Let me introduce Michelle--she’s the next mama in our interview series. Spirited and with joyful energy, Michelle has the gift of inviting people to join her in authenticity, and her exuding confidence empowers others to have the same. A proud Latina raising a family in a city, this mama’s vocation to embrace and cross-pollinate cultures is not only inspiring but necessary. Read below to learn how full of life she really is, and how she stays true to herself through parenting her two daughters.
THE KNOWN MAMA: Let’s get into it, shall we? As a mom, right now in this moment, how are you doing in two words?
MICHELLE: I’d say scattered and thankful. 2020 has certainly given me perspective to say the least. I’m thankful because of the resources I have: my health, the health of family members, and options in general. There have been countless moments when I hear a story of trauma or hardship that I say to myself "Wow, thank you Lord.” I have been spared from a lot, and protected when it got hard. I’m scattered because I had my second baby at the end of 2019, and my house is constantly under construction. 2020 has been a hot mess for all of us. My days feel chaotic.
TKM: What defines you, in a nutshell?
MICHELLE: What a big question (haha)! Identities are so complex. I guess I'll approach this from what my worldview and mothering is centered around:
I’m Christian so I live and parent through that lens. I believe in grace, forgiveness and accountability.
I am a very proud Latina. My family is from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I was born and raised in the states, but visiting the DR every year as a kid and living there for a stent made my family background come alive. I am first generation, so home life was a mini Dominican Republic. My heritage and culture are rich and precious to me, and I make every effort to pass it on and share it.
I’m a creative. My whole life has had creativity and the arts. My first career was as a jazz singer and I’m currently building an interior styling business. I grew up in dance classes, art classes, acting classes. You name it, my mom had me in it. I get so much satisfaction in creating. It's something I can't go without doing for any length of time.
TKM: Love that you are so definitive about who you are, and that you pursue all facets of life from that grounded confidence you have.
TKM: Can you share a bit about your mothering story?
I’m a mom of two girls--a 3 year old and 1 year old. I’ve always wanted to be a mother but was never in a rush. I love being a mom. It has been the greatest gift even after a really rough start--I suffered from extreme postpartum anxiety after my 3 year old was born. That first year is such a blur of real hard emotions. Breastfeeding was hard work; I was feeling guilt and was sick with anxiety. Thankfully I didn’t have the same anxiety or postpartum depression after my second daughter, and I think a lot of it had to do with the confidence you feel the second time around. The first time was an enormous life shift because I became a mother that stayed at home. I was really disoriented in the identity shift among other imbalances. But after 3.5 years of mothering that is really a blip in my story. It doesn’t encompass the joy and growth I've experienced as a mother. This parenting gig is hard and crazy, but I have loved spending the time at home with my girls and would make the choices I have all over again.
We’re a bicultural and bilingual home. It’s really important to me that they know their heritage and history on both sides. I’m married to a white man. Seeing as we are in the U.S. in a predominantly white city (Boston), that side of them is represented all around so they will receive it through osmosis. So, we really do put more of an effort into the Latino side. We speak spanish at home, always cooking our cuisine; I do a lot of little lessons with them in Spanish, books in Spanish, and even my husband speaks Spanglish. They will find their way and may not embrace all parts of either side and that’s okay. I just think it's important to know where you come from and what shaped your family. It has proven to be an incredible asset to me in my life and has rooted me so deeply in all areas.
TKM: It sounds like you’re educating them in positive, healthy ways. And, speaking bluntly here, it’s super mature that you’re okay with the possibility of your littles not completely embracing the Latino side. The fact that you’ve found peace and understanding that your daughters will have their own soul and free will and thus ultimately choose their own identity...that’s hard to do as mamas. If we’re honest with ourselves, as mamas we often want to do more than influence--we want to persuade and control in an effort to “guarantee” they turn out as we had imagined. But, as you’ve figured out early in the game, we can only do so much. You’re practicing healthy influence.
MICHELLE: Well (haha), I do have a concern--It would be hard for me if they didn’t embrace any of my culture. They currently present as entirely white, though that could change as they grow. I sometimes think it may be easier for them to hide in whiteness completely and not mention they are half Latina when they are out in the world. I think many white Latinos deal with that tension. We are a racially mixed ethnic people group in a society that likes to put people in neat categories. I want them to be fully themselves, but of course I want to see my heritage live in them. I gave them Spanish names so they can’t run too far from it.
TKM: Obviously I can’t relate whatsoever, so thank you for sharing your heart about that. While I don’t have the answers to the tension I have full confidence of your love and ability to steward them well.
TKM: What's it like being a mom of two, and a mom who dedicated her family to city life?
MICHELLE: Oh these girls (haha). I have been at home with them the entire time so we are a crew. A large part of my parenting style is always fostering connection and communication so we talk about feelings a lot. I strive to really study them and know them on an individual level. I like to include them in our daily activities, and I’m a big believer in giving kids age appropriate responsibilities to build their confidence while lightening the family load. We are a girl gang through and through. But I have a preschooler and a toddler so it's not all rainbows and sunshine. Pray for me when they are 12 and 14 (haha). I am raising strong, beautiful women and I take that seriously...but there’s always grace and time for laughs. Actually, I think the bigger concern I have, more than the racial and cultural aspect we talked about before, is that they’re girls. Them having a sense of self worth, being respected by others, and staying safe means everything to me.
You know, I never really thought about the fact that I’m a city mom. A city mom is what I’ve always been so I don't know any different. I suppose logistics are more cumbersome. The pace is fast, the lots are smaller so neighbors are closer, and we have to find our way to wide open spaces. But being exposed to many walks of life builds a tolerance for discomfort that’s healthy. I think finding a commonality with others even if they come from a completely different background is a superpower. We love to be hospitable and serve others, and we want our kids to see the joy of that.
TKM: Superpower. I love that. I agree, it’s pretty incredible to have the opportunity to be in a community that represents so many cultures, mindsets, and colors. It’s such an invaluable gift and makes the logistics all worth it...or so I think (haha)!
TKM: What's the best piece of advice you've received from another mom?
MICHELLE: A fellow mom in a playgroup saw me putting a coat on my complaining toddler once and heard me say " I know I know...mom is the worst ''. She said to me "You are not the worst, you're a good mom putting a coat on your kid on a cold day. The more you talk about yourself that way the more reason she has to talk to you that way and think about you that way." It stopped me dead in my tracks. I think about that all the time. I was so used to thinking I was a bad mom during that postpartum anxiety period that it started to come through my words.
TKM: Solid, solid advice. We’re our own biggest critic (of course), but random acts of kindness like that speak to the soul. So good. I’m going to remember that one!
TKM: What's the hardest part of your mothering?
MICHELLE: The daily sacrifice: The putting aside of my own agenda and desires for their good. I’m naturally a bit impatient and rigid. I think knowing what's next brings me a lot of security and that's just not life with kids. For example, there are times I want to rush things because I have a time frame in my mind not because it actually needs to get done then and catch myself in a power struggle over something that really doesn't matter. Oh and the guilt. The guilt over everything. There is no winning with mom guilt. Just trying to let that go.
TKM: What do you want to be "known" for as a mama?
MICHELLE: I want to be known to be gracious, God-fearing, and loving. I want to be tough and kind. I want to be the steady, secure place you return to when life gets crazy.
TKM: How can readers get to know you more?
MICHELLE: I am beginning a career in Interior Design and Styling, so you can find me at @casadelew on IG. I share my latest projects in my own home, client projects, and what realistic and generous hospitality look like. Maybe I'll even sing a little bit every once in a while!