On Navigating Parenthood: Waving Goodbye To Guilt

 Photo by Jessica Alexander/ jealexphoto.com

Photo by Jessica Alexander/jealexphoto.com

Produced by #bossbabesATX, SHE TALKS is an ongoing discussion-based personal and professional development series, tackling topics from finances to intersectional feminism. Our SHE TALKS feature the perspectives of women and non-binary folks. All genders are welcome to attend.

Exploring the intersections of creativity, identity and parenthood, last weekend's SHE TALKS featured a panel discussion on the transformative journey of having children, strategies for self-care and waving one big goodbye to guilt. Held in BBATX’s new HQ on Dec. 1, together we shared notes and talked candidly about our experiences, inspirations and survival tactics. Continue reading to meet our speakers and review a recap of the conversation’s takeaways.


MEET THE SPEAKERS:

 L to R: Barbara Vernéus, Chondra Washington, Heather Gallagher, Jasmine Robinson. Photo by Jessica Alexander/ jealexphoto.com

L to R: Barbara Vernéus, Chondra Washington, Heather Gallagher, Jasmine Robinson. Photo by Jessica Alexander/jealexphoto.com

Jasmine Robinson, moderator and curator
Jasmine is a speaker, community organizer and mentor to college mothers. Originally from Houston TX, Jasmine Robinson moved to Austin Texas with her husband and 2 daughters. She earned her Bachelors of Science in Architecture and received her Masters of Science in Community Development at Prairie View A&M University. During her tenure at PVAMU, she produced and directed the only pageant in the world specifically dedicated to college mothers called, the “Ms. Collegiate Mom Scholarship” where she was awarded $6,000 in scholarships from the Student Government Association to give to the 6 women won titles in her pageant. She also served on the Vice President’s Council, mentored high school students through the Panther Peer Mentorship Program, was a Thurgood Marshall Washington DC Travel Scholarship recipient and served as the Vice President of Programs for Students in Free Enterprise while at her alma mater.  She recently established her non-profit, the Collegiate Mom Coalition (a beneficiary of #bossbabesATX’s upcoming State of the Uterus in January 2019) and is proud to continue serving women by her involvement on the Boss Babes ATX programming committee for 2018.

Barbara Vernéus
Barbara Vernéus is a counselor, social justice advocate and postpartum doula with Tiny & Brave Holistic Services. She has volunteered overseas in Senegal, West Africa for the African Birth Collective and also in Brooklyn, NY at Dyekora Sumda Midwifery Services as a midwife assistant to midwives. She has also been employed as a Live-Advisor at Pathways PA to teenage mothers. Barbara desires to serve families in the urban community; and overseas, such as Haiti in the near future.

Chondra Washington
Chondra is on #bossbabesATX's Programming Committee. Originally from San Antonio, Texas (Keep San Antonio Lame), she moved to San Marcos to attend Texas State University and graduated with a degree in Environmental Geography and a love for all things related to earth processes (weather, erosion, landforms). Chondra currently works at SXSW Conference and Festival as their Community Events Planner and is building the SXSW LGBTQIA+ representation during the conference. She also sits on the Advisory Board for a queer, inclusive badass tech conference, Lesbians Who Tech. Chondra likes to encourage people to wear their hair curly and embrace body hair.

Heather Gallagher
Heather Gallagher is an award-winning and published family photojournalist, editorial and lifestyle commercial photographer based in Austin, TX. With over fifteen years of documenting individuals, families and businesses all over the world, she captures your family or brand authentically and professionally.


here are five takeaways from this SHE TALKS session:

1.) Your identity does change with parenthood—as do your relationships, boundaries, needs, etc. It’s OK for those things to change. It’s OK to let go of relationships, working environments and other things that no longer serve you. When we become parents or caretakers, our schedules and lifestyles change accordingly and that often leads us to make different decisions, take our careers more seriously or cut things out altogether. Relinquish that pressure to keep everything the same.

“So, I made a very conscious decision to move away—physically away—to create emotional distance from my parents [after pregnancy]. They are lovely people, but in my years before becoming a parent, I discovered we didn't have the best relationship. I needed to create physical and emotional boundaries, but I wondered if I was doing the right thing. I moved to Austin on a leap of faith to start over. And in doing that, I started over many times. In the transformation of becoming a pregnant woman, I wondered if I needed to go back, and I decided for my son to be born here… We felt very rooted here. Then, we decided to stay, and it’s been seven years. I had to really make that conscious decision to make concrete boundaries. Professionally, I started taking myself a lot more seriously, as a caretaker, as a partner, and to myself, I am very fortunate to be living what I actually wanted to be doing. After I had my son, I realized that I have someone to be responsible for. Other people can’t give you confidence, though—you have to give that to yourself.” — Heather Gallagher

“I became pregnant unexpectedly, and that shifted everything. I’m a single mom, and I’m totally by myself. During the process of my pregnancy, I asked everything: Will I be a good mom? Do I really want to have this child? Before I had my child, I thought I knew myself. Until somebody else comes in the picture, you don’t know… I learned that I was extremely selfish, and I had to learn how to share my time, and my space and my emotions. My daughter is four, and she experienced me crying for the first time at four years old. Things I used to be proud of, like being strong and not crying in front of my friends—I realized I don’t want to encourage those toxic habits in my child. I want to be emotionally open and apologize when I should. You’re responsible for molding that little person. I think for me, my identity has been either enhanced or reaffirmed. A lot of things I held so tight to, I had to release and be open to the unknown. It solidified things I knew about myself. I have a short tolerance for people who don’t support me.” — Barbara Vernéus

2.) Everyone has different parenting styles—from the choice to breast- and chest-feed to the way you discipline your child—and everyone has unsolicited advice. Your way may not be others’ way. You might not relate to all parents. You might not get along with all parents. You have every right to pursue a community that works for you, without judging what works for others.

“I did extended breastfeeding, and my child is four and half years old. The majority of my family—who share all sorts of perspectives, with lots of cultural differences—they ultimately have their own opinions and so do my friends. I think because of the weeding-out process that motherhood has brought to me and who I now associate with, I have narrowed it down to people that know I’m not going to allow their opinions to affect my parenting. I set up those boundaries for myself. I set up those parameters for myself. For anyone feeling insecure worried about being judged by others, I can’t tell you not to worry. It’s hurtful when people judge you, and they will find ways to judge you. There’s so much noise. Of course you’re going to hear it. You have to be rooted in what you are, and you have to just be okay with that. I think it starts with who you surround yourself with. It’s about mutual respect. Choose who is in your sphere and you have to have a mutual respect for those people.” — Heather Gallagher

“Now that I’m pregnant, I’m being deliberate about who I spend time with, and one of those people is not my mom. How many people can go to their mom and get advice that they want to hear? How many people get the kind of advice and support they want or need to hear? I don’t think it’s anything to beat yourself up about. Pregnancy is suddenly a time for everyone to have opinions about you. What do you do with the unsolicited advice? I’ve had comment cards suggested as an idea. [laughs] The way to be an ally is not to give unsolicited advice. Say you can ‘help with any questions,’ but don’t give that unsolicited. Be there, be present, but don’t be overly present.” — Chondra Washington

3.) No matter what society, friends, family (or even your kids) tell you, you are still you. You deserve time off, you deserve self-care, and you deserve to be your authentic self.

“I’m learning through this that I have a lot of confidence. I don’t care! I am always the last parent to pick up and drop off. At the same time, I am busy. I love my son, but he’s not my whole life. My job is also my baby, and I had that baby first. I feel like I’m supposed to feel guilty but you know what—I don’t. A few years ago, I did. My husband and I own our own businesses, and my son sees us doing that. I’m really proud that he gets to see us do that. I work really crazy hours, and I do it because I love it, not because I have to. I’m wired that way. You don’t have to be beholden to the box that the world thinks being a wife or a mother or a parent is. You can make your own box or sphere, or whatever it is. Your child can fit into your lifestyle. You don’t have to completely change your life to have a child. You just have to be true to yourself.” — Heather Gallagher

“I think it’s much easier to be authentic to yourself when you’re pregnant. You don’t have anybody to care about, besides the person within yourself, and it’s the best time to do what you want for yourself. It’s the shift where you REALLY do what you should have been doing before. I’ve been getting acupuncture! Massages! Water! And I’m not drinking anymore. You never know what’s going to happen: if you miscarry, and you’ve given up yourself and only focused on the identity of becoming a parent, what do you do then? You’ve lost yourself. When I am a mother, that is going to be a more difficult transition. I want to be sure that I feel the best that I always can.” — Chondra Washington

“For me, what comes up is mental health. After having my daughter, I was dealing with post-partum depression and always thinking, ‘How am I going to take care of her? Who am I?’ Even with counseling, even the basic things you know as a counselor, it’s hard to do for yourself. Mental health is a wide spectrum. It wasn’t until I started taking magnesium and now I’m myself again. So, I’m really intentional about who I spend my time with. Don’t tell me how to raise my child.” — Barbara Vernéus

4.) According to the US Department of Labor, as of 2017, 70 percent of mothers are part of the workforce and 40 percent are both the primary caregivers and breadwinners of their household. And despite spending more time at work, mothers are also spending more time than ever on childcare. Even still, care-taking parents report that they feel pressured to be even more involved with their children than they already are. Moreover, sexism, racism, homophobia and other discriminatory beliefs can make parenting even more difficult. Our education systems are often biased and don’t offer full reproductive health education—and our medical system is just as influenced by discriminatory biases as the rest of society. So, if you’re feeling a little pressure to be everything and anything to everyone and anyone at once as a parent, that’s not your fault. That’s a reflection of the bias, taboos and stigmas that still exist.

“Being a mom is a CEO job, so it’s important to find the people that you can trust. And being a woman—period—is powerful. Being graced with being able to bring a child Earth-side… having that knowledge is power.” — Barbara Vernéus

“Being queer, people can’t even think that my baby is an accident! Like I can’t have that space. We are deliberately doing this. It’s a shift in mindset, and in the people I’m around now.” — Chondra Washington

“I struggle with this sometimes, I feel like maybe I’m supposed to have a second child. I project that maybe my child will be upset that he didn’t have a sibling. But I can’t say that I’ve never judged a mother that had eight kids. I come from a culture where the kids are highly valued and contribute to society. We are all human and we all came from somebody. We have to create boundaries and make peace with the fact that we made our decisions. If you care for this child, that’s enough; that’s beautiful.” — Heather Gallagher

5.) Work/life balance is a negotiation, and oftentimes completely unrealistic. So, do things in a way that work for you, your needs and your children’s needs.

“There were so many times I had to be away from my kids since I was a young mom. I was working two jobs, and I used to feel bad. I had goals, I had to finish school, I had to get my masters. I was doing all of that, while single-parenting two children! But when I accomplished what I accomplished, it was so worthwhile. At the end of the day, my children are going to have a way better life than me. To me, I beat the odds. Less than 2 percent of teen moms graduate before the age of 30. The pride that I had—the idea that my kids are old enough to see me and know what’s going on—it was incredible. Understand that your sacrifices are for right now, and that’s not forever. Know and trust that the way you’re raising your kids, they’ll understand. It will pay off. Know that you have a plan in place and that it will pay off. Do the best that you can, and create those moments. Take your kids along the journey with you.” — Jasmine Robinson

I give my mom a lot of grief, but she worked so hard. She was a janitor at McDonald’s her whole life. I was never ashamed of my mom, ever, but she always was, and she brought that shame home. She was the only daughter, born in China in the 40s and was Deaf in a family of four boys. She brought that feeling of not mattering over, but she taught me that my whole life does matter. I hold my mom in such high regard for that. I try to give back as much as I can, but it’s what works for me. Just do what you can, and be okay with it. It’s okay.” — Heather Gallagher

“Make your child a part of finding the balance. Bring your kids! My daughter is gonna see me work. We forget as adults that our kids are always watching and listening. Make your kids a part of what you’re doing. It doesn’t have to be compartmentalized. I feel like it goes back to community. Build your community and make your child see you working, especially in activism. Don’t make it separate. At the end of the day, I’d rather beat myself up fighting for my dreams and see my child know that you can do what you want than see that parenthood robbed me of what I always wanted to do.” — Barbara Vernéus

 Photo by Jessica Alexander/ jealexphoto.com

Photo by Jessica Alexander/jealexphoto.com


MEET THE PRODUCERS

About #bossbabesATX: #bossbabesATX (#bbatx) is an online and offline space for women-identifying and nonbinary creatives, entrepreneurs and community organizers. Through event series, showcases and personal/professional development programs, we've provided a platform of visibility, outreach and financial opportunity to 1500+ Texas-based women and nonbinary creatives, entrepreneurs and community organizers. We make space to catalyze multi-industry coalitions, share our crafts, seek help and provide each other with practical and emotional resources. There is power in our shared experiences. We were named "Best Bossy Babes" of 2015 by The Austin Chronicle, were selected by The White House to attend the United State of Women Summit in June 2016 and inducted into the City of Austin's Hall of Fame in 2017. Learn more at bossbabes.org/bossbabesatx

Our events prioritize the voices of self-identifying women and nonbinary folks. We are not gender-discriminant; all are welcome to attend. This production has been made possible in part by presenting partners Resplendent Hospitality.


To stay in the loop with our SHE TALKS, check out our upcoming events at bossbabes.org/events or sign up for the BBATX email list.

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