Let’s face it. It’s hard being a mom in today’s day in age. Not to diminish previous generations, at all, but this whole Pinterest social media blasted day and age of mothering can be rough. There are a lot of stereotypes that come into play. How a mom should look. Act. Dress. Going even beyond, and that much more damaging, is how a mom should mother. Not only do we come in all shapes and sizes, but we also all tend to our little(s) differently. Not only is that OK, but it should be celebrated!
With that being said, I could not be more excited to introduce my new series on A Life From Scratch: Moms in Focus. I’ve partnered up with the oh so talented photographer, Michele Ryan of Silver Branch Photography, to bring a you a series that focuses on the beauty of mothering in all different shapes and styles. All of these moms have felt judged in one way or another, and this series has been created to shed light on how that can make a mom feel. Let’s even the playing field a bit, shall we? Deep down at the core, we moms are all really just trying to do our best.
Without further ado, I introduce to you our first Mom in Focus: Meet Victoria!
Hi! Tell us a little bit about yourself and three words that describe you as a mom.
My name is Victoria Strole and I am a first generation Vietnamese-American. My father is Vietnamese and my mother is American. I was born and raised in the Midwest where I learned both American and Vietnamese culture (but definitely more American.) That doesn’t seem special or significant since there are so many other first generation and mixed race kids these days, but becoming a parent has made me realize how much I absorbed from each culture and what each offers in a drastically different style of parenting. I can say that my style of mothering is influenced by Vietnamese and American culture.
In Vietnam, people live in multigenerational family homes. Grandparents stay home to look after the children while fathers (and sometimes mothers) go off to work for the day, and sometimes even for months. As you already know, that is not typical here in the U.S. That is just one example of the cultural difference in parenting between the U.S. and Vietnam. Growing up in a family that was aware of the difference in lifestyle between cultures stretched my imagination of what could work. I believe my stay-at-home-mom days were influenced by my traditional Vietnamese side, while work-outside-the-home mentality comes from my American side.
Today, I am working to finish a Masters in Art while I feed my children home cooked meals for every meal and teach them to enjoy the natural world. It’s tough sometimes, but very important to me to do it all. Oh – and to sum me up in three words? That would be: Hippie, mixed race, feminist mama.
And now tell us about your darling kid(s).
I have an 8 year old son and 5 year old daughter. My husband and I always say that my son, Avi, looks like him and acts like me. My daughter, Lulin, looks like me but acts like him. They bring new meaning to the word “awesome.” I remember throwing that word around all the time before I was mom to describe food, fashion, movies, music etc. But when they were born…well all the moms out there know, it was the feeling of fully participating in the human experience, the ultimate connection to creation. It. Was. Magic.
They both love to laugh, listen to music, get dirty in the forest then resist showers, run through the house at full speed, and be in control. They are both mama kids- attached like glue. Avi is my funny cat guy who loves video games, while Lulin is an extroverted dancer who entertains us with freestyle dance to Kidz Bop every chance she gets. Both also can’t wait to grow up, which I try to tell them over and over again that it is, in fact, not something to rush.
Often I think they saved me from wasting years of my life being a selfish person. They give love in a way that a person cannot experience in any other way and help me focus on the things that matter and that I can make a difference on. I know I need them as much as they need me.
How do you feel your style of mothering is like others?
Lots of the time I don’t feel like I fit neatly into a specific style of mothering since I straddle many identities. I’m crunchy and traditional at home and then a modern feminist outside the home. I didn’t know I would be this way, but here I am.
First of all, it took me a long time to give myself entirely to motherhood. When my children were very small, I struggled. I had never been around babies before them so I was completely shocked how much I needed to give. I was half in and half out for years. And that is because I knew I wanted to have a career. I didn’t see how I’d do both well. But, when I pushed myself to be fully present I found I could accomplish so much and I was calm and happy in both: motherhood and career. I can’t seem to do that all the time, but I know that’s the goal: to be present.
Wanting to be a mother with a career is nothing new, but my perspective from a mixed race background on how to make that work is somewhat new and at the same time not uncommon to this generation. I have mothers similar to me around, but not entirely the same. What I can say is that I am learning as I go and doing the best I can like moms have done before me and will continue to do after me. Each generation is new in its own way.
Since we’re focusing on judgment that moms experience, what have you felt judged for?
I don’t catch a lot of in-my-face judgment on my style of mothering, but I do hear about it through the grapevine. My hair, being the most obvious of my style, often makes people believe I am too radical to be rational. But, it’s about my own philosophy and I feel pretty solid about it, so I don’t fret too much. That doesn’t have much to do with my mothering style so much as it’s just a slight indication of what else my life is like. My life and therefore my mothering lifestyle is about natural living as much as I can and as I learn more natural ways.
I have heard others judge me for the diet and natural lifestyle choices I make with my family. I was exposed to a good variety of foods outside of the typical American fare through my parents. My perspective on a healthy diet comes from a mix of vegetarian American and traditional Vietnamese fare. Further, my parents both encouraged observation on how foods affect us. Sometimes this is seen as silly superstition. They both have a deep belief that your diet affects you more than anything else. So the way we strive to be natural doesn’t seem radical or alternative to me any way.
I don’t mean to push my ideas on other people because usually I know it’s not gonna land anyway, but if someone asks me, I feel solid that seeking out and practicing a healthy and sustainable lifestyle is the first step for helping the rest of my life make sense.
How did that make you feel? What was your response to any uncomfortable situations or discussions you’ve been in because of someone judging you (if there have been any)?
It’s frustrating and saddening, but I never doubt myself in this area. It’s hard to help your family be natural and healthy when so many are pushing back at you to eat convenient foods; the busy capitalist lifestyle, the media, kids at school exposing them to junk making it seem normal, others who just were not taught to eat well.
I don’t do anything when people judged me for it, but carry on. My mom used to talk about this judgment too. I believe eating close to the earth and treating mother earth well connects us to nature and is the foundation for building your mind, body, and spirit. Further, it’s the beginning of having a relationship with all creatures and the cosmos.
What would you like to tell the world about moms and why it’s important not to judge our choices?
I think because we have the social set up of single-family homes, we are isolated from building communities. It’s really hard to be a mom/parent trying to raise children without a village. We are living with more diversity, which means there are lots of ways to get things right. That can feel overwhelming or liberating. Unfortunately (or if you choose to look at it fortunately), there’s not a single right answer, there are many.
Tell us your biggest joy about raising your kid(s).
I have two things: bedtime conversations and spooning in the morning. Bedtime conversations are the most sincere. My kids wonder about big things and funny things that remind me to wonder and laugh too. At first, I was amazed by their bodies and now I am amazed by their minds.
More nights than not, someone ends up in our bed and although I know their dad wants them to stay in their “own good beds” all night, I love getting to snuggle them while they fit perfectly beside me. Spooning with my parents in the morning was definitely the way I knew I wanted to be a mom too. Those moments are just the most satisfying and comfortable spot you can be in.
Thank you so much, Victoria, for sharing your thoughts and time with us. Want to see more of this darling mama and her little ones? Head on over to the Moms In Focus Facebook Page – and be sure to follow us along for updates including more moms to come. Yippee!