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Tennessee moms find their voices with podcast

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BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — Trying to survive motherhood? Balancing being a mom and owning a business? Navigating being a mother of girls?

There’s a podcast for all of those.

But Brentwood resident Marie Perrigo, an avid podcast listener, saw a gap in the market.

While she saw plenty of podcasts primarily aimed at mothers of younger kids, Perrigo didn’t see many created by older women that focused on the new challenges frequently encountered in their middle years, such as empty nest syndrome, the double standards of aging between men and women, and the challenge of raising teenagers.

So she sought out to create one herself — with a little help from her friends.

Perrigo, along with Brentwood mom Julie King and former Williamson County resident Mindy Sillyman, created a podcast called “Midlife Matters” in November. It has resonated with listeners, and their 35 episodes have garnered more than 10,000 downloads so far.

“Parenting can be really lonely once your kids start to get older, because people start to be less willing to share,” Perrigo said. “All kids go through potty training, but maybe not every kid is failing a class, and they don’t want to say it.”

The three women have 12 children between them, ranging in age from 11 to 27.

Inspired by the podcast “Sorta Awesome” and its conversational format, Perrigo took to YouTube to figure out how to create a podcast from scratch, then asked King and Sillyman to join her for weekly discussions on a set topic.

“I’m an introvert, and when Marie asked me to do this, I thought, ‘I don’t know if I can do that,’ ” King said. “I was very nervous the first couple of episodes, but once we got going, I hope it doesn’t end. It’s been a cool way for me to kind of have a voice.”

Sillyman previously moved out of state and hadn’t even listened to a podcast before, but Perrigo said she knew her friend would be a huge asset.

“She’s super friendly, and I knew she would be a great conversationalist,” Perrigo said.

While “Midlife Matters” has gained more popularity than its creators expected, it’s been a little challenging to get other women in their 40s and 50s to give podcasts a chance.

“I think this age group is reluctant. They think you need to sit and listen to a podcast like it’s an event,” Perrigo said. “Each friend should teach the next friend how to download a podcast.”

The trio meets via Skype every week to record episodes, and Perrigo handles the editing and technical work.

They frequently have guests join them, such as Rachel Marie Martin, author of “The Brave Art of Motherhood.”

The topics covered in “Midlife Matters” run the gamut, from lighter discussions over DIY gardening and the best deals at Costco to overblown fears parents sometimes have about raising “average” kids.

The “average kid” episode was one that resonated heavily with the women, whose own children have attended Williamson County Schools, known for its high academic achievement and strong sports teams.

“It’s so hard when you live in an area where … your kid can have all A’s but still be 60th in their class,” Perrigo said. “You don’t learn to play a sport in high school — you have to have played it since you were 3. There’s just a lot of pressure, and we loved doing that episode.”

While it’s normal to push your children to do their best, parents sometimes get caught up in the belief that their kid’s success — or lack thereof — is a direct reflection of the parent’s value.

“If how they perform is how you validate your parenting, that’s the problem. That’s not who you are,” King said, reflecting on her own experiences with her first son.

“I’m still dealing with that. And if things don’t turn out exactly how I envisioned, it’s not my fault. They’re free to choose their own ways.”

Granted, that doesn’t make raising teenagers any easier, especially when you walk away from an argument feeling like the world’s worst mom, Perrigo noted.

But the podcast has also created an avenue to broach tough topics with their own kids that may have otherwise gone unaddressed.

“It gets hard to talk to your older kids about difficult subjects,” Perrigo said. “You don’t want to step on their toes, but man, if you do an episode about it, they hear it in a new way. They also don’t just hear you, because they hear two of your friends talking about it.”

To listen to “Midlife Matters,” visit midlifematterspodcast.com or anywhere you find podcasts.

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