happy ethnic family resting in bed with little dog

Should You Have Kids? (5 Questions to Ask Before Making This Big Decision)

You are probably a millennial (or Gen Z) who is asking themselves, “should you have kids?”. With bigger questions looming like “is global warming going to destroy the planet?” and “will I ever pay off my student loans?”, having the responsibility of kids is getting pushed much further down the list of things you need to figure out by time you’re 30.

As many of us are getting a later start on starting a family, we are realizing we have a little more life experience and are more aware of the nuances of family planning. Getting married at 20 and having 4 kids by 30 is no longer the norm. A 25 year old, fully developed brain can see that much more clearly.

I am a mom first and foremost. It is the most important role in my busy life and the one that brings the most satisfaction, happiness, and stress. Yes, stress is one of the top 3 emotions felt as a mom. But that is for a very good reason. Being a parent is like visiting Disneyland everyday.

This is good news for those that love Disneyland. If you are a proud annual pass holder, you are probably also someone who has always wanted a whole minivan full of kiddos.

photo of fireworks display during evening over castle kids at Disneyland
Photo by Zichuan Han on Pexels.com

You Live for Fleeting Moments of Unimaginable Joy

If you have ever been to Disneyland, you know that Disneyland is 80% planning, waiting in line, and overspending, while only 20% fun & magical. You may spend weeks or even months planning out an ideal trip. It’s the most magical place on earth, so why wouldn’t you want to go? But the day of, after spending an arm & a leg on tickets (hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. for those non-Californians) you find yourself cramped in a car taking a rather long drive through LA traffic, which feels even longer when the last mile takes 20 minutes just to enter the parking lot. Then takes another 30 minutes to find parking, wait in line, take a tram ride, and wait in line some more. Finally there’s that ever rewarding, awestruck feeling once you get through security and see that glorious Disney character posing in front of those gorgeous hedges.

That feeling lasts all of a minute. Then you are off to grab fast-pass tickets or try to be first in line for your favorite ride. You spend most of the day waiting in line for 20 minutes for a 2 minute ride. That although fun, feels like it didn’t last long enough. You then have to make the decision of whether to eat the overpriced food or not. Those Dole whips are delicious, but is that really a meal? The day flies by and before you know it you are trying to find a decent spot in the crowd to watch the magical fireworks at the end of the night. Then you fight your way through more crowds and tram rides to head back home through traffic.

That my friends, is what parenthood is like.

So when you ask yourself, “should I have kids?”. You should really ask yourself, “would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”.

It Starts During Your Pregnancy Journey

If you are already a parent, you know that means being stressed 80% of the time, while hoping that 20% filled with joy makes up for it. Any person who has carried a child will tell you it is uncomfortable at best and life threatening at worst. But this experience is almost always shared along with the tiny moments that were so meaningful you almost forgot how much pain you were in. Like hearing your baby’s heartbeat for the first time or feeling them kick.

In the early stages of being a parent it feels like those momentous occasions happen a little more frequently. So all the explosive diapers and sleepless nights are met with a pretty regular hit of dopamine. Their first laugh, their first steps, their first words. All priceless moments that any parent would say was well worth it. But is it really?

It doesn’t get easier over time (although some swear it does). The stress changes from late night feedings to arguing with a toddler about why vegetables are important to worrying if your teen is making good social choices when they are out on their own. The dopamine hits get further and further apart too. Meeting milestones every few months turns to every few years rather quickly. And it all flies by way faster than we thought it would. Overall we look back with hindsight bias and tell ourselves it was all worth it. While in the moment we are thinking, “How did I get here??”.

Why We Don’t Talk about the Stressors of Parenthood

Our parents (or other parent-type figures), often spring the question on us, “when are you going to have kids?”. This question is super unfair. It is loaded with all these other underlining thoughts and assumptions. Like…

  • “When are you going to get married?”
  • “When are you going to make enough money to afford a kid?”
  • “Are your reproductive organs working right?”
  • “Do your values align with mine?”

None of these questions should really ever be asked. Unless you are the person also trying to raise this hypothetical child.

Because there is a distance between their experience of having children and the present moment; I think a lot of folks forget just how hard, stressful, and exhausting it is to raise healthy, happy children. No one discusses with you the risks of pregnancy and labor. Or the struggles of making ends meet when you aren’t considered upper middle class. Or even how you could be considered upper middle class, but once your household size grows, you are considered barely scraping by.

If someone asked you, “when are you going to add more stress to your life?”, it would be met with, “Why would I want to do that!?”. That is truly what is being asked in these scenarios. No matter what stage of life you are in, having a child will almost always add stress to your plate. You could be a billionaire and you would still be more stressed after having a kid than prior to having a kid. Will a kid potentially add love and joy into your life as well? Sure! But will it balance out the systemic issues we have with providing for today’s children. Maybe not.

How to Prepare for Children

When we talk about stress in therapy, we often use this idea of having a bucket that is sitting under a running faucet. The water is the stress that inevitably shows up in little and big ways throughout our week. If we let that bucket overflow, that is the state of overwhelm and burnout. But if we put holes in the bucket the water will flow out in a more controlled manner, and the bucket won’t overflow. The holes are coping skills.

When you are considering having children, you have to consider the fact that the faucet will start flowing more forcefully and quickly. Do you have enough holes to manage it? Do you have the coping skills needed to control the flow? Will you be able to prevent it from overflowing? Some individuals may have a slight trickle prior to having kids. So a sudden rush of water still feels manageable. But if you are holding your bucket under an already broken faucet, can you handle it becoming a raging waterfall??

Asking yourself or your partner, “should you have kids?” is a tough question. Try asking yourself instead:

  • “Do we have the resources needed to cope with an increase in stress?”
  • “Is our relationship in a place where we can focus on another life and not feel disconnected?”
  • “Do we want to significantly alter our lifestyles?”
  • “Is ‘the joy of parenthood’ a value that tops others in our life currently?”
  • “Would I want to plan a trip to Disneyland everyday for the next 18 years?”

The decision is yours.

Prenatal Couples Therapy

Learning to Communicate with a Baby on the Way

I am a big believer in preventative measures when it comes to your physical and mental health. Many women plan and prep their bodies for a potential pregnancy through exercise, healthy eating, Ob/Gyn appointments, and taking prenatal vitamins… but how many prepare their minds and relationship for the transition into parenthood by going to couples therapy?

Prenatal therapy is a term I came up with to describe the importance of establishing healthy communication and mental health prior to a pregnancy or birth. Lots of focus is put on the mother during a pregnancy, but we often forget that although things are changing for mom-to-be they are also changing for the relationship.

Black couple holding newborn in living room of home

Bringing a baby into the world means bringing another person into your family dynamic. For many relationships there is a drastic shift (whether it is baby number one or two or three) in the relationship as attention is split between more people. Partners have all sorts of feelings as well, when it comes to a pregnancy, and many times we forget that they are going through changes too.

One of the things I remember most about my own pregnancy with my first born, was how my husband voiced that he felt left out of so many things. While he was at work, I was at home putting a nursery together and going to doctor’s appointments, but it never crossed my mind that he wanted to participate in these things. We had a thorough & productive conversation (we’re both therapists so this isn’t uncommon for us) that led to a whole afternoon together building a crib and celebrating the new baby, and he began attending every doctor’s appointment (even though the doctor’s were surprised to see him…every time).

This is just an example of how communication is so important around this life transition. Once baby is here it is harder to find quiet time to have in-depth conversations, and communication often takes a turn for the worst. Attending prenatal couples therapy allows time to think about this shift as a team and discuss some major ideas that may not have been relevant up until this point.

Some of the topics often looked over prior to having a bun in the oven:

  • Will household duties be distributed differently (especially during postpartum recovery)? What will it look like once maternity/paternity leave is over?
  • Are visits with family welcome? Who is high on the “frequent flyer” list (grandparents, uncles/aunts/cousins, friends, etc.)?
  • What family/cultural traditions will be practiced? How about holidays/birthdays/vacations?
  • What parenting/discipline style do you expect to use? What was your experience like with your own parents?
  • How will you communicate your unique needs? Will you need “me time”?
  • What will “couple time” look like? Date nights? Childcare?
  • What are expectations around physical and emotional intimacy (especially during postpartum)?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. So many decisions will be first time decisions, and first time discussions. Thinking about these things in a space that provides extra tools and insight to communicate effectively can be a lifelong gift to your relationship. Consider adding prenatal couples therapy to your “get done before the due date” to do list. It may be the key to a smooth transition from two to three.

peace, love, happiness, Lee

6 Easy Ways to Cope with Holiday Stress

The holidays are suppose to be a time filled with joy, love, and cheer! Unfortunately that is not always the case. The holiday season (arguably the day after Halloween to the day after New Year’s) has become one of the most stressful times of year for individuals, couples, and families alike. That’s why it is so important to identify your coping skills (and exit strategies) before participating in all the holiday “cheer” to reduce all the holiday stress.

holiday stress

Take a Deep Breath

Before you walk into those bustling malls, step into the front door of those relatives hosting dinner, or before any moment of stress…take a deep breath. Slowly breathe in through your nose for 5 seconds, then release slowly through your mouth for 5 seconds. This slows down your heart rate and allows you to step into these spaces feeling calm and prepared for the moment.

Go for a Pre- or Post-Meal Walk

Those big meals can be delicious, but between the extravagant preparation, heated discussions at the table, and the amount of carbs consumed… a walk can be a good way to de-stress. Find your favorite relative and convince them to take a stroll. It’s a great way to quietly catch up with your family and take a break from the kitchen chaos.

Sit at the Kids Table

This may be more stressful for parents, but if your the fun aunt or uncle (or slightly older cousin) it can be a great way to avoid all the “so when are you going to [fill in the blank]?” questions from the adults. When you are anticipating painful conversations, why not save yourself the stress and catch up with the little ones, and learn about the new dances sweeping the nation.

Have Your Comeback Ready

You know all your family’s buttons. You know who is likely to ask those annoying questions or make those slick comments. Do your homework ahead of time and make mental note of all the reasons they shouldn’t be talking. If you aren’t one for comebacks, try some “I statements” at the table. For example: I feel [frustrated, attacked, annoyed, etc.] when I’m asked about [my love life, school, work, etc.] because [it is a private matter, I don’t want to discuss stressful topics, I want to enjoy my dinner, etc.], so please refrain from prying anymore.

Choose to Not Participate

Just because you are invited to events does not mean you have to attend every one. Between festive outings, holiday parties, and family dinners, the holidays can be overwhelming. Choose to attend the events where you will feel most at home, whether that is a friends-giving or a crazy sweater party with your favorite cousins. Choosing to travel on your own or stay close to home are all options that can help replenish your soul for the new year. Figure out what works for you!

Start Your Own Traditions

Last, but not least…create new traditions that are aligned with your own personal values and beliefs. The holidays are about resetting and realigning with those things that drive you everyday. Take some time out for yourself to identify your values and what new traditions you would like to establish to put those on display.

close up of two flute glasses filled with sparkling wine with ribbons and christmas decor

All this to say, instead of holiday stress I hope your holiday season is one filled with peace, love, and happiness in whatever form that finds you. May you find support from those around you and calm in your moments alone. If you are in crisis please reach out to mental health resources here.

peace, love, happiness, Lee

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby!: Intimacy During Pregnancy & Postpartum

Remember when you were having fun trying to get pregnant? I’m feeling sexy, let’s have sex!  I’m ovulating, let’s have sex! I’m bored, let’s have sex! Any reason was a good reason to do the deed. Then you actually got pregnant, and let’s just say you weren’t as eager any more. Then! You had the baby and thought you’d be eager to get back to having some fun, but that didn’t happen right away. Well that’s because pregnancies and children change your romantic relationship. The question is do you let it change for the better or for the worst?

bed bedroom blanket clean
Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

One of the most common statements in couples therapy is, “We never have sex.” Surprising? Maybe not, because of course lack of sex is often a result of lack of intimacy, respect, understanding, and many other things already missing from a relationship. These same things can get lost in the changes that occur during and after a pregnancy. Let’s talk about some of the ways sex changes when a baby is on the way.

1st Trimester

You may still look like yourself for the most part, but you probably don’t feel like yourself. Between morning sickness, severe fatigue, and just the stress of understanding that you are actually growing a human inside of you…sex is probably the last thing on your mind (I mean that’s what got you in this situation in the first place! #TurnOff). Your partner may still be very much into you though…no pun intended.

As you go through these unrecognizable changes your partner may still be ready to jump in the hay and may not understand why someone who was all about the sexy time a month or two ago is suddenly completely over the idea. This is the best time to talk to your partner about what’s going on for you and try to get them on the same page. As things start growing and feeling more and more uncomfortable, it will get harder to have a rational conversation about your partner’s needs as well as what you need.

Try practicing other forms of intimacy. Whether that be cuddling, kissing, hugging, eye contact or (let’s stay scientifically correct) fellatio or cunnilingus. If you don’t know what those last two are, Google it…actually on second thought. Don’t Google it. I’m talking about a good old fashioned BJ and well in the words of Cardi B let him “swim with his face”. Anyway…moving on.

2nd Trimester

The first 3 months can be rough, but with the 2nd trimester some changes may occur. The path of pregnancy is a continuously evolving one and you may notice changes in mood, changes in your body, and changes in your sex drive. Some women even experience an increase in their libido during this time! The tricky part about the 2nd trimester is getting back into the swing of things. If you got your partner on the same page during the 1st trimester it is easier to divulge to them that your desire is back and your ready to see what that body pillow was really meant to do.

Now, with a growing bump your partner may have some fears about what is and isn’t okay when it comes to sex at this stage. Always check in with your doctor to make sure they don’t have any concerns about you doing the deed (and trust that asking about sex is definitely not going to make your doctor uncomfortable…they stare at lady parts all day, they don’t have an uncomfortable bone in their bodies). Take the time to educate yourselves on what sex could look like at this stage, and possibly take a birthing class to help build trust and intimacy in this time of delicate emotions. Going to therapy during this time (individual or couples) can also be beneficial for exploring how you are really feeling about this pending new life.

pregnant woman in white dress shirt
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

3rd Trimester

Things are getting a little lot more crowded and uncomfortable. You may have to get creative with your positioning in this stage, but the deed can be done (again, double check with your physician). Use this as an excuse to practice your listening skills and communicate what works and what doesn’t work for either of you. This is technically the last time you will be able to get it done for a few months.

Also, carve out time in your schedule to discuss how you are both feeling about this new life growing and how things might change after their arrival. Set expectations for how you would like to stay connected once sex is something that inevitably becomes less frequent (at least in the short term).


The baby is out! Woohoo! Time for sex, right? Wrong. You have another 2 months (at least) before any doctor will give you the okay for sex. Let’s be honest those first 2 months you’re probably not going to have the time or energy for sex anyway (a newborn can really suck the life out of you). Use these two months to practice less physical intimacy (refer to 1st Trimester) and start discussing your birth control options with your ob/gyn as these will need to be started ASAP if you don’t want to be doing this all over again in 9 months. Note: you CAN get pregnant while breastfeeding, so do not use that as a form of birth control.

This is a time of transition for any couple, so recognizing that things will not be exactly the same, and putting in place some ways to create small, intimate moments that now work with your new life will be critical. If you are struggling in this time to communicate with one another your needs, utilize your village and have someone babysit for an hour or two (take up friends/family on their offers for help). You both deserve a break. Take some time to go on a date or go to therapy together. Giving yourself some grace allows you to be a better partner and parent.