I was lucky enough to meet Melanie in person a few years back while we were both doing a local show, and I couldn't get over how funny and real she was in person. We've kept in touch ever since and she came to mind right away when I decided to create this series. I'm so thankful that she took the time to answer these questions, and you will love hearing her motherhood story!!!
Describe for us a typical day in your life as a mother.
A typical day in my life is pretty hectic (as with any mama I think), but I wake up usually to at least one hungry little human. So the first thing is always to get them fed and changed and clothed, and then fit some work in between getting dressed and feeding the baby and putting on my makeup while my older son is eating his breakfast (which takes forever...why is it that it takes kids SO long to eat!?) If Hunter is not in school then I'm normally trying to work in between trips to the park, breastfeeding and cooking/cleaning, managing tantrums and dealing with our two crazy dogs. I'm not even sure how I manage to get any work done some days. It actually feels kind of like a vacation when I only have to work and deal with a baby!
When I do have full days to work I'm busy with freelance design clients for both corporate and small businesses, in addition to packing and shipping wholesale orders, and shooting/editing content for social media and my blog. I often work evenings and weekends and very early mornings just so that I can have a bit of uninterrupted time. On weekends we are always busy shooting...and to make that happen I seriously have to bribe my husband and toddler with snacks from the health food store, which is where we go after almost every shoot! By the end of the day I'm generally drained from the insanity of life with children, so I'll have some tea and try to unwind a bit before bed if I don't have too much work on my plate that day, or I'll just get back to work, of course.
I feel like mom life is really a never ending work day though. My husband will say he's tired because worked so much overtime (while he sits on the couch watching youtube while I clean up after dinner), and I'm like, bud, I work overtime EVERY DAY and I'm on call all night, every night for midnight boobie snacks and whatever else the kiddos need...so you don't really know what tired is. Am I right!?
What have you found to be the biggest surprise about motherhood?
How physically exhausting it is. I never realized what a physical job it is to be a mother before I had littles, but you're always carrying babies, lifting car seats, bending, cleaning, rocking, breastfeeding...it's like never ending. From the moment they are born it just takes everything you've got to feed and nurture them, and your body just isn't your own anymore. Not only am I a 24/7 baby drive through, but I often sacrifice my own needs to meet theirs. I actually messed up my back pretty badly earlier this year from trying to do too much lifting so soon after having Otto. That car seat is just so incredibly heavy, especially when you're swinging it for 40 minutes trying to get a colicky baby to sleep!
What are some of your favourite activities to do with your family?
We really love to get out into nature and go hiking and to conservation areas or beaches with the boys. It's relaxing for us, and so exciting for little people to enjoy seeing the birds and chipmunks and whatever else we might find. I often feel like we spend way too much time in front of screens, so we get outside whenever we can.
Do you find time for self care? If so, what does that look like?
I wish I could say that I have found that balance and that I take time for me...but I don't. I'm always taking care of everyone else, and then I end up getting burnt out and am forced to take some time to myself when I am just too exhausted to do it all (thank goodness for grandparents on days like that!). Whenever I do ever get a bit of time to myself though, I will normally be showering and painting my nails, because it's just so hard to find time to shower without anyone screaming for me! I used to do hot yoga almost every day (many years ago)...so I'm hoping to have some time to do that again soon, because I think it would make a world of difference for my stress levels! Also, reading...man I miss that! I'm hoping to find some time for that again soon too.
Do you have any favourite books/blogs/podcasts/youtube channels you can’t live without?
I wouldn't say I have favourites, but I really like to read about health and wellness, so I often read articles on MindBodyGreen and GOOP (because I'm a big Gwyneth fan).
Share with us one of your family’s favourite quick and easy dinners.
Smoothies!! Smoothies are like a life saver in my household because my son will actually eat them and I can get some proper vitamins into him, and my husband likes them too! Most people have them for breakfast, but we do smoothies for any meal in our house. I have a lot of food sensitivities because I have celiac disease, so I often end up making 3 separate meals in the evenings to make everyone happy, but with smoothies it's less time and cleanup and I can make 3 different versions in a short period of time if I need to. They also turn into popsicles super easily, so that's been a big hit in my household lately. My favourite is a banana spinach smoothie, with banana, spinach, almond milk, almond butter, and vanilla...and I'll often add extras into it like chlorella and bee pollen for added health benefits. My son and husband tend to prefer the frozen strawberry smoothies though with strawberries, raspberries, almond milk, banana and honey (but I like to hide some spinach in there too if nobody is looking)
How do you manage the flow between your role as a mother and everything else in your life?
I think that when you become a mother, it somehow changes the way that you perceive everything else. It gives me more purpose in my day to day activities, and makes me more efficient with my time. I try not feel guilty about working when my kids are home, or needing to put my son in school, because I know that I need to work to not only provide for them, but for my own sanity. I love to work, and I love what I do, and in order to be a good mother to them, I need to be able to use my creativity, and pursue my dreams in addition to being their mom. It's kind of like having two jobs, one as a mom, and one as a business owner, and both are important. So with each moment I just have to figure out which job comes first and go with it. I know that I will always have to make sacrifices in both jobs, so I try to just do the best I can every day, and hope that it is enough.
How do you handle the hard days, when being a mother feels like the hardest thing in the world?
Those days are the worst! Being a mom really does feel like the hardest thing when there's a baby screaming and you're tired and stressed out because your clients are emailing you that they need something like NOW, and your toddler is throwing a tantrum because he wanted to put on his shoes himself but you helped him because he was just SO damn slow (!) But I try to take a step back and recognize that it's not the end of the world. To recognize that it's only a season in my life, and things will constantly evolve from where I am now. So I just accept it as a challenging day, take a deep breath and move forward. And then I cry, because everyone needs a good cry at the end of a difficult day!
What is one of your favourite things to do after the kids are in bed (assuming they sleep!) and you have a moment to yourself?
Sleep! Before I had Otto I loved to paint after Hunter was in bed, but now that I have two I'm just so tired that I don't even have the energy, so I just pass out as soon as I can.
What advice would you give to new mothers?
Don't sweat the small stuff, and don't worry about having everything perfect for baby. They don't care if the sheets match decor. As long as you're there for your baby to feed him and nurture him, that's all that matters. Someone once said to me that if at the end of the day your baby is alive and well, you're doing a good job. I think that the most important thing is to cuddle them and love them as much as you can, because even though it can be so incredibly hard and you often just want to cry, that baby stage is so incredibly fleeting and you will miss it a little when one day you suddenly realize that your baby is no longer a baby. I've also read that holding your baby in those first few months is super important for their development, so forget sleep training until they're like 3 months old, and just cuddle them as much as you can!