You are a filmmaker, a writer, and sometimes a performer. How do you manage it all, career, and being a hands on mom?
"It’s really tough. It’s a balance. It’s never easy. I think it’s a mother’s lot to always feel guilty. It took me some time to accept this fact. The truth is I never feel like I’m doing enough, both in my work life and in my family life. I’ve become used to feelings of falling short and now embrace it as a reminder that, because I love my kids so deeply, nothing will ever feel like enough for them. Work life suffers for it, but the silver lining is that I’ve become much more efficient. We are still at a funny crossroads as far as women, work and parenting goes. My husband and I are engaged in trying to find language for this and a way to communicate about it in the sense that there is still no social balance between men and women when it comes to family. Men can go work and tend not to feel guilty about it. It’s expected of them. Most women, I think at least, still feel pretty conflicted, guilty, and unable to make it all work. The fact that we don’t have maternal/paternal leave, equal pay, and all that jazz certainly doesn’t help. My number one goal is NOT to expect to manage it all and NOT to try to “have it all.” These are impossible goals. We gotta go easy on ourselves. Parenting historically was much more communal and it really did “take a village.” It’s unnatural for two people to try to work and raise a family without community and extended family support."
In which way did motherhood change your lifestyle?
"Oh wow. In so many ways, as it does all of us. Mostly, and most selfishly, it took me out of myself and got me much more in touch with my priorities. It has made me more confident, more fierce, stronger, because that is who I want my kids to see. There’s the beautiful Elizabeth Stone quote: “To have a child is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside of your body,” and this really couldn’t be more true. I’ve learned what unconditional love is, that’s for sure, and along with that comes the pain and worry that go hand and hand with unconditional love. On a practical level, motherhood has made me much more efficient with work and time. You quickly learn that the days of contemplating your navel are over. It’s all about following your gut and making decisions quickly based on intuition. This has been a gift really, my work is better because I trust it more. Because I don’t have time to question it."
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What is your favorite thing about being a mom?
"Just the little moments that bring me joy on a level I never experienced until becoming a parent. The relationship that my three kids have with each other is really incredible. I’m an only child so to see them cultivating this incredible bond — that only they can share — brings me a lot of joy. They each will have two other people who know them to the core, who they can turn to, who they can rally with (most likely against us parents), who they will have later in life when my husband and I are growing old. I love weekend mornings and “family cuddle." I love it when they do something kind, say something funny, when we all laugh together. I love having a tribe. I never had that before. I love stepping back and watching them find themselves, watching them become the people who they were born to be."
What do you find the hardest in being a mom?
"Oh lord, so many things. The day-to-day tedium (which no one really wants to talk about) is probably the hardest. You know, the meals, the negotiating, bedtime, getting out the door, zipping up winter coats, getting them to walk long distances, buckling seat belts, getting three little humans dressed, morning…the everyday stuff that is really not so fun. But that’s the “all joy and no fun” part of parenting. I’d say the hardest thing is just getting out of their way and letting them grow into themselves. It’s hard to do this without projecting our own desires onto them. It’s hard to know when to step in and when to step aside. Love is blinding that way. A really great parenting book on this topic is Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. It’s all about engaging my kids when they are having trouble and really getting to the bottom of what’s ailing them. This sounds easy, but it’s really a lot more work than just laying down rules, discipline and saying “no.” I’m working on it."
You are well known for your style and amazing vintage finds. Having been pregnant three times, what was your favorite pregnancy look? Any recommendations for pregnant dressing?
"That’s so nice! Thanks! I think I have pregnancy dressing down to a science — for me! We are all different and our bodies react differently to being pregnant. I’d say my two go-to looks are always a really short dress with big heels or a really long dress that hits the ground. Mid-length stuff, pants, and sack-like dresses always seem like such a good idea, but never looked that great on me while pregnant. I always erred toward the ethereal earth momma look."
What are your favorite children’s brands?
"Jersey! Ha… I’m only kind of kidding. Kids like soft stuff. Mine hate zippers, buttons, hard fabrics, sock seams. My two big kids (especially my daughter) have their own style and it’s not like mine at all. My daughter stopped letting me dress her at one and a half. They don’t really have a favorite brand. I struggle with buying kids clothes because they grow out of it so quickly and destroy it even more quickly. It really makes the most sense financially and practically to shop at the big fast fashion stores like Zara or H&M. I do really worry about how the clothes are made and if they’re made ethically. So, that’s my internal battle. I also really love supporting small designers who are making things by hand, so if there’s something really special we will splurge on that. We just will but it a few sizes too big. Sweet William has beautiful things. As do Ace & Jig."
You are a large family. Where are your favorite holiday destinations that you would recommend to families with many children?
"We may be unique in our love for travel with the kids. It takes a lot of patience and the full recognition that vacations are no longer about us. That said, we’ve found that renting apartments (via Airbnb and the like) is much kid and pocket friendlier than hotels. We love going to big cities like Paris, Copenhagen, London and just walking and walking. If you have a stroller, get one of those boards that attach onto the back for tired big kids and hit the streets! I find that my kids really grow on these trips and remember them far more than we realize. We try to mix kid stuff in with museums and never try to stay too long at any one place. We haven’t done a real beach trip yet. That’s next on our agenda. Although I really want to go to Morocco. My daughter REALLY wants to go to Hawaii….we shall see!"
Any traveling tips?
"Mostly just accept that traveling with kids is different than the solo trips of our past. I always pack travel backpacks for them that I give them at the airport. These always include art supplies, books, gum for take off and landing (don’t judge me, it helps once they are old enough), little figurines, paper, and all that. Then they take these bags with them everywhere we go on the trip. Make sure it’s not too heavy or big or fancy, because they have to carry it! This has been a lifesaver over and over in restaurants, planes trains, automobiles, boring grown-up situations…. all of it. We make a plan or two for each day, but otherwise leave the days open to adventure and discovery. You have to have low expectations and then be surprised when great things happen. I think over-planning can get you in trouble and then you run the risk of feeling disappointed in yourself for not doing all you set out to do. We also don’t enforce the same schedule we have at home when traveling. This leads to a fun sense of freedom for the kids and also allows for later dinners and more spontaneity. These are probably terrible tips, but we’ve found they work for us."
Your body is insane. I know you are a pioneer of Ballet Beautiful. Any other workout tips?
"Thanks! I love Ballet Beautiful and have worked with Mary Helen for ages. I think it really is great for pregnancy and post-partum as well. I perform aerially with The Citizens Band and work with my teacher and collaborator Amanda Topaz at Rockitaerials. Amanda is a godsend, she’s prenatally certified in just about everything so I worked with her throughout my pregnancies as well. It’s important to find a form of exercise you love and stick with it throughout your pregnancy and beyond. It’s sad that we’ve turned pregnancy into a bit of a disability in our culture. I really believe that our bodies were built to do this. Whether we choose to or not is its own decision, but as far as pregnancy goes, our bodies know how to do this. In fact, pregnancy and birth are a lot more intuitive than parenting. Giving birth is like running a marathon- you would never run a marathon without training right? So pregnancy should be like a nine month training period before giving birth. The stronger, more in touch with your body, and healthier you are, the easier birth and the first throes of motherhood will be. Granted, things happen, so I always say it’s best to take great care of yourself when pregnant but don’t get too attached to a birthing plan. Anything can happen and the only goal should be a healthy child and momma! Pregnancy is always a great time of physical empowerment for me. It’s this incredible thing that only women can do. It unites us. It’s really beautiful in that sense. And that’s coming from someone who doesn’t always love being pregnant!
"My main workout tip is to make exercise a routine but also listen to your body. You will know right away when something feels wrong — which is different from feeling tired, nauseous or uninspired. Those are all things you really have to fight throughout the nine months. I have always found that the minute I start moving my body I feel better."
What about beauty tips?
"Sunscreen, hydration, a good attitude, and sleep (although that last one is elusive!)."
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On the pursuit to merge a love of art and creative direction with babies and motherhood, new mom Julia Restoin Roitfeld created Romy & The Bunnies, a destination where new and expectant mothers come together for inspiration on everything from pregnancy beauty to busy-mom style. Now, they'll be sharing their advice with us right here on R29, with a perspective that anyone can appreciate, whether you're experiencing motherhood first-hand or not.