Meet Marcella Kelson, our ultimate Mother's Day muse and go-to Parental Wellness Expert. A true fountain of wisdom and warmth, Marcella is filled with actionable strategies to help women feel supported in their careers and personal lives, while fulfilled in their parenting roles.
Her candid voice and insights resonate with women, parents, and mamas in all their forms. Check out the full profile on Alma Journal for her advice on cultivating self-compassion, maximizing the joy of parenthood, and the beauty and wellness rituals that keep her balanced. You'll love her skincare and podcast recs, so get ready to take notes!
What is your hometown, and where do you live today?
I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil where I lived until I was five years old. At five, we moved to Miami and then eventually, New York City which is where I spent most of my childhood. Now I live in Greenwich, Connecticut. We moved here in June 2020, and we are so happy that we did! Naturally, I still go into New York all the time.
Please tell us a bit about your work and mission.
My working life has always been completely focused on parent/child dynamics. I graduated from college with a degree in Psychology, then a Masters in Social Work with a focus on Child/Family Psychotherapy, and then a masters in Psychoanalytic Developmental Psychology which looks at child development and attachment.
My mission is to improve the parental experience by normalizing conversations around the challenges of parent/child dynamics. Simply put: I want the narrative around parenting to be more authentic, empowering and honest. I struggle with the way that the parenting experience is evolving, I think there is so much pressure, like with everything else, to be perfect.
My expertise is in the area of mothers - who undergo so much judgement, scrutiny and pressure. It feels like women today are being held to completely unrealistic standards and the joy is completely taken out of the parenting experience. It doesn’t help that social media entices us to do more social comparison than actually enjoying the lives we’ve worked so hard to build. I provide tools, research and framework that helps women understand their values better, so that they can build lives, careers and relationships that are true to their dreams and ideals, rather than everyone else's.
"I want the narrative around parenting to be more authentic, empowering and honest."
What is top of mind for mothers who come to you as clients?
Can I be a good mother and still love my career?
Can I be a good mother and find child care really difficult and anxiety provoking?
Am I allowed to ask for help? To need it?
Am I still allowed to want a life that is just mine, even though I am a mother?
Am I still a good mother if parenting feels really hard for me?
You do such a beautiful job at helping mothers cultivate and maintain a strong sense of themselves. What is your go to advice in this realm?
My go-to advice is to ask yourself what you would want for your child, and then apply that to your own life.
For example, if a mom really needs a break, but she feels guilty taking one, I encourage her to question what advice she would give her daughter. Would she tell her daughter that she doesn’t deserve a break? That she is wrong for wanting things that are just her own? That she is weak or ungrateful to need help? No, we would never. We would want our children to be supported and happy and loved. So don’t we allow that for ourselves?
We are much more reasonable, compassionate and objective when it comes to others. Not so much with ourselves. I find that the right answer for us often lies there.
"We are much more reasonable, compassionate and objective when it comes to others. Not so much with ourselves."
What is one lesson you’ve learned from parenting during COVID that you feel passionate about sharing?
So many parents came to me because they were worried about the impact that lockdown would have on their children long term. I can completely understand this concern, but children are so resilient. More resilient than us in so many ways.
The most important tool for resilience is a “safe base-” which is made available by a caretaker who is loving, thoughtful, appropriate and responsive. Not all day every day, just enough of the time. So even on your worst day, remember that. Remember that you’re already giving them what they really need.
Are there any positive changes COVID brought about to your family life that you plan to continue?
My husband and I have a much better balance of childcare responsibilities post-covid. Pre-covid, I took control of so many aspects of our son’s life. Now I feel I have a true co-parent. That came from so much hard work and a lot of hard conversations about responsibility and load.
I also make an effort not to be on my phone until my nanny arrives, which is around 9am. Before then, my attention was either on me, my husband, my son or our dog. It is sacred family time. And I cherish that undivided opportunity for connection.
In a few words, how do you define your approach to beauty?
For me, it’s always about the essentials. When it comes to beauty, I prioritize efficiency, efficacy and sustainability.
What are the highlights of your skincare routine? The products or steps that are non-negotiable?
Obviously I love my Joaquina Botánica Hydrating Glow Oil. I use a few drops of it morning and night.
In the morning I only clean my face with Bioderma Micellar Water. I use a washable cotton pad, followed by P50 1970 V, by Biologique Recherche. Then I top off with two drops of HGO and two drops of Hyaluronic Acid. Then I use Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer under my eyes and on dark spots.
Evening is similar except that I was my face with Biologique Recherche Lait U. I also love Drunk Elephant Retinol which I use a small portion every night after I’ve applied all of the above.
What is your favorite beauty experience - spa, store, treatment, practitioner?
Clear & Brilliant - I used to do it almost monthly Pre-Covid which helped acne scarring and aging spots. For facials, I love Mariam at Karim Kazarian.
What Podcasts, books, or other resources on motherhood are you loving right now?
So many. For podcasts: Raising Good Humans with Aliza Pressman. I also love Dax Sheppard who talks a lot about parenting. Brené Brown. I think Untamed by Glennon Doyle is in many ways, my ideal book on parenting.
I am currently reading a new book on attachment science called Strange Situation by Bethany Saltman. I think the new Parenting + App by Union Square Play is an incredibly helpful resource for parents.
What is your favorite way to stay active?
Reformer Pilates and power walking with a podcast. I love Melissa Wood Health for at-home pilates.
Favorite self-care or mindfulness ritual to keep balanced?
Before any big event or group session, I listen to a short Grounding Meditation. It helps me feel connected to my body, space and power. I find it simultaneously centering and invigorating.
What is your favorite escape in South America?
Honestly, I love visiting Rio de Janeiro. I don’t get to go as often as I used to, especially with COVID and my son. He hasn’t been yet, and I truly cannot wait to show him how spectacular it is.