, stuff was already out there before we started our show. And so, that was so funny, we were hanging out last week. We were in Chicago having done a live show and we started talking about it again and literally couldn’t remember why we had made that choice. And then we had to kind of walk through it and go, oh yeah, because as the kids get older and as issues change for each of us, we do start to think, “How long do we want to do this? When is there stuff we just don’t want to talk about?”
Biz: And I think we’ve always tried to keep the show about how we as the parents are wrestling with sort of the emotional effects and the identity effects of having kids. And so for example, if we’re talking about something like whining, or if we talk about us yelling, we just did one about yelling or-
Andy: I love that episode.
Biz: Yeah. We’ve done, all these sorts of conversations, even though we’re going to briefly talk about sort of what our kids are doing so that you know what’s happening in our house. It’s really about us. And why is this bothering us? Most of the time, the answer is there’s actually nothing wrong with our kids. It’s all us.
Andy: Sure. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.
Biz: Most of the time that’s the answer. And we’ve shared stuff about ourselves that I am like, “Huh, I’m fine with that. I wonder if my kids will be fine with that later.” And then in terms of our partners, to speak for myself, my husband, Stefan, usually if it’s going to involve him, I’ll check with him first, before we go on, there are a few things I’ve taken out, post recording where I’m like, you know what? I can still have the conversation without saying X, Y, or Z like I said in the show, I can take that out.
Andy: Oh, I see. It doesn’t lose whatever I was trying to get across if it just stick out a little bit.
Biz: The main thing is, for example, we did a show on resentment, partner resentment, right? How easy it is for that resentment to build up. And you have to remind yourself that you didn’t marry a jerk and they didn’t marry a jerk either, which is really actually very hard to remember sometimes. I was able to have that conversation without saying, yeah, we actually have a big thing about not wanting to beat our partners up. There are plenty of places on the Internet and out in the world for you to be like, “Bad partner, is the biggest man baby or what…” I cannot stand man baby, I cannot stand it, because you know what? Most of the time people are doing the best they can too. And like I said, you didn’t marry a jerk for the most part. Some people did for the most part.Biz: I think I can get away with the conversation without also being cruel to my partner. So, that sort of thing we have to be really mindful of. And again, we just try and keep it about ourselves. That said, I don’t know how my kids are going to react to this later. I mean, I hope they see it as sort of a love letter to them. And I hope one day they think when they would even be remotely interested in listening to it, I hope that they would say, “Oh, okay. My mom really loved me.” And that’s what I hope, who knows? Maybe there’ll be like, “Screw you. Why would you do this to me?” I don’t know. I don’t know.
About Biz Ellis
Biz hosts the comedy podcast One Bad Mother with co-host Theresa Thorn. Biz, formerly a stand up comic, member of the nationally-acclaimed sketch comedy group MEAT and corporate event planner in NYC, is now a stay-at-home mom to her 3-year-old daughter. She lives in Pasadena, CA with her husband, daughter, and two cats. She enjoys displacing her parenting frustrations into failed crafting projects. Life is good.
Biz and Theresa are also the authors of a hilarious and insightful book, You’re Doing a Great Job!: 100 Ways You’re Winning at Parenting.