All images courtesy of Geraldine Ralph Photography
Last month we had a crazy idea to work with Geraldine Ralph Photography and give away a mini session to one person and their best friend. We got a great response and the lucky winner was Leah!
Instead of bringing a traditional best friend; Leah brought her mom. In Leah’s words, ‘she truly is my bestie – we are very close and she was the Matron of Honor in my wedding’!
How could we say no?! This was such a special opportunity to talk to a mother and daughter duo. We could tell from the first minute of meeting Leah that she is an amazing mother. She traveled over an hour with her daughter, Aviana, and looked completely put together (coming from swim class).
We had a wonderful time talking with her and her mother and plan to stay in touch for the foreseeable future! Welcome Leah to the Mom of Fame!
Tell us about yourself and your family!
I am Leah and I work in communications. I am 34 and I live in the Lansing area with my daughter, Aviana who is 4, and my husband, Jesse. I’m working on campus right now at Michigan State University doing communications and marketing for culinary services; which includes all of the dining on campus. I haven’t always been there but it was good to come back to my Alma Mater and work there. My husband works in communications, as well, in the Department of Transportation in downtown Lansing. We have two cats; [my daughter] keeps them busy, but they’re not very fond of her! One other thing that is nice is that [my daughter] has a lot of close cousins that are around her age.
What is the best piece of advice you were given about motherhood? Did you take it? Would you give that piece of advice to someone else?
What came to my mind most, and is something that has continued throughout [parenting] was that every child is different. Especially as you are going through things like potty training and trying to get them to sleep through the night (we didn’t have any trouble with that, thankfully, she was sleeping through the night at about 2 months old!) When you’re going through any of that stuff I think you just have to realize that every kid is going to be different; they’re all going to catch on at a different time and they’re all going to get there eventually.
I didn’t always abide by that myself; especially with potty training because it took her a really long time to really get interested in it at all. And it took her a while to get to that point. We had a pretty bad incident–we were at a park and she just went and did not have a diaper on. We went to try to use the bathrooms and they were locked! So we had to change her outside and it was just a disaster. I think it freaked her out enough that it just sort of clicked with her all of a sudden and from there on out she was a lot better with it.
Yeah [I would give that advice to someone else] especially knowing that I didn’t always follow that. It’s very easy to just quickly jump to getting frustrated about it or worrying about it too much. And it can apply to so many different things like learning how to walk; and you compare your kid to other peoples kids.
How is motherhood different than you expected it to be?
I think I knew that it was going to be [emotional], obviously your emotions change a lot, but I didn’t realize that you were going to see so much of both ends of the spectrum. Like, you love them a lot, obviously. You have that extreme love part of it, but then you also have the other side. You obviously get frustrated at moments–I think my husband does more so than I do, but you definitely have your moments where you get frustrated. There have been times, too, where one of us has had to have the other one walk out of the room to just go take a minute and then come back. I think I realized that it was going to be that way but probably not to the level that it is.
What are your three strengths when it comes to motherhood?
The first one I would say is definitely communication. Because we both work in communication I think that has helped a lot. Her language development, I’ve noticed, has been a little bit faster than some of the kids in her class. And just in general she knows big words and she can use them the right way most of the time, which kind of surprises us sometimes. And also just making sure that she knows the right meaning of a word. When we realize she uses it the wrong way we just try to explain it to her a little better; use an example so that she understands more what it means.
Definitely patience. You’re put in a lot of situations, like I mentioned before, where it’s easy to get frustrated. So you just have to be [calm]. And my husband is a bit of a big kid himself. The two of them team up sometimes, and it’s all in good fun, but they poke fun at me a little bit, and I just have to roll with it.
The third one I would say is organization. I pretty much have to keep organized to stay on track. I mean I have always been that way; with work too. So keeping track of all of the activities and whatever they have going on at her daycare. They have a lot of different “Spirit Weeks” and Parent-Teacher Conferences. And I mention “Spirit Week” because I recently forgot something and she wouldn’t let me live it down that I didn’t know that it was “Princess Day”. I didn’t drop her off that morning but she got to daycare and her really good friend was wearing an Elsa dress. After Halloween I went to Target and found princess dresses that were on clearance for her to wear next time!
Describe a time when you were completely overwhelmed as a mom.
I had a really hard time with this question because I could come up with a lot. What stood out the most to me was the first few weeks; even just the time being at the hospital and the time being home after that. I think what made it the most hard was that I had to be away from [my daughter] so quickly because I ended up back in the hospital the next day. Thankfully [my mom] was at our house at the time. My husband had to take me back to the hospital because I had a prolapsed uterus. It was not fun to have to leave your baby right away but I was thankful that [my mom] was around.
And during that first few weeks, too, I had tried really hard to nurse, but I had a really hard time. I ended up with very little milk supply; if any. So just trying to do that for as long as I could but then realized that it wasn’t going to work out how I wanted it to. What I would share with other moms is you kinda have to go in to that whole experience knowing that even though you have a plan, it’s probably going to change. You think it’s going to go one way and it’s probably not going to go that way. And you just have to jump in!
Is there anything you feel you have lost since becoming a mother? What have you gained?
I think to a certain degree, obviously, all parents lose a little bit of independence. It’s very very rare that I have a moment where I have the house to myself. Actually, recently my husband took [my daughter] up north to visit his family for a whole weekend. And I was like “I can’t remember the last time this happened”; but at the same time you feel so weird because you don’t want to be away from them. Like you enjoy that time a lot, but when they are gone you feel a little bit lost, too, and aren’t sure what to do with yourself.
I didn’t mention it before when I was talking about our family but I started a Master’s program over the summer. It’s completely online, so it’s a little more flexible, but now I feel like anytime I do get to myself I have to do my reading or do my homework. So it’s not quite the same! But at least in two weeks I’ll be done with the semester and take a moment.
I gained a little version of myself (haha). Everyone tells me that I look so much like her and if you look at pictures from when I was a baby I look just like her. There’s actually a picture [of me] hanging on our fridge at home that she took from my mom’s house and she thinks its her. I love seeing my husband interact with her, too, because they kind of have their own bond. And, like I said he’s somewhat of a little kid himself, so it’s funny to listen to them. Even if I’m in my room getting ready for the day I try to listen downstairs as I hear them interacting with each other.
What do you want your child to learn from you?
I definitely want her to learn to be kind and confident. One of the things I’ve learned just as part of my job–I have to respond to customers and most of those customers are [college] students–so you kind of have to put yourself in their position and really just try to envision how you would want that person to feel.
One of my favorite quotes is from Maya Angelou and it’s “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel”. I try to keep that in mind, even if I think the person’s situation is the most ridiculous thing.
I also want her to never stop learning. There are always different things to explore and being curious about things is definitely not a bad thing. That’s a lot of the reason why I went back to school; to keep learning new things.
What do you admire most about your mom?
What I admire most about her is her drive and dedication. And that can apply to being a grandma as well, especially when you have so many grandchildren. Anytime that we have all been together it’s fun to see the kids together but they always gravitate towards her.
And going back to the never stop learning piece…after she retired she went on to continue doing things that helped her gain more experience and more skills. So she went on to be a certified yoga instructor and now she’s also a certified personal trainer. So just continuing to have that passion for something.