Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Moms Who Inspire Me: Gretchen

Welcome to the start of a 3 part series where I host an interview with 3 mamas in my life who have greatly influenced me.  Today I'm sharing my interview with Gretchen, from That Mama Gretchen.

Gretchen and I met back in high school, where we were baristas at the local coffee shop. We parted ways for college but stayed in touch through Facebook and were guests at each other's weddings. Eventually I moved down to the Portland area where she lived after graduating college with her hubby. I began to follow her blog as she documented her journey with her first daughter, Jemma. I can easily say that I call Gretchen my "Fairy Blogmother," as she's always written thought provoking posts and been a great resource in my journey of natural and attachment parenting. Over the years we've hooked up for coffee dates and now we have play dates - as her eldest, Jemma (2 1/2), Penny (almost 1 1/2) and her son Max (will be 1 in August- oh my!) get along great. Read on and you'll see why I can call on this mama for advice of all kinds.

At what age did you become a mama? 
How was that in relation to when you thought you'd become a mama? 
My first, Jemma, was born just 3 days before my 24th birthday. I always wanted to be a "young" mama - 24 fit the bill nicely. Especially since the hubs and I had finished school and been married for 3 years.

Growing up, what was the part about becoming a parent the most exciting for you? 
Has it changed?  
Honestly, I was obsessed with playing school with my two sisters when I was young (I'm the oldest). I imagined being a mom would be very similar - a never ending day of crafts, field trips and fun projects. Real motherhood hasn't turned out quite like that. There's a lot more laundry, cooking, diapers and managing sibling squabbles. At least now. I think we'll get into the field trip phase here in the next few years :) It has definitely changed from what I imagined, but I wouldn't change it. I keep hearing the phrase, "The days are long, but the years are short." and I couldn't agree more. I'm savoring my nursing relationship with Max and learning how to best help Jemma explore the world of "I do it!". I can't get enough of Max's rolls and belly laughs and Jemma, my little chatter box, has been saying some of the greatest things lately - her imagination is going wild. When I tuck them in at night I can't wait for another day (well, after I clock in my few hours of work and rest). These days are so fun and so exhausting! I want them to slow down so I can enjoy them more while speeding up so we can do new and different adventures.

What has surprised you the most about being a mother? 
 How difficult it is. Being a mom is the hardest job out there. It's super rewarding too - I mean, Max doesn't look at anyone else the way he looks at me and when Jemma says, "I love you, Mommy" I turn into a complete puddle of feel good emotions. Same when she asks me to "swuggin" (snuggle) her. But it is hard. There's no getting around that. Every day it's two against one. It's not easy to balance making them my priority while keeping the house up. It is also hard to shower when the curtain keeps flying open by the hand of one child or the other. I'm also kind of tired of sharing my fork during every meal :)

On a sentimental note, I'm constantly amazed that someone so precious and beautiful and so their own person could have come from inside of me. That leaves me completely dumbfounded and in awe of what God creates through us. I mean ... WOW!

Who was your biggest help? How did they help you?  
My mom and my two sisters are definitely my Mama Tribe. Without them I would be much less sane and my kiddos would definitely have less fun.

What has been the biggest challenge of motherhood (easy question, right?) 
and how have you tried to overcome it?

My biggest and current challenge has been how to stay my own person. I spend so many hours with my little ones that sometimes I don't remember or have energy to invest in myself - reading, long baths and the like. My midwife always reminded me that it's super important for mamas to take care of themselves because a well-cared for mama allows her to better care for her family. It's such a balancing act and something I'm working to improve upon.
Name your top soothing tip.
Nothing soothes Max better than a nursing snuggle. When Jemma needs to be soothed we face each other and hold hands while I calming talk to her and ask her to breathe deep with me. Then we hug and kiss and everything looks brighter.

What is your kids' favorite meal that you cook?  
Max loves all veggies, so anything steamed or roasted makes him happy. He currently loves risotto or quinoa tossed with rotisserie chicken, veggies, Parmesan and this seasoning from Wildtree. It's one of my favorites too so I'm happy to share! Jemma, the sweet girl, has become much harder to please. She consistently loves buttermilk pancakes and our homemade breakfast sandwiches as well as anything served with a side of ketchup. Two year olds are sure nifty!

Did you become your mother, take a completely new road or find a clever mix in between?  
I'm very much like my mom ... at least it is my goal to be. In my mind, she is the ultimate mom ... inspiring me in so many ways as a woman, wife and mom. We do a few things differently, but I always chat with her about my decisions. She is a fabulous sounding board and always brings a dose of wisdom to our conversations.

Did you have a parenting style that was different from the rest of your family (such as baby led weaning, babywearing, potty training timing) and how did you respond to family who approached you about it?

My parents embraced elements of attachment/natural parenting when I was growing up - before having a specific "parenting style" was something you claimed. My mom remembers sewing her own carrier back in the 80s - we've been searching for a photo! I actually feel like my parents were/are great examples of free-range parenting ... something I know I struggle with. Some extended family members have explored other methods of parenting. We're all pretty open in our decisions/discussions and I think we've learned a lot from one another. In the end we're all parenting as best we can with the information we have at present. Even if we don't do things exactly like each other I definitely feel supported. Especially when my brother-in-law jokes about eating the meals I prepare. You know, just in case I blend in some placenta for extra nutrients :) See? We have lots of fun chatting about our parenting styles.

See what I mean? Gretchen just tells it how it is, with grace and humility to boot :) Besides being a great parenting resource, this girl knows how to cook. I've been dreaming about that quinoa recipe! Thanks for sharing your heart, Gretchen, and for being a supportive friend!

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