To be more present as parents, we need to have a mindset of gratitude and practice self-compassion, by Saba Harouni Lurie and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

I always wanted to be a mother. I worked as a teacher’s assistant, I worked as a nanny, I worked as a camp counselor — I had loads of experience caring for children. And I am still floored by how difficult it is for me to parent. Being a mother is both the best thing that has […]

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I always wanted to be a mother. I worked as a teacher’s assistant, I worked as a nanny, I worked as a camp counselor — I had loads of experience caring for children. And I am still floored by how difficult it is for me to parent. Being a mother is both the best thing that has ever happened to me, and the worst, and it brings out both the best and worst in me. It is easy to feel flooded with guilt and self-recrimination, but that doesn’t help me become a better parent and it doesn’t change things that have happened. I try to offer myself as much compassion as I can muster, and to practice gratitude whenever I can. This has really helped me be more present and patient with my kiddos, even when I am at my limit. I would encourage other parents to remind themselves that they can only do their best, and that good enough can be enough.

Saba Harouni Lurie is CEO and founder of Take Root Therapy, a supportive and effective psychotherapy practice located in Los Feliz, California. In addition to being a licensed marriage and family therapist and board certified art therapist, she is also a mother, a partner, and a “hugger of the world and embracer of its eccentricities.” Her philosophy is that self-acceptance and living with intention can change the world. In addition to the work that she does with clients and while running her company, Saba also serves as a professor at Loyola Marymount University and recently completed her term as the President of the Southern California Art Therapy Association.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” behind what brought you to this point in your career?

I’ve always been someone who does multiple jobs at once, who enjoys tackling new challenges and staying busy! I graduated with my marriage and family therapy degree in 2010, and spent several years working at a number of nonprofit mental health agencies (while working multiple part-time jobs on the side). In 2014, I was working at a nonprofit full-time, and while I really valued the work that I was doing, I also wanted the opportunity to work with a different population. I decided to begin developing and building my own practice. I started Take Root Therapy by working evenings and weekends in a space that I would sublet. The practice grew, and as it grew, I heard from many clients about what a need there was for supportive and effective therapy in Los Angeles (even with as many therapists as there are here!). I had a lot of compassion for folks who had less-than-ideal experiences in the past, since I have also gone to many therapists in my life, and haven’t always had positive experiences. I started thinking of ways I could use my skills to help meet that need. In 2015, I decided to leave my full-time job and invest all my time into my own practice, and right when I left my full-time job, I became pregnant! It was exciting, but it also made me accelerate my plans for the business. That was when I hired my first employee. I hired a second, and then a third, around the time the baby was born. My pregnancy with my second daughter in early 2018 was another catalyst for building the business. We’ve now grown to a team of 8, and are actively looking to move into a larger space so we can keep growing.

Can you share with us how many children you have?

Two (a 3-year-old and a 6-month-old).

Where were you in your career when your child was born/became part of your family?

I had just quit my full-time job to pursue building my own company when I became pregnant with my oldest daughter. When she was born, I had just hired my first associate and signed a lease on two offices in two different Los Angeles neighborhoods. Probably the most distinct memory from that time is being past my due date and moving furniture into one of our offices while 41 weeks pregnant, trying to make the deadline before my associate would be using the office, and half-hoping that struggling to unroll a giant rug would induce labor. And that, really, is how simultaneously running a business and having a family has felt: everything is happening all the time!

Did you always want to be a mother? Can you explain?

Yes. I remember always playing with baby dolls as a child: pretending to care for them by feeding them, changing them, and basically doing all the things I had imagined a good mother would enjoy doing. As a teenager, I worked as a camp counselor and babysitter, and as an adult, I worked as a teacher’s assistant, nanny, and tutor. A lot of my jobs have had to do with caring for others, and I always wanted to care for my own child and have a little someone of my own to love. It’s interesting because, although motherhood is always something I’ve wanted, it’s definitely been more challenging than I could have imagined.

Did motherhood happen when you thought it would or did it take longer? If it took longer, what advice would you have for another woman in your shoes?

While I like to think of myself as an optimist, I might be more of a realist, or a cynic. I was really worried that, because I wanted to be a mother so badly, that it wasn’t going to happen. I had anticipated that it would take a long time to get pregnant, and I had tried to prepare myself for this mentally. I was very fortunate in that it actually happened before I thought it would.

Can you tell us a bit about what your day-to-day schedule looks like?

Right now, we’re having some trouble getting our 6-month-old to sleep. So I wake up 2–3 times a night. At 5:30AM, my partner wakes up with her and lets me sleep for an hour.

My day officially starts at 6:30AM. I check my email and respond to any urgent emails that may have come through the night before (this isn’t a practice I recommend, but right now I take any opportunity I can to get some work done). I then shower while my husband gives the kids breakfast, and I step in so he can get ready for work and take our older daughter to school. Our nanny arrives at 8:00AM, which gives me just enough time to make it to the office by 8:30AM. I see two clients, and then I have a 30-minute break to respond to emails while I pump. I then see two more clients.

At 1:30PM, I pick up my older daughter from preschool. When we get home, I get both kids down for an afternoon nap, and then I eat lunch and work from home. Around 4:00PM, our nanny will take our older daughter to the park and I will take a break from work to spend some time with the baby. At 4:30PM, I feed the baby dinner, and at 5:00PM, I get her into her bath. She’s in bed and asleep at 6:00PM, at which point, our nanny goes home and I join my older daughter for dinner. After dinner, I give my older daughter a bath and read her three books, and she’s usually in bed by 7:30PM.

At that time, I take a deep breath; I make myself some tea and eat something sweet, and then respond to more emails or work on whatever projects need to be completed for the business! My husband gets home around 9:00 PM, and we’re usually in bed by 9:45PM.

Has being a parent changed your career path? Can you explain?

I think that becoming a parent shifted my focus and also accelerated the growth of my business. When I was expecting my first child, I tried to do everything within my power to ensure that my practice would stay afloat while I took 6 weeks off for maternity leave (that’s how long I gave myself away from clients). I spent the next two years stretching myself and coming to different realizations. I realized that motherhood, for me, was not everything I had expected it to be and that I really value the professional me as well as the me who is a mother. I spent some time thinking about the way I wanted my life to look, and began to imagine setting limits around how I use my time.

When I became pregnant with my second child, I was already committed to growing my business and creating a scalable and sustainable practice, without compromising our mission or values. And while I was focused on growing the business, I wanted to ensure that potential clients would receive quality care and would be seen by effective, supportive therapists, and also wanted to make sure that I didn’t miss all my kiddos’ special milestones. I have been working on creating boundaries around my schedule to limit how much direct work I have been doing with clients — work I am very passionate about — in order to focus on my responsibilities as CEO and to spend time with my family. Finding the perfect balance is seemingly impossible, but I haven’t given up yet.

Has being a mother made you better at your job? How so?

Being a mother has made me far more conscious of how limited and valuable my time is, and has therefore made it easier to prioritize my time and to say yes to what is important to me or to my business. It has also motivated me to grow my business with intention, and this has certainly made me a better CEO. Additionally, I think that being a mother makes me better as a psychotherapist, as I have more empathy and understanding for my clients.

What are the biggest challenges you face being a working mom?

Being a working mom means that there’s always a thousand different things that require, and deserve, your attention. The biggest challenges I face are prioritizing tasks, managing distractions, and setting limits. Always trying to do everything can sometimes give me the feeling that I’m not doing anything well. I try to manage my desire to do things perfectly, and allow myself to move on to the next task. Limiting my screen time (mostly answering business texts or emails) while I’m with my family is something I’m constantly working on.

Are there any stories you remember from the early days of parenthood that you want to share?

I am still in the early days! My older daughter was not an easy sleeper, and during the first five months of her life, she trained us to wear her in a carrier for her naps. I would walk for 5–6 hours a day with my daughter (who was born at 9 pounds 3 ounces) strapped to my chest. I would have to keep walking outside, because if I went inside or tried to sit down she would wake up screaming. I remember picking up the business phone line during these walks and trying to focus on the caller, while also trying to make sure that the baby didn’t wake during the call. I’m glad that these days are behind me and that our newest family member naps in her crib.

Are there any meaningful activities or traditions you’ve made up or implemented that have enhanced your time with your family? Can you share a story or example?

Friday nights are sacred for our family. My husband comes home at 6pm and we have dinner together with our oldest daughter (the younger one is usually asleep by this time), without interruption or distraction. Our Friday night dinners always include something delicious and sweet, and I look forward to this dinner all week long. My husband and I also take turns making pancakes or french toast for breakfast on Saturday mornings, when we enjoy breakfast as a family. The other times I try to keep sacred for spending time with my daughters are their dinner times and bath times. (I have been known to respond to an email or two while my 3-year-old is washing up, but I try not to most of the time!)

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 3–5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

Set boundaries around your time:

I am working on setting clear limits for myself regarding when I am with the children and when I am working. With either, my hope is to be as present as possible, and often that means creating a boundary around the other. With my work, I am currently in the process of identifying a space where I can go attend to paperwork, projects, and emails, without my children present. It recently occurred to me that when I try to work from home, my work tends to take twice as long, and I don’t feel positively about either my work or my parenting skills. This realization has reinforced my desire to be totally present with my children when I am spending time with them. I have allowed myself to leave my phone on silent during specified times that I am with and engaging with my children. This enables me to be fully present with them when we sit down for a meal together or when I’m helping them get ready for bed. Alternatively, there are hours that I set aside for work when I try to be 100% focused on work. I enlist help to care for the kids and they know that I am not available unless there’s an emergency.


One of the things that has really helped me this year as I continue to strive to be “fully present” is having great people on my team to whom I can delegate tasks. Being able to prioritize and recognize what I can take off my plate and put onto someone else’s is huge. This is true for tasks that are related to the company and tasks related to the home front, like grocery shopping or folding laundry.

Have a defined activity:

I find that it’s easier to give my children my full attention when we have an activity we are doing together, and I know that there is a start and end point. My older daughter enjoys arts and crafts. When we will sit together and create something small, I give myself the time it takes to create the craft (usually 30 minutes) to focus on her and to leave my phone in the other room. I’ll do the same with my infant during tummy time. Being the CEO of a business in its early stages means that there are often tasks that need my attention, but I trust that any fires that I might need to attend to can wait for at least 30 minutes.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or story?

My husband and I have been intentional about instilling a strong work ethic into our daughters, so I am not shy with them when it comes to describing what I am doing for work or having the elder one help if/when possible. When I have to stop by the office to complete a task or drop something off, she comes with me, and sees that mommy has a business that requires my attention too.

I hope that I am inspiring my daughters to “dream big,” by setting an example of what can happen when you have big goals, and by also showing them the value of hard work. One of my favorite sayings is, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” I am the daughter of immigrants who both worked long hours to ensure that we were able to live in a comfortable and safe home, and were able to pursue our dreams. They were also both entrepreneurs, and they paved the way for me. I hope to instill the same work ethic in my daughters, and also want them to enjoy their down time, to pursue creative endeavors, and to find balance in life.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

My favorite parenting podcast is “Your Parenting Mojo.” The host, Jen Lumanlan, delves into research on different parenting techniques and philosophies, and explains them in a way that is easy to understand. I appreciate that her suggestions are research-based, and often, that instead of offering a recommendation on how to parent, she gives the listener information and space to come to a conclusion based on their own interpretation of the research and their values. A book that I also really appreciate on parenting is No Drama Discipline by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson. Their book normalizes the frustrations parents experience when trying to respond to tantrums, and offers effective strategies to help you connect with your child when they (and you) are dysregulated, to help them recover.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that you share or plan to share with your kids?

As stated above, one of my favorite quotes is, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” It speaks to the value of hard work, and that while anyone can dream, it takes drive and commitment to see a dream come to fruition.

A life lesson quote that I have also been pondering is the Angela Davis quote, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” I want my daughters to be empowered to challenge injustice and to know that change is possible.

If you could sit down with every new parent and offer life hacks, must-have products or simple advice, what would be on your list?

One thing I would say to new parents is that it’s okay to need help, and when you can get help, take it. I really believe that it is important to recruit help in whatever shape you can as a parent. My husband is a terrific parent and partner, and works about 60 hours a week. He offers support when he can, and we practice asking each other for what we need, and also being conscious about the limits of what we can give. Having the help of a hired nanny has really made it possible for me to lean into my career and to feel okay doing so. Without her support and assistance, I can’t imagine my business being nearly as successful. I recognize that having in-home childcare isn’t an option for everyone, and what I have witnessed is that many parents are resourceful when it comes to finding help. Calling upon extended family or friends to help, or offering childcare to other parents when they need it in exchange for their child care when you need it are also great options. However you shape it, I think we all benefit from having help, and that it makes the job of parenting and of having a career as a parent, far more doable.

I always wanted to be a mother. I worked as a teacher’s assistant, I worked as a nanny, I worked as a camp counselor — I had loads of experience caring for children. And I am still floored by how difficult it is for me to parent. Being a mother is both the best thing that has ever happened to me, and the worst, and it brings out both the best and worst in me. It is easy to feel flooded with guilt and self-recrimination, but that doesn’t help me become a better parent and it doesn’t change things that have happened. I try to offer myself as much compassion as I can muster, and to practice gratitude whenever I can. This has really helped me be more present and patient with my kiddos, even when I am at my limit. I would encourage other parents to remind themselves that they can only do their best, and that good enough can be enough.

The simplest piece of advice I have is to stop and take a breath. When your child does something that drives you mad (like throw your favorite piece of jewelry into the toilet), stop and take a breath before you respond. And when your child says or does something that makes your heart double in size, stop and take a breath and hold that moment in your mind for just a bit longer. Everything is temporary, the good and the bad.

Thank you so much for these insights! We really appreciate your time.

About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.

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