Adrienne Oliver Teacher/Storyteller/Actor/32/Charlottesville/New Orleans
Name and ages of your children
My daughter, Pearl, is three, entirely
Name selecting approach
She was named in my heart for months before her birth, after no one, in honor of nothing but the precious being she seemed already to be
What is your definition of a crushable Mama?
There’s no one version of motherly excellence, and in varying moments I’ve looked to a wide range of women who give me inspiration and hope or determination for this journey. In essence, a truthful being who is conscious about their parenting choices, reflective, vulnerably living, and daily striving for an aware, honest, and authentic personal existence and dynamic with their children. That can look different moment by moment, child by child, woman by woman, but I’m so attracted to mothers who make that the goal, knowing the struggles will be there.
What is the most rewarding thing about motherhood?
I have come to know myself as a human being in a way I can’t imagine without motherhood. My sense of certainty about my desires and needs, my aesthetics, my perspective on the world and its inhabitants have all sharpened, and my awareness of my own edges and depths has become acute. I find that sense of Self powerfully rewarding, and it guides me.
Where has motherhood pushed you to grow the most?
I’m a Sagittarius, and an artist, and of a generation where exploration of paths was encouraged, and of a family where I am often the flightiest member. These elements combined to make me a rather untethered human, moving from idea to idea, focus to focus. While my spontaneity can be a positive piece for my child, motherhood has forced me to grow roots and be decisive – to see the future and lay a path towards it. This is a deep piece of growth for me.
What are your top 3 best tips for a new mama?
What has been your biggest challenge as a parent?
It is my supreme honor to have my child’s love and to hold her attention, to be allowed to care for and nurture her, and to be tasked with guiding her through the world. I endeavor to set some boundaries, especially now that we are solidly in the toddler zone, and I desire to do so with warmth. Being a gentle parent means, for me, that I come to her level, explain the whys, offer choices, and create a bond which feels soft enough to share feelings. It can be exhausting! There’s a lot of in-the-moment awareness I am still cultivating which allows me to be present enough to check my own needs and emotions, centering her.
What is your parenting philosophy/approach?
My job is to create a foundation, I think. Children are born with so much of themselves already contained within, and we ought to be a steady board on which they can balance and build. Sometimes I feel like my work is just keeping her safe and not getting in her way! Other times, I am deeply involved in the minutia of her existence. This oscillating responsibility is why it can be difficult to settle on an approach, as each child or moment may require a new facet my unexplored motherhood. When I think of my philosophy, I find it nameless, and I’ve always been in awe of families who can say, “We are this!” I can claim consciousness in parenting only. We openly share our thoughts and feelings; we speak of choices and the reasoning for actions or decisions; we are polite and kind to humans and creatures; we eat mindfully; we share a bed; we talk of magic and the earth and the moon; and we fill our world with new creations, perspectives, opportunities, and explorations. I hope this allows my child to feel that I am her center and bottom, but that she is capable, knowledgeable, and allowed to express and become herself.
What has been your biggest surprise about motherhood?
I have been surprised how magical the childhood experience is, and how continually open they can be to the undulating emotions, events, and beauty of the world. That is a vulnerability we adults can only strive to achieve.
On a sobering note, there is a wealth of information available and all of it conflicting, and it seems so often to be about money. This carrier and this stroller and this clothing line and this birthing experience and “you must do this, and you mustn’t do that!”, all of which isolate the most oppressed and marginalized mothers. I am regularly surprised by the way having a child is used as a tool of consumerism and capitalism, and that distresses me greatly.
What is your approach to food and raising a child?
Ah, toddlerhood can be a challenge in this sense, as they can be particular about their food desires. One thing I did was begin early with whole fruits and vegetables. This has been a lifesaver now because she enjoys natural sugars. Maybe the best thing I did was offer her what I was eating, so although I limited spice and herbs in cooked food, or sometimes added a bit extra to my own plate after, she early on was exposed to a variety of flavors and tastes. This has been lovely! She is adventurous and a fun little one to visit restaurants with because she can always find something she likes. In general, I believe that a diet which is mindful, healthy, and varied makes the joyful, restorative act of eating a happy time. It’s important to me that she feel like an integral piece of the family during meal times, so we make food together or talk about choices. Again, it’s all about building a foundation for her to find her path.
What is your approach to disciplining your child?
The very word strikes me as antithetical to the motherly relationship I wish to have with my daughter. Discipline implies regulation, punishment, or correction, and I don’t know that those ideas have any place in toddlerhood, and perhaps in childhood at all. My role isn’t to reproach my child for her choices or responses, but rather to highlight the successes, outline boundaries, and celebrate whenever possible. Certainly, it is necessary to create structure, but I strive to avoid discipline. I recognize that there will be times to come, when my child can reason and we can speak plainly and when she will have some self-control, and in those moments I hope that what I will have fostered is an internal sense of respect for self and others which will guide her to make strong choices as opposed to requiring my external discipline to reel her back in.
4 tips to finding balance in motherhood?
Your top 4 lessons you wish to instill in your child?
Oh, goodness. I suppose I would say, daughter: you are full of glorious emotion and entirely valid in your responses; know how to harness that energy. Believe you are worthy of being heard in all things and places. Trust the moment with all its imperfections and hardships and glory, for it is fleeting and needs attention.
What are you letting go of?
I’m letting go of perfection, the very idea of it. It’s a daily battle, but it is my goal – to reach a place of complete contentment with what is, and freeing myself of the expectations of comparison.
What are you calling in?
When I invoke my most conscious self, I find a clarity that calls to forgiveness. I forgive myself the moments and choices which may seem counterintuitive to my philosophies, recognizing that I needed them in that instant. I forgive myself feelings of negativity or times of struggle, and I forgive my past selves for the journey to now, difficult as it may have been.