Modern Motherhood Series

Modern Motherhood // Interview with April

April is mom to Lucette, age 6, and Arley, age 3.

What did you love most about being a kid?

I grew up in a small town about eleven miles from Nevada City called Weimar. My parents had ten acres. They were part of the whole “back to the land” movement—my dad is from Stockton, my mom is from Sacramento—and they moved to this land so we could have goats and chickens. We drank goat's milk and ate fresh eggs. It’s beautiful out there. There’re two ponds on the property and it’s really wild—they’re not landscapers, they kind of left the land untouched—and we spent a lot of time outside. I have two older sisters and a little brother. My older sisters and I played outside a lot. We were very imaginative children. One whole hillside was our pretend house. When we crossed a little stream that divides the property, we would enter our wooded refuge. It was this whole beautiful, imaginary world that we’d come back to each day. Certain bushes were designated as the kitchen, a thicket of old manzanitas were the bedrooms. We’d also spend a lot of time playing in the pond and I have really vivid memories of catching pollywogs, and naming them, and seeing them go through their cycles, and hearing the frogs sing at night and really feeling the cycle of the seasons. We didn’t have TV growing up, I think that when I was born they got one channel, if you held the antenna right [Laughs] but we didn’t watch TV. We were more fascinated by going up on the hillside and listening to our echoes as the sun went down. Being in nature was a huge part of my childhood and having sweet relationships with our animals—our dogs were definitely like part of the family.

Did it feel like there was anything missing?

There were definitely things we longed for, we longed for playing with other children. In college, one of my friends grew up on a cul de sac in Salt Lake City, and I remember asking her to tell me about the night games she played as a kid, because that was a big deal—all the kids would funnel into the cul de sac at night and play night games. Things like that I think I missed a little bit, growing up in the country. Now assessing it as an adult, there were many advantages living like we did. I think it was very informative to who I have become.

What did you think about your mom when you were little?

I adored my mom. I absolutely adored her. She was a very devoted, very loving mother. I remember her always wearing these really long floral skirts, and I would hide under her skirt whenever we were in social settings. I remember that little tent underneath my mama’s skirt as being really safe. She was incredibly nurturing. I think my mom has that gene, that need-to-nurture gene. She was a stay-at-home-mom, but when I was about sixteen she went back to nursing school, and now she’s a nurse.

How did your feelings about her change as you grew older?

My parents divorced when I was sixteen, and I think our roles changed at that point. I kind of became the one who held our family together. I remember the first Christmas after my dad had left, my mom didn’t bring out the Christmas stuff like usual. A friend and I went to this old, abandoned Christmas tree farm and cut down a tree and held it on top of her car and went to my mom’s house and set it up, and I was like, we’re doing this. My brother was still young. I kind of felt like I had to take over preserving of our family’s traditions and rhythms. I’ve kind of always been like that, even to my older sisters, I’ve taken on that roll of being the one that organizes Thanksgiving and the holidays. My mom and everyone will talk about it and be excited, but I’m the one that’s like okay, we’re going to make this happen and I’ll cook the food, put on the christmas albums or find the Thanksgiving parade on TV so we can watch it all together—like we did when we were young.

Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids? How did you know you were ready?

Yes, I definitely always wanted to have children, I would sing about it as a little girl. I had a cute little song

when I grow up I want to be a mother / one little two little three little children of my own

I would sing at the top of my lungs. I was raised Mormon, and that maternal role was ingrained in me, but I think naturally I just love kids. I wanted to have six kids, that was my dream. I taught preschool through college and I worked with a lot of different child development organizations after college. Michael and I, when we decided to get married, the thing that triggered that conversation was this feeling that I had regarding my future as a mother. I was living in Taiwan at the time and we were dating long distance. I was working there for six months teaching English at a preschool. After six months I was planning to go home and we would continue our relationship. But I decided I wanted to stay for another six months, I was at this life juncture. I had this guy that I really really loved, and asking him to wait another six months for me....I just didn’t know. I think I was 24. I felt really strongly about staying in Taiwan and had developed relationships with the kids and the families, and I thought, I’m here, I feel like I should really see it through and stay for six more months. It was going so well and I was saving money to pay off student loans. I remember I went to the beach one day. And he knew that I was trying to decide what to do, whether I would come back and we’d continue dating or I’d stay and we didn’t know what would happen. I went to the beach in Taiwan and stayed out there for a really long day, and rode my bike home as the sun was setting. I had this really strong feeling that I was going to have a daughter. And that Michael was going to be my partner. And I needed to talk to him about that to see if he really was that person. The idea of this future little girl kind of got us to talk about the seriousness of our relationship. We were definitely more at the beginning phase of our relationship, but it jumped us into something more serious, and he was like, I want to be that person that helps you raise this future child. It made us examine what is this future that we have together and should we pursue it? I had decided that my future would involve having a child at some point, but I did want to stay in Taiwan, so we actually got married. We went to Spain and got married and then we both returned to Taiwan for six months, which was really wonderful for us. I think it set a precedence for who we are in our relationship together, that we are very adventurous and take the path less chosen.

And then we were married for six years before we had Lucette! But I don’t think there was ever a feeling of me wanting to start the family right away or visa versa. We had found each other, we knew we’d make a family together one day and it felt really wonderful. I think it’s been good to develop our relationship. We traveled a lot and have had many great adventures. Then, it was right before I was graduating from Columbia University with my master’s degree, I was working on my thesis and I had a funny feeling. My husband is a software engineer, so he was in another room of our apartment, working. I snuck down and went to the pharmacy and bought a pregnancy test. I just had this feeling. I knew I was pregnant. A friend asked, were you trying? I think ever since we got married we were open to it. We weren’t trying for six years but we were always open to it and felt like we could embrace a new life when it came. I’m grateful that before she did come, that we had six years together to strengthen our bond. We have those adventures under our belt and know that we work really well together, so taking on parenting together has been pretty seamless. We have this track record for getting through stuff together well. For us it just worked out really nicely.

What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?

I love the joy that my kids have for life. Both my kids are really bright, joyful children, and they get so excited about each day. They wake up thrilled to be alive and it brings such a fun energy into our home. I love getting excited about pollywogs again, and ducklings, and the seasons. When I was little the seasons were really big in my life, and that has surfaced again now that I’m a mama. We do so many seasonal things in our home. We have little stories for each season and songs that we sing.

One of the big reasons why we left New York was I wanted my children to have spontaneous interactions with nature and to experience life uncurated. In the city things are very structured, and [I wanted] to see things happen naturally in a natural environment. It’s been cool to see them get a little wild since we moved from New York. I think children are very sensitive to different energies in their environment. When we go to the beach one of my favorite things is to watch Lucette—the minute her feet touch the sand she’s completely transformed, she absorbs the energy of the ocean. She will run up and down the beach and she starts telling this story and she’s following the wind, and her body’s just like—it’s so beautiful to see someone so willing to be vulnerable and open to this magical force that the ocean is, and completely aware of it. It’s one of my favorite things. And when we go to the river, both of them are transformed and they get so into it. It’s inspiring to see how children can be so present. They’re not thinking about anything else. The only thing they’re thinking about is what’s in their hands or how the water feels on their feet, just the simple things that are right there happening then and now, and that’s been the most wonderful thing, and a beautiful reminder for me. Michael and I are always telling ourselves, be present, be focused, just enjoy now. As adults I think we’re trained to think about the future, and multitasking has overtaken everyone. [Children] are such a good example of being here now and just being alive and enjoying it.


How has the relationship with your husband changed since having kids?

Michael is very respectful of me and makes a conscious effort to instill this in our children, just as his father did for him. As a child, when he or his siblings would act up, his dad would say, do you know how hard it was for me to convince your mom to marry me? Don’t you guys mess it up for me!—She was always treated with such love and respect, and so, now, Michael does that for our children. It just feels incredible to have these two littles that he’s teaching to adore me. It’s definitely strengthened our bond and branched it out into new directions that have been really exciting and meaningful.

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?

There are magical, unexplainable things that happen when you’re a mother caring for young children. There’s also this incredible feeling of victory and confidence that settles in after days, week, and years of navigating challenges with creativity and intuition.

Are there any societal pressures on motherhood that you feel more than others?

I think the big thing for mothers of my generation is trying to navigate the work/life balance. I graduated with my Master’s degree just a few weeks before my first baby arrived. It felt amazing to have made it through my schooling before she arrived. While living in New York, I found wonderful work opportunities. Now that we live here and have had a second child, I’m devoting all my energy to my home life. While it’s a choice I’m making and I’m so grateful that I can be home with my babies, I sometimes feel the pressure to be using my degree.

What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your children?

It’s been interesting recently returning to the where I grew up. We moved back from New York City two years ago. My mom still lives in my childhood home in Weimar. I see my children running, hopping, swimming and daydreaming where I once did. It’s lovely to see your child wade in a pond, the very pond that you spent hours and hours catching tadpoles in, throwing rocks in and seeing your reflection in. So in that sense there are a lot of similarities.

One of the biggest differences is the parenting dynamic that existed between my parents compared to me and Michael. With modern parenting, fathers are strong figures in the home and incredibly involved. I feel like that’s a relatively new thing. [Now] there seems to be this really intentional collaboration between the parents. Michael and I have a strong sense of how we feel about parenting. We work really hard to support each other and spend a lot of time reflecting on situations and communicating.

How has your relationship with your parents changed since becoming a mother?

I feel like I see my own parents in a new light since becoming a parent myself. I feel a lot of compassion, gratitude and understanding. I believe they did their best. Now that I’m going through it myself. [Even when] I make decisions to do things differently, I can still have an understanding of why they did it their way. As an adult I’m grateful for the work ethic my dad ingrained in us. He has always been an incredibly hard worker. I remember witnessing that as a child and as an adult—it's a quality of his that has remained constant. 

What inspires you?

I love creating art with my children. I’ve always tried to balance my life with some sort of artistic project. In college I always had at least one art class on my schedule and I had a second major in art. It’s the best way to balance my life. I have strong feelings about how art should be introduced to children. I believe it’s more about the process—presenting them with different materials and letting their natural creativity and curiosity guide them. It’s been wonderful presenting artistic explorations for my kids. I enjoy thinking of different materials or different ways to present the materials. Sometimes I’ll set up a project in a spot they wouldn’t expect to find it in, like outside under the camellia bush, and they’ll stumble upon it—I don’t know when, but they will—and to see them find it and feel totally confident, like, I’m going to do something with this! and start creating—it is so gratifying!

What is one part of motherhood that you struggle with?

I think one of the hardest things has been shifting from the intimate, insular life of mothering babies, with much of your time spent at home, to the unexpected situations that arise as your child spends more and more time away from home interacting with new people and new situations. To see the ones you love in the outside world, there for everyone else’s interpretation can be hard. This little child that you feel so protective of and you know so intimately—you know every little detail. You’ve invested so much love into them and then to have other people not understand them, or only get five minutes with them, whether it’s their best five minutes or their worst—that’s all they get. Then having that feeling of no no no, you don’t really know them, and also feeling bad for that person because they don’t get to know the magnitude of how amazing this child is!

What are your hopes for your children?

I want them to feel confident and I want them to feel loved. I want them to learn to trust in themselves. I want them to know that in our home they’re always going to have a place that they can find love and acceptance. When they leave home, I want them to feel confident that they can interact in the world, no matter where they are, with respect, empathy and curiosity.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Gosh. I don’t know...especially knowing Michael and I, and the way we adventure through the world. [Laughs] So, today we bought our house, which is a huge milestone for us. When Lucette is in 4th grade we would like to take our kids for a year sabbatical and travel around the world. Buying the house was the first step in that plan. We buy a house, save some money, our kids have their early years in this sweet little town, then we will travel and show them that there’s a whole world out there. That’s something that’s really important to us. After that we kind of have it open, we don't know how a year of travel is going to affect our family narrative. It could change where we want to live. Who knows. I don’t know where we’ll be in 10 years, but I think we’ll be somewhere fun and adventurous.

Thank you April!  ♥♥♥

To see the other interviews in this series, click here

Modern Motherhood // Interview with Wendy

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! ♥ 

To see more from this series, click here.

Modern Motherhood // An Interview with Suuzi

Suuzi is mom to Axel (3) and Guy (2 months).

What did you love most about being a kid?

Nature. Being outside and just rambling around alone…in the forest and on the farm…just thinking and being really free and experiencing my senses.

What did you think about your mom when you were little?

My mom was someone that I wanted more of. She did a lot of housework...(I’m trying to find a way to say this so that it doesn’t sound critical of her). Now that I’m a mom I understand what she was doing, but as a kid being very selfish—not selfish in a bad way, but selfish in the way that children are—I just couldn’t understand that…and I was pissed. I was like, what the heck. Just play with me already. 

Also, I didn’t really relate to my mom very well. We have some really major differences, and as adults we relate to each other really well, but when I was a child, lacking in any sort of social skills or compassion for others, I had a really hard time relating to her. Our relationship was kind of rocky when I was a kid.

How did your feelings about her change as you got older?

As I got older I developed some really excellent coping skills for managing my strong and passionate feelings and my very dynamic personality, and with that I also developed compassion and an ability to relate to other people who were different from me. That helped me appreciate my mom more, and then that went to a whole other level when I gave birth to my first child. I was overwhelmed with gratitude towards my mom that she did all the stuff for me that I was doing for my son—keeping this little person alive. And according to my mom, I was a very similar baby to my son, (who was a challenging baby). I just felt so much gratitude and my heart really really opened to my mom and I felt so much love and respect for her. That’s how things stand now, we’re extremely, extremely close. 

Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids? How did you know you were ready?

When I was a little girl I was very into it, breastfeeding my stuffed animals and all that. Then as I got older I became very restless and dissatisfied with our world—plus, motherhood isn’t really encouraged for young women. In my experience the dialogue was more about fear of unwanted pregnancy, [getting] your career going—that kind of thing was more emphasized. To me, motherhood was [seen as] an afterthought. Anyways, I was dissatisfied with the world, had those thoughts, do I want to bring a child into this terrible world? That’s a reasonable thought to have. But then, at a certain point, after being in a long distance relationship for six years, then finally moving down here and getting married, I think it was about three years when we just stopped using protection. We still didn’t quite have the guts to say to each other, “okay, we’re ready to have a baby now,” but we knew what we were doing. And we got pregnant really fast—after being in a relationship and having sex a lot for nine years. That almost kind of surprised me, because it’s really impressive how well birth control can work.

What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?

My favorite things about being a mom are when—oh gosh, there’s so many—I guess when myself and my children are really harmonious together. Even right now would be a good example. I’m doing something that’s meaningful to me, and both of the boys are doing something that’s meaningful to them: Guy is napping and Axel is interacting with his grandpa. We’re all in harmony, and that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re interacting with each other. 

Another thing that I really love about being a mom is I really love teaching politeness—I’m obsessed with it. It’s a really big deal for me and I’m very happy that my son has responded really well—that’s not to say he’s perfect, but he really tries. I can see how that’s going to benefit him as he gets older, in the sense of his own personal confidence and in his ability to interact in a positive way with other people. Politeness and manners are a really, really big deal around here. I also love being outside with the kids and watching them when they’re playing, especially in a larger group, and just seeing how their energy flows and the bizarre, funky little things that they do, I just love watching that.  

What is one part of motherhood that you struggle with?

I’m an HSP, a Highly Sensitive Person. That’s probably another reason why politeness is so important to me—I don’t handle it very well when people are assholes, and kids can really be like that. That’s probably why I’m a lot more strict than some moms. I don’t tolerate bad behavior well.

Can I tell you a really crazy story? Yesterday I picked up my son from preschool at 2:30—that’s a tiring time of the day already, people really should be taking a little break around then—but I picked him up, and I had my infant son sleeping in the carseat. I normally never do another errand, I just go straight home, but I’d ordered a case of Kerrygold grass-fed butter at the Briar Patch and I am out of butter and I wanted that butter. So we drove to the grocery store and when we got there I got my son out of his carseat and I said, “okay Axel, we’re going into the grocery store and this is a time for you to sit quietly in the shopping cart and I don’t want you to ask for anything.” (Sometimes in the grocery store he’ll be begging and demanding and it’s intolerable.) I said, “we are going to get one thing for you, we’re going to get coconut water for you.” And he said, “mommy, what else can I have?” And I said, “Axel, I’m not getting you anything else, it’s just the coconut water”—“but mommy, I want a get a gluten free cookie!”—“No, Axel, just the coconut water”—“mommy, but what else can I have?” and I could just see him starting to spiral out of control, and I also recognized this is why I don’t take him on errands after preschool. So he pretty much started melting down into a tantrum in the parking lot—that was good, because then I could just put him back in the car and drive home. I am not going to be doing tantrums in public. I just can’t do that. 

So you didn’t get your butter?

No, but that’s not the bad part. That’s nothing. So we get in the car and he starts screaming. His voice is so loud…and the pitch, it just penetrates your skull. He’s screaming, “MOMMY, I WANT A COCONUT WATER!! I WANT A COCONUT WATER!! MOMMY, MOMMY!!” Thankfully my other son is really calm so he just keeps sleeping. I turn up the music really loud—Daft Punk. Mommy I want a coconut water, then he starts to settle down a little bit. Then he thinks of something else he likes: Larabars. Goes right back up to full volume, “MOMMY, I WANT A LARABAR! MOMMY I WANT A LARABAR!”  That goes on, cause it’s about an eight minute drive home. After a while that goes back down, then, Mommy, I don’t like the movie Frozen. So then he’s just screaming, “Mommy, I don’t like Frozen, Mommy, I don’t like Frozen,” by the time we get home I’m really trying to stay calm but I’m having a hard time. So I get him out of his carseat and when he gets home it’s time for his nap. Well, he’s just losing it. He’s kicking, he’s screaming, he’s starting to hit me. I’m trying to get him up to his bed for a nap, which he absolutely needs. This becomes a fifteen minute experience with an insane level of volume and physical force. Eventually I find myself in my underwear drawer getting out belts, because I’m trying to tie him up. And I bring out these two belts, leather belts—I’m not going to hit him with the belts, but I’m planning on tying him up. I tried to get him in the high chair to stop him, I tried to get him in his stroller outside, just to restrain him, cause he’s going that insane. If I had a door here with a lock I would have just locked him in there for a little while, cause both of us were so hot, and it was so crazy. I was trying to walk away from him but he would just keep coming at me, and I couldn’t escape from him and I just needed to—so anyways, I’ve got these two belts, and I’m holding him down on the ground…and then, thank God, I have an idea, a better idea. I say, “Axel, if you don’t quiet down and take your nap, I’m going to call the police and they’re going to put you in jail.” And he just settled right down and took his nap.

Good one. I’m exhaling for you. 

Thanks. Roseann, it was really terrible. It was really fucked up. The biggest struggle is where everyone has lost their patience and the good parenting techniques are no longer viable or workable. But then those moments pass and it’s okay. I think a really important thing for me is to let go of those moments quickly. What happened there wasn’t an incidence of bad behavior really, it was just an incidence of exhaustion, and an incidence of me using poor judgement. I shouldn’t have taken him to the store. At the same time, I’m not going to blame myself for that because I’m just a woman who has some chores to do. You know, I just tried to go to the grocery store, so sue me!

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?

I have become a much stronger person. I have really learned how to say no. I’ve learned how to harmonize people’s needs. That doesn’t mean I’m putting my kids first, it actually means I’m putting my marriage first…and also meeting their needs. I’ve learned how to be a stronger person. I’ve learned to be more dominating and self-confident. There are some qualities that I really needed to work on. You know when moms say, “my kid is my greatest teacher,” and I used to think, that’s really annoying. I’m actually realizing it’s true. Not because I’m like, oh, look at you beautiful little spirit, playing in the grass, no, you taught me how to take your toy away, tell you no, and send you to your room. It has really helped me become more confident and also trust my inner voice more, because I call on that voice a lot in situations like what I described from yesterday. That’s where I got the idea to tell my son he was going to go to jail. [Laughing]

What has surprised you about motherhood? 

I thought that becoming parents was going to bring my husband and I closer together, and it really drove us apart. That really surprised me. We’re recovering from that really well now, but the time between my sons births, about three and a half years, were some dark days for our relationship. I had this romantic idea that we were both going to love our child together, and it would bring us closer together—and that was stupid. I wish that was more of a social dialogue—but maybe it is and I just didn’t pick up on it. I didn’t think it would be easy, I actually expected parenting to be more stressful than it turned out to be. Essentially we both kind of polarized into these different roles, and he wasn’t as involved as I thought he would be, and I started shutting my heart to him. Then he was really pissed off because I wasn’t sexually receptive towards him—which I think is relatively normal with giving birth and breastfeeding—but I think it could have come back a lot faster if we hadn’t been on different pages emotionally. 

Are there any societal pressures on motherhood that you feel more than others?

Well, I feel those pressures but I really try not to give into them. I do notice that I have a strong desire not to be embarrassed by my child. Even though I know that if my son did have that full on tantrum at the grocery store, other moms would have just smiled knowingly at me, and maybe someone would have patted me on the back or something and people would have been nice. I still don’t want to have to be that person. Maybe my own personal need for approval now extends to my children’s behavior in public. In general, I actually feel okay about that, because I think that people’s need for approval from each other is just part of being the highly social organisms that we are. We need to show respect for each other and take care of each other. In general I think that pressure is actually positive. 

What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your children?

In our household there’s a lot more emotional authenticity. That isn’t something I blame my parents for at all, it’s just the way the world was. It was the eighties, they’d been raised in the fifties and sixties, it was pretty normal that there was a whole emotional life going on under the surface that was very different from what was happening in public. I’m not saying that I’m inviting my children to be privy to my private, personal life, but what I am saying is that my private, personal life and my public persona are pretty much the same thing. I’m not going to tell everyone the details of my sex life, but also, I wouldn’t be embarrassed to if it came up or it was relevant or if it was helpful information for someone else to have. With my kids—and I’m sure this is part of a larger social zeitgeist—there’s not that same sense that there’s this secret underlying something, and this is who we are in the world. There’s more harmony between those two worlds. 

How has your relationship with your parents changed since becoming a mother?

It has become a lot closer. From their point of view, they respect me more and see me more as an adult. From my point of view, I respect them more and feel more gratitude and appreciation towards them for what they did for me. There’s just a lot more respect and appreciation. We’ve come onto a level playing field where we’re all adults. Whereas before I had children, I was definitely still the kid. I couldn’t understand. They were also frustrated with—I was a lot more immature. Not to say that my behavior was significantly different, but emotionally I had never been responsible for someone else’s care and I think that really matures a person pretty darn fast. My relationship with my parents is so much better now. 

Can you talk a little about your husband, maybe sing some of his praises?

I fell in love with my husband when he was on stage playing guitar in a band that I was a fan of. So that was pretty fucking awesome. It was like a high school sex fantasy that ended up culminating in a marriage. So sweet. So, so great. My husband is very dynamic and hardworking. I have never—I guess I’ve met a couple other people that work at his level, but not a lot—he’s extremely focused and whatever he wants to do he will make it happen no matter how challenging or frustrating or seemingly impossible. It’s pretty impressive and it’s very entertaining to be around. I just get to see him doing all these difficult, bizarre, fascinating things all the time, it’s very exciting. He was a professional musician from when he was 18 until he was about 28, and very successful. He traveled around the world many times, and made good money. [He] worked with a lot of big names in that industry and had a really good reputation. Then that band broke up and he transitioned into the automotive industry, which was also a passion of his. European and performance cars and driving. So now he works for Volkswagen of America in the marketing side of things and he also is a race driving instructor and a driver, on the more recreational side. He also restores vintage rare european cars as a fun hobby. He still plays music, but his focus is more in the car world now.

What’s your favorite part about your husband’s relationship with his boys?

All the guy stuff he can teach them to do. It’s so fantastic having sons and then having a dad who can do all the “guy stuff”: fixing a car, wiring electrical, doing plumbing, putting up a fence, woodworking. My husband can do everything and he’s very good at it and it’s just so wonderful seeing my son learning those skills, which I don’t see being carried forward as much as I would like in the younger generations. It’s just wonderful to see them doing that and growing together and also knowing that those skills are going to be something that my son will have to bring to the table. 

How does technology impact motherhood?

It’s wonderful because you can connect with other moms and friends through social media and it can really help you feel less isolated and bored at home. But it can also suck because then instead of being present with your kids you’re thinking about each moment as, can I instagram this?  And that is lame. I actually am really toying with the thought of no longer featuring my children in my social media at all, just because I thought to myself, let them wait until they have their own Facebook and instagram and they can do it themselves. I don’t know if people need to hear about that from me and I also don’t know if that’s fair to their personal privacy. It’s been about a week since I’ve put up a picture of a kid, and I’m really considering not doing it anymore. I think what was hard for me is that I love putting them online because I get a lot of positive social feedback, because they’re very cute.

What are your hopes for your children?

I hope that they will be functioning members of society who have personal happiness and fulfillment. That could mean a lot of different things. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I think I’ve thought forward to the next five years but not ten. Axel will be a teenager, almost…Guy will be a young kid…it’s going to be really fun. I’m going to have a lot more personal freedom. I expect to have a lot more freedom financially at that time also, I think the house will be paid off and my business will be in a whole other stage, and I hope to have a lot more freedom of movement. Maybe take a few trips, but also probably still be here a lot, I love doing this farm and I plan to keep doing that. As far as my own personal body, I just want to keep living and exercising. 

Thank you Suuzi!! ♥ 

To see more from this series, click here.

Modern Motherhood // An Interview with Kristen

Kristen is a psychologist who teaches at a community college. She is mom to F, age 15 months, and S, age 5 1/2.

What did you love most about being a kid?

I have two younger sisters and I loved playing with my sisters. We lived out in the woods so there was nobody else around to play with, they were my playmates, and as the oldest I could boss them around and I liked that. I liked being the oldest because I always felt like I was my mom’s favorite—I’m sure we were all her favorite, but it felt like I had this privileged position.

What did you think about your mom when you were little? How did your feelings about her change as you got older?

When I was little I was really close to my mom, I thought that she was my best friend and she was fun and I liked being around her. I think [our relationship] got much more complicated as I got older…it was a much more idealized relationship when I was little. It’s been interesting to have kids of my own, I really hoped that was going to be common ground, because as adults we are pretty different people. As we’ve had that to share, it’s reconnected us, in some ways…at the same time, I would say we have very different approaches to parenting.

Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids? How did you know you were ready?

When I was little I always envisioned I would have kids, I remember talking with my dad and saying, yeah, 24 is a good age to get married…and then I’ll have kids after that. My parents had kids when they were pretty young, [I] was an unexpected pregnancy and they had not known each other very long—my dad was 20, my mom was 21. Even when I was little I knew I definitely want to be prepared when I’m a parent, I don’t want it to be something that is sprung on me. Then when I got to be 23 or 24 I thought, I don’t think I am ready to get married [laughs]. I went to college and then worked for a few years and then went to graduate school for five years, so by the time I did all of that I was 33 or 34. I didn’t want to have kids before that, and if the opportunity had presented itself, maybe I would have gotten married, but it didn’t. (I had plenty of long term relationships but none that felt like the person I wanted to stay with and have kids with.) But then when I finished school, I thought now it makes sense to start a family and sooner is probably better than later. I ended up having S when I was 35, and that was so life-changing. It was such a transition, especially having had all those years. For my mom, she was a kid, then she became an adult and she had a family, and so that was her adult life, just being a mom. For me, my adult life was friends, and studying, and traveling, and doing a lot of other stuff. It was great to have all of those opportunities, but I think it was a starker contrast when I did have kids, like WOW, I am shackled—shackles of love, but still. 

Did I always know I wanted to have kids? I think there was a period in my twenties where I thought, well I don’t know if I’ll have kids and that was different because I’d always just assumed there was a compulsory motherhood kind of thing, that’s what women do when they grow up. Then when I met my husband I could definitely imaging having children with him and it naturally unfolded. I just had F right around the time I turned 40 and I didn’t expect to have children so late, but I had a couple of miscarriages after I was pregnant with S, and so I felt really lucky when we got pregnant with him. I had kind of resigned myself to the idea that we would just have one kid. I remember my husband and I talking after maybe the second miscarriage, well what do we do, do we keep trying? and I said, well I know I don’t want to be having a kid when I’m FORTY! [Laughs] dun, dun, dun!

Do you think your miscarriages made you want to have a kid more?

I don’t know that I would say that I wanted to have a kid more, because both of those were very much wanted pregnancies.. but it definitely filled a hole that would have been there. I think if we would have just had S and then stopped there, that would have been great, but I think that loss…all of it goes along with thinking that you’re going to have a baby, and then not…it was a constant absence that I felt. Then when I got pregnant with F, I had been running and I fell and injured my knee and it wasn’t getting better, so six weeks later I went to the doctor. They were going to do an X-ray and I said, you know, I’m about to get my period. You should probably do a pregnancy test just to make sure. The nurse called me back with this somber, mournful look on her face and said, [whispering] “the test is positive.” I was like, WHAT, What?! You’re kidding me!!! Even that was this great way to find out. I was very happy. 

What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?

They’re so sweet. My children are just so sweet! That’s not to say that they’re always sweet, because they’re not. I just love them. S is…I see a lot of myself in her, so that’s really touching. From the time she was little, it was like, I get you, I totally get you. For the good and the bad, there are times when I think, OH! Why are you making things so hard, you don’t have to! She’s just a wonderful little companion, I love the person she is. It feels early to know if it’s F’s personality, but he’s just so angelic and sweet. Maybe because I’ve already been through it, or because I’m older, but it’s easier with him in a lot of ways. I’m much more patient with him. I remember S crying in the middle of the night and thinking, I just want to snap her leg off! I won’t, I would never do that, but it would feel so good just to pull this baby’s leg off! [Laughs] But with him it was just like, oh, he’s crying, we’re going to get through this, I’m not going to get any sleep, but this is temporary. Some of it may have been [him being born with a cleft lip and palate] and I thought, things are a little tougher for him…and it pulled out a certain kindness in me. I just look at it him and think, you’re just the sweetest, cutest little person…it just feels very uncomplicated, my love for him.

What is one part of motherhood you struggle with?

Only one part? [Laughs] It would definitely be not having time to myself. I am an introvert, and I’m really at my best when I have time to myself—I’m kind of an extroverted introvert—I refuel and I love to go out into the world after, and it’s just impossible to get that [refueling time] with a family. It was hard enough with just my husband, making space for one other person, but with kids it really feels impossible. Last night I was up around 9:30 or 10, eating girl scout cookies and reading a novel, and it was like, I don’t even want this girl scout cookie that much, but it was the only time in the day where I could eat it without someone screaming, I want a cookie!!! [Laughs] I just have to do this while I can! My husband had gone to bed early and he doesn’t always…getting that time [is a struggle]…I exercise, I run or I do yoga, but it’s hard to even carve that time out, so the idea of spontaneously going out for a drink or to go get coffee…spontaneity is gone, and that’s a struggle for me. When I do imagine the future when they’re older, I realize that a time will come when they’ll be in school, they’ll have their own lives. I remind myself that this is a chapter in my life and this chapter will eventually end, and that time will be there for me. I always feel a little on edge because I’m happiest when I get time to myself and when the house is clean, and the house is never clean.

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?

I have definitely learned more patience. I’ve learned humility, submission. I joke with my mom friends all the time that I feel like my spirit has been broken—again, in the sweetest, most loving way—like, I don’t want things for myself right now. It’s not about me, it’s about them. But I’ve learned that I can do that, because I’ve always been a very independent person. A friend of mine a long time ago called me “aggressively autonomous,” [Laughs] and I can put that part of me aside, and that’s been good. I’ve learned that I can go without sleep—I’ve always been someone who really needed a lot of sleep—and I don’t ever get enough sleep and I still function and it’s fine. [Motherhood] is a humbling process. 

What has surprised you about motherhood?

I don’t think I was prepared for that total absorption, that I would belong to them so fully. Or that I would be able to submit fairly gracefully. It’s not always graceful by any extent.

What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your children?

My mom was a single mom, she sometimes worked multiple jobs. In addition to being gone a lot because she was working, she was also dating. When we were teenagers she was still in her mid-thirties. There were a lot of distractions, and there was some absence there, some emotional, some physical. I think my response then is be present [with my kids]. I think with a lot of parents of my generation there is all that buzz about being helicopter parents. There’s this divide and I always feel torn, because I really want to be sure I’m present for them in a way that maybe my mom wasn’t able to be (in part because she was working so many jobs to put food on the table). I think she was more distracted, but I also don’t want to be so smothering that I become that parent that is too overprotective. I think there were some very positive things about having to be more independent. Having my mom not there as much pushed me to take care of myself, take care of my siblings. I do wonder sometimes, gosh, am I going to do so much for them that they’re not going to be able to do things for themselves? We’ll just have to see. 

And just being older makes all the difference. I had [my son] at forty, and I was in college by the time my mom was forty, so it’s completely different. Night and day in a lot of ways.

Are there any societal pressures on motherhood that you feel more than others?

I definitely feel a financial pressure. It’s hard not to look at peers where both of them are professionals, and think maybe they started earlier and so they’re just farther along in things. I look at friends and think that they’ve probably got a big fat retirement account and they live in a really nice house and they’re probably not going to be raising their kids when they’re in their 50s or 60s. It’s hard not to compare. There’s also that trade off, I could have a husband who works fifty hours a week and rising in his field, but I would be making dinner every night, which is not the life I want. My aunt always says that “comparisons are odious,” so [I’m trying to] be happy with what we have. 

How does technology impact motherhood? 

I make a pretty concerted effort to minimize technology. I don’t really do social media, although I was involved in a support group for moms of kids with clefts, and [without that] I would not have had anyone to check in with besides the medical community, so that was wonderful. I do know that with technology, there are constant demands, and as a teacher of an online class there’s the opportunity for constant interruptions. In the last six months or so I adopted a “no computers in the house from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. policy.” I would find myself trying to respond to student emails and then the kids would ask me something and I would get really frustrated, because it’s hard to multitask. I realized that it wasn’t fair to them. [Technology] is great because it allows me to work from home and allows a more adaptable work schedule for [my kids], but it also means that there’s this constant competition. With the kids it’s also a struggle because they want to watch something all the time, so figuring out how do I protect the kids from that constant presence of media? But it’s also an easy babysitter. It’s a boon and it’s a challenge. 

How has your relationship with your mom changed since becoming a mother? 

There’s a common ground there, as I mentioned, so I think that part is good. But it does tap into some anger and frustration when she does things with the kids in a way that I disagree with. I'll tell her that I don't want S to watch Disney Princess movies, and then I go over to her house and S is in front of the TV, glued to The Little Mermaid. When I see her with the grandkids—she’s so loving and so fun and they adore her—but her response to them is so different from mine. At the same time, parenthood does give me a greater appreciation for all she has gone through as a mom. I can't even imagine being 24 and having a baby, a 1-year-old, and a 3-year-old.  She kept us alive, which in itself seems like a small miracle! I'm not sure I could do the same [Laughs].

How has your relationship with your husband changed since having kids?

It’s definitely harder to get time together and it feels in many ways more like a business arrangement, like, I’ll do this, you do that! Especially with two…at nighttime putting them to bed, it’s a divide and conquer approach. I’m really grateful, he’s a very present dad.

Want to tell me a little about him?

He’s so happy to be a dad and really loves kids, and is totally equal partners. My husband had been at my sister’s and was talking to my brother-in-law, and my brother-in-law said, “Oh yeah, I never make dinner.” She makes dinner every night. My husband and I were both kind of shocked by that because in our house it’s much more “do what needs to be done,” very egalitarian. I feel so lucky. It’s good for me to be reminded of those things, that it’s not what everyone gets. 

There are all these great things that you don’t know about your partner until you have kids. There are also challenges of negotiating, what is this going to look like? I teach Psychology of Women and this is a topic I talk a lot about with my students. I think in modern age the roles are not so clearly defined, so the flip side of that is figuring out, okay, I’m working, but I want to be with my kids. He does a lot, which is great, but that also means that if he’s with the kids more, he’s not working as much, so sometimes, that’s challenging. We have to negotiate how we’re going to define gender roles when we’re making our own scripts as we go along. 

There is certainly a shift in intimacy when kids come into the picture, I was talking to a friend of mine, we were talking about going back to the doctor after we had our babies, and the doctor asked, “what are you going to do about birth control?” And we’re like, the kids ARE the birth control! [Laughs] I went to the OBGYN the other day and I was filling out the form that I’ve been filling out since I was fourteen, and it asks, “are you sexually active?” And I was like, how do I answer this questions?! I guess I am…but? I think that’s a very common experience. It takes more effort. It’s more deliberate. We do have a close, loving relationship, but sometimes it takes focus to maintain the romance that brought us together in the first place.

What are your hopes for your children?

I hope that they will be intelligent and kind, able to think for themselves. That they’ll be successful in ways that allow them creativity and freedom. I hope that they will do well in school, I hope they’ll go to college, I hope that they’ll have professions that are meaningful to them. I hope that they will have friends. I hope that life will be easy for them but not so easy that they don’t still develop character. That’s the interesting thing...I was reading a novel the other day and one of the characters was talking about “if all mothers had their wishes for their children the world would be such a dull place.” We want to protect them, but all the people I know who I think are the most interesting or appealing are people who have warts and scars. I want to shelter them but I also want to teach them the skills so they can go out into the world and have experiences. I think about having a girl and all the body image stuff that waits for her, or the sexualization, the gender stereotypes. I want to equip her to deal with all that stuff, but I also think, what kind of world could she possibly live in where she could escape that completely? I hope that what I can be for both of my kids is accessible enough as a mentor—I hope I can be a parent so that they know I’m not just their buddy—someone they can come to when they need guidance and leadership, but also I know when to step back so that I’m not smothering them. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I see myself with more free time that I have right now! [Laughs] When I think about the future it’s always how old will the kids be then? S will be fifteen and a half and F will be eleven. That’s so hard to even imagine. I see myself having more autonomy than I do right now. I see myself running around a lot because I’ll have two kids who can’t drive yet. I hope that I will still be working a really flexible schedule. I always hear that there’s all this focus on being home with your kids when they’re little, but really when you need to be home with them is when they’re fifteen, so your house is not the one where everyone is smoking weed! [Laughs] I hope to be in a good place in my career, that’s important to me too, but also able to really focus on my kids. As the kids get older and we have a little bit more money banked, I would like to be doing some international travel.

Is there anything else you would like to touch on?

I think it’s so great that you’re doing this. The more that parents can talk about the challenges and how much their lives change, the better. I think we’re bombarded with idealized images of motherhood, how it’s beautiful and fulfilling, and if we don’t talk about how hard it is, then we all feel like we’re failures when we get to that place where we struggle. And we all struggle. I did a Soroptimist presentation a couple of years ago, and it was building on an Atlantic article about “why women can’t have it all.” It was so moving to see these women there [spanning from] nineteen-year-old college students to, I think the oldest woman there was eighty, and to hear these similar kinds of complaints and struggles, of how are we going to do it all? Especially the ones who had kids. Here I am, I’m trying to take care of myself, I’m trying to be a good partner, I’m trying to raise kids, I’m trying to keep my toilet clean, how are we supposed to do all this? The eighty-year-old woman said, “I felt that most of my adult life I was juggling all these balls and I wasn’t juggling any of them particularly well.” The more we talk about it, the more we feel like, ok, we’re in this soup together. How do we just do our best and not put so much pressure on ourselves.

Thank you Kristen! 

Modern Motherhood // Interview with Sarah from Electric Sun Creatives

Sarah and I met a few years ago when I first started nannying. I was taking over her position with a family in Berkeley and I went on a "ride-along" with her and the two little girls I would be watching. She is a seriously talented metal artist and creative and is currently making and selling beautiful brass and wood wall hangings. Harper is 2 years old. 

What did you love most about being a kid?

The first thing I think of is being barefoot in our backyard, the sun shining, and getting dirty…that carefree aspect that my parents really fostered. My parents put a lot of time and effort into making our backyard a kid’s dream, with a sandpit, trampoline, garden and a huge lawn. When the lawn needed mowing, my Dad would make crazy zigzag patterns so that we could play a lava-like tag game where you can’t touch the un-mowed areas. That game was everything for us kids. My parents were highly invested in our neighborhood, [which was] packed with young families and kiddos my age. It was like “everybody go over to the Goddard’s house!” I think of all that…being barefoot and surrounded by community.

What did you think about your mom when you were little? How have your feelings changed as you’ve gotten older?

I thought she was a killer business woman [laughs] and she still is. She has a very driven personality, which I really respect. She gets stuff done. But she's nurturing and loving too, of course. She always had the priority to be home with us after school and arranged for her job to work around what us kids were doing. She’d take us to school and pick us up; she was always present, even with a full-time job. I really value that to this day. It’s interesting growing up and then having a child of my own…I have so much more respect for my parents and especially for my mom, like, holy smokes, you did all of that for me, and you CONTINUE to do all of that for me.

Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids?

When we were engaged and even dating we talked about having kids and it was always a five-year plan. And so we got married and it was still a five-year plan, and then it became the six-year plan, and then the seven-year plan…but then she was a surprise! So it became a 2-and-a-half, almost three-year plan [laughs]. We can’t imagine life without her! She’s the greatest gift.

Becoming a mom wasn’t much of a thought or priority in my life, so the surprise was really a surprise. It was the greatest surprise of our lives! 

What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?

Oh man, getting to witness the blossoming of this little human; seeing her play…her creativity and her excitement for life is the best. I love having a front row seat to her world that’s growing by the day. 

I have a lot of friends who love babies. They see a baby in a room and they don’t even know the person whose baby it is and they’re like give me the baby. I was never like that. It’s this age that I love and that I find myself thriving in. It’s the interaction and communication that’s just so exciting. This age and season of motherhood is my favorite (so far). 

What is one part of motherhood you struggle with?

The hardest thing is the work/life balance. I’m a stay-at-home Mama, but I'm also running a business from my at-home studio. Time management and expectations of naptime work sessions have been my biggest struggle. Previously, I would expect to work when Harper was napping, but we all know how unpredictable that can be. I would find myself so bummed when she would wake up earlier than I hoped. I’m trying to learn from this by shifting my perspective and expectations, and by compartmentalizing my time. There are “Mama/Harper Days” and there are “Studio Days.” On days with her, that is our time. If she naps an hour, that’s ok, if she happens to nap two hours, that’s ok too, I wasn’t expecting to be in the studio anyway. 

What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?

How much I need community. The first 16 months were so trying for me. With sleep deprivation (it’s real, people), figuring out the wonderful-crazy nursing relationship and caring for a beautiful little human that poops endlessly; it was really hard. Enter the people in my life that made me feel a little less crazy. They would tell me that I was a doing a great job, make us delicious food, they would hold Harper so I could focus on other things and they gave me the soundest advice. Community is huge. And I’m so grateful for mine, especially during that time.

Who do you turn to for advice?

My pals Vanessa and Britany are two incredibly wise woman that I can turn to for anything parenting related and beyond. They’re not just wise, they’re vulnerable and open. They relate and make me feel a little less alone in this wild journey of life and motherhood. 

What has surprised you about motherhood?

I was surprised by how much I would love it, almost 2 1/2 years in. I didn’t quite think about how great it would be, because she was a surprise. I almost didn’t have time to think what is this really going to look like? A year out, two years out, and beyond? We just went. And, gosh, I’m so grateful for our daughter. It is such a gift being her Mama.

Also, Patrick and I have always valued community, recognizing that if you don’t have community, oh my gosh, what are you doing? We were surprised by how much a catalyst for community [Harper] has been because you can instantly connect with other parents—and people just love kids, and they love Harper, they adore Harper. When I’m in the grocery store and she’s sitting in the cart, people can’t help but stop and talk to her and talk to me. I get to connect with people that I wouldn’t have connected with otherwise.

Are there any societal pressures on motherhood that you feel more than others?

The pressure to have it all together and the pressure to have a pristine home. But, I am definitely learning to let that go. I have some pretty rad women around me, with older kiddos, that have gone before me and have encouraged me that none of that matters. All that matters is you’re doing your best and your child is healthy. I think it’s easy to get sucked up into anything that society expects you to do, but if you have a community that reminds you to put the first things first, that perspective changes everything.

How does technology impact motherhood? In which ways does it connect us and in which ways does it isolate us?

Oh man, technology is cray. I love it for the opportunities it has brought my way— to connect with working artists all over the world and even seeing how other mothers do things. But, I definitely struggle with it taking my time and presence from being with Harper. I’m currently working on that balance. 

What are some of the biggest differences between your childhood and the one you’re creating for your daughter?

I had a really really great childhood. My parents were awesome—they very much cared about our need to be kids—letting us romp around in our backyard, exploring and using our imaginations. I feel like we’re doing that. A difference is living in these artist lofts with a bunch of interesting, creative people as our neighbors. What’s really exciting about raising her here is that she gets to meet so many different people. And having a home in an urban core, in downtown Sacramento, she’s encountering all kinds of different cultures and people with different professions. It’s so varied.

How has your relationship with your mom changed since becoming a mother?

When you’re a kid, you look at your mom and she’s just your mom, but now I can say that as a fellow Mama, we’re in the same club. I realize that she also cried at 2 a.m. with a babe in her arms, she experienced the joys and pains of toddlerhood, and she knows the intense, all-consuming love for a child. We can relate on so much more. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your husband? How has your relationship with Patrick changed since having Harper?

I love that guy. He is an incredible father, incredible father. He reminds me of what my dad was like with me. My dad thought that the sun rose and set on me. I definitely see that is how he views Harper, which is so so so so good for my heart. He’s very intentional with Harper and I’m just so grateful that Harper gets the experience of having a dad who thinks she’s the raddest kid. How has our relationship changed? It’s gotten better for sure. We talked about that a lot when I was pregnant, about what the dynamic would be like. Kiddos can put a lot of strain on a relationship because it’s a whole new thing and you’re having to figure it out. We definitely had that in our minds that [the relationship between us] is number one because she benefits from that. It’s not like we’re putting her on the back burner, but we have to make sure we’re good and simultaneously love her like crazy.

What are your hopes for Harper?

I hope that she is secure in her identity—that she is of great value, is loved, and that it’s not contingent on anything she does. She just is.

Patrick and I believe that everyone is created to be creative, and that it’s not just a title that a fine artist can hold, but that we all have it inside of us. It’s how we’re wired—the ability to bring things to life from our imaginations. It’s a lifestyle choice, really. We hope that she taps into that and is present in that. We hope that in tapping into her God-given creativity, she can contribute amazing, life-giving things to the world. And I hope that she is kind and continues to care about other people deeply.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? You’ll have a twelve-year old.

Errrgh! That’s crazy! But so exciting and so fun to think about. We’re only planning on having one kiddo, so I would be grateful to be living our life as a family of three and investing in her. I hope that we will continue to be creative together as a family, me with my business, Patrick with his bike building and investing in whatever Harper finds to do with her heart and hands. Is it real that someday we will have a twelve-year-old? That’s bonkers.

Thank you Sarah and Harper (and Patrick)! You can shop Sarah's incredible wall hangings on Etsy and follow along with her new creations on instagram

To see the first segment in this series, click here

Modern Motherhood // An interview with Alex

For a while now I have been craving more honesty in my photography. I want to capture an authenticity that can only be achieved by documenting people in their homes. I want to share the story of the people I’m photographing, and create a platform for their voice. And I want to open up the conversation about motherhood. Too much is glossed over in pretty photographs, and there is so much more that doesn’t always come through in a still image. I think motherhood is absolutely beautiful and meaningful, and I can’t wait to join the club. And I also know it can simultaneously be the most demanding, heart-wrenching, and rewarding job on the planet.

I am calling this the Modern Motherhood Series, and I am so grateful to the women who have opened up their homes and shared their children and their stories with me. I could not have done it without you!


Alex is mom to Cole (almost 2) and Ronan (4).

Can you talk a little about your childhood. What are some of the things you did for fun?

We grew up in Lake of the Pines, and we had a lot of freedom. I think even at five years old I would walk around the neighborhood by myself. Then when we got a little older we would ride our bikes anywhere we wanted. My parents were not helicopter parents or worriers. They trusted us to make good decisions. We weren’t wild or naughty kids, so they really didn’t have any reason not to trust that we’d be okay. We were pretty contained and we knew where we could go. We spent a lot of time swimming in the lake and riding our bikes around. My parents got a boat when we were a little bit older and so we spent a lot of time out on the boat. We were brown babies, in the summers we spent every single day at the lake and I thought I was a dark-skinned person most of my life. And then high school started and everyone got summer jobs and I wasn’t brown anymore [laughs].

What did you think about your mom when you were little? 

I don’t know if kids really think about their moms, your mom was just your mom. I never once thought I didn’t have a great mom or that I wasn’t loved. I was never discontent with my parents. I always had the “cool mom” I guess, she was laid back, she dressed more stylish than a lot of moms, she was fit, she got her belly button pierced when she was 40, I went with her to get her bellybutton pierced [laughs]. As I got older I kind of viewed that a little differently, it was a little funny, I guess. But that’s just how she is and it has been a good thing. I was the one with the mom who was in a bikini all the time. I think her confidence rolled over onto me and my sister, I’m not sure about my brother, I think it affects boys a little differently. We were always very confident in our bodies, we were okay being in bathing suits all the time and it didn’t matter who was around us, that’s just what you wore to go swimming. I think I got off easy in terms of body-consciousness because I’ve always been thin, and if you fit into the standard, that makes it easier to not be self-conscious. 

Tell me about your path to motherhood. Did you always know you wanted to have kids?

I always expected to have kids. I wasn’t one of those little girls that was really into playing babies, I didn’t have names picked out way ahead of time. I wasn’t someone who dreamed of being a mom, but I always knew that’s what I would do. Even when picking my major in college, I thought that even if I don’t have a career in it, knowing about nutrition and how our bodies work will be really beneficial for my kids. (Alex earned a B.S. in Clinical Nutrition from U.C. Davis.) 

How did you know you were ready for kids?

Honestly, I just thought, this is a good age. My parents had kids young and they had three kids out of the house by the time they were 50. And they’re living it up. They go on vacation all the time. My husband’s parents had kids young, and his mom had a surprise baby in her thirties, and [she told me that] it’s a heck of a lot easier being pregnant in your twenties than your thirties. I figure that we’re not going to do a whole lot of traveling now, with my husband working, but if you raise your kids while you’re young then you’ll still have plenty of energy to do things later. I feel like there’s this big push to live before you get married and live before have kids, but you can still have a fun life, whether it’s with your kids and you bring them with you or you wait until they're adults and you don’t have to bring them [laughs]. It’s healthy to have kids when you’re young, biologically it makes more sense. Also, we were settled. We signed papers on this house a few weeks after we found out I was pregnant. My doctor joked, “oh, that’s why you got pregnant, you just bought a house, that’s how it works” [laughs]. But there really wasn’t any big transformation, like “okay, we’re ready.”

What are some of your favorite things about being a mom?

Hmm….They’re just so dang cute! I like holding them, I like watching them change, I think it’s really cool seeing them come out and trying to figure out where they got their little features. Aside from that, I think it’s really cool to see how it changes you. It has been good for me to learn by necessity to put the needs of others before myself more often. You have to be a lot less selfish, even when you never thought you were selfish before, but you never had to deny yourself sleep or eating a hot meal, things that every mom goes through. It’s not that hard for a little while, but when it’s two years straight…Cole just started sleeping through the night, and most of those nights Ronan would wake up too. Not sleeping for two years…I think a lot of days I was technically drunk, I was functioning at the level of a drunk person. I work at my parent’s office once a week, just doing paperwork or helping with stuff that doesn’t require a lot of brainpower, and I would be trying to put things in numerical order and I would be like “mom, why can’t I find it?” and she would say, “Alex, it’s right here.” Just silly things like that and I would think, “oh my goodness, I’m driving, I drove here!” [laughs] 

What is one part of motherhood you struggle with?

I think the hardest part is discipline. Trent and I were just talking about it a few days ago, and we never feel like we have it figured out, because what works changes, and also we’re never really sure if something actually worked or if they just moved on and stopped doing whatever weird, naughty behavior they were doing. We’ll have a few weeks where a certain behavior is not pleasant, and we’ll get frustrated and try different things. I don’t know if it really matters what you do. When they're this young they just kind of move on to something new. With Ronan, there will be a few weeks when he has a naughty streak and then there will be a few weeks when he's super sweet and helpful. Now that I’ve recognized that, it makes the naughty streaks a little easier to bear because we know it’s probably not going to last long. We try to talk to him and figure out what’s going on…I’ve been using that more and more now that he’s old enough to have a conversation with, to try and figure out “why are you doing what you’re doing?” Right now it’s most effective to take away a privilege or have them miss out on something they want to do.

What has surprised you about motherhood?

It’s pretty crazy how much you can adore someone and just want to sniff their faces all day long [laughs]. But it can also be really isolating, you’re never alone but you can still get really lonely. This year I finally got plugged in with some other moms and we try to meet once a week and it makes a huge difference. Hearing “oh, you’re not sleeping either” or “your kid pooped on your couch” [laughs] makes you feel like “okay, I’m not the only one, I’m not losing my mind, this is normal” [laughs]. But also, [kids] are hilarious. The things they say, the things they pick up from you, or the totally random things they come up with are hilarious. There are also boring parts too, sometimes you don’t want to play legos or cars. A lot of times they don’t actually want me to play, they say, “come play with me,” but then when you start [playing] they say “no, you’re doing it wrong.” They just want you to be near them, and that’s ok, you just have to know what the terms are [laughs].

How does your own childhood impact the way you parent your children?

I had a great childhood and I hope I can give my kids something similar. I think the biggest thing I had that I want for my kids is to absolutely KNOW that they are loved and appreciated. That was not something I was conscious of as a kid…I was mostly unaware that there was an alternative to my world in that aspect…but as an adult I'm realizing how the sum of all the little daily interactions with my parents made me feel valued and how sad it is that not everyone gets that—whether the love and appreciation isn't there or it just gets lost in translation.

Another way my childhood influences my parenting is my desire to foster independence by giving them opportunities to explore with minimal age appropriate supervision. (I never knew how fun it would be to spy on my small children!) I was probably better supervised as a small child than I remember, but I want my kids to be able to enjoy the same freedom I did without fear.

How has your relationship with your mom changed since becoming a mother?

It’s fun for me watch her with them, she really enjoys them and she likes to get down and play blocks with them and build things and read them books. When I ask her questions about when we were kids she’s pretty vague, so I don’t know if that’s how she was with us, I imagine she probably was, so even though I don’t remember, it’s kind of nice to see.

How does technology impact motherhood?

It’s definitely a double edged sword, things like Instagram and Facebook, where you only see the edited versions of people’s lives, and it can be discouraging to people who already aren’t feeling super confident or happy with how things are going. I think a lot of people forget that it’s the edited life. You see these families on Instagram, in their perfectly curated homes, and their children are all in their perfectly styled outfits, and they’re clean, or they’re just dirty enough so that it’s adorable [laughs], and that can be discouraging to some people. I don’t struggle with it so much, but I do have to remember [that it’s edited.] The aesthetics of life aren’t that important to me, I’m more about function, so it doesn’t impact me as much. Then there are “Pinterest moms,”  and people get caught up trying to create the perfect birthday party for their kids.

It’s a lot of pressure, that people put on themselves.

Yeah. Another negative side of technology is, I have this phone. I can check out for a few minutes and read things on the internet and my kids know that I'm not paying attention to them. It sucks to have them say, “mom, put it down, you’re done.” That’s not good to hear from your kids. But also it’s nice to be able to read things that aren’t kid books, and have it in your pocket, or keep in touch with other adults when you’re alone with kids all week.

I try to not have [my phone] on my body all the time, or I leave it in the other room when I’m spending time with my kids. I’m not perfect at it, but I’m working at it. Did you see the ad campaign where they had a picture of a parent sitting at the table next to their kid and the parent was on their phone, and there was a giant phone between the parent and child like a wall?

What are your hopes for your children?

I want them to be able to be confident and capable adults. The main way we can help them do that is by making sure they feel secure and loved always. I know so many people who struggle with anxiety, I’m lucky that I don’t, and I don’t want that for them. There are varying levels but it’s incredibly debilitating and I want them to feel confident and be able to go about their lives feeling comfortable in the their bodies and comfortable with their abilities and not feel like they have to worry about what everyone else thinks. Do you think that’s what people worry about, they worry about how they are seen?

I think so. It’s a lack of confidence and not feeling sure in your choices, and I think our parents instill that in us to a certain degree. 

I’m thankful that our parents did give us freedom, they gave us credit for being capable from a young age, even when we were teenagers we had all the freedom, to where we could have gotten in a lot of trouble, but none of us really did. I was never a partier, I’m kind of a “don’t like to break the rules” kind of personality [laughs], not the most severe case I’ve ever seen, it’s just not in my personality. I just don’t enjoy [breaking the rules]. Even in junior high when we would go toilet papering, that was not fun for me. It’s like “we’re going to get caught by security.” That gave me anxiety, so I don’t break the rules and I feel good. 

Where do you see yourself in 10 years? In 20 years?

Let’s see…Ronan will be 14, so I’ll probably be doing a lot of the same things. I’d like to work more eventually, but we’ll see what happens, maybe go back to school. I don’t know. I’ve stopped worrying about it. There are a lot of things that happen in ten or twenty years, and there’s no point in trying to plan that far. You can have an idea, but setting expectations is not always good. You can have goals if there’s something you really want to achieve, I think that’s healthy, but I’ve seen [people] have an image of what their family should look like or the things they’re going to do and the expectations aren’t always realistic and they set themselves up for disappointment. I don’t think I would get [caught up in that] too much but it’s definitely something that I’ve become conscious of not wanting to do. Also, accepting who your children are even if they’re not exactly who you envisioned them to be.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

I feel like motherhood has come pretty easily to me, and part of that is personality and being easygoing, and also I have a really awesome husband. I saw that you posted on your anniversary that it’s never been hard being married to your husband, and it’s the same for us. I don’t think we’ve ever really argued, it’s just not how we work. We don’t see all situations the same way, but it’s not something to get angry about. Even when we were dating, it was easy. I was away at school and he was here still, and even long distance, although it wasn’t fun, it wasn’t really a strain on our relationship. Neither of us is jealous or has the personality to be out flirting with other people anyways, so we have no reason to worry about what they’re doing when we’re not with them. It comes back to being secure and self-confident, which really impacts all of your relationships.

Thank you Alex!