We’re Going to Be Just Fine: Good News From The Birds Papaya

The (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries: Sarah Landry

by Julian Alessandroni

Welcome to The (nsfmg) Quarantine Queries, where no topic — while in the middle of a goddamn pandemic — is off limits. 

Sarah Landry, aka lifestyle blogger *THE* Bird’s Papaya (internal screams), is known for many-a-thing: her writing, her positive outlook on body, her unique family dynamic, and even her love of pugs (and squirrels). Her ability to deeply connect with individuals from all walks of life allows her to explore less traditional topics on her very popular podcast. If (nsfmg) can sniff out anything, it’s a Mama who is courageously herself, and who empowers others with their story. 

Sarah’s audience especially appreciates how forthcoming she is about how she navigates co-parenting teenagers, and expecting a baby with her (now) second husband. She is doing incredible workboth internally and out in the worldwhile showing us how to up our eyebrow game on top of it all. Sarah wants to let us know that it’s probably going to be OK. And though nothing’s for certain, a little positivity can go a long way right now. In this Quarantine Queries interview with Sarah Landry, she shares how she’s starting her antiracism work, her body image wake up call, her support system, and much more.

(nsfmg): Sarah, you are refreshingly candid with your emotions — and it resonates with your audience, and with us. While we’re in the midst of this global pandemic, surely you’re trying to manage your good moments and, for lack of a better word, “bad” ones, too. How do you deal with these “big feelings”, so that they don’t overwhelm you to the point of assuming a full-time fetal position? 

(SL): I think my word at the moment is “unstable”. While historically that’s been used in a negative way, I feel much relief from it. The world is unstable, the economy, our lives . . . why would we expect to feel stable? One moment I feel amazing, the next I’m bawling my eyes out. I’m just allowing myself to respond in whatever way is most honoring to those feelings in the moment! 

(nsfmg): We’re all, at some point or another, afraid to REALLY show our emotions to the people who are closest to us — especially our own children. I mean, we’re Capital ‘M’ Mom! Should we be hiding in the pantry surrounded by chocolate, and stale crackers, choking on our tears? How do you talk to your kids about your emotions in a way that feels honest, but not so much that it overwhelms them? 

(SL): There was a time that I was really well-skilled at hiding my emotions, or so I thought. However, it just hid them . . . it just brought shame to them. After watching the movie Inside Out with my kids, I realized how important it was to honor our emotions, and feelings, and how sadness can actually lead us to more happiness overall. Instead of suppressing it, hiding it and avoiding it, I now allow it to flow through. I often think of my emotions as something that is flowing through a gate in my chest. Either they can flow through that gate or they get stuck at the gate and build up inside me. While it can be hard to show emotion, in the end it’s a positive experience because we know it’s ok to have them our kids do too and less get stuck at the gate inside of us (which will eventually burst if we don’t deal with it). 

(nsfmg): Sarah, you’ve owned up to your shortcomings as someone who hadn’t necessarily been actively practicing anti-racism as a white, able-bodied, cis-female. For those who are trying to practice ally-ship — but hesitate because of “fear of fucking up” (excuse my French) — what advice would you lend fellow white people who are avoiding starting their antiracism work because of fear of making a mistake?

SL: We are so afraid to be wrong, or even to just be a little ‘not right’. The fact is we’ve missed some serious things and being WRONG only gives an opportunity to learn. One thing I’ve been practicing is setting aside reputation and listening. Apologizing, taking steps, laying them out and continuing with them in a long-term way, is important. Even when it’s uncomfortable.

(nsfmg): Can you share with Mom Group any resources in particular, produced by Black femme thought leaders — whether it’s a podcast/book/webinar/course — that have really hit home for you? 

SL: I’ve been taking courses with Monique Melton (@MoeMotivate) and also reading the book Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad. Both of these have taught me more than I could have simply “googled”. Although, google is also a fantastic free resource.

(nsfmg): Often, the emotional labour — such as anti-racism work — can weigh heavy on the mother/female partner in a heterosexual relationship. Some of our community members are struggling to find the balance when it comes to supporting and amplifying Black lives. Do you have any advice on how to balance this work with our husbands/partners?

SL: Honestly, I believe the change begins at home, and within us as individuals. The best people to discuss [these issues] with, as we evolve, are our partners. That way, they can support us and we can support them so that when we do get weary, scared, or sad, we have someone to talk to. It’s incredibly important for someone like me (white, cis-gendered woman) to understand how damaging it is to complain or to air out my own hardships within this work, as it’s not my lived trauma. It’s just my learning OF that trauma. It’s so valid that we have emotions and feelings within that, but it’s been our avoidance of it all that’s caused this to be as big as it is.

(nsfmg): You have shared custody of your children with your ex-partner. Has co-parenting shifted during quarantine? Is there any advice you’d like to share with Mom Group for those who are managing their time with, or away from their children right now?

(SL): Nothing has shifted for us, actually. We’ve kept on schedule and are both working to keep the families safe. I think for every family it’s entirely different. Some parents are working the front lines and giving temporary custody to grandparents, or seizing the custody exchange between parents . . .  I think whatever works for you and your family unit is what is best for you!

(nsfmg): For teenagers, it must feel SUPER shitty to be without their friends. How are your kids dealing with isolation?

(SL): They do miss their friends, so now is a time that they’re utilizing social media and FaceTime calls just like the rest of us! We’ve also done a couple little porch deliveries to let the kids show their friends that we’re thinking of them! 

(nsfmg): When you’re having one of those days — you know, the ones where getting out of bed feels like a major accomplishment all on its own — how does your partner support you? Is there something special that he does that helps you feel more calm, and grounded?

(SL): I’m pretty good at getting out of bed. I think because I’m pretty used to working at home and having to self-motivate, I’ve just done my best to keep with a routine, even if it’s a little slower. My husband has also created a routine where it does feel like he “goes to work” and “comes home” even when it’s just upstairs to his office. He’s just a calm rock though, and gosh I appreciate that . . . because, like I said, I’m unstable, and that’s ok! 

(nsfmg): You are, in our eyes and many others, a helper. What have been some of the ways you’ve been able to help others during quarantine that felt meaningful to you?

(SL): I think initially when this [pandemic] first happened I felt a lot of guilt for continuing to work while others had lost their jobs. So I did something about that. I decided to donate profits for the first couple weeks to various organizations to help those in need. Community is important, and there’s been times in my life where community has been how I get by tough times, so I’m grateful that I was able to take that guilty feeling and activate it into something more meaningful.

(nsfmg): You recently wrote, “If what you come out of this pandemic with is a few extra pounds on your body, I hope you remember that that makes us the lucky ones.” It was a beautiful reminder to forget about what does not matter in this quarantine experience — our body weight — and it felt like a little wake up call for those who are privileged enough to have access to food right now. Was this a reminder for you, as much as it was for us?

(SL): Absolutely. I haven’t been watching the news because of my own mental capacity being at its max, so I found myself being majorly concerned with my BODY. After taking a moment with that feeling (as I often do when it feels like something that should be dealt with) I realized the grandeur of what was/is happening outside of my body in my community, in my WORLD and realized what a privilege it was to only be worried about a few extra pounds. 

(nsfmg): Can you share with us something that you’ve personally experienced, while in quarantine, that made you think, “Yeah, we’re going to be just fine”?

(SL): I think just watching us adapt. When [COVID] first started, we didn’t know how to get food and groceries, how to behave, how to see our friends, how to stay connected . . . and now that feels like a distant memory. We’re working the problem as a unit, as a world, and it’s really quite lovely to see how that worked (even imperfectly). 

(nsfmg): Sarah, it’s hard enough to face our day-to-day reality during this pandemic while, on top of our heightening anxiety, watch others’ successes — like the “Quarantine Mom” (as we like to call the imaginary perfect mom for these times) baking up a storm. Do you ever get stuck in the comparison game? If so, what advice would you give Mom Group, who may feel like they’re trying to live up to unrealistic realities during quarantine?

Oh for suuuure I have. I mean, if you don’t have a tie-dye jogger suit with a loaf of sourdough bread are you even IN QUARANTINE? Ok, guilty on the tie-dye jogger suit . . . but it’s been important for me to be aware of what’s inspiring me, and what I’m doing just to “stay in the game”. Historically, I do my best when I’m not trying to fit in, and just trying to be me. Maybe that’s baking and tie-dying . . . maybe it’s a whole lot of Animal Crossing and a [virgin] cocktail at 2pm.

Follow The Birds Papaya on her website, or on her instagram.

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