Wendy is mom to Veda (9 months) and Felix (6). Felix was at school during our interview.
What did you love most about being a kid?
I loved the play aspect of being a kid, and I definitely played for a really long time. I played dolls and we played outside a lot. My brother and I did tons of fort building and imaginative play—I remember my mom [always] saying, “go outside and play!” and that was just our cue and we knew exactly what to do. We had really deep imaginations and we were always building forts and bark huts...and putting safety pins through flowers and then selling them as earrings…we were really creative together.
What is your mom like?
She’s really loving and playful. She’s really good with children. She was a second grade teacher for about 25 years and now she’s an amazing grandmother. She actually spends a lot of time with Felix and is always doing things like stopping at the fire station with him and being like, let’s learn about firemen! She’ll just show up and meet the fire chief and somehow get them an amazing private tour of the fire station and fire engine.
What did you think of your mom when you were little?
I thought she was super fun and easygoing…she was never uptight about the house being messy, or how we were in the space…she created a really kid-friendly environment that promoted childhood.
Tell me about your path to motherhood.
I always knew I wanted to be a mom, for sure. That was absolutely part of my life’s plan, since I was a little girl. I definitely played with dolls a lot longer than a lot of my peers. Everyone was eleven or twelve and transitioning to pop music and movie stars and sleepovers and I played with dolls for kind of an exceptional, embarrassing amount of time.
What was it about dolls?
It was the nurturing element and the imagination that went along with putting different outfits together. It was funny, today Felix said to me, “for her first birthday maybe we should get [Veda] a doll.” I said, “yeah, maybe we can get her one of those really soft Waldorf dolls”—he goes to the Waldorf school—and he said, “no, I want to get her one of those plastic ones, because, you know, girls love changing their dolls’ outfits and it will be a lot easier with one of those plastic dolls.” I was like, you’re right, that’s what I liked doing!
But my path to motherhood…it was never a question to me, do I want to be a mom or not? I knew that would be part of my life. When I moved back here I met my husband and I pretty much instantaneously knew that he would be the father of my children.
How did you know you guys were ready to have kids?
We were together for about a year and I would say we just opened ourselves up to that coming into our lives. Pretty shortly after that I became pregnant and we were both so excited and also scared at the same time—I imagine most people feel that way when they realize they’re pregnant. Even if it’s something you’ve wanted for a long time…that moment you realize that it’s happening is…it’s unnerving. I remember immediately looking at the pregnancy test and I was like well do I need to go to the doctor tomorrow? Isn’t that what people do the moment they find out they’re pregnant? We ended up having a home birth and working with a midwife. We went and found the midwife we were going to have, and after our first appointment I was like, so do I need to go to the doctor? And she asked, “well, why?” And I was like, “I don’t know why! Isn’t that just what people do?” And she said, “no, that’s why you’re seeing us.”
So I simultaneously realized how little I knew about pregnancy and childbirth and this alternative path that I was seeking. Even though I was committed to that [alternative path], so much of my background and personal foundation was [rooted] in such a traditional path as well. I didn’t really have any family members who had had home births, so I still saw it as, but you also go the doctor, right? I didn’t realize that it could be so comprehensive. For me, that was the beginning of really learning about the details of childbirth and pregnancy—even though you think you know a lot, just because it’s something you’re interested in—all of a sudden when you’re in it there are all of these questions that come up, for me at least, that I’d never considered just as a “fangirl” of pregnancy and childbirth [Laughs]. There’s really so much to know about it, and once you find yourself in that situation, it’s on such a deeper level that it just becomes wonderfully all-consuming. Especially the first time around. This time was very different. [Laughs]
What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?
I love the connection of being on the same wavelength with [my children]. That does not happen constantly throughout the day for me, honestly. It’s that moment when I really drop in and am present and connecting, and eye contact and skin contact, both with the baby and with my older son as well. It’s a really heart-connected, magical time when I don’t feel like I’m being pulled on by other tasks around the house or work-related [obligations], it’s just connected, centered, connecting time. And there is such a deep connection that exists between mother and child, but as we’re living day to day and doing all the things that need to happen throughout the day—getting children ready, cooking, working, having conversations, arranging things—there are so many distractions that can take you away from being present. I find my favorite thing is when I’m conscientious of those moments, when we are looking at each other and I feel them in my brain and in my body, and that is just an energetic exchange back and forth. It’s electrifying. I want to make a bigger effort to experience that more throughout the day.
What is one part of motherhood you struggle with?
Just one?! It’s a cliché, of course, but for me it’s totally the balance. The balance of how to be all things for everyone. And I’m not under any illusion that the world will collapse if I can’t do everything—that’s not where I’m coming from. It’s just how to create space for all of the pieces that make up motherhood and womanhood and personhood. For me those are: time with my children, time with my friends, time with my husband, time alone—which basically never happens, and I could spend 80% of my time alone. If I could, I would probably choose that, and then pepper it with time with friends and family. For me one of the hardest things is completely losing that really important equilibrium which involves time with myself. At this moment when [Veda] is needing so much attention and care, I really only have a couple hours during the day when she’s asleep, and I have a whole list of things to do during that time. So I really don’t allow that time to be that quiet alone time that I crave.
One thing we’re doing differently this time around, as opposed to with Felix, is we have a babysitter a couple days a week and that’s a big change. As a first time mom I didn’t get that that was okay to do, especially when he was a baby, and now I feel like I know better. I know that receiving support, asking for support, and knowing where to look for it when you need it is the thing that can really keep the harmony happening in the family. The thing about babies and children is that they change so quickly, so everything is a stage. You can find yourself in the thick of a really difficult stage and then all of sudden it changes, and you didn’t even quite adjust to that first one, but now you’re in a new stage. Having to adjust after not even getting up to speed with the first change—it’s exhausting. But if I had to condense it down in a nutshell it would be about maintaining that balance and I think that that balance is always changing. So learning to be flexible is really crucial. I always think of that Rudyard Kipling story, and I can’t remember the story exactly, but the moral is “it’s better to bend than to break.” I wouldn’t have always thought about it that way. [In the past] I would have thought, I need to be really rigid and structured in order to keep the balance. I need to hold the boundaries, and be strict with what it is that I need and what our family needs. The times that I’ve done that I’ve worn myself out and basically broken, and this time around I just know that you have to be flexible and you have to be willing to bend even deeper than what you think is good. You learn when to bend and when to hold, I guess.
What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?
I’m kind of reflecting on this time around, but in general I’ve learned I’m a really Type A person, and I never would have acknowledged that before, but I am and I think it serves me really well, but it also has the tendency to make me a little crazy if I can’t let go of that from time to time. And hands down, having the second child has forced me into epically mellow proportions for me. It’s been surprising how easy it’s been to just let go of a lot.
In what ways are you Type A?
I’ve mentioned my mom would sort of let us do whatever we wanted around the house. Our house wasn’t at all a pit or anything, but my mom was just much more willing to let the house be messy for the benefit of us. If I’m not careful I’ll just be running around the house tidying it up all day, and with two kids that’s insane because you’re literally doing that all day and they’re just following you around making messes. Someone told me once, “trying to clean a house with little kids is like trying to brush your teeth while you eat Oreos”—it’s impossible. My tendency would be to try and do that anyways, but now I just clean the house once a week. I know that usually come Friday or Saturday it’s borderline disgusting, but I know that Sunday I’ll be cleaning it, and it’s fine. So just letting go of things that actually really matter to me. If I remain rigid about those the overall joy and health of our family will go down...knowing that certain things have to be let go of.
I can be Type A about housekeeping and also about keeping a schedule, because I tend to have a lot going on and I work part time. My to-do list is really important to me and gives me a lot of satisfaction [knowing] that I’ve done everything that I needed to do, but also there are days when I realize I’m not going to get that satisfaction of getting everything done, and I’m a little more able to accept that now than previously. Sometimes I would wrestle myself into this ball of anxiety trying to accommodate everything and do everything, and all I was left with was a feeling of anxiety and not really that much satisfaction from the day—not to mention joy. Now I have learned to either put way less on the to-do list or know that some days it’s going to get completely derailed.
What has surprised you about motherhood?
The truth is, how much work it is. I feel like my life skill set has expanded tenfold just learning how to manage so many different energies and needs. And it’s like a muscle in the sense that when you first start out it’s unbelievably crazy how much it consumes your life. When you realize for the first few months (if you choose to breastfeed) you’re literally nursing for about eight hours a day. Not straight, but when you add them all up it’s about 8-10 hours. You wonder, how am I going to get anything else done, if I’m nursing for eight to ten hours a day? And you really do build up a muscle that only keeps growing to allow you to take on the things that keep coming into your life. It’s so true, with a second child it’s exponentially more work. I feel like my muscle was pretty strongly developed with one [child] and right now it’s at an incredibly intense building stage again.
It will get easier!
[Laughs] Yeah, and it already is easier than a couple months ago. I am more used to the demands at this point.
Are there any societal pressures that you feel more than others?
The career/motherhood conversation is incredibly confusing and contradictory. I personally feel like I have a pretty good balance of career and family, but I certainly thought I would have more of a career at this point in my life. But simultaneously I have no idea how I would be the type of mother I want to be if I was working full time. I don’t know what society wants, and that’s the confusing part. Do they want present mothers or do they want hard core worker-bee women? I guess I haven’t figured out how to have both at the level it seems society wants us to. It’s crazy.
But in the last two years I have had some really great personal breakthroughs with realizing my path to inner happiness is definitely going to be letting go of a perceived expectation I have. Trying to do it the way that society is indicating is the best way just isn’t possible for me. I think so much of it has to do with where you live too. I think there’s less pressure to have a career here [in Nevada County] during motherhood, but I see friends in the Bay Area and it seems like the pressure must be insane to do both, and the necessity for many people is to do both.
I want to have more of a career and eventually I know I will, but I just had to let go of it being right now. After raising Felix I realized that baby time is so short, and this is our last child and I really don’t want her to be starting kindergarten and feel like I missed all of this baby time or I was stressing and really trying to do too much. Having that perspective of already having raised one child all the way through kindergarten has allowed me to slow down and enjoy this time quite a bit.
What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your children?
I think one of the biggest differences is our kids are being raised in a more close-knit community—based on my husband and my involvement in our community as well as the school that [Felix] goes to—where there are a lot of families that know each other very well and the children are growing up as members of the community as opposed to how my brother and I grew up, which was more like members of a neighborhood. We didn’t go into town much—and we just lived on Banner Mountain—but it was just the way that my parents were. They worked really hard and on the weekends we just played a lot at home. That was wonderful, it was just different. Town and the greater community was not something I remember being a part of until I was much, much older, like in high school. It’s not that my parents weren’t community minded, they just had less time to devote to nurturing those relationships. I think it was because they both worked full time and that was just what had to give in their life. My husband and I have more flexible schedules, and with that extra time we choose to be more involved with our community. It’ll be really interesting because there are a lot of adults and families that are literally seeing our children every day and will watch them grow up over the next ten and fifteen years, and have a really intimate look at what their lives are like, and visa versa.
How has your relationship with your parents changed since becoming a mother?
It’s so much better. It’s so much more wonderful and I feel like I am more able to express gratitude to my parents now, having walked in their shoes, essentially. That’s actually a huge relief, being able to understand all that they gave to us and to me. The sweetness of seeing that grandparent relationship develop is really incredible. Seeing how Felix has such a close relationship with my mom and also seeing [Veda] start to develop this awareness of this other adult in her life who is a total touchstone and part of that village.
How has your relationship with your partner changed since becoming parents?
It’s definitely deepened. It’s often hard to maintain that romantic love that I think we’re so attracted to when we choose our partners, [but] in a sense it gives way to a much deeper love, absolutely. In a day to day sense it sometimes can become very logistical oriented, and that can make things a little dry. But knowing that what you share with this person is a love that you two share more than anyone in the world for these people [motions to Veda] is something that keeps you trying really hard to keep the spark alive as well as just continuing to create a better life for your crew, that you are now a part of.
How have you seen technology impact motherhood?
For those eight hour nursing sessions it’s been a really wonderful way to tap into the rest of the world and feel connected to friends and things going on in the world, but at the same time it’s definitely an intrusion into family life. We’ve had to be really mindful with creating boundaries around when it is and isn’t okay to have technology. For the first year that we lived in this house we decided not to even have the internet here, and it was a wonderful year. And then I started a Master’s program and I needed the internet for that, so we got it here and that was also really nice, but it very much changed the ways we interacted as a family. And even though our son doesn’t use technology or media very often, except for once a week, there are still those moments where we check our phones, and it feels like we’re only looking at it for a minute but really ten minutes have passed, and the last thing I want is my kids to be competing with technology for my attention. It definitely influences and impacts the rhythm of our lives and our family and so being conscientious of when we use it is something we really strive for.
What are your hopes for your children?
I hope for happiness for them and I hope that they have other relationships in their lives that are fulfilling and connected. I hope that they allow themselves to have dreams that they can strive for. And I hope that they want to stay connected to us as they grow older, which, I’m sure they will. I don’t know…those are—I was going to say that those are pretty simple hopes, but actually those aren’t simple, those are really wonderful things to accomplish in someone’s life. I just truly want them to feel fulfilled as people and have an inner strength.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
That will make me 45. Felix will be 16, and she’ll be 10. Wow. I really have no idea. I can’t even fathom that. But I know ten years is going to go by in a blink of an eye. In ten years I want to be in a similar place to I am now, but maybe starting to focus more on my career. I think about my kids at that age also and it’s not like they’ll need me any less, it will just be in a different way, and I still want to be able to be driving them to and from events and activities and [be] really involved in their lives. It brings me back to that societal question of career and family and when is ever really possible to do all of it?
One of our family goals has always been to travel with our children, so hopefully in ten years time we’ll have started doing that and maybe taken some interesting family trips. One of the places we would really like to go in the next year is Mexico City. My husband and I have both been there and I know our son would really love it. He’s like a city boy trapped in a country boy’s life. I would say one of the goals we have as a family is to incorporate travel into our lives more. I hope in ten years that we’ve made that a reality.
Thank you Wendy! ♥
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