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 next Mom in Focus: Meet Michele! (Yep, Owner of Silver Branch Photography).
Hi! Tell us a little bit about yourself and three words that describe you as a mom.
Hello there! My name is Michele. I love dessert, caffeine, and reading thrillers. I live in a small town with my husband, our five-year-old daughter, and our eleven-year-old rescue dog. I work full-time for a university, I teach a graduate course here and there, and I have a photography business that is my own fun, little world. Photography is my happy place, and I’m so thankful that I have it in my life.
Three words that describe me as a mom:
- Goofy. I love to make my daughter laugh and I truly value humor.
- Encouraging. I’m always trying to lift her up and give her courage and empowerment.
- Loving. I’m always giving hugs and kisses, and I’m always telling her how important she is and how much I love her.
And now tell us about your darling kid(s).
My daughter Isla (pronounced eye-lah) is five years old and she started kindergarten this year. She is very good at negotiating and using her words. My husband and I have always encouraged her to “use her words” when she’s frustrated or upset (aka: talk to us, don’t pout or scream), so that had led to some very interesting sentences coming out of her mouth (“I don’t like the choices you are making” and “maybe you could do that differently in the future”).
She is extremely strong-willed and equally hilarious, and she loves being the star of the show. She is the ultimate girly-girl: skirts, dresses, sparkles, headbands – she needs them all! She loves to laugh. She is a social butterfly which brings out a lot of my introverted anxiety. She’ll see people we don’t know at a restaurant and ask if we can go sit with them, so to appease the obvious answer of no, I bring her over so she can introduce herself. She’s awesome. I can’t wait to see her personality continue to develop as she gets older. Every day I love this girl more and more.
How do you feel your style of mothering is like others? I think, like all mothers, I want what’s best for my daughter and I try my hardest to make her as happy and as fulfilled as possible. I’ve heard many moms say they are mama bears, and I would have to say I’m the same in the sense that I try to shield and protect her as much as I can while also trying to let loose so she can figure things out for herself. It’s a tough balance.
Since we’re focusing on judgment that moms experience, what have you felt judged for?
Isla is my only child and we are not having any more children by choice. Growing up, I had always imagined having at least two children. Three was my magic number. But after having Isla, our family felt complete. I would occasionally think about having another child, but it just never felt necessary. I love our little family.
Many people seem shocked when I tell them we are not having more kids. People try to argue with me and some have tried to make me feel badly for not having more children. I’ve heard it all: she needs a playmate, you can’t leave the responsibility all on her to take care of you when you’re older, siblings are friends for life, she’s going to grow up to be spoiled. And I have replies for all of them: she has plenty of friends, the nursing home will take care of me when I’m older, some people I know don’t even speak to their siblings, and I’m happy to be able to provide her with as much as I can without raising her to be a brat. So, nice try, haha. People act like I’m damaging her by not giving her a sibling, but I know in my heart of hearts that we are a complete family.
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)?
I’ve developed a pretty thick skin for it and it usually doesn’t bother me because people are naturally just curious about why I’m choosing to have one child. But something that was very hurtful took place at my mother-in-law’s wake a few years ago. I was standing up front near the casket with the rest of the family and a woman (who I know) came up to me, shook her finger at me, and said “You are doing your daughter a disservice by not giving her any siblings!” I was pretty floored and didn’t really know how to respond because I had no idea why she would even say that. At a wake. When not even discussing children. I think I’m doing my daughter a great service by providing her with a loving mother and father, aunts and uncles and cousins, and friends galore. I laughed it off and my husband quickly changed the subject, but it was so unbelievably awkward.
I guess I just don’t understand why people want to argue with me about my decision not to have more children. It literally has nothing to do with them or their lives, so I’m baffled as to why people have such a vested interest in that subject of my life. It’s pretty comical to me, actually. It’s like me trying to convince someone not to have more children by saying things like “why would you ever split up your love between two children” or “you know it’s going to cost a ton of money to have more than one child” or “why would you give up your one-on-one time – you are taking valuable time away from them!” Sounds ridiculous, right?
I also think it’s pretty funny when people ask “why” after I tell them I only have one child. Uh…because I do? For me, it’s a personal choice, but that’s not the case for everyone. What about women who can’t have more children for whatever reason even though they would love to welcome more babies into their families? I don’t think some people realize that it can be an extremely sensitive subject. Prying and questioning someone’s family size (even if it’s just out of curiosity) is just not appropriate, and women don’t owe any explanation for the amount of children in their family.
What would you like to tell the world about moms and why it’s important not to judge our choices?
We are trying our best. This is the hardest thing I have ever done and I’m sure most moms feel the same. My main job on earth is to now keep this person alive and try to raise her to be a smart and kind individual who can be compassionate and honest and who can stand up for herself and others – no pressure there, right? It’s overwhelming at best. And unless a mom is doing something that is putting her child in life-threatening danger, it’s really not anyone else’s place to say anything to us about the choices we feel are best for our children.
Tell us your biggest joy about raising your kid(s).
My biggest joy is that it is fun every single day. I love being around Isla. I love hearing the things that come out of her mouth, and I love seeing what a beautiful person she is. She is kind and courageous and clever, and she has taught me so much. Granted, there are times when I lock myself in the bathroom to cry or eat M&Ms (or both), but it’s so worth it. It’s the best.
Thank you so much, Michele, 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!