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Mother of Many

Santa Cruz Mothers Share Individual Truths
By Kay Montesanto

Motherhood begins at birth, the revelation that the power of a woman expands into the life of another human being. The act of mothering doesn’t end at birth, though, as these mothers in Santa Cruz know. Being a mother means actualizing care — for one’s own child, for the people she surrounds herself with, and most importantly for herself.

When it comes to being a mother, a working woman, and an individual with a personal life of her own, Lydia Klem and Bonnie Steward know the challenge all too well. Through struggles of differentiating the possibilities for individual children, finding time for self care, and confronting the challenge of being compared with other mothers, these women have proven their strength and resilience through the role of motherhood.

After a photoshoot with Anne Martinete at Suna Lock’s farm house in Happy Valley, Bonnie Steward and Lydia Klem have agreed to answer several questions on the issues of motherhood — the adversities, intricacies, and delights that are involved in the experience. Lets dig in…

Kay: How are the acts of motherhood dependent on your own self preservation, and how do you go about creating space and time for self care?

Bonnie: This is by far one of the hardest things for me to balance in my life as a mother. I know I show up best to my kids when I have shown up best to me first; which feels totally backwards instinctually, but makes a huge difference. My kids know that my "coffee time" in the morning is my alone quiet time. I set them up with all that they need first, then I enjoy my coffee in total silence for about 15 minutes. My kids know the phrase "take a minute" means I am leaving the situation to calm down and get grounded. They both "take minutes" also when they are feeling frustrated or upset. Exercise is a huge part of my life so I try to include that during my day to stay relaxed and grounded with my kids.

I still find myself having to justify (to myself) taking time away from kids or work to do something that seems utterly indulgent.  –Lydia Klem

Lydia: Honestly, this is one of my biggest struggles. I still find myself having to justify (to myself) taking time away from kids or work to do something that seems utterly indulgent. I very much struggle with creating space and time for self-care. 


Bonnie Steward, pictured above.


Lydia Klem, pictured above.

Kay: What have been your most significant challenges in being a mother?

Bonnie: The most significant challenges were the lack of sleep for the first 5 years of my son's life. He woke up anywhere between 3-12 times a night with night terrors or bad dreams. My kids are the pickiest eaters and have totally different palates so feeling like a restaurant has been a huge challenge. I enforce a healthy diet which causes daily meltdowns, pushback, arguments, and a very long dinner time. My son also has severe type 3 ADHD so that in and of itself is a full time job trying to keep on track, having him hear me, finishing and completing tasks, getting dressed, playing well with others, and social awareness. 

Lydia: My biggest challenge has been making time for myself. 

Kay: What does being a good mother look like, and who is to say what that actually  means?

I feel like there is a lot of pressure on moms today to be constantly engaging with your kids, playing with your kids, mindful and gentle communication, etc. A "Pinterest" mom type of lifestyle and I think that is total garbage.  –Bonnie Steward

Bonnie: Being a good mother to me means that my kids feel seen and safe. That they are supported and encouraged, taught boundaries and respect, manners and gratitude. I feel like there is a lot of pressure on moms today to be constantly engaging with your kids, playing with your kids, mindful and gentle communication, etc. A "Pinterest" mom type of lifestyle and I think that is total garbage. I think that direct communication is key to raising my kids, allowing them alone time and imagination time is a must, and if all of their basic needs are met and we still have time at the end of the day to create together-absolutely! But it is not a pressure in my house to always be entertaining them.

Lydia: A good mom is any mom that's doing her best to show up, however that may be, for her family. 

Kay: What does “mom shame” mean to you, and have you experienced this stigma through your process of mothering? If so, in what ways have you experienced this?

Bonnie: I honestly haven't experienced mom shame that much because I don't engage on social media and I keep my choices private and personal. I have a lot of fear around mom shaming or about people spewing their judgements on me, but fortunately I don't take any shit and think people kind of pick up on that energy. ;)

Lydia: Luckily, I think our community here in Santa Cruz has really embraced every style of "momming" and the moms here are so incredibly supportive and respectful of one another. I have family members that live out of state who are confused by my choices to breastfeed past a year or to co-sleep with my babies, but I'm doing what my gut tells me is right for my family, and frankly, it's none of their business.  :) 

Kay: Working mommas— Have you found it possible to “do it all?” Is there anyone in your life who supports you so that you can work, provide care for yourself, and take care of your family?

Bonnie: It feels nearly impossible to "do it all" but when I keep my expectations low and my positive attitude high, it actually is possible. I have been a single mom for several years now and I feel like if I have enough forward insight on what I need and what I need to set up for my kids then it feels doable. My partner is now starting to step into a mom role which I know is a huge deal and shift for her, but also for me. It is always shifting and changing being a mom, managing two kids' schedule, my own personal schedule, my partner's schedule, so trying to take as many deep breathes as possible is a huge game changer. 

Personally, I have no desire to do it all. I feel like that's just setting myself up for failure.  –Lydia Klem

Lydia: Personally, I have no desire to do it all. I feel like that's just setting myself up for failure. Having kids brought me clarity in that respect - all I can do is my very best, but I need to maintain healthy boundaries to have enough "juice" to still be a mindful and present parent. Having said that, I honestly couldn't run my home-based, full-time business without the help of friends and family. Having children finally got me to the point where I felt comfortable asking for help, which has been a huge gift. Knowing when I'm reaching my breaking point with all of the to-do's on my plate and being able to reach out to my network has allowed me to grow both personally and professionally. Nannies, Grandmas, "Aunties" (both blood and chosen) make my life possible!

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