Vulnerable - Part 1
This interview began an as exploration of motherhood, a universal yet unique experience in itself, but a deeper story unfolded about being a wife. Angela, a Minneapolis mom of three, found herself in a situation this past year she never thought she was capable of. An emotional affair.
As someone who has cheated myself, I know the glamour that quickly disintegrates into self-loathing. She and I both hope that in reading this, you find not only solidarity but also a deeper appreciation for the many facets of yourself and those around you. Angela is not summarized by this betrayal, just as much as she is not summarized by her many triumphs as a mom. We are all complicated creatures who deserve the respect of being seen for all of ourselves. Nothing is more startling than honesty, and when someone opens their chest wide to expose their vulnerabilities, it’s worth every second of your time to listen.
The interviews are split into "dichotomies." A dichotomy is two things in conflict with each other. The dictionary says they can't exist at the same time, but in humans, they definitely can.
"I have learned more about myself through my children and how I interact with them. It stretches my patience. I've gotten more angry than I knew I was capable of, but I’ve also loved more than I knew I was capable of. It’s almost like a drug that enhances your feelings."
What do you wish someone would have warned you about as you became a mother?
When I was pregnant with my first child, someone advised me: “It’s the greatest thing that will ever happen to you and the worst thing that will ever happen to you.” It’s a cliche, but so true. In a personal way, I have learned more about myself through my children and how I interact with them. It stretches my patience. I've gotten more angry than I knew I was capable of, but I’ve also loved more than I knew I was capable of. It’s almost like a drug that enhances your feelings. No one can really prepare for it. Part of the joy of being a parent is living vicariously through your kids and enjoying all those things that as a kid you did.
Did you always know you wanted to be a mom?
It’s always been one of the greatest desires of my heart, and I have an awesome role model in my mom. I still aspire to be as giving as my mother. I've always loved children--loved being around them, loved acting like one. I think in a way I still don’t know what I want to do professionally with my life. I worry sometimes that I’ve put too much stress on being a mom and not enough on personal goals.
Do you feel like something is missing in that area of your life or pressure from society to have a profession?
There’s both. But I’m gonna do what I’m gonna do. There’s also the question of if I wasn’t always in survival mode of taking care of children, what would I be doing? What would I be pursuing? I’d have more time to focus on photography or my husband. I talk about a dream someday where we have properties throughout the world that we can manage. Little cabins that are eco-friendly that we can rent out, and when we want to travel, we can stay there. Have a little shack on the beach in Jamaica, one in Montana, in Ireland. I could manage those properties and have someone manage them on-site, and I could coordinate that. Those are things that are dreams some day.
"Sometimes I wonder if it’s enough to be raising my own kids. I want to be a part of this bigger human experience."
Do you feel like your kids have to get to a certain age to where you can focus on those things?
Yeah, and I feel like I’m finally in that realm now. I’m just at home with [my youngest child] in the mornings, and I work part time and do have some time I can devote to that. The last eight years have been constant survival mode--the diapers, the feeding, the care. All of it. We’ve been able to take a sigh of relief as our kids are getting older and more independent. Job situations are working out, and things are feeling more relaxed. We went through a phase where we were so busy with school, work, and kids that we were just trying to stay afloat and make ends meet. Going into debt. Not even thinking about the future. Just thinking about the here and now and everyday.
But we’re past the point, and now we can figure out our life again together. I feel like I’m in too much of a place of comfort. There’s more that I could be doing--time to start pushing the boundaries. I’ve been feeling a little bit selfish lately. My mornings with [my youngest] are pretty leisurely lately. This is a time I can start pushing out of my comfort zone. Be more involved in activism and pursuing my own personal career goals.
What kind of topics or activities excite you?
I love volunteering at soup kitchens and women’s shelters. Actual hands on, physical labor. It’s something I haven’t made time for recently, but I’m starting to feel I have a lot of privilege, the time and means to do it, so I should. Sometimes I wonder if it’s enough to be raising my own kids. I want to be a part of this bigger human experience.
I’ve always been surrounded by great people in my life, and I feel called as a Christian to be out there and put myself in uncomfortable situations and open my eyes to people who have less than I do. I haven’t been in that realm since I’ve had kids.
What moments with your children have defined motherhood for you?
First thing that comes to mind is literally pushing [my first child] out into the world. I didn’t have any drugs with him. It was such hard word and excruciatingly painful, but I will never forget that moment he came out. I felt so raw and so much of a woman. And so incredible. My body has the ability to do this. It was pretty mind-blowing and humbling that I have this capability.
When my second child was born, and my oldest came to see him, I could see in his face [like] “whoa.” He looked at me and said, “I’m still your baby too, right?” I looked at him and cried. It was a tender moment.
Were you worried if you would love your second child as much the first?
I was because when the first child comes into your life, they take over. They are your whole world. How am I gonna spend as much energy on another one? But then you do. It brings so much joy to watch their relationship together and the love they have for each other. The love bubble just gets bigger. It naturally took care of itself.
"I have these three eternal beings and have been entrusted to their care during this time on earth. It’s amazing watching their own personalities develop..."
What’s the most challenging part of motherhood?
Really maintaining your own sanity and exercising patience like a muscle. You can let your emotions get the best of you and snap when you’re angry. [You have to] try to find ways to divert their attention or have tools in your belt to whip out. Use distraction. Try hugging or being firm and saying, “We’re done with this. I’m not giving into your cries for another sucker.” No one method works every time. Inside, you’re just wanting to get out of the situation and throw your hands up and say, “I don’t know what you want!” But you’re the mom. You’re the one in charge, so you have to step in and use that patience muscle.
What’s the most rewarding part about being a mother?
The endless laughs. The rewards are endless. Every day I have to remember that and put it in perspective. I have these three eternal beings and have been entrusted to their care during this time on earth. It’s amazing watching their own personalities develop, and hopefully in our little corner of the world, we can help them be people who care, love, appreciate, and give back to the rest of the world while we’re here. It’s a huge responsibility, and sometimes I wonder if I take that seriously enough.
How do you cope with the moments you do feel like a failure as a parent?
It’s great to have a partner. I admire single mom and dads so much because without a parent by your side to rally it would be much more difficult.
My partner is amazing, and we always do things together. The partnership is huge, because there are times I need a break. I need to go run or go out with my friends and get silly or do something that feeds my soul for a little bit.
How is raising a girl different than raising a boy?
It’s different, but I think each kid is different. She was different in the womb. It sounds so stereotypical, but both the boys jabbed me while in the womb, and she just floated. With both boys they found activities they like to do on their own. She likes to do stuff with me. She wants her nails painted. I’m not a girly girl, but I’m having to embrace that side more. She’s also feisty and dresses up as Darth Vader and plays superheroes. She’s the sassiest of my children. It’s more challenging, but a lot of it is just personality.
What traits in your daughter do you love and want to cultivate?
Definitely her independence. From the get go, she’s wanted to do it herself. She wants to tie her shoes herself and brush her teeth herself. [So] Independence, self assurance, and confidence. And I want to cultivate joy. She’s a joyful person, and a sweetheart when she wants to be. She’s in tune when other people are sad. Her brother was crying in the car, and she looked at him and started to cry too. He was crying because she was yelling at him, and then she felt bad.
"I love being caring, not that men aren’t, but I love the softness and strength of women and the ability to navigate difficult situations with grace."
When did you first own your womanhood?
I’ve never had to question my womanhood. As a little girl I remember thinking I was so glad I was a girl when it was me and my two brothers growing up. I thought they had the shaft. They were dirty and fought. I’ve always had positive role models in my life, and I’ve never felt like I had to compete with a man. And I’ve always secretly thought women were better. We should be valued equally for who we are. I felt most like a woman when I gave birth to my firstborn. I’ve never wished I wasn’t a woman. I love being caring, not that men aren’t, but I love the softness and strength of women and the ability to navigate difficult situations with grace. I see a lot of women that do [that], and it’s inspiring.
Who are some of the women who inspire you?
My mom. My two grandmas who have overcome amazing hardships in their lives. My grandma on my mom’s side lost a daughter and her husband early on. She’s so strong and kept persevering. My sister. No matter what happens to that girl she’s like, “I can do this.” She pulls herself up by her bootstraps. She has the ability to talk to people who others are wary of. She always jokes that if she was threatened at gun point she’d be able to put her hand up and say, “How was your day?” to the attacker.
What goal do you have for yourself as a mother and as a woman for this year?
To manage my time more effectively, so I can balance taking care of my kids with connecting with humanity and volunteering. Being less self-absorbed by putting myself into uncomfortable situations and growing from them.