Q: When/how did you know you wanted to be a mom?
A: I had to be prompted to jump off the cliff, and sometimes I think I’m still in freefall. Even though I didn't feel a lifelong pull to being a bio-mom, per se, I did feel a huge pull toward the children around me in my community. I carried, rocked, watched and changed diapers of many, many children born prior to my own. I still want to hold every baby in the room, at the restaurant, on the plane.
Q: What has been the best surprise of motherhood?
A: For me, the easiest and most unexpected aspect of being a mom was how quickly I fell in love with each of my kids. They're both unique, alien, intoxicating, funny, vibrant. I had no idea that feeling the pull of "being in love" would be a facet of welcoming a child. It's as heady, destabilizing, enlightening and amusing as all the kinds of love I had experienced prior to their arrivals. It's a lasting spell that supports you through the more difficult passages.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood?
A: While my two boys look so much like their father and like one another, they are nothing alike in disposition, approach, emotional landscape, what motivates them, their personal language, the way that their bodies negotiate space... it's all totally different. Acquiring their languages is both frustrating and empowering. I have stumbled and full-stop failed at times, but I have also learned enough to greet them, meet them half-way, commiserate. I hope and aspire to become more fluent with them and for them.
Q: How has motherhood changed you — e.g., the way you do your work, care for yourself and others, ask for and accept help, seek out connection, react, relax and recharge?
A: I'm quite sure I do less of all of that, but when I do, it is extremely appreciated. Having children made me realize the power of an hour, and an hour with them can be a luxury.
Q: What's your greatest strength or source of confidence as a mom? In other words, what are you really good at? Don't be shy!
A: I feel very confident about my motivation when I'm around my children. While I have certainly worried that I am not well equipped for whatever task is at hand, I have few doubts about my wish to seek out the best solution, to be an advocate and to love fiercely. It's a cliche when parents say "You'll know when you have kids" but you really will know whatever it is you need to know, and in some cases, you will know it faster, sooner and harder than you expected to. Beyond that, you are guaranteed to feel a LOT.
Q: When mom life takes the wind out of you, what little rituals pull you together and help you reset?
A: I'm a big fan of an audio book. It gussies up your mind, feeds your intellect and offers new ways of thinking. This can be the best accessory when doing some of the drearier work of parenting... driving, waiting, picking up, waiting, doubling back. I'm also a new fan of texting with my teenagers. It's the contemporary version of leaving notes in the lunch box. Last, for me, getting properly dressed each morning, even if it's my "work uniform" is major.
Q: What's the best motherhood advice you've ever received, or a message you wish you'd had on your bathroom mirror when you were a new mom?
A: When I'm tired or challenged, I ask myself whether this task or moment is a small gift or a big gift. It's a way of slowing the moment and being present, which helps when feelings of overwhelm are imminent. Also, everyone experiences each stage of parenting and childhood in different ways. I had an easy and playful time in the early years, and the tweener years have proved to be a heart-wrenching back-bend at times. My "note to self" reads: offer and accept empathy, in all directions.
Q: Tag a mom friend you admire, and tell us why. Hype it up!
A: Natasha Gaskill (mom to Aidan and Morgan) is a pastry chef and boy-wrangler who manages a wildly civilized symphony of food, fire, football, friends, reading and relationships with aplomb. In a world of confounding "shoulds" — don't allow this, do allow that — her boys seem to be the best balance of great paradoxes, largely because she sets the tone.