Not often do I get to come across a mom who can talk so openly and honestly about actually being a mom, and juggling her personal life and relationship at the same time while wanting to commit to her son and just climb up high on that picture-perfect ladder of working- and fulfilled career moms. Ugh, already sounds exhausting just in writing. But Claudia P. is one of them, and she drew me in the moment she admitted she is madly in love with Patrick, her almost 5-year old, but really craves for a day out without having to keep sight of him every single minute.
She’s a real one. One that goes beyond the “But in the end it’s the most magical thing that ever happened to me and I wouldn’t change a thing”-kind-of-ending, and just admits that motherhood can be hard sometimes, and you need to remind yourself to be a woman first, before you can become that perfect wife and mom.
We sat down with the 34-year old mommy who shared bits and pieces of her brave, multi-faceted life with us, and taught us that raising kids is no easy job, but if we give it time, it gets better, and we get better.
You are an e-learning designer, which is not a very common job. How and why did you choose this career?
I create e-courses that help people perform better at their workplace. And I did not choose this career, it chose me. I was educated as journalist and worked in the non-governmental sector all my professional life in fields like development education and rights based advocacy. And starting with 2010, the projects I was managing brought me closer to e-learning, a field that requires a combination of many skills and types of expertise. E-learning allows me to be rational and creative, an engineer and a designer, a student and a teacher, physically and virtually present, all at the same time. And what I mostly love about this job is that although it is based on technology, it is ultimately about people and how they learn.
You also love to knit and you organise knitting sittings and recently started a social project. When did all this start?
In January ‘16 I saw someone wearing a knitted scarf that I really wanted for myself and could not find anywhere. So I decided I would knit it instead and I never stopped knitting since. I think it’s a shame that so many from my generation learnt how to knit in school or from their grandmas and they don’t do it anymore. Creating something with your hands is extremely rewarding and knitting has been compared to meditation in terms of effects it has on your brain and well-being. And in August ’16 with Ioana Sandescu as my partner, we started ‘Project Oi’, a social enterprise that wishes to create job opportunities for vulnerable women, especially human traffic survivors. Within the workshops in Bucharest and across the country, women will create accessories and interior design objects made of wool or cotton, by combining traditional Romanian knitting and crocheting techniques with modern minimalistic design. We also organise the Urban Sitting (#SeZATOAREAURBAnA) in Bucharest, an event dedicated to anyone who has something to share while knitting or crocheting. We teach different knitting techniques and have different debate themes and specials guests for each sitting. You can find us here.
Tell me about your home – what’s representative, your favorite room, piece of art etc. How do you manage to keep the kid’s stuff away or in a specific order?
We recently moved into a new home which we completely redecorated. We had a Feng Shui expert giving us advice about how to use the space and because of this we tore down walls and built new ones. We also had an interior designer help us integrate Scandinavian interior design with traditional Romanian furniture or decorations. I think our house is ordered most of the times because we allocate a specific place to a specific activity: we sleep here, we work there, we eat here, we play there. And I finally got to have my own creation space, my own knitting/working room where I design e-courses and knitwear.
How is it like to speak 3 languages in the house?
It’s definitely complex and funny at the same time…When we are together we speak in three languages at the same time. I always speak to my son in Romanian, my husband speaks to him in Danish and to me in English. We all understand what the other one is saying regardless of language, but we always stick to our language to communicate. This mix of languages I believe is very enriching for a child and there are many studies that show the benefits of multilingual families. However, our son started speaking later than other children and he is sometimes taking a bit more time than others to formulate a sentence in a particular language.
What is, in your opinion, the main role of The Mom in the family?
It depends on culture and type of society. And you can take the answer in many directions. Overall, I think a mom sets the tone and pace of the family. If the mother is inclined towards certain attitudes or habits, the rest of the family follows. Also, a mom hugely contributes to keeping the family united, through rituals or customs like dinner time or holidays and weekend activities. What I have also realised in the past years is that the well-being of the mother impacts the well-being of the family. And by this I mean, if she has an issue of any kind, that issue will be felt by all those around her. In opposition, I think ‘happy mom, happy family’ is a very safe statement to make.
How do you think a mother influences her boy’s life and personality? Do you think there is a special bond between the mom and her son? How does that feel like for you?
I think there is a special bond between any two people who love each other, more so in unconditional love, which should be the case for the relationship between a mother and her child. I don’t believe in the general supposition that ‘girls love their dads more and boys love their moms more’. There are so many factors that vary from one family to another that to make such a general statement, I believe it is ‘bold’. However, mothers impact hugely the life and personality of their children, that’s a given. So do the dads. In all ways possible, so again I will not generalize. What I am especially careful about in relations to my son, is to help him develop his emotional intelligence. That is, I help him correctly identify feelings, name them and cope with them in a positive way. Another very important aspect for me is nurturing the sense of independence and making him believe he can do anything on his own. I wish for my son to grow up knowing himself and having confidence in himself. I also notice that sometimes boys grow up having their mothers as models for what women should be like. Which, although flattering for mothers, may be limiting for boys and create difficulties in their adult romantic life. What I do is always admit my mistakes in front of my son so that he realizes from an early age that I am not perfect. And I encourage him to make his own mind about what he likes and doesn’t like in people in general.
What is the hardest aspect about raising a boy?
When I was a child I was rather girly. So now I have a challenge playing with him with cars and trains and football… It’s tough because I don’t really know what to do or say. Thankfully we moved to the drawing, painting, cutting and gluing etc phase so here I am a lot better. So, in my case, the hardest aspect was to do things with my boy for whom I had no example or mental representation. And I am sometimes reminded that ‘I should let him be a boy, get sick, get hurt, get dirty’, jump-on-roofs sort of thing. Again my challenge here is I don’t know what that looks like, I have no brothers, I had no male cousins growing up, I used to hang around only with girls… so at this point I rely heavily on my husband to explain what ‘raising a boy looks like’. Another aspect is that you tend to always be in motion, on the go. It’s rare that a boy will sit down to do something for more than 10 minutes. They can be very physically active, which is sometimes tiring for us as parents.
What was the most challenging part as a whole in becoming a mom? Did you have to make any sacrifices and compromises?
For me the most challenging part was to admit that I am no longer the centre of my universe and that many aspects of my life are no longer under my control. Immediately after giving birth I was constantly telling myself that I no longer belong to myself, but to this little human being that cannot survive without my constant love and care. I had flashbacks of my life before having my son and I was hugely missing the independence I had. Because having a child turns your life upside down and I think I was not ready for this at that time. After one year I realised that there are still things in my power, such as making sure I keep alive all aspects of my life that make me who I am and make me happy. Like, having a good relationship with my husband and friends, having a job I am passionate about, having hobbies, travelling etc. Now I know that having a child added a new dimension to my life, it did not in any way replace or erase the others.
What is the most rewarding thing about being a mom?
The most rewarding of them all is the feeling of being in love. I associate my love for my son to the most intense moments of feeling in love, when you constantly wish to see and be around a person, when you are happy only when the other is happy, when you love every little aspect of their presence and personality. Except, unlike in romantic love, there is no possibility that the intensity of the feeling will decrease in time and you know the relationship will never ever change. I will always be his mother and he will always be my son. I find this absolutely amazing.
Do you ever feel stressed out and with no powers left? How do you regain the energy to start a new day over, what do you tell yourself?
Of course, constantly… What I know now is that there are emotions, activities or even people that consume your energy and others that give you energy. I make sure I make plenty of space for the latter. Along the years I intentionally decided to have a specific job that makes me happy, or hobbies that relax me, be around people that have a lot to give, take up different therapeutic approaches that allow me put things into different perspectives.
So what do you think is the secret to not losing your femininity and sensuality after becoming a mom? Many women feel they are losing the “me” in “mommy”, and struggle with interior battles between being all there for the baby and regaining their individuality and independence.
For many years I struggled to understand what ‘feminine’ or ‘feeling feminine’ means, beyond what culture and the media decides for us every 5 to 10 years. I sometimes asked myself if I am feminine and when does this happen. Is it in situations of vulnerability or when I feel powerful or successful? Is it when I am wearing high heels and a skirt, or sneakers and jeans? I felt less feminine when having to do certain tasks because our culture tells us women should not do a man’s job, like fixing cars or building houses. This creates limitations and boundaries for women. So does ‘masculinity’ for men. Bottom line is, I am a woman, but I believe ‘femininity’ is a social construct I can really live without, as I find no identity in it. I am replacing it with a set of attributes that define who I am, attributes that may be ever changing according to where I am in my life. So my attributes before and after having a child are different, but nothing was lost nor gained. It’s just another version of myself.
What should every woman do to keep sane in the first months/ years of motherhood? What was your secret (if there was one)?
I was not sane in the first months of motherhood. I was terrified and had no idea what to do with myself or the baby. So I would not dare to give advice here. I got better in time, and time is our best friend sometimes – we live, we learn, we move on.
Your morning routine?
None, whatever comes first… preferably coffee.
Your perfect getaway alone/ with husband?
A sunny beach, anywhere with my husband… and very soon please.
What is your number one parenting advice you would pass on to other moms?
Don’t change who you are after having a child.
Thank you dear C. for sharing your stories with us. <3
Find more about her #UrBANSITTInG (#SeZATOAREAURBAnA ) shared with moms and motherhood experts and join her exciting knitting sessions on her Project Oi Facebook page.
Photo credits: Photographer Ionut Staicu
Location: Claudia’s home
Outfit & Styling: Claudia
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