Rena Xu

 

Surgeon, consultant, writer and mom to Olympia


Q: When did you know you wanted to be a mom?
A: I think I always knew. My own mom is such a major presence and role model in my life; to be like her seemed like the worthiest of aspirations when I was growing up. I just implicitly assumed that I too would eventually become a career mom and love it, and that turned out to be the case.


Q: What has been the best surprise of motherhood?
A: The conversations! Ever since my daughter learned how to talk in sentences, there has not been a dull moment in our household. It brings me so much joy to see the world through her eyes, to watch her form her own opinions and preferences, to witness her sense of humor in action. I love our long chats. Sometimes in the middle of them I'll just marvel at how lucky I am to get to be a parent and experience this sort of connection.


Q: What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood?
A: The FOMO is real. It's hard not to think of every moment as fleeting and hard not to feel guilty about the moments I miss. But I try to maintain perspective and make the most of the time that we do spend together.


Q: How has motherhood changed you?
A: I've gotten much better at living in the moment. It's so easy to keep looking ahead to the next thing, or the thing after that. I've learned to accept that there will always be more things to do and more ways to grow, but there is also tremendous value in simply taking stock of your surroundings and appreciating what is right in front of you. One night, we were having Chinese takeout, and at the end of the meal, my fortune cookie said, "Stop searching forever, happiness is right next to you". I looked at the slip of paper and then at my daughter sitting next to me, beaming as she ate her own cookie, and I thought, this is exactly right.


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've gotten really good at bedtime stories. My daughter has a very vivid imagination, so every night, after we read a few books, I narrate a new bedtime story of our own creation. We've developed a recurring cast of characters; she picks which characters she wants featured in that night's story, and I'm in charge of coming up with a plotline. The stories have become a reference point for her in her own life — she'll bring them up as she encounters related situations — which is pretty neat.


Q: When mom life takes the wind out of you, what little rituals pull you together and help you reset?
A: I wish I could say I had something really cool, but honestly, I don't. Wine, pizza, a new lip balm. These are pretty much the tricks I have up my sleeve.


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: Be proud of the job you're doing. The early days of motherhood were so deeply exhausting that it was hard to maintain much perspective, but I do think it's important to remind yourself regularly that every day is an accomplishment, even if it feels like you’re Sisyphus — that is, if Sisyphus had to feed/pump every three hours, in addition to the boulder work.


Q: Tag a mom friend you admire, and tell us why. Hype it up!
A: My friend Nour is a brilliant, confident and super down-to-earth person whose approach to motherhood reflects her lovely and capable personality. She is an incredible chef with professional expertise in food and hospitality, so when she found herself raising a growing toddler in NYC, she started a food delivery business, Toddler Takeout, to provide healthful, delicious, and varied meals for kids. I really admire her for identifying a need and leveraging her skills and talents to offer a solution that will make life better for both parents and their children.