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The magic of motherhood has been stolen…I know the thief!

NOTE: I want to touch on the gendered language I used in this post. I am a stickler for inclusive language – you can ask my students. I work really hard to make sure everyone feels heard and represented when I write and speak. In this post I am going to use the term ‘woman’ and in that I am talking to anyone who would like to identify with this term. I am also going to use the word ‘mother’ and again, I am including anyone who would identify in this. The issues I am talking about here are typically found in hetero-relationships, however, this is not exclusively the case. I am talking about work from home mothers, stay at home mothers, work out of the home mothers. No mommy wars here. No one is safe.

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It has been a while since I have posted and for that I am sorry. I have been out of commission in many ways for the last little while. Firstly, I had a hysterectomy 2 weeks ago which was a flippin’ wild ride and I am very much still on the roller coaster of healing. I have yet to even begin processing the emotional and spiritual and sexual repercussions and how this has changed me as a woman. I have been documenting that journey on my business page here.

Aside from my surgery, I have also gone into my ‘mind-corner’ (I do my best thinking there) and I am re-evaluating where I am at in my life. I feel angry. I feel sad. My work feels like an uphill battle in a broken system and I cannot stand taking such a safe position anymore. It is making me rant daily (sorry Alana and Gray), I can feel it choking out my throat, I can feel it draining me. I am going to use my voice. I have outgrown my old skin. Safe is no longer comfortable. I cannot go back.

I have danced around it. I have justified. I have hinted. I have implied. I need to go straight ahead.

I am surrounded by amazing people. My community is wonderful. Choose a ring around me from my very closest and dearest to my arms length members and they are all wonderful as hell. My pre- and post- surgery support for me and my family was such a great indicator of that. Yet, I see a trend over and over again. Women, yes, I am speaking about my female-identified people, are living lives that are mediocre and well, shitty. They have shitty relationships. They feel shitty when they get up. They express they tolerate abuse in their relationships whether it is physical, emotional, financial or verbal. They are taken for granted. They have lost their voice.

My passion is to have women who are parents feel like they are financially and emotionally interindependent in their families. What is this made up word? Well, I heard it from the amazing Dr. CV Harquail  at the Entrepreneurial Feminist Forum Toronto (#EEFTO) conference last month. It was such a perfect word. In the context of relationships, each member of the dyad (or more) can stand on their own financially, emotionally, physically, spiritually… however, they are better and more, together. This can be applied to people or objects…. like a tree versus a forest.

I always felt like this with Alana and could not come up with the word. We are kick ass individuals that together are magic and a force. Pull us apart and we are still pretty awesome.

So, where does my mission for financial and emotional interindependence for mothers come from? Well, I watch women put up with shit and I could not figure out why they would not take the leap towards demanding something better. Why stay? Why are they not insisting they are worth more? Why are they still making excuses for their partner that doesn’t support them? Or doesn’t treat them like the amazing humans that they are? Why are they sacrificing their needs EVERYWHERE and not just the occasional here and there that one does as a parent?

I was recently ranting about this to Alana in bed shortly before my surgery and it was late, and I was tired, and I had ranted over 6 – 8 times that day about different feminist topics and then it hit me. It hit me so hard I felt like such an asshole that it had not hit me earlier. The kids. We put up with so much because we primally want to have our children close. We want to know where they are sleeping. We want to hold them if we need to. We want eyes on them. We want to know what they ate. We want to know they are safe. When you leave, you lose that. Even if it is only here and there. Fuck, that is scary. I know. I did it. I feel like I have lost a limb when Gray walks out the door to visit my ex. I cannot sleep. I worry. I know she is not cared for properly. I know her emotional needs are stifled. I know she is shamed. The older she gets, the more she shares with Alana and I about this. I watch her scared to tell the other household how she feels when she is there. It is so hard knowing that she doesn’t sleep when she is there. She tells us that she feels better at home.

I have been doing this for almost a decade. I am not a parent that has my worth tied up in motherhood. Not at all. That piece is not a complication in my case and I still feel such loss when Gray is not in mine and Alana’s care or with someone I approve of caring for her.

So you stay. You stay and endure financial abuse. Untreated addiction and mental illness. Lost passion. No room for you to put your goals and plans as a priority. Crumbs of seemingly good acts from your partner that carry you through the next week of shit (like being ‘allowed’ to go out for a friend’s birthday dinner and drinks, but you still have to get up the next morning with the kids even though you had a late night since you used up your ‘you time’ on martinis).

We can have better. I want mothers to feel confident in their ability to take up the space with their wishes and wants. Also, it’s a bit ridiculous that I’m referring to a mother’s needs as wishes. I want mothers to have financial stability in their own right so they do not have to stay because they cannot afford anything else. I want mothers to use their voice and not be scared. I want mothers to sparkle. I want to help.

This is me declaring my mission. I have not figured out the middle steps yet. I trust that they will come. I want to hear from women who feel safe and confident and who are thriving in their household. Who can talk about their passions and know that they are respected as much as their partner’s passions. Who can safely tap into their powerful magic. Who feel like they are sparkling. I know you are unicorns. I know motherhood puts us in an inherent state of dependence. Of fear. Of sacrificial love. I do not know where to start picking this apart so I need help. I want to hear ideas. I want to hear stories. Together we can create better.

 

Bianca Sprague meets Green at Home

So, for those of you that don’t know this about me, I am an introvert. Yes, I teach and talk in large groups. Yes, I go out and do social things. The difference is I need to prep myself to do these things and then when I am done, I need to recover with quiet and sleep… sometimes for a day or two. The funny thing about this is I partnered with super extroverts with my best friend, my business partner and my wife. This means I get dragged out to a lot of events. One of these said events was a mixer that was put on by Mamas & Co. for entrepreneurial mamas. Natasha, my business partner, had been a representative for our company with the Mamas & Co. group… or I thought it worked that way. It turns out I also needed to go and be a part of the community.

I was really glad I did!

I had the opportunity to meet dozens of amazing women who were hustling in my area of Toronto, or in the online space. One of these women was Emma Rohmann, the owner Green at Home and co-founder of Mamas & Co., and is a mom to two little ones. Green at Home is for the eco-friendly and health-conscious and they offer amazing resources, services and workshops to get toxins out of your home. Emma started the business while on her second mat leave with her children being the driving force behind the project. After “living green” for over a decade, Emma started digging deeper to make sure she was making the best choices for her family.

bebo miaOne of the many things I love about Emma, aside from the fact that she is also a ginger (we have to stick together), is  that she is non-judgemental with the work that she does. Natasha and I had hosted a lunch BBQ and I shared my love of bleach. Ok, I realize it is terrible toxic stuff, and I love it. I am not ready to give it up. Rather than shaming the heck out of me, which is totally justified, she explained that there are lots of options to replace it and get it out of my home. Not ready to kick my bleach habit, I am closer though, and armed with more info than I was before our delicious wine and grub.

Wading through all the information.

Emma recognizes that there is a lot of information, and misinformation, out there about green living which is stressful or overwhelming for individuals trying to get the scoop.

I did my own research and started blogging to create a more balanced conversation based on facts. I want to make sure my work has meaning, and that I can tell my kids I tried to create a better world for them to grow up in.

And I would call that an amazing mission and passion.

OK, let’s talk about the business side of Emma… Like most moms with their own business, Emma finds it challenging to ‘turn off’ when it comes to her work. Yes, it is awesome being your own boss and she recognizes how hard it is to not keep working away on & in your business.

Being the only one who can make it a success (or failure) puts a lot of pressure on me, and I find myself thinking up ideas and stressing over things at all hours.

Coming from an engineering background, Emma used to have to track her time and now she gets to make her own schedule, which is such a gift when you have children. You can be with them when they are sick, park dates can be incorporated into that 9-5 window and you can do day trips without having to get approval from your boss. Amen! That is why I do my work too!

And the partner piece…?

Emma’s husband is really supportive of her work! In fact, she says that he was championing for her to leave her day job before Emma recognized that this is what she wanted to do!

When I was balancing my day job, Green at Home, and the networking and educational group I co-lead for moms who run their own business (Mamas & Co.), I ended up spending all my free time on my side projects instead of with him. He was incredibly patient, and definitely a key player in the decision to take the leap to entrepreneurship full-time.

I love hearing this so much! I makes all the difference in the world when you have your partner on board with your business plans and goals. It takes more than just a supportive partner, obviously. Emma shares her tips for women who are thinking about starting their own business:

Find a tribe. Like raising a child, it’s so important to have support and encouragement as you build your business. Network and build relationships with like-minded people – it’s amazing what a small world it is when you start connecting with people!

She helps families create a healthier, happier home, simply. She also helps small businesses who want to build their brand to reach the eco- & health-conscious consumer. If you want to know more about Emma, which I suggest that you do, here is everything you will need:

Thank you, Emma, for making the world a better place for all of our children!

Eco Baby Certification

Want to learn from Emma and the bebo mia gals? Check out the Eco Baby Certification so you can be a green expert! If you work with expecting and new families, this certification will help you navigate through the overwhelming eco & green space to support wellness for them and their little ones!

 

Bianca Sprague meets Little Fox & Froggie

I teach an online course called the Maternal Support Practitioner Training for my business bebo mia inc. It is a doula training that covers fertility to the first 6 months postpartum. We offer two sessions a year and running it is a highlight for me! The women it attracts are dynamic and interesting and from all over the world, so their stories and backgrounds make for a wonderful group of humans. One of the exercises we do in the first couple of classes is each student needs to draw the female reproductive organs from memory without looking at Google or any other references for help. I have opened hundreds of emails over the years looking at sketches on scraps of paper, or written on the back of colouring books, or some more Type A gals do colour coded drawings, with question marks as buffers next to answers they are 90% sure are correct. This year my mind was blown.

I received this:

Little Fox & Froggie

Stumbling Across Little Fox & Froggie…

Immediately, I was sooooo in love. I emailed my business partner, Natasha, and told her about it. We thought it was so fun and different and wonderful and beautiful. Natasha explained that Ella Simioni – the woman who submitted this gem – was an artist and sent me over to her business site. That is how I came to fall in love with Little Fox & Froggie.

I reached out to her immediately. Firstly, she lovingly shipped me the original of the uterus drawing for my office (plus some other little goodies) and then she shared why she did the assignment the way she did. She told me that the female reproductive organs reminded her of an elephant’s head and she vividly recalls waiting in her midwifery office during her prenatal appointments and staring at a poster they had of the lady parts required to make and grow a baby. This was her rendition based on her pregnancy memories and the elephant-faced-uterus and friends.

Lil’ bit about Ella.

Ella SimioniElla is a Toronto mama to two littles called Mia and Kipling, or Kip as they call him, who are 6 and 4. I loved her and her brand even more when I heard her fabulous kid names. Clearly, Ella always had this great talent as an artist, however, she didn’t start her children’s illustrations business, a dream she always had, until after having children – she says that they inspired the name for her business. Kids will do that! Interestingly, her Grammoo (which I am going to assume is one of her grandparents) told her to be a greeting card maker. Such wise words, Grammoo!

Ella just oozes whimsy with everything she touches! It is magical. And she shared some beautiful pearls o’wisdom for women who are considering starting their own adventure in business:

Start from where you know, be true to yourself, be real, and try your best to ignore the inner critics – they’re almost always wrong!

Like most self-employed people, Ella enjoys the flexibility of setting her own hours and deciding when and how much she wants to work. She loves her extra cuddle time with the kids, her ‘spontaneous adventures’ and outings such as trips to the library. On the flip side, when you are running a household while juggling two children and a business, it can be hard to fit in the amount of quality time with your children that you would like to have. I know that struggle is real! I love that I get to pick up Gray from school and have her home with me. AND, I cannot have my work day end at 3pm, so I need to work until at least 5pm which still disappoints her. Every. Day.

And… the partner piece?

OK, then we got into the partner portion of her life and business. When you are doing freelance work, it is unpredictable at best. Some of my friends who work freelance talk about the feast or famine aspects and that can be an added stress for a mompreneur. What does her husband say about it all?

I’m fortunate to have a husband who values my being home and working on my own endeavours. He never challenges my slow times – which I thoroughly appreciate. 

Once again I found an entrepreneurial mama who is following her passion and who has the support of her partner. Whoop! I love finding these women since the research stats are clearly showing the support is not there, from husbands, in the vast majority of cases. Thank you, Mr. Little Fox & Froggie!

I wrapped up her interview with an ‘any final comments’ kind of question. Her answer? “Follow your joy.”

Amen sister.

I strongly suggest that you head over via any of the ways that you can get a hold of Little Fox & Froggie – She does fabulous cards and illustrations and nursery art – you will be sure to give a memorable and original gift! You can email her here, or go over to her Facebook page or Instagram channel.

 

Bianca Sprague and Ella Simioni

Bianca Sprague meets Verve Photo Co.

When you flip through the Verve Photo Co. portfolio, a Toronto-based boutique wedding and lifestyle photography company, you are transported to some of the most beautiful weddings… Ever! Photographer Melanie Galbrand-Chen, founder of Verve Photo Co., has been a contributor to WedLuxe Magazine, Weddingbells, The Wedding Co and Style Me Pretty with stunning editorials and real wedding shoots. Her work is so moving, it even makes me (a wedding cynic) feel weepy. Melanie has travelled all over the world documenting couples’ special moments, including their engagement, wedding and maternity shots.

I had the honour of being present for the birth of Melanie and her partner’s first baby, Bijou who is now 5 years old and I fell in love with this fabulous couple. Melanie has a quiet and powerful presence that immediately makes you feel like you are in competent hands. Her wife, Karen, in comparison is boisterous and high energy. Together they are a powerful force. They are parents to two beautiful girls, Bijou and Indigo, now 2.

wedding photographer

Melanie started her business back in 2009, before she was a mom, and since the births of her girls she has been able to modify her business so that it also incorporates the goals and needs of her family. Currently, she identifies as a full-time mom and part-time mompreneur. Even with her clients taking up a ‘part-time’ piece of her life, her days are incredibly long! The ‘mom hours’ are the typical 7am – 8pm, however, her ‘business hours’ are 8pm – midnight or later. Yup, I did the math on that too, and that leaves very little time for sleep. Melanie did highlight that her work is seasonal, but still, during wedding season it does not afford for many free hours for this mama.

Melanie and Karen collectively made the decision to not put their girls in daycare, so Melanie is home with the girls through the week, and Karen’s job also gives her chunks of time off where she can be home with the girls too. They appreciate that this is not an option for all families and they are grateful that it works for them. According to Melanie, this is one of the best things about being your own boss! You get to decide how much or how little you want to work. In Melanie’s field, she loves that she also has creative control over her work. She feels that this is something that she would have to give up if she was an employee.

One of the questions that I love to ask these mamas that are kicking ass in their business: how does your partner play into all of this?

In this case, Karen supports Melanie’s entrepreneurial spirit to the fullest. Karen understands that during Melanie’s busy season they have to sacrifice their one-on-one time during evenings (and some weekends) so that Melanie can work on and in her business. Photographing destination weddings is one of Melanie’s main services so she is regularly out of the country on weekends, leaving Karen to happily hold down the fort.

Thinking about starting your business? Melanie advises,verve photo co

‘Businesses take time to build momentum and you have to be prepared to grow your business consistently in the little time you have as a mom.  Just know that you will get back what you put in, so as little or as much is up to you and what works for your family and schedule.’

Melanie has built an amazing business that has allowed her to grow her career and creativity while being present for her two girls, with her very supportive partner… That is a great gig!

Need a last minute Mother’s Day gift? How about a family photo session with Melanie – a gift that lasts a lifetime! Check out her website and her Instagram channel for more information!

The O.G. Mompreneur

I can lose hours of my day to blogs, Pinterest pages and Instagram channels filled with exciting products, fabulous concepts and passion pouring out of thousands of moms doing what they love. When I follow them I feel so charged and it makes me want to pull out my glue gun or my dusty never-used Kitchen Aid mixer that I got because I loved the colour. When people are writing or selling or making beautiful things it motivates me. I know that it has this effect on so many people… we can see the hashtag #PinterestFail as evidence of this. Those that create such beauty in their brand and business need to be honoured. They are taking a risk by putting themselves out there – heck it is scary as stink to do so! AND when they are doing it with children it makes it extra hard! Promise. So, I want to talk about mompreneurs that I think are cool as shit!

Bianca Sprague MompreneurOk, ok, I get it, my first post is about my mom. *Throw the popcorn and jeer now* however, hear me out! My mom is the O.G. mompreneur. She was the O.G. fill in the blank here for most things that are now main stream. Examples? Home schooling, home birth (which was illegal at the time), anti-vaxxer (this is not me opening up the vaccine debate!), sugar-free, vegan to vegetarian, flouride-free… you know the drill. She has chilled out on most of these things as we got older, but the 80’s were intense. Especially so since there was not a Whole Foods to be found. I can only imagine that it made our ‘life style’ challenging for her. 

Anyway, my mom, Dwaina Sprague, always had little projects on the go. She is one of those women that would have maintained a flawless Pinterest Page, if there had been Pinterest then, consisting of hand made fancy pillows, cross stitch patterns and Puff Paint sleep shirts (it was the 80’s). I did not get her crafting gene. I have more #Pinterestfails than successes. Our birthday parties were themed and lovely and fun in that wholesome way. She puts me to shame and she had 4 of us home. All. The. Time.

Many of her felt crafts or sewing projects would be displayed at the local craft fairs for sale. We would participate however we wanted as she worked away in her craft/sewing room. I would sort the pins into colour codes (yes, I have always been this way!), my brother would play cars at her feet, my older sister would be doing teenage things somewhere in the house and my baby sister would probably be strapped to my mom in the neon blue wrap she had made – I got to pick the colour, and she actually went with my selection.

She continued with her entrepreneurial ventures all through our lives. Her gumption grew as she found herself with more time the older we got. She went back to technical school and graduated from the Design program at BCIT. She started a little firm that she operated out of our home while we were at school – yes, my parents stuck us in private school for high school so that we could get our Dogwood certificate (BC’s high school diploma) and get into university.

When I went away for university, before my sheets were even cold, my bedroom was stripped of all my teenage qualities and her drafting board went up – and her business continued to grow. She eventually outgrew my bedroom/her home office and she moved her business, Good Space Design, to Gastown in Vancouver’s colourful lower East Side.

Bianca Dwaina SpragueMy mom no longer has little ones running around her feet. She no longer has to juggle client care with Costco grocery shopping, hockey practices and ballet recitals. She does continue to fill her days with her entrepreneurial ventures and philanthropic work. She does amazing work with Covenant House Vancouver! Her latest? She is sleeping on the street to raise money so that we can create more shelter beds for homeless youth. Yes, she is a saint practically… my siblings and I all think she is a little bit scary too, how else do you keep four high-spirited children in line?

My mom’s love of beautiful, cozy spaces, her attention to detail, her love of nurturing and caring for others, her super strong nature (she is fierce!), and her raw talent with most things has made her the O.G. Mompreneur to kick off the site. She has also made me the ballsy mompreneur that I am today. So, thanks mom!

The Sprague clan in 2011 with my parents and my sibs and two of the three grand-babies (we got to introduce one more grand-baby to the clan just last year!).