Meet A Mom- Hillary Follis!

Hillary Follis lives with her husband and two boys in Birmingham, MI. Wait until you read all of her advice, and learn about what she can offer new (and experienced!) moms during their journey through motherhood!

 

How many children do you have and what are their age(s)?

We have two sweet little boys.  Jack is five and Ben is three.

 

How long have you lived in the area? What made you decide to raise your family here?

I grew up here!  My mom lives in Bloomfield Hills and my dad lives in Birmingham, so this is home for me.  After college, my husband Michael and I moved to Chicago for about seven years, and we knew we’d come back to be closer to family when we were ready to start a family of our own.

 

What’s your favorite family activity in Birmingham/Bloomfield Hills?

I love that the boys are old enough to go see movies now.  Michael and I used to be the weird couple seeing kids’ movies by ourselves.  Now we have an excuse!

If you asked my kids, they would 100% say their favorite family activity is going to Target.

 

Where are your favorite places to eat with your kids in town?

We love to go out to eat and have been bringing our kids with us since they were little babies in car seats.  Now they ask if we can go on a “lunch date” or “dinner date” :).  We really just take them wherever we feel like going, but our most frequented with the boys are Luxe, Market, and Greek Islands.  They love the smoothies at Beyond Juice and Pita Cafe, and they love going to Hunter House and watching the cars drive by.

 

What’s one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I talk to myself while I cook as though I have my own cooking show (dream job!!).

 

Tell us about your practice!

My therapy practice specializes in all aspects of maternal mental health — I work with women who are struggling to conceive, experiencing the many struggles that arise during pregnancy, coping with pregnancy loss, and adjusting to motherhood, including postpartum depression and anxiety. This is such a complex stage of life and can trigger other (at first) seemingly unrelated issues, such as family-of-origin issues, job satisfaction, relationships and sex, role transitions, body image issues, balancing work/home/life while maintaining a connection to self…I could go on and on.  My goal is to create a warm, nurturing, nonjudgmental environment where women and their partners can come and feel supported and heard.

I also love the connection between yoga and mental health and like to incorporate aspects of yoga and mindfulness into my practice whenever I can.  This past year I completed prenatal and postnatal yoga teacher training through Sweet Momma Yoga, and I’m offering private prenatal, postnatal, and yoga for fertility sessions, as well as teaching group prenatal classes at Born Yoga in Birmingham.  My dream is to someday have a space where I can offer both yoga and therapy services to my clients on-site.  Yoga is such a wonderful form of self-care — it has been shown to alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and overwhelm, and it’s a safe way to move your body during pregnancy and postpartum — and it’s a natural compliment to talk therapy.

My website:  hillaryfollistherapy.com          Instagram: @hillaryfollistherapy          Facebook:  Hillary Follis, LLMSW

How did you get to this point in your career with your private practice? What experiences did you have before?

Before going into private practice and before having children, I worked as a school social worker.  I enjoyed the work and working with kids, however, at the time we were having trouble conceiving and were undergoing fertility treatments.  I felt depressed and anxious, and my job was stressful and draining.  Eventually my husband and I made the decision that it was best for my mental health to quit my job before pursuing IVF.  I was lucky that IVF worked for us on our first round and we had our son Jack, later to be followed by our son Ben. 

I stayed home with the boys when they were babies — which I loved.  I knew I’d want to return to work eventually, but at that point in my life I felt very content being home and knew I’d figure out what I wanted to do professionally when the time was right for me.  As the boys grew a little older and I started getting the itch to work again, it was no question what I wanted to do; I had always been interested in private practice, and my own experience with infertility, pregnancy loss, and new motherhood opened my eyes to the world of maternal mental health.  I saw a therapist when I was going through infertility, and continued to see her on and off for years.  I loved being in therapy and having the space to process every hurdle that motherhood threw my way.  I saw the struggles that other new mothers were facing, and recognized the need.

 

What mental health advice would you give to a new mom who is juggling motherhood? 

-This is really hard, and you are doing a great job, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

-Identify support systems that actually feel supportive and give yourself permission to receive help.  Remember there are various levels of support:  practical support, emotional support, social support, professional support, etc.  Identify supportive people in your life who can help with these various needs (ex: Who can help you with practical help, like doing laundry?  Who is a really good listener that you can talk to?), and don’t be afraid to set boundaries with people who do not feel supportive.

-Make self-care a priority — it is not selfish.  We need to take care of ourselves and fill up our cups before we can attend to the needs of others.  If you’re a new mom and just struggling to make it through the day let alone schedule self-care, remember that “S.E.L.F.” is a good acronym to follow — Sleep, Exercise (just move your body), Laugh, Food.  If you’re feeling like you have the space to make more time for yourself, identify what self-care looks like for you.  Identify what you enjoy, what fills you up, and what makes you feel like yourself — then intentionally create the space to do those things, whether it’s arranging childcare to get out of the house, or just creating little pockets of time for yourself throughout your day.

-Be wary of social media — and remember there is no such thing as perfection.  What people choose to share on social media does not show the full story.  Set boundaries around social media use if you find it more triggering than enjoyable.

-Pay attention to signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression.  Baby blues are very common and present hours to days after delivery and usually only persist for two weeks.  If you’re past two weeks postpartum and are experiencing symptoms, contact your medical professional or seek help.

-New motherhood can feel lonely and isolating — find ways to connect with other moms.  This community is great for that!

 

What do you do to balance work and mommyhood?

I’m constantly trying to answer this question for myself!  I think for me it’s about continuously renegotiating with myself what balance looks and feels like for me.  A few things come to mind:

First, I’m really lucky to have found a career that allows me to be my own boss and the flexibility to make my own schedule, so that I’m able to tailor my work schedule around the needs of my family.

Second, valuing quality over quantity of time spent with my kids.  I try to remind myself that quality time with my kids doesn’t have to be an elaborate Pinterest-worthy activity (lucky for us, because I am the least crafty mom in the world).  For me, it’s about reminding myself to slow down and really enjoy the ordinary moments.  The dishes can wait.  I’ve been turning my phone on silent when I’m home.  I’m working on being present in those ordinary moments with my kids, even if it’s just for a few minutes.  Unfortunately for me, they’re very into Star Wars so it’s mostly a lot of light saber fights.  But also lots of snuggles 🙂

Last, making my own self-care a priority.  To feel balanced my life, I need to be intentionally making time to read, to take naps, see friends, be alone, go on date nights, have good food and wine, snuggle with my dog, go for a walk, take a barre or yoga class, meditate, etc.  When I take the time to do these things for myself, I’m happier when I’m home with my kids and happier when I’m at work.

Anyone special you’d like to thank for helping you through parenthood?

We learned from the best!  We have an abundance of parenting role models — my mom and stepdad, my dad and my late stepmom, and Michael’s parents.

And Michael, my husband, aka Super Dad.  He is the guardian of our galaxy.

 

How has this community been instrumental in getting you to where you are now?

It goes all the way back to prenatal yoga at Karma Yoga in Bloomfield Hills and Kindermusik music class at the Community Center in Birmingham with my first son, where I met a wonderful group of moms with babies the same age as mine.  We are all still in touch, and that community of women was instrumental for me as I navigated becoming a new mom 🙂

 

Hillary, thank you for your wisdom and amazing advice! 

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