Getting Aligned Through Parenting and Marriage Challenges, with Zen Parenting’s Cathy and Todd Adams

gender nonconformity kids

One of the topics most requested for this show is how to work through parenting and marriage challenges, so I brought on a couple I very much respect and admire, a wonderful parenting duo and co-hosts of the Zen Parenting podcast, Cathy and Todd Adams. As a self-described “spiritual & emotional mom and a logical & practical dad,” Cathy and Todd started Zen Parenting ten years ago as an outlet to share their real and vulnerable conversations balancing their different perspectives while raising their three daughters. 600+ episodes later, Zen Parenting is more than just a podcast: Cathy and Todd host parenting conferences, workshops, and retreats; facilitate online parenting communities; and run a parent coaching practice. “Behind the scenes,” Cathy is a licensed clinical social worker, a teacher, and the author of several books, who focuses on self-awareness and the empowerment of women and girls. Todd is a certified life coach and advocate for men supporting healthy masculinity, conscious relationships, and prosperous careers.

I’m a long-time fan of Cathy and Todd’s, and I really love this episode. We talk about everything from how Cathy and Todd approach deep conversations they have on their podcast and what they’ve learned about themselves and their family during the pandemic, to how couples and co-parents can best work through conflict and differences to show up for each other and their kids.  


About Cathy and Todd Adams

Cathy Adams is a self-awareness expert, podcast host, and author focused on parenting and the personal empowerment of women and young girls. She’s a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Parent Coach, Certified Elementary School Teacher, Certified Yoga Teacher, and she teaches in the Sociology Department at Dominican University and Elmhurst College.

Todd Adams is the co-host of the Zen Parenting Radio podcast and a certified life coach who focuses on supporting guys in finding a healthy work/family balance. He focuses on marriage, parenting, career, overall self-awareness and life enjoyment.


Things you’ll learn about parenting and marriage challenges in this episode

  • The origins of Zen Parenting
  • How Cathy and Todd plan for and approach their conversations on the Zen Parenting podcast
  • What “zen” parenting means to Cathy and Todd
  • What lessons Cathy and Todd have taken away from the pandemic
  • Zen tips for navigating co-parenting when partners are not in alignment about how to navigate the unexpected aspects of raising their child
  • Why co-parenting necessitates learning with each other rather than being right
  • All about Cathy’s upcoming book


Resources mentioned for Zen Parenting

  • Zen Parenting book (coming early 2022)


Episode Transcript

Cathy Adams  00:00

We’ve known each other a very long time. And I would tell you that our first vulnerable conversations like the one you’re describing, was messy and unresolved, but it started. It’s like you kick that door open a little bit. Like the worst case scenario is you say nothing. And you just hold it all inside and then have these resentments that build up. We all know how that goes. Right? We all know what the end of that story is

Debbie Reber  00:24

Welcome to Tilt Parenting, a podcast featuring interviews and conversations aimed at inspiring, informing and supporting parents raising differently wired kids. I’m your host Debbie Reber. I am so thrilled to be sharing my guests with you today. They are a parenting super duo and co-hosts of the Zen Parenting Podcast and they are friends and colleagues that I just deeply admire and adore. Cathy and Todd Adams, a self described spiritual and emotional mom and a logical and practical dad, Cathy and Todd started Zen parenting 10 years ago as an outlet to share their real and vulnerable conversations of balancing their different perspectives while raising their three daughters. 600 episodes later, Zen Parenting is more than just a podcast, Cathy and Todd host parenting conferences, workshops and retreats, facilitate online parenting communities and run a parent coaching practice. Behind the scenes, Cathy is a licensed clinical social worker and a teacher. She’s written several books and focuses on self awareness and the empowerment of women and girls. And Todd is a certified life coach and advocate for men supporting healthy masculinity, conscious relationships and prosperous careers. So today, we are going to get into everything from how Cathy and Todd approach the conversations they have on their podcast, and what they’ve learned during this pandemic, to how couples and co-parents can best work through conflict and differences to show up for each other and their kids. So much goodness in this conversation. I hope you enjoy it. Before I get to that if you are new to Tilt Parenting and you found this podcast while searching for resources to support you on your journey of parenting a neurodivergent child. Be sure to visit, you can dive deep into the more than 250 episodes of this show. You can read the first chapter of my book Differently Wired, sign up for my free seven day differently wired challenge and search for a school fit for your child. You’ll find all of those resources and more at tilts parenting calm. Thanks so much. And now here is my conversation with Cathy and Todd.

Debbie Reber  02:41

Hey, Cathy and Todd! Welcome to the Tilt Parenting podcast.

Cathy Adams  02:46

Thank you for having us. We’re excited to be here.

Todd Adams  02:48

Thank you, Debbie. So excited.

Debbie Reber  02:50

And yeah, we were just talking before I hit record that I was on your podcast. And I will just say that it was a thrill for me, because I know that you don’t have a lot of guests on your show. And I was pretty jazzed when Todd, he wrote back to me and said, Let me get into this book some more, and we’ll talk and, and Anyway, it was such an honor. And I got to do that in person, which is so rare. That was such a fun experience …

Cathy Adams  03:14

In our basement and our podcast studio. Yes, it was so nice to have you here. And as we were just saying, before we started recording, your book really meant a lot to us. And I have said this a number of times, but I’ll say it on your show that when I read your book Differently Wired, I realized that obviously it was your experience. And you were talking about, you know, neurodiversity and raising children who you know, have their own way of seeing the world. But I thought it was relevant. Regardless, I thought it was relevant to every single parent, that every single parent needs to realize that when they you know, one kid, three kids, whatever, that they need to see them as individuals and recognize their skills and their gifts and not try and put all of our children in the same box. So I just feel like you spoke to that. So clearly. And as I told you, I used your book in my college class with my social work students to demonstrate that. So again, thank you for your work too.

Debbie Reber  04:09

Thank you, so kind. Well, I would love to learn more about your work and about Zen Parenting, which you’ve been doing for a long time. Can you tell us a little bit about it? I mean, this could be a whole show, but I just would love to know about the origins of Zen Parenting, what made you decide to do it and kind of who you both are as individuals and what you bring together to Zen.

Todd Adams  04:30

So 10 years ago, Cathy wrote her first book, and she was interviewed on this thing called a podcast. Nobody knew what a podcast was, or very few people did. And Cathy’s, like I really like this format because like, you know, radio, there’s always all those commercials. She’s like, I really liked this platform. And I would love to start my own podcast. And she talked to the people that interviewed her saying how do I start it? So she had a talk and then she came upstairs after the talk. And she said they want me to start this podcast and they’re gonna help me get going And I said, Great, she’s like, there’s only one catch. I need you to be on it with me. And at the time, I’m like, What are you talking about? I’m like a sales rep for this construction company. I don’t know how to podcast, I don’t write books on parenting. So that’s kind of how it started. And that happened 10 years ago, and we just recorded our 600 and first podcast. So that’s an oversimplification of the story. But that’s really kind of how it started.

Cathy Adams  05:23

And I and I’ll add to that, that, you know, just like Todd told the story, that’s all correct. That’s all true. But why I knew that Todd and I could do this podcast together, our relationship, like who we are together, we have deep conversations all the time. And I don’t mean deep, like, intellectually, you know, I just mean, like, we’re not surfacey. In our conversations, everything really goes to the core, much to our children’s dismay, a lot of the time because they’re like, Oh, my gosh, are you talking again, you know, let’s, let’s move on. But I knew that Todd and I could carry on a discussion, regardless of whatever topic it may be, and that we had different perspectives. You know, our original tagline was an emotional and spiritual mom, and a practical and logical dad, which I think now is way too binary. That’s not really who we are, you know, after 10 years, we kind of see ourselves, you know, more whole, we all have those pieces. But that’s really how we started out is how do we find this balance between people who see the world differently. And you know, and there are some truth to it. Todd’s more extroverted, I’m more introverted, there’s, we have a lot of differences. So we experience not only our relationship, but our parenting and just the world as a whole differently. So the discussion is essential.

Debbie Reber  06:37

Yeah, and one of the things. First of all, I love your podcast, and my husband doesn’t actually listen to a lot of podcasts, even my podcast, I really have to push them to listen to a specific episode. But sometimes when it’s just the two of us in the car, I’ll be like, let’s listen to Cathy and Todd. And it’s a great one to listen with a partner. And you guys are so vulnerable about your own learning about your own process. You know, I’ve heard you guys show up with so much vulnerability in the past year, around everything from race, racial reconciliation, to like everything that’s been happening in the world. And so I’d love to know a little bit about how you even approach those conversations? Do you plan a lot in advance? Do you say we’re going to do this and you just dive in.

Todd Adams  07:24

So some of them have a little bit more planning and intention behind it. But after doing over 600 of these, most of the time, I’ll say to Cathy, either the night before or the morning of recording? What are we talking about, and she’ll just come out with a quote or an article. And then we’ll just riff, I judge it, we have been a little bit more vulnerable and a little more opinionated. As soon as a certain person was in the White House four years ago, we got less scared to speak our truth and to speak specifically about racial equality. And I think the first X amount of years, we were a little bit more like, let’s just not sanitize it. But let’s not take a stand. And Cathy, you tell me if you think differently, but I feel like we’re a little bit more standing in our own, I don’t know, power.

Cathy Adams  08:14

You know, 10 years ago was such a different time. Like, I remember the first show you and I did about, like, common sense gun laws. And I remember being like, wow, this is, you know, who’s we tried to walk the line of let’s just make everybody happy. Right? Let’s, you know, this is about parenting. So let’s try and walk that line of having everybody you know, listen to this, and everyone’s gonna get something from it. And then things started to happen in the world as they do, as Todd said, you know, even prior to 2016, where we were like, I can’t talk about this in authentically, because the whole thing, the whole gist of the show, like why we call it Zen Parenting, there’s many reasons, but the gist of it is, is that life is uncertain. You’re always growing, you’re always evolving, pay attention, be in the moment, right? It’s … Zen Parenting doesn’t mean be a chill parent, you know, that’s not the way we take it. It’s about, you know, look at yourself, notice what’s happening, pay attention to what’s happening and be there for it. You have to bring your full self and your humanity to every situation. And I feel like what’s happened over the course of 10 years for Todd and I is that we have just grown up. And you know, it’s funny to say, because we started the show when we, I was 39, Todd was 38. But you know, I don’t know if I would know, the woman who was 39 or 40. Because I was I think a lot more. You know, it’s funny to use the word opinionated. And I felt more opinionated then. And now I feel more uncertain in the best way. Like, I always say that Don Henley quote, you know, the more I know, the less I understand, like, the more I’ve learned, the more I’ve been like I you know, and the racial injustice, you know, that you just brought up this summer, we spent so much time talking about it because, I mean, hopefully all of us were like, Wow, there were so many things. I had seen it I always considered myself an ally. I’m a social worker, you know, I’ve always been committed to supporting all people and treating everyone with dignity. But you know, that was a wake up call, you know, the understanding of what I was either not willing to see or was finally capable of seeing. And so we have to talk about these things in ourselves. Because I don’t have any perfect information about how to be a parent, I really don’t. I don’t have any perfect information about anything. But Todd, and I can share our experience of being human. And then how that relates to parenting. Right? And that’s kind of the, you know, we always say that calling our shows on parenting is a bit of a misnomer, because it’s really about an individual experience, and how we are all interconnected. And then how that relates to parenting. But it’s a little bit parenting, it’s like, several steps from the actual intention of the show.

Debbie Reber  10:56

Do you guys ever have a vulnerability hangover after an episode?

Todd Adams  11:01

Well, Cathy usually keeps me in check. And what I mean by that is, if I go down a path where she’ll be like, Whoa, reframe that or rethink it. So she’s kind of like my protector, because I sometimes just put on my judgmental hat and say something with certainty. And to Cathy’s point, the only thing we’re realizing now, we have daughters 18 years old, 16 years old and 13 years old. So we’ve been doing this for a while. The only thing I know for certain is that there are no rules to parenting. There’s no there’s very few like guiding principles, because we just talked about this on yesterday’s podcast, like, you can say that this is the way to do it. But you can always come up with exceptions or outliers of how this way parenting may not be the best way. So to answer your question, vulnerability hangover, I don’t know.

Cathy Adams  11:47

I think I have them more than Todd. It’s funny that he’s because I sometimes, very rarely, it’s not like a thing, but I cry sometimes on the show, because I’m, like Todd said, we don’t have an outline, we don’t know what we’re going to talk about. And sometimes we are going through something in our life like Debbie, I, you as a podcaster and as a writer, you know this that, you it’s very difficult to talk about things. If you’re going through something it kind of comes through when you’re podcasting or when you know, these are the things we want to discuss, or these are the stories that we share, or these are the experiences that we relate to. So there are times when I really get taken off guard by my own emotional experience. But this is what I will say that I feel like, I want to if someone met me, like someone listened to the show, and then they met me, I wouldn’t want them to experience anything different than what they hear. And that’s not necessarily the goal. But I’m no different. This conversation you and I, you know, that we’re having right now, like if, if we were in our basement right now, we would be having this same conversation. And that’s the goal and intention. So it dissipates that vulnerability hangover, because I don’t feel that it’s the truth. This is who I am. And so there might be people who say, Oh, I’m tired of talking about that, or do you know, or we don’t feel that way. But that’s okay. Because I feel okay. Going to sleep at night.

Todd Adams  13:06

Well, there’s very little difference between podcast Cathy, and non-podcast Cathy, and podcast Todd, and non podcast Todd. The reason we started this podcast was because we were having these conversations anyway. So we’re like, let’s try to have these conversations in front of a microphone and see if anybody will listen. And thankfully, a handful of people are listening.

Debbie Reber  13:26

Yeah, and I think that really is the secret sauce of what makes your show so good is, you know, I have met you, I’ve spent time with you, and, and you are who you are. And that really comes through. And I also love that you’re such an avid researcher. And you know, you bring in so much interesting science and studies and your own experience as a teacher and as a social worker, and all of those pieces. So it’s very rich. I wanted to talk about, you know, you mentioned you have three daughters, and including one just graduated high school. So congratulations, that’s a big deal. But you guys are really in it. And this has been quite a year for all of us raising kids especially, I think there are different challenges for every age. I think for teenagers in particular, this has been a very tricky time. And I’m just wondering if you, you know, if there’s been one or two takeaways, I don’t want to say gifts, because I know everyone’s experienced this pandemic differently. But is there something that you’re going to be taking with you from this time that you want to share?

Cathy Adams  14:32

Well, one thing I will say, Debbie, is that this year? And I like the way that you’re framing the question because there are gifts underneath it, it’s the it’s the both and right you know, it’s what I know for sure is that 2020 was a lot of crisis and a lot of dealing with challenges in the moment and just getting through and keeping going. And I feel like this year is really about our mental well being and not that it wasn’t before…it was, but it was a little more crisis-based where it was just like, let’s go to sleep. And let’s start again. And I am seeing and experiencing personally, it’s not just other people, I’m experiencing it kind of the fallout of what we’ve had to go through. And it’s not like it’s over. I mean, there’s still so much unrest and so much challenge that, you know, people are experiencing right this moment. But a lot of us who are maybe coming out more of the, you know, having to be isolated and maybe seeing more people is that I’m seeing how that affected each member of my family. And while Todd and I were very, during the process of 2020, very conscious about let’s let’s like dry, because we live in, we live outside Chicago, so we would like say, let’s go away for four or five days to go to Michigan or go to Wisconsin, or we were trying to like, you know, keep it going, we understood the mental wellness component and to not be stuck, but there was no way to avoid some of the things our girls had to go through. And what we had to go through. And what is most important to me, you know, similar to kind of on the show and talking about our experiences, is that in our house, we have conversations about all of it. And it’s very messy. It’s not, you know, like you said, My girls are 18, 16 and 13. So think of all the experiences, all the things that they had to let go of, and then rejoin and find themselves in the midst of all this, it was a lot. But it’s interesting to even have this conversation because and you know, this debate, because you listen to our show, is that tonight, we’ll discuss our girls in terms of like, Oh, I went there with my daughter, whatever. But we really don’t talk about them on the show. It’s kind of this interesting, where I think everybody thinks they know our kids. But the truth is, they don’t really know. You know, we may talk about something from, you know, when they were three, but this is their life, right? And we try not to, you know, make that front and center. Because really parenting is about how Todd and I manage it. But I will just say that, to me right now, mental wellness, and mental well being is the primary issue with not only myself, but with Todd and I, with my girls, with my students, with my clients in my writing on the podcast, and it kind of always has been. But now I feel like we’re talking about it more like, you know, now I feel like people are like, Oh, that’s what trauma is. And now we understand what an ACE score is. And now we understand, we understand how we are neurobiologically affected, and and why we are you know, just Oprah’s book that just came out. And you know, Dr. Perry’s book about What Happened to You, versus what’s wrong with you, you know, and this doesn’t just mean, we all just went through a collective trauma, right? So none of us can say we, Oh, I didn’t experience anything we all did. So I know, I just took a little half there with your question. But mental well being is like the primary thing that we’re focusing on right now.

Todd Adams  17:49

Yeah. And I would add to that, I’m gonna go back on my word how like, there’s no rules to being a good parent. But one of the things that Cathy and I tried to cultivate in our listeners is keep the conversation going. And whether you’re talking about sexism, you’re talking about racism, you’re talking about sexuality, all these things that we as parents are scared to talk about. We got to like, process through those things ourselves. Because there’s no way we’re gonna have an authentic conversation with our kids unless we are willing to lean into that conversation with ourselves and others. So all we want to do as parents is just create the safety for our kids to be able to share these things with us. And it’s not easy, because we have a lot of things working against us. There’s a lot of messages in society that are much more seductive than having a conversation with your parents across the dinner table. But if I can invite your listeners to think about anything, just do your own work in whatever way you can to create a space for your kids to have conversations. Right now we’re talking about that through the lens of mental wellness. And I agree to Cathy’s point, like, my guess is that mental wellness is not going anywhere, anytime soon as a result is pandemic. So that’s on the forefront of our minds right now. So that’s we’ve been dedicating a lot of our resources to doing that ourselves, our kids and on the podcast.

Debbie Reber  19:13

I had the joy…actually, my last trip before everything shut down was going to the Zen Parenting Conference, in I guess it was March of 2020. And that’s something I so appreciated was you had a wonderful conversation about how to talk to your kids about sexuality. You had a wonderful conversation about gender identity, you really model a way of respectfully cultivating relationships with our kids so that they can really grow up feeling a sense of who they are and safe and, and confident about how to move through the world. So that’s just something I admire so much about the work that you do, and I also think you model it, so beautifully for your listeners.

Cathy Adams  20:02

Thank you well, and you know, it’s their reality, right? Like, we’re, I kind of feel like Todd and I are just always playing a game of catch up. Like we said, my oldest is 18. And she has taught us so much about identity and about sexuality and about, you know, how people see themselves and how they experience others. And, you know, so we’re kind of like she’s giving us this new perspective where then we are working hard to educate ourselves, not only about what teenagers may be experiencing, but also for ourselves of unlearning things, you know, unlearning what we learned as Gen X’s right? You know, and so, you know, one of the things you’re referring to is like, we had a panel of teenagers and adults who identified as non binary or transgender. And just to be asking, and, well, first of all, they share their story, but then asking the questions about pronouns and how, you know, in what language do we use and not not to gawk and be like, but to say, Okay, now I know how to treat everybody with dignity. You know, now I know what language to use, and why pronouns are important. And, you know, I think sometimes when something is new, we push it away and say that’s too difficult, or we balk at it and say, I don’t want to do that. Or don’t ask me, because we don’t want to mess it up. Yeah, because of two reasons. Number one, we’re afraid we’ll mess it up and be embarrassed. or number two, we then have to open all these doors in our brain about ourselves, right? Like, you know, what does this mean? And I like these boxes that people belong in, because it makes me more comfortable. So a lot of times we push things away that we don’t understand out of fear. And yet, as all three of us know, here, the more you talk about it and understand people’s experience, it’s just all the same as ours, there is no you know, besides the challenges that they have had to deal with, in the in the bravery and the courage that they’ve demonstrated and speaking their truth. Once you hear their story, you’re like, well, that’s, that sounds familiar. Like, you know, I, we can all relate to each other. And there’s nothing to be afraid of, I think if we can decrease that fear about difference. I mean, it sounds so cliche, but it just makes everything so much smoother, doesn’t it?

Debbie Reber  22:04

100%. And you know, you said the word unlearning. And I feel like that’s what all of this is. And that’s what you, you guys are unlearning out loud for the rest of us. And then that kind of sparks us to examine. So I want to talk about parenting, co parenting. So one of the challenge areas for all parents, of course, but this comes up all the time in my community of parents raising differently wired kids is that so often, the two parents are on very different pages. And that obviously creates a lot of tension. Especially when you’re raising a neurologically typical kid, the stakes can feel higher. I hear from a lot of parents that one parent is doing all this work, and they feel the other one is basically undoing everything that they’ve been working so hard on. So can you talk about how in your experience, parents can kind of get more in alignment? If they are on very separate pages?

Cathy Adams 23:01

Yeah, this is our most common question to be I mean, it is in not not exactly the way you said it. It’s usually addressed to Todd, like, how do I get…

Todd Adams  23:10

How do I get my dog or my husband to listen to me? Or how do I get my husband to this conference, or I don’t get my husband, or listen to this podcast because our husbands are too busy going out. And you know, I’m totally overgeneralizing. But just having a conversation with a friend this morning, and he got lost during the pandemic, because he dedicated all of his energy towards his work because he was worried about the money and worried about the mortgage payments. And I know that there’s so many examples out there where the, the woman makes more money than the man or the man stays at home and Mr. Mom, but we are we’ve grown up in this society where I was taught that the way you are as a father is how well you can provide the financial means and the emotional stuff will be is left to the wife. And that’s a lie that we were taught. We, as a man, I have just the same amount of capacity for nurturing and love, as Cathy does. But I have to learn all of that stuff. And it’s not an easy thing. What I would say to anybody who’s struggling between two couples, I think the reason Cathy and I have a really strong, healthy marriage, it’s not perfect, it’s not supposed to be perfect. We have our own share of hiccups that happen. But most of the credit that I give the health of our marriage is because we’re both doing our own work. We’re working on ourselves, we’re trying to bring our own understanding of self so that we can bring some happy and contentment to the other person. What happens a lot in the marriage is they look to the other person to make them happy. And that’s I don’t I don’t know if it’s even possible so…

Cathy Adams  24:42

Well and you know, when it comes to that’s like the first stage right is like how you treat each other and what Okay, it’s like so interesting because we could go back even before we started the podcast, like what we both realized we had to do and talk about vulnerability is really say what we need it right which sounds sounds so simple, like go to your partner and tell them in this, there’s nothing gender specific about this as true as same sex part, same sex partnerships, like, you know, go to your partner and say what you need. But it’s really the most vulnerable thing, because then what you’re telling them is really who you are. And sometimes who you are, maybe society told you wasn’t okay. And that can be things like, I kind of grew up always believing that my sensitivity was a problem, or that my need for alone time or my introversion, and just to be clear, people on your show probably know the difference. But extraversion is getting energy from the outside world. introversion is getting energy, when you’re alone, you may still. It doesn’t mean you’re shy, or that you don’t like being with people, it’s just, I need to be alone. And I am also very sensitive to the world. So to tell Todd that if I’ve grown up thinking those are weaknesses, that can feel very difficult and very, like, I’m really laying myself out there. But what that does, what that process starts is authentic conversation, seeing each other understanding each other better. And I know your question was about parenting, but that’s the beginning of the parenting part. Because then you see your children through those eyes, too. Instead of, you know, what’s wrong with this kid, or I’m going to do this or I’m going to like, you know, parent, my kid, regardless of their challenges, gifts or issues the same way I was parented because this is the way society wants it. And we’re, again, we’re trying to like, create a formula for parenting, which can often that’s where a lot of the head butting comes in is, well, this is not how I was raised, or I don’t want people to think I mean, how often do you hear that statement? I don’t want people to think and I’m always like, Who are the people? And what’s all this thinking that we’re unaware of? Like, that’s all internal, that’s all in unacceptance, of either yourself, or that, you know, a belief that what’s most important is what everybody else is saying about your family, or you or your marriage or your kids. So it all starts with this conversation between Todd and I and then that’s how we end up coming together about the girls. And let me be clear, this is constant discussion. Like, we are not like, oh, every morning, we wake up on the same page about the girls. I mean, we’ve already had two discussions this morning about what’s going to happen here, or you’re not seeing this, or we’re not big fighters, but we definitely stand our ground about things like I have a very clear perspective. And Todd has a very clear perspective. And now there’s not like one is right, and one is wrong, it’s that we need to blend them.

Todd Adams  27:30

Well, you talked about the formula, how it’s, I think, I think a lot of us have the parenting formula reversed. So in other words, I’m a father, and I’m going to pour all of my energy into being a father. And then I’ll make sure I’m a good husband. And then if I have anything left over, I’m going to take care of myself. And I feel like we need to at least consider the possibility that maybe you fill your own cup first. And then you really have a try to have a deep authentic relationship with your life partner, if you happen to be in that situation. And then you know, and hopefully there’s enough for everybody for each of those things. But what I want for my daughters is whoever they choose to have life partners is somebody who’s going to treat them nicely, they’re going to learn a lot more about how to find somebody based upon how I treat Cathy, as opposed to anything I say to them, like, you know, they’re, they’re just gonna model what they see unless they are exceptional. And they can figure out how to undo any baggage that I passed down to them.

Cathy Adams  28:26

So and you know, so generally, we’re getting wordy about this. And really the truth is, is like, Can you say what you need to say? And does that other person hear you? And do they know that you’re not coming after them or criticizing them as a human being, because a lot of times the fighting back and forth of I’m going to do this differently, is I’m going to demonstrate to you why I’m not wrong. And I know a lot of people don’t want to admit that these are, you know, I’m saying this is the therapist, you know, this is what I know. It’s interesting, because my whole line of work is focused on women. And Todd runs an international men’s group. So we’re very, you know, we’re very gender specific, even though we definitely run into the non binary transgender as well. There’s a very like, or same sex partnerships. We definitely focus on women and men. And so it really comes down to the end. It’s so layered because then we get into patriarchy and misogyny, like there’s so many layers, but it’s being able to say what you need to say and feel valued. And sometimes in a partnership, there is a feeling even though it’s hard to admit if I’m going to win this. I’m right. Let me show you how I’m better at this and it can go back and forth. This is not gender specific. This is not tied in, I see it on both sides. And so really it becomes unfortunately our children in a roundabout way become pawns and that’s never our intention. I don’t know any parent who that’s their intention. But this is like the big picture of it. And then you can think about all the details that go into the conversations that need to be had.

Debbie Reber  30:00

Yeah, I mean, everything that you said, so resonated, including that deep sense of needing to be right, which I still struggle with, it still comes up for me, especially in my relationship. And, you know, I think we’re so many parents are where I was certainly was holding on to all of the information and making it about me and my child. And then we’re here and you’re there. And I, you know, just to your point, saying what you need to say or and sharing wasn’t something I knew how to do. And it was pretty amazing. You know, I talked about this in another episode where Darren and I sat down and shared our journey to kind of get on the same page of how I had to kind of learn how to say, and it felt so uncomfortable, and I’m still working on it, right. And the partner, again, if there is a partner who needs to, or it only really works, I guess, if they’re receptive to hearing that, right. So because you both coach you and work with, you know, Todd, you work primarily with men, Cathy works primarily with women. If one of the partners does come with vulnerability, and says this is, you know, my experience and not in a shaming way, but just like, let’s get on the same page, and the partner isn’t receptive to that. There’s still value in that, I assume, and we’re still kind of doing our own work, and how does that resolve itself? And there’s no typical, but…

Cathy Adams  31:33

I would say that it’s, I would just call that the first conversation. Because I would say, if you were to really go back and live with Todd and I over the past, because we’ve been married 19 years, I think that this year was our 19th anniversary, is that we’ve known each other a very long time. And I would tell you that our first vulnerable conversations, like the one you’re describing, was messy and unresolved, but it started, it’s like you kick that door open a little bit. Like the worst-case scenario is you say nothing, and you just hold it all inside, and then have these resentments that build up. We all know how that goes. Right? We all know what the end of that story is, is when we’re holding on to resentment. So and you know, it’s like this modulation, like, I’m picturing myself in those early conversations, I, I feel like I was very vulnerable. And I was saying what I needed to say, but maybe my tone was a little harsh initially, or I was very expecting him to understand me, but I wasn’t open to him. And it was this practice of how you have a conversation with someone you love. And so and so Todd, you know…

Todd Adams  32:31

For me, it’s like priorities, like how do I want to show up in this world, like, I’m a father, I’m a husband. And if there’s a pattern being put in front of me where Cathy is continuing to complain about how I’m not showing up, and in an authentic way, share or complaint share. She’s sharing that I’m not showing up. It’s funny, like I say the story a lot, but I’ll say it again, there was a time when Cathy and I were not seeing eye to eye on a certain issue. And we’re sitting on the couch, I may have just said this yesterday on the podcast. But when she was sharing that I was traveling too much or something like that, in my mind, I was not being present, I was thinking ahead about how can I never be in this situation ever again. It’s like, how can I troubleshoot this issue? So that I can never be in the situation again, like, what can I do? Can I curb my travel schedule? Can I do this? Can I do that. And what I realized was that I was that backwards, with all Cathy wanted was for me to be present in that moment. And I wasn’t being present, I was trying to reverse engineer, troubleshoot a future event that has yet to happen. So where I come back to is I just want to be as present as I can in the moment when I’m with my kids, with my wife, with whomever. And it’s a practice that needs to be nurtured. I do it through meditation, and sometimes I get on a run of 30 days in a row, and then I’ll screw up. But getting back like, how do you want to show up in this world? And if the result of your marriage is that there’s a bunch of people that are not being nice to one another, then what are you here for and I challenge the men who may be listening to this, you know, take 100% responsibility for how you show up in this relationship. You know, I’ve been in the bar where the guys are complaining about their wives complaining about them. And I’ll say, is there any truth to whatever it is they’re complaining about? Because, you know, our ego is designed to get us defensive and drop us below the line. And we just want to protect our own ego. And instead, can we inquire within saying is there any truth to whatever it is, it’s being presented to me. The other thing is, whenever Cathy and I are really going sideways, it’s when we’re both in this reactive state. And it’s rare. Usually one of us can rise above and create the space for what I’ll say unfair, you know, venting. And can we create the space for the person to do that? Because I’ve done that with Cathy where I’m kinda in this reactive place and show just kind of be able to create some space for me to kind of vent and then come back from this kind of centered place. where it goes sideways is when we’re both in this reactive place. And that’s when he came back to self care. Like, can you cultivate a practice where you’re not coming at life from this scanning the environment for anything that’s going wrong? So I don’t know that?

Cathy Adams  35:24

Well. And you know, one thing that our listeners have shared with us, that they were surprised at is that you needed to have a conversation more than once. That they were like, but I had that conversation. And I’m like, but it didn’t resolve. So you have it again, and you’ll have it again. There are conversations that Todd and I’ve been having for 20 years. And I don’t mean, like he used the word complain. And I know exactly what he means. I don’t mean complaining conversations where we’re like you, you know, but things like this issue is still an issue for us. And because you brought it up on Thursday, doesn’t mean you can’t bring it up again, on Tuesday, you say this is still a challenge. And, and I know you know this, because I read your writing and everything that everything comes down to that basic thing is, am I enough? And do you see me? And do you hear me? And do you care about me? Those are all the basic things. We’re just trying to get at it. But sometimes there’s certain triggers because again, I’m getting into trauma and childhood here that tend to drive us into a place of insecurity. And so really, all we’re trying to get back to is do you see me, and having that knowledge, as a partner, helps decrease that reactivity Todd’s talking about.

Todd Adams  36:27

And for me, it’s like personal responsibility. Like if I’m in a marriage, where my wife vents to me every day about how I’m not showing up, the results are us, there’s two, it takes two to tango. And what I need to do is take 100% responsibility and how I show up in this relationship, not 200% responsibility and not 0% responsibility. So I’m taking my wonderful responsibility for how I am experiencing this and we get so triggered, and complain and start pointing the finger at your wife or the society or yourself, you start beating the crap out of yourself, which I’m really good at. So can we have some compassion for self and others?

Debbie Reber  36:31

Well, this all ties together because this unlearning, the growth, all of those things, discovering childhood trauma, or tapping into the impact that may have in our lives. This all helps us better know ourselves so we can better show up to our partner and it does get easier, right? Every time you have that conversation, you bring that new knowledge with you. And you know, I can tell like, Oh, yeah, this is that trigger again. And I can almost laugh at myself. Now. Sometimes, you know, I can go from being really, you know, I’m a Scorpio I have this very kind of self righteous thing going on. And but I can go pretty quickly to like, Alright, so alright, I know I overreacted. But this is, you know, this is why and so I think all of that unlearning that we’re doing. And the examination it’s worth it for so many reasons. But we can continue to inform and help us grow together with our partner again, if we’re parenting with a partner.

Cathy Adams  38:11

Yeah. And you know, just like you said, Can you know, I may be overreacting and I see it. But can both things be true? Is it okay that you’re overreacting because you’re trying to understand something about yourself and heal something in yourself like overreaction isn’t necessarily a character flaw, it can be an arrow pointing at something that hurts inside of you. And that, you know, the whole, you know, goal if when you’re with someone, and they’re your life partner is to help us develop together, but also individually. And so if you can say something to your partner that maybe as a child, you were never able to say, and they can accept you and say I see this and I love you. And it’s not easy for me to hear. But that heals a part of us. So I’ve really gotten more compassionate about my own and Todd’s and my daughter’s reactivity, because there’s something under it. And it doesn’t mean that we’re messing up, it means that there’s a story there. And so both things are true that you said, Debbie, you know, like I am really I do see my reactivity, and that it’s not fair. Meaning that I’m, you know, I’m putting a lot on you. But I also understand that speaking it is what heals this reactivity. It’s both things.

Todd Adams  39:19

And every time I say things go sideways, or there’s an argument or you’re in a fight with your partner, every single time there’s an opportunity to repair. So how do you repair like repair is a huge component that I don’t think we talk about enough like, when we do get in this reactive state. How do you repair that? How do you own that? How do you take responsibility for that? And it’s scary because we don’t want to be vulnerable. But every time things go sideways, there is an opportunity. And my hope is that, you know, something happened last night where Cathy and I were making plans and we weren’t seeing eye to eye on how to execute those plans. And I mentioned something Last night about how we should probably kind of work through this 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have said a word. And I would have waited five days for her to have to like, you know, shake me saying, how come we haven’t talked about this? So I’m trying to get a little bit better at that part of it is when we do when we do feel like we’re, we didn’t show up in the way that we’re proud. How quickly can we start mending whatever it is that you just kind of broke down?

Debbie Reber  40:25

Yeah, and I loved just the repair. And I am going to wrap up because I’m cognizant of the time too. But you know, we talk a lot on the show about repairing with her kids. And so I just appreciate the reminder that we do that with, with grown humans in our lives as well, including our partner. Before we go, I do want to get a little preview of the book that you’re writing, Cathy, I was so excited to learn that you’re going to be writing a book and I get your emails where you’re sharing some of your thinking that’s going into that. So can you tell us about that?

Cathy Adams 40:56

Absolutely. Yes, I’m so excited to I started. So you just said you know, my daughter, she’s graduating or she graduated on Sunday. So she is done with high school, but I started writing this book when she was a freshman. And my whole goal was like, I want to have it done. But kind of for her, you know, like before she leaves like, this is something that I’ve been trying to put together all this, you know, all How do you put together 10 years of a podcast, like you know, everything, we talked about enzyme parenting, because the book is actually called Zen Parenting. But life kind of made it around, you know, everything with a pandemic, and everything that’s going on in the last couple, you know, four years, five years, the book is really about how to manage uncertainty in our lives, and how to manage uncertainty as a parent, and how to care for ourselves in the process. That’s really what the book became. So it’s structured with some foundational principles, and also, kind of going through all the steps of this self awareness that we’re talking about, how do we access, you know, what’s going on in ourselves? How do we, how do we, you know, reconcile our history, how do we, you know, stay open and realize that we’re supposed to evolve rather than supposed to know, you know, the idea that we know, is a problem in itself, because we need to stay open to always seeing things from a different perspective. So that’s what the book is about. It actually comes out in 2/22, which I love because that’s my dad’s favorite number he passed away several years ago, but I’m like, of course, it comes out on 2/22 because that was his favorite number. So yeah, so soon. It’s been a long time coming since I think I started it. What was that? 2016? You see the title? Oh, Zen Parenting? Yeah, that was our subtitle. Well, I kind of said, the subtitle, it’s managing uncertainty. It’s evolving. Okay, Debbie knows the book process. You’re always trying, you’re changing it as you go. But it’s uncertainty and caring for ourselves in the midst of uncertainty.

Debbie Reber  42:45

So exciting. And so I’m just so we have it on the record, you’ll come back and talk with us about the book when it comes out. I’m excited to do that. Thank you for inviting me again. Oh, my gosh, of course, I cannot wait. It’s gonna be great. And I really like you guys. I’m just putting it out there. I really enjoy hanging out with you. So I am just so grateful for the way you show up for all of us. And the way you just share your journey with parents everywhere. It’s just super inspiring and helpful. And I learned something every time I listened to your show. So I just want to thank you so much. And you want to take a minute and just tell people where they can connect with you and in all the different ways.

Todd Adams  43:30 It’s pretty simple. Cathy does a Zen Parenting Moment where it’s like a 30-second read it comes out Tuesdays and Fridays. So that’s on the homepage which is And a quick plug for this men’s organization that I co founded and the executive director of so there’s ever been any male listeners out there that want to connect authentically with other men and skip the BS talk and just help you become the best version of yourself. I invite you to check out our website because most of what we do is virtual. It’s

Cathy Adams  44:05

And then our podcast comes out every Tuesday mornings Zen Parenting Radio. And like Todd said we did, we just finished 601 episodes, so there’s plenty to listen to plenty.

Debbie Reber  44:15

That is super impressive. And you have Team Zen as well… Do you want to share that?

Todd Adams  44:19

Yeah, this is just for people who really, really really love our podcast. It’s an opportunity for us to connect with them live on a zoom call, and we have about 110 members, but on any particular day, there’ll be anywhere between 10 and 15 people and they need support, they need advice, then they’re reacting to each other and need each other. It’s connective, so it’s 25 bucks a month. And I would say start with podcasts and be like the podcast and check out Team Zen.

Debbie Reber  44:45

Awesome. Well, thank you so much. I will let you get on with your day. But it was great to see you both and thank you again for everything you shared today. Thank you, Debbie. You’ve been listening to the Tilt Parenting Podcast, you can find links to all the resources my guests and I discussed on the detailed show notes page. Just go to and select this episode. If you love this podcast and want to help cover the cost of its production, please consider joining my Patreon campaign. For as little as $2 a month you can help cover the cost of the hosting platform, editing, production and more. Just go to to learn more. Lastly, please help this podcast stay visible and easily found by subscribing and leaving a rating or review on Apple podcasts. Thanks so much for considering. And that’s all for this week. Stay safe, stay well and take good care and for more information on Tilt Parenting, visit


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