Posts in Totum Mum Crush
On the Need to Keep Dreaming, Building and Achieving with (Almost!) 3 Kids
 

By Candice Piroli Cortés

I met Candice when she was doing my makeup for my little sister's wedding, and she blew me away. She's a powerful combination of warmth, strength, candor and hustle. Whether she's removing tattoos with the only organic product on the market, launching a new skin care brand, or loving her son through a health challenge, she's fully present, creative and unstoppable. Read more about her motherhood story below, and check out her services and incredible organic skin care products here.

-Erin Erenberg

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What was the biggest surprise to you when you became a mom for the first time?

The biggest surprise was learning how strong I could be on my own. When I had my first child I was a single mom who'd experienced four pregnancy losses and a failed marriage. I was living in Mexico by myself. I had no family or friends to rely on. Just my son, Luca and me.

The biggest surprise was learning how strong I could be on my own.

How did you feel about returning to work?

I am a happier person and better mother when I am accomplishing something outside of the home. I have major respect for full time mothers because I am not able to be my best self without working outside the home. Full time motherhood is so hard. My business is my second baby, and I enjoy nurturing that too.

I am a happier person and better mother when I am accomplishing something.

Did you plan to breastfeed your baby? How did it go? Better or worse than expected?

Yes, I did plan to breastfeed. I was not able to with my first son but I managed it for almost a year with my second son, Giovanni. Now pregnant with my third, I do plan on breastfeeding this baby as well.

What were your expectations going into nursing your baby, if you had any?

I honestly did not know what to expect. I just wanted to breast feed him for as long as I possibly could.

If you lost a pregnancy and want to share your story, we would be grateful to hear from you in order to support other women going through the same thing.

I actually lost four babies. Four in a row. I was treated at Magee Women's Hospital with the director of Maternal Fetal Medicine, and they could not understand why I had such an easy time getting pregnant but I could not hold the pregnancy. I have a theory: I was with the wrong man. After seem things happened that I could not forgive, my marriage ended, though I had a child with my first husband via gestational surrogacy. I was a single mother in Mexico when I met my current husband. Three months after my first son was born, I found out I was pregnant with my second son. It happened effortlessly with my current husband Aaron. I had no blood clots, no issues, and I carried our son for so long that I had to be induced. Now I am pregnant with my third baby. So far so good. I will keep you posted.

I actually lost four babies. Four in a row...they could not understand why I had such an easy time getting pregnant but I could not hold the pregnancy. I have a theory: I was with the wrong man.

Was your partner supportive of your decision to go back to work or stay home with baby? What did that decision look like for you?

My husband, Aaron is one of the most selfless people I know. I truly believe he was sent from God because this man saves my life every day. He is my biggest cheerleader. I have taken 10 advanced classes since becoming a mother. These classes are sometimes out of state for a week long. Never once has he tried to stop me. Instead he helps me to book my flights and tells me how proud he is of me. Aaron knows that I struggle with depression and anxiety. I need to be building, dreaming, achieving. Because I am a business owner I do have a flexibility that allows me create my own schedule as well as be there for my children when they are sick.

Did you decide to hire support after giving birth, e.g. baby nurse, nanny, housekeeper?

We are very fortunate to have the help of family as well as daycare for our children.

What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

I miss showering when I want...alone, ha! And sleep. Restful sleep!

What has been the best thing you've given up since becoming a mother?

The best thing I have given up since becoming a mother is fake friends. I have meaningful relationships now and I am very grateful for my tribe.

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Totum Mum Crush x Hello My Tribe: Tosca Musk
 

Share a bit about yourself, family, and professional background with us.

I am the youngest of three, and the only girl. So you can imagine what that was like growing up. I learned to play soccer and participated in spitting fights like the best of them! My family was (and is) very close, and we spent every weekend with my cousins (also boys x 3), my mother’s twin sister’s children. We’re still all very close, spending most of our “off-work”, and some work time, with each other. It’s a wonderful way to be brought up and I hope to create that experience for my children too.


I’m a single mother by choice. I have 2 amazing children (b/g twins) with an anonymous sperm donor. I’m a strong advocate for women going for what they want without the pressure of social norms preventing them from achieving their dreams. I founded a company called Passionflix. Passionflix is a streaming platform that focuses on the female gaze. We take best selling romance novels and turn them into movies and series, and release them on our own platform along with curated studio features. Anything from Pride and Prejudice to 50 Shades of Grey. Our mission is to empower women through emotional strength, removing the shame from sexuality and sensuality, and showing a new way to present themselves, with strength, in all situations. We’re strong advocates for “people see, people do” and believe media has a role in showing people a more positive way of dealing with situations. Our mandate is love, passion, romance and hopeful/happy endings.

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What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood?

The highs are obvious: 2 amazing children; unconditional love; a feeling of belonging and of being needed that’s remarkably fulfilling. The lows… perhaps a little loneliness at the same time. As a single mother, it is inevitable that you will be alone. Once the kids are asleep, and the house is quiet, you can’t leave. The freedom of randomly popping out the house for a drink with a friend is gone. There is a sense of time passing, and a little bit of missing out on some fun times, hits at those quiet times. But the highs so outweigh the lows, and time passes so quickly, that those feelings are fleeting. I’d do this all over again, if I had to go back. Maybe even a few years earlier. Having children was the best decision I’ve ever made.

What surprised you most?

The biggest surprise is how much it changed me into a grounded, kinder, more patient human being. Children, for me, were life changing in the best way. I realized what was important to me, to fulfilling my life. It removed any kind of social barrier I’d ever put in front of me. And it allows me to ask for, strive for, know I can achieve, all the things I want from life.

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How do you practice daily self-care?

I go for an hour long walk with my kids in the morning. I read (or listen to audibles) of books that I feel can broaden my viewpoint. I try to go to the gym everyday. And I focus, work-wise, on making sure that every decision I make I can back up with a solid belief system.

Healthiest daily habit you practice?


A glass of wine every day…

And worst?

A glass of wine every day :-)

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This Mum Crush is in collaboration with Hello My Tribe and begins a series we are hosting together on moms who have recently rocked our worlds. 

I met Alex Winkleman Zeplain, Founder of Hello My Tribe, in January, when we were both chosen to be a part of a challenge to do a combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts every day for 30 days. What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to connection among the participants. When Alex was introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Hello My Tribe and Totum Women. Additionally, Alex and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.


With love,

Erin & Alex 

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Totum Mum Crush: Allison Oswald
 

Allison Oswald, PT, DPT, WCS, CPT founded her private clinic, Plumb Line Studios in Santa Monica in 2011. Allison works with clients on an individual basis and sets up the proper treatment plan for them, utilizing other aspects of her clinic, such as Pilates, lymphatic treatments, massage and more. As a mother herself, Allison finds her passion in working with women who are in their childbearing years and postnatally, as she knows first hand, this area of health can be challenging without the proper support. Allison lives in Santa Monica, CA with her husband and two sons.

*Follow ALLISON on Instagram*


For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

Motherhood surprises me everyday, both the the sweet moments and the challenging ones. But overall I think I was most surprised by the pure magnitude of love that one can possibly have for another person. Children seem to fall into a different heart space than anything or anyone else. I feel like my children are a part of my soul, and the love I have for them will never diminish. This doesn't mean there aren't difficult moments/days/weeks, but even with the tantrums and the constant negotiations, I feel that love in my heart.

Children seem to fall into a different heart space than anything or anyone else.


How did you feel about returning to work?

As I entered motherhood with my first son, I had also just opened my physical therapy studio 8 months prior. So it is with no hesitation, that my most memorable challenge was finding balance as I returned to a working schedule. I vividly remember wanting to go home to nurse him between patients so that I wouldn't have to pump. So I would race home, nurse, and then race back for my last couple of hours. One day driving home I ran a stop sign and was pulled over, I started sobbing unconditionally, leaking milk everywhere and the thoughtful police officer (who was a father), consoled me and told me how difficult it is for moms to juggle it all (with a warning to stop more completely too). In that moment, which was both my low and high, I realized what I was trying to achieve was impossible. I couldn't do it all, I needed support and it was up to me to ask for it. That was the lesson I needed and still remind myself of every day.

Allison Oswald


What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

After giving birth I definitely felt supported on the physical aspect, as that is what I educate other women about on a daily basis. But I don't think I was prepared for the moments of loneliness in the initial postpartum period. Even with all of the support around me, I remember feeling so alone. I'm still not quite sure if it was the fact that there are many things that only a mother can do (ie. nursing) or that I felt like I didn't know enough to be a mom. But what I do know is that all that helped was talking to other moms. Sharing experiences with them was so reassuring, in that none of us know all the answers and that we need to follow our mama instincts from the start!
 

Even with all of the support around me, I remember feeling so alone.

WHAT HAS MOTHERHOOD MEANT FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR PARTNER AND/OR YOUR OTHER SIGNIFICANT RELATIONSHIPS?

None of us ever know what type of parent we or our partners will be, until we actually have a child. My husband fell into fatherhood seamlessly. He was and is so involved in every aspect of parenting – from swaddling to changing diapers – he did it all without hesitation. And seeing him willingly participate made our connection, our understanding of one another, our love and our mutual respect grow exponentially. We openly discuss the highs and lows of motherhood and parenting, and I believe that communication like this is really key for any successful relationship.

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DID YOUR CENTRAL VALUES CHANGE OR SHIFT IN SOME WAY THAT YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE?

If anything has changed with my core values, it's just that I want to be sure they are transparent to my children. I believe showing them by example is the best lesson, so I think about them a little more intentionally than before having children. And then we often talk about how certain actions make us feel, especially the positive ones. This creates a conversation with your littles that will hopefully leave an impression and seamlessly become a part of their lives as well.


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Mum Crush x Hello My Tribe: Joy Fehily
 

This Mum Crush is in collaboration with Hello My Tribe and is part of a series we are hosting together on moms who have recently rocked our worlds. 

I met Alex Winkleman Zeplain, Founder of Hello My Tribe, in January, when we were both chosen to be a part of a challenge to do a combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts every day for 30 days. What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to  connection among the participants. When Alex was introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Hello My Tribe and Totum Women. Additionally, Alex and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.

With love,

Erin & Alex


Joy Fehily

On Motherhood

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Share a bit about yourself, family, and professional background with us.

I was raised by a motivated and energetic Chilean immigrant father and a wise and graceful Italian mother from Brooklyn. Both were spirited and loving, and they encouraged me to believe that I could do anything. After earning my Communications degree at USC, I ventured into the entertainment business and soon found my passion for publicity and branding. Twenty-three years later, I’m still enjoying guiding the images of some of the top actors, writers, producers and directors in the business today. I am married to an incredible man and my best friend who also happens to be one of the most talented writers I’ve ever met. He is a writer on the number one show on the planet, NCIS. We have two daughters (8 & 11) who have inherited my parents' energy, grace and wisdom.
 

What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood?

The lows began with the realization that nobody in my life could do this with me or for me. My husband and I were so extremely close and did everything together that I was shocked when I came to the realization that parenthood really is different for a mother versus a father. The transition to motherhood is such a change to your personal identity that I wasn’t prepared for how long it would take me to adjust. I had to get to know my new self while being completely obsessed and overwhelmed by this new little being that took my breath away— yet also took my freedom away.

When I returned to work after my maternity leave, I had the greatest physical yearning I’ve ever experienced in my life. My body and soul couldn’t wait to see her. I would describe it as leaving my arm at home all day, and I couldn’t wait to put it back on to feel whole again. The highs of early stages of motherhood are other worldly. I felt and continue to feel my heart actually expand with pure love and awe. The creation of life is a miracle and it is the greatest high when you see your little miracle sleep, eat, smile, laugh and even cry.

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What surprised you most?

I was surprised to learn that I wasn’t as strong and independent as I thought I was. I was surprised by how desperate I was for likeminded “mommy friends.” I needed a new tribe that was going through exactly what I was going through and when I found it, it was life-changing. I discovered that strength and independence can also mean knowing when to admit you can’t do something alone.
 

How do you practice daily self-care?

There are several ways I practice self-care and I’m still working on making it a daily occurrence. I’ve been going to a wellness retreat with my mother for the last six years. It’s one week a year where I reconnect with myself and also spend uninterrupted quality time with my mom. I was just like many working moms that think they could never take a week off just for themselves, but now that I’ve done it, I will never not do it. I have an a-ha moment every time and I come home a better wife and mother. Last year it hit me hard that the best way to take care of those I love is to take care of myself. I’m a giver at heart, but I can’t do it when there is nothing left to give. I have now added in exercise, meditation and journaling into my life. These practices have brought me more internal peace, balance and gratitude than I ever thought possible.

I’m a giver at heart, but I can’t do it when there is nothing left to give.


Healthiest daily habit you practice?

I have three daily habits to share:

1. My husband and I make a “kitchen sink” shake for breakfast. It has everything you can think of- fruits, veggies, all sorts of protein and energy powders, probiotics, oils, nuts, seeds, aloe vera, etc. I do my best to eat healthy all day, but this shake gives me the mental freedom to know I can cheat a little!

2. Sunscreen. I love the sun and I live in Southern California, so I’m in it a lot.  I refuse to hide from the thing I love, so I won’t leave the house without putting on sunscreen. Those brown spots and wrinkles my mom always warned me about are real!!

3. I never, ever leave my husband or children without a kiss goodbye. I tease my girls that they’ll have a bad day without it- I know I will!


And worst?

I don’t drink enough water every day. I’ve realized that I just need some flavor, so I’ve started pureeing ginger and freezing the liquid in ice cube trays. One ginger cube with hot water and lemon makes an energizing drink.  

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How have your priorities shifted over the last few years?

Everything shifted when my youngest turned five, and I realized I didn’t have babies anymore. That’s the threshold where motherhood gets less physical and more mental. It is no longer about chasing them around to eat or change their diapers, it’s now about guiding them through adolescence and beyond. As they grow, I’m learning that it isn’t just about the one thousand things we do every day to take care of them, it’s about being present. It’s about listening and being their constant source of love and support. So, I’ve shifted my schedule so I can pick them up from school 1-2 days a week. Spending more time with them — quality time that doesn’t involve rushing to get them to bed or get them to school — has become my main priority.

As they grow, I’m learning that it isn’t just about the one thousand things we do every day to take care of them, it’s about being present. It’s about listening and being their constant source of love and support.

Piece of advice you want all women to have as they transition into motherhood?

Be prepared to find your new identity. You will change. Drastically. It is hard, but the reward for that journey is worth it.

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Totum Mum Crush x Hello My Tribe: Elsa Marie Collins
 

This Mum Crush is in collaboration with Hello My Tribe and begins a series we are hosting together on moms who have recently rocked our worlds. 

I met Alex Winkleman Zeplain, Founder of Hello My Tribe, in January, when we were both chosen to be a part of a challenge to do a combo of 300 squats, push ups, sit ups, lunges and leg lifts every day for 30 days. What a weird way to meet, but the challenge included accountability via group text that led to connection among the participants. When Alex was introduced to the group, I was astounded at the similarity of the mission of Hello My Tribe and Totum Women. Additionally, Alex and I share a joy in collaboration over competition, and our first project together is to share some profiles of the awe-inspiring women who joined us in our January challenge.


With love,

Erin & Alex 


Elsa Marie Collins

On Motherhood

First up is Elsa Marie Collins. Elsa rose to the top of our list because she's been a force in the fight for justice for immigrants and is delivering aid to child detainees this week. Here's her incredible story, with an introduction about how she became an advocate for child detainees.  

Tell us a little bit about your current work to fight injustices against immigrant families.  

When the news first hit of young children being detained and separated from their parents this summer, Elsa Collins called her sister, Yolanda Selene Walther-Meade and said, “We have to do something.” The first and fifth of five children raised on both sides of the border, the sisters took their experience in social impact and crossborder issues and issued a rallying cry to their networks.

A group of us banded together and collected goods (backpacks, toiletries, blankets, books and toys) and had over 80 boxes to distribute to separated children at a facility, Casa Cornelia, the non profit legal clinic representing these children as well as Border Angels.
 

Share a bit about yourself, family, and professional background with us.

The youngest of five children, I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and moved to San Diego at the age of 16. After finishing high school in San Diego, I went to Stanford for my B.A. and Masters Degree followed by the obligatory Sex and the City phase of living in New York City where I got my JD from Columbia Law School. I met my husband at Stanford, yes we have been together since I was 18, and because of our careers and lives we have maintained a long distance relationship for the majority of the time.

Settling in Los Angeles while my husband, Jarron, was playing basketball in Utah, I co-founded BabytalkLA, a parenting education company addressing issues on raising children and parenting. I transitioned from there to working for Fusion/Univision on their social impact strategy team working on campaigns such as: the push to eradicate solitary confinement for juveniles, early childhood education and the value of mentorship with the organization My Brother's Keeper.

Most recently, I co-founded The Ideateur, with Liza Pasciuto, a social impact and political consulting group focusing on sports, culture and the entertainment space helping clients construct a strategy to address the issues they care about and then move the needle in the direction they want to see it shift.

I have three children, Alessandra 9, Valentina 7 and Massimo 6.

What shocked me the most was how many things I started doing that I said I would never do because I hated it when my mom did it!

I continue to educate on parenting through articles and essays published at Lenny Letter and Parents Latina addressing how to talk about race with your children and addressing the gender bias when having children.
 

What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood?

The transition to motherhood for me has always been a windy road. The ultimate high for me was giving birth. I had never felt more powerful or in awe of my own body. This continued especially with my second and third children. Every time I went into the hospital I was beyond excited. Being pregnant was never my cup of tea, but giving birth? Oh I was born for that. I will miss that more than anything (yes I am done having kids).

I think the biggest difficulty I had with the transition was realizing that I had to change the way I made decisions about everything in my life. From where was a good place to live (are there good schools nearby), to eating that piece of cake for dessert (have I gotten my body back?) to having coffee with a girlfriend (she has no kids will she be bored if I talk about mine?).

What surprised you most?

I think the right word is shocked. What shocked me the most was how many things I started doing that I said I would never do because I hated it when my mom did it! I always used to hate going to church and proclaimed when I had kids, I wouldn't have them go to Church...my girls are having their First Communion this summer. When my brother and I used to fight, my mom would never pass judgement on fault unless she had witnessed it. I would be so mad as a kid saying this is what happened Mom and I will never do that...I now use that line.  If I didn't see it, I don't want to know, you need to figure it out.
 

How do you practice daily self-care?

Other people's glass of wine is my workout. That is how I express my self-care. Whether it’s a run, a pilates or yoga class, not only do I need it but I have no guilt when I do it because I know it makes me a better person.


Healthiest daily habit you practice?

Going to bed right after I put my kids to bed.


And worst?

Looking at my phone in the middle of the night.

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How have your priorities shifted over the last few years?

I want my kids to know they come first. If you would have told me years ago I would be the head of the PTA at school I would have laughed in your face. But I want to be involved in the community where my kids spend the majority of their days. Since my husband lives in the Bay Area for 10 months out of the year, being at practices and games and performances take precedent over everything and that is a welcome adjustment. I also realize that I need to take care of myself as much as I am taking care of the kids. So going to bed early, drinking water, all of the things I encourage my kids to do I also try to do! And of course when my husband is home, leaving the kids to do a date night or a short vacation is essential
 

Piece of advice you want all women to have as they transition into motherhood?

My best piece of advice is to not compare yourself or your kids to anyone else. This parenting role will go on for the rest of your life and it isn't worth wasting your energy to continue to look around you and compare. Embrace who you are and who your children are!

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Totum Mum Crush: Daniela Rey
 

Daniela is a mindful mama, photographer and the founder of Mama Niela. She is dedicated to shooting and sharing the stories that make our journey through motherhood special. Daniela lives in Los Angeles with her daughter Amelie and her husband Grant.

*Follow Mama Niela on Instagram*
 

MAMA PORTRAITS

Daniela offers at-home photography sessions in Los Angeles for mamas with babies of all ages. If you’re in the area, and can’t remember when was the last time you got professional photos taken with your little ones, click here for more information or to contact Daniela and book a session. Your story is beautiful and worth being told with photos!


Daniela Ray

For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

I still remember. Amelie was but a week old when she caught her first cold. Her tiny body, so congested and uncomfortable. So hard to see and so little you can do. Then one time, while breastfeeding, she chocked on some milk. No oxygen was going in, she was quiet, quickly turned purple and went limb. I froze and held her up, moaning for help. Her dad picked her up, hit her in the back, and brought her back. Back to life and to my arms. An X-ray the next day found some milk in her lungs … something easy to fix with lots of pats in the back. But the lesson I learned stayed with me forever. This beautiful baby, so unique, so little and so mine, yet, not really mine at all. The idea that something could happen to her and I couldn’t stop it. Unbearable.

This was the biggest surprise. This feeling so many moms before me have tried to describe, but that is so hard to explain in words. My heart now lives outside of my body. I can’t control much of what happens to her, and that makes me feel so vulnerable. So anxious, so scared, so stressed, so helpless. 


How did you feel about returning to work?

Before Amelie was born I quit a job teaching graphic design. They refused to give me maternity leave, so I quit with a 7-month belly and went home to rest. The teaching gig was something temporary while I figured out what to do next. I had graduated from film school and spent a few years getting my foot in the door, only to realize that the life I wanted was not possible within the confines of the Hollywood film industry. The long hours and big egos didn’t feel safe to me.

My whole family lives in Colombia and I wanted to make them a part of my new journey. I wanted them to connect with Amelie so they could love her and feel ownership of her … even at a distance. So I began to take photos and share my story on a Spanish blog. And although it was intended for my family, soon Hispanic mamas from all over the world began to connect and leave me comments. This little blog idea helped me connect with more people than I thought possible, it became an empowering creative outlet for me, and it unleashed a passion for motherhood photography I didn’t know I had. 

This was the beginning of my brand, Mama Niela. A project of love that has gone through a few metamorphoses and is constantly growing, just like I grow in my motherhood journey. At its core, I love to meet other mamas. I love when they invite me into their homes and let me photograph their story even if they think it’s all a mess. Photography has this beautiful way of capturing the stillness in the chaos. I’ve been told before that my photos help moms see themselves as moms for the first time … and see the magic in the craziness they think they’re living at home. I know it's done that for me over and over.

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What do you miss most about your life before becoming a mother?

I keep chasing a need for alone time. I think what I miss the most is a healthy dose of selfishness. I miss doing what I want when I want it. But on the other side having limited alone time, has made me value it so much more. A couple of hours at a coffee shop, like I’m doing as I write this, are so precious. So much more than they ever were before.

With a 5-year-old, I think what I miss the most is silence … and less laundry ;)

But to be honest, I was born wanting to be a mama. And when I became one it felt like everything made sense. This is without a doubt, my purpose in this life. So much so that it became the core of my business, just like yours a Totum!

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Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Mum Crush: Sandra
 
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I am Sandra--I only go by one name now (there's a story behind that as well). I live in Northern New Jersey and am a Chef by trade. Former dance teacher, mother of five incredible humans and grandmother to three amazing grand babies. I believe that part of my purpose here is to encourage, nurture and guide everyone who crosses my path using my life experiences, pulling from my inner faith and strength. I value personal time more than material wealth or "things" but family time and communication are as essential to me as breathing. 

My favorite quote is "Your life is what YOU say it is!" I'm a firm believer that you can actually SPEAK things into existence and that no matter what happens in your life, if you stay focused on the good parts of it, you'll be okay! I SURVIVED!!


For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

Although my children are all grown up now, the biggest surprise about becoming a Mom for me was the discovery that I could survive motherhood and tell my children (particularly my daughters) the story of my experiences to apply to their journey with their own children. I learned patience (sometimes more than I thought I had) innocence, pure joy, kindness and commitment. The ability of the child to teach YOU is amazing because they do it without even being aware YOU'RE the student!


What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? Were they related to a specific experience like recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, or the question of working outside the home? 

As a single Mom, I did not have guidance or instruction from other women to apply to my expectations of what motherhood really entailed. It was literally hands-on learning and baptism by fire. I gave birth to them all naturally (no epidurals!) and breast fed each one, instinctively. Not only did it felt so natural, truthfully I really didn't have the resources to provide food across the board. It made sense to me that if I could at least eat enough to sustain myself, I would be able to feed and provide for all my children. Working outside of the home was only an issue for me because I didn't want to be apart from them --ever! I once gave up a full time, good paying job with benefits for a part-time job outside of my career path so that I could be there for them when they needed me--I felt this was super important since I was the only parent in their lives at the time.  


As you faced the enormous changes in your life after giving birth - physically, emotionally, added responsibilities and lifestyle shifts - in what areas did you feel supported? And where/how would you have liked more support?

I really did not have support at all. Everything changed for me! I didn't sleep when they slept because that was my time to bathe or shower, prepare food or do chores. I didn't go out to socialize or hand my children off to someone every weekend.  I dug myself into work so they would be taken care of and at least have the basics. I didn't want to rely on the system and it was really, really hard at times. I lived in shelters with them and saved every penny that I could to keep moving toward a better life. I certainly would have loved to have more support from my family and those I thought were friends. I don't have any regrets however, I feel the experience gave me the wisdom to empower other single parents who may feel hopeless and alone.
 

What has motherhood meant for your relationship with your partner and/or your other significant relationships?

I currently don't have a partner but I feel those who are my friends acknowledge and respect the strength and wisdom I have as a mother of five children. Every now and then they remind me of that strength and so do my children--their relationship is and will always be the one I cherish the most because when I see them, its a reflection of something I've done thats okay with the world. 

Whether it was my heart, my home or the kitchen table, the trials and joys of Motherhood truly outlined my purpose.


Did your central values change or shift in some way that you'd like to share?

I've always opened my heart and my home to my children as well as those not my own. The lack of parenting and nurturing that I grew up with, the environment of dysfunction and the abuse was something I never wanted to see in the life of ANY child. I don't believe my central values have changed. I think that any time a person changes their core values, it takes away from the experience and causes regret and guilt. There was however, a definitive shift into becoming a place of peace and safety for any child to come in and be nurtured. Whether it was my heart, my home or the kitchen table, the trials and joys of Motherhood truly outlined my purpose.


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Mum Crush: Yhanni Jamila Brown
 
 Photo by Quinn Moss Photography

Photo by Quinn Moss Photography

I am a mama of a 5 year old big brother and 10 month old twin girls with NICU PTSD and postpartum anxiety. I am on a mission to recognize my worth and all the hard work I put in as a mother (this sentence alone makes me happy!) When I’m not cooking, or changing a diaper or playing Legos I’m curating events that connect women. Mama Makers Collective is all about celebrating mother business owners & self care through creative expression!

Connect with Mama Makers Collective on Instagram.



For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

The biggest surprise in my journey as a mother, thus far, has been how challenging it is! It is so HARD. Particularly with multiple children. I am in the thick of raising three incredibly spirited, independent beings. It is crazy, beautifully HARD.


What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? Were they related to a specific experience like recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, or the question of working outside the home? 

When I think “transition to motherhood” I think fourth trimester. That time was a complete blissed out blur.  A high and low in itself. Being stripped down to my pit after a long birth, yoni bleeding, boobs leaking, hips aching but so in love with our child.

I am on a mission to recognize my worth and all the hard work I put in as a mother.


As you faced the enormous changes in your life after giving birth - physically, emotionally, added responsibilities and lifestyle shifts - in what areas did you feel supported? And where/how would you have liked more support?

I felt so supported with meals and well wishes after the birth of our first. One thing I really wished we had was more financial support. My partner and I were young when we had our first. We were still figuring out how to finish paying our midwife let alone all the other bills. Oh, the new parent struggles!

 Photo by Cynthia Perez

Photo by Cynthia Perez

What has motherhood meant for your relationship with your partner and/or your other significant relationships?

I have grown so close to the father of my children. We have journeyed from friendship to dating to parents to marriage.  At the same time, we have been pushed apart romantically.  It's a sacrifice that happens when you have young kids.  Just means that date nights are EXTRA special.  My love for him grew as I watched him with our children. He was meant for fatherhood.  


Did your central values change or shift in some way that you'd like to share?

I wasn't attached to anything very strongly before I had kids. My core values have been built around raising healthy, well-rounded children of color. That allowed me to step into motherhood with no expectations. My core values have stayed the same. I have and will always be a crunchy, prideful mama!


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Mum Crush: Amy Eldon
 
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Welcome to the Totum Mum Crush Series

Our first Totum Mum Crush is on Amy Eldon. Amy and her mum started Creative Visions Foundation to honor the legacy of her brother Daniel, who was killed while using creativity to fight for freedom in Mogadishu, Somalia. I met Amy in 2012 at a meeting about a work partnership to support other filmmakers making impact through their work. I was bursting-pregnant with our first, and Amy welcomed me into motherhood by sharing her story and even setting up a preschool tour for me at the school she loved for her sons.  Fast forward some years, and we were reconnected through my chance encounter with her stepfather, who calmed my daughter's tantrum in the pharmacy line at CVS.  While he comforted my then 2 year old Arabella, he shared that he had a granddaughter named Arabella and shared her last name. Long story short, I reconnected with Amy about that coincidence and now enjoy her monthly "Spark" meetings for women in the LA area and play dates with our Arabellas.  

Amy is truly a world changer. But what I love most about Amy is her humor, confidence, generosity and directness. Somehow I come away from every encounter with her feeling half an inch taller and better about myself and life in general. Without further ado, here's Amy's response to our Q&A. Enjoy the belly laugh to come with this read.

Love, Erin

 

Totum Mum Crush: Amy Eldon


For you, what has been the biggest surprise about becoming a mother?

I had no idea how time-consuming parenting is. There’s not a moment for self-reflection. Now I get what CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour said when I interviewed her for a show on motherhood, “You can do it all, but not at the same time.” 

It’s a real struggle juggling all aspects of your life when you have kids. Something has to give. Still, I try not to beat myself up about the things that slip through the cracks—like exercising and cooking gourmet meals. Or any meals. 

The other surprise for me has been the assortment of children that popped out of me -- each with his or her own character. It has been interesting, actually baffling, as I learn to handle each personality type, knowing I need to model Mr. Rogers when he said, “I love you just the way you are.”

I am certainly learning on the job, although I know I should/could be reading the parenting books that sit on my bedside table that reflect the latest issues I’m dealing with.  


What highs and lows did you experience as you transitioned to motherhood? Were they related to a specific experience like recovery, breastfeeding, sleep, or the question of working outside the home? 

Lack of sleep has been my biggest challenge. Our three-year-old is still in our bed (how do I not have this down after three kids??), so I am tired all the time. Even before I go to bed I’m already getting wound up about not getting enough sleep. Without rest I get very emotional and stressed out — so right now I am very emotional and stressed out. I keep trying to remind myself that "this too shall pass," but it is so hard to believe that it will ever end.


As you faced the enormous changes in your life after giving birth - physically, emotionally, added responsibilities and lifestyle shifts - in what areas did you feel supported? And where/how would you have liked more support?

I feel so lucky to have an amazing circle of girlfriends who support me and don’t judge me for occasionally flicking my kids off behind their backs and forgetting to pack their lunches. You need good friends who make you laugh because a lot of the mothering job is boring. Registering for things online and reading the same book 100 times is not exactly what I envisioned when I was dreaming of little booties and mobiles.  

I have an incredible baby sitter from Indonesia who literally looks after all of us. She has had my kids out of diapers by the age of two, riding a bike by four and eating hot sauce by seven.  Without her I would have lost my marbles (like more than I already have.) 

And finally, I have my mother who is the antithesis of an anxious Westside mother. She keeps me from getting too neurotic and encourages me to relax and enjoy the journey. 

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What has motherhood meant for your relationship with your partner and/or your other significant relationships?

I miss my husband now that I mainly just bark orders at him as we pass in the hallway.  We do make a point of getting away together every six months or so and it is always such a relief to find that I still like him. He makes me laugh. 

So many people tell me that this period will be over "in a blink of an eye,” so I feel lots of pressure to enjoy every minute, but much of it is hard and frustrating so it’s really important to have a partner who has you back. 


Did your central values change or shift in some way that you'd like to share?

I don’t think my values have changed, in fact I believe I have had to double down on them. I have to walk my talk because there are all those little eyes watching me. Now I can’t jam my cart into the curb at the supermarket because I have to live by example. Bloody annoying. 


Totum Mum Crush

Totum Women is excited to feature some moms who inspire us in a series called "Mum Crush."  Listen, though: every woman finds her own path as a mother, so our hope is that these women uplift and inspire.  We know that sometimes features like these can lead to some comparison thinking that hurts more than helps, so we choose women who exemplify our brand values of being real and whole in their approach to womanhood and motherhood.  Women who make us feel stronger because they're full of love and keep it real. 

 
Totum Stories: There is No Roadmap For Adjusting as a New Mom
 
Totum Women

Wendy Sylvester Thomas

Toronto, Ontario

South African/American/Canadian Friend, Business Lady, Mother, and Eternal Optimist 

From the moment I was pregnant, my mind was consumed with planning for our baby. Every type of new born decoration, detergent, dust buster and diaper was purchased for our precious baby. I gave no thought to me and how I would adjust to being a mom. I never thought about how I would feel about my new life with a baby or how it would feel to leave our precious baby with a stranger when I returned to work. It was the moment when we returned from the hospital to our NYC apartment, bucket seat with baby in hand that I realized that baby did not come with a manual and that there was certainly no manual for me on adjusting to my new life.

Being pregnant was the closest I came to being a celebrity. From always getting a seat on the subway to strangers speculating on the baby gender, it was me that was in full focus. The day after we returned from the hospital, celebrity status became a very distant memory and baby needs became omnipresent. What about me and the anxiety I felt adjusting to this new life?

I quickly realized that most questions were answered by trial and error and with many a Google search. I was lacking that central place to go, that central support system that could relate to my transforming life. My husband was beyond incredible as we adjusted to parents but no man could understand the emotional transformation that I was taking on.

I realized that baby did not come with a manual and that there was certainly no manual for me on adjusting to my new life.
Totum Women

As luck would have it, I had a few close friends who had babies weeks apart and together we branched into the new moms club together. Still, without guidance, we leaned on each other and those experiences we shared from the first few months bonded us for life. The stories we shared gave us the strength to adapt to our new lives as moms. As some brave moms returned to work, we relied on their guidance back into the workforce. That certainly did not come with a manual and lucky for me, I had great mentors who encouraged me along the way.

I have become so passionate about growing my career while being the dedicated mom that I have always wanted to be. Motherhood provided me with the opportunity to appreciate every moment in the day and to find that fine balance between work and family. The excitement of seeing my kids at the end of the day drives me at work. No matter how old my kids are, seeing them at the end of a work day is the best feeling in the world. My kids and husband are an inspiration to me and I can honestly say that since becoming a mom, I am a way stronger person. But every new phase brings a new set of challenges, concerns and the ever-present working mom guilt.  

I find that keeping a sense of humor and positive attitude makes a big difference for me, and I try to mentor younger women at work who are looking for support. Whether it's working from home after the kids are asleep, jumping on the trampoline and into Nerf gun battles after work before stopping to change out of my dress, or dedicating myself to fully focusing on the kids on nights and weekends until they're in bed, I'm consistently looking for the best way to hold myself accountable to high standards at work and at home. And sometimes it's exhausting. But I'm proud of being able to show our boys (husband included!) that I can lead a team at work while maintaining my sense of humor and softness toward family and friends.

I'm excited about the launch of this brand because it will mean that we can all give each other a bit of a hand and acknowledge that there's no one way to make it all work.  

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