I am thrilled to be sharing a new interview series with you each and every week: #realmothersdiversevoices. In this series my intention is to reveal the endless ways our family values can inform our Daily Rhythm. The mothers I have interviewed lead diverse lives but they each have a huge sense of clarity about what their Family Values are (even if they change over time) and consciously and creatively strive to create a Daily Rhythm in alignment with those values.
It is my hope that through these stories more Mothers feel inspired to explore what their own family values are, to question them and bring them to life in their everyday experience. I know that seeing the world through another Mother’s lens will develop more empathy, understanding and compassion between us.
Today I am honoured to welcome Sophia Smeekens to the Whole Family Rhythms community. Sophia is a mama to two children living a simple lifestyle in the Netherlands, alongside running her ethical and holistic online store Escargot, where she makes small loveable textiles out of naturally dyed and vintage fabrics filled with eco wool.
You can find Sophia and her whimsical and fantastic textile art here @studioescargot.
Who are you? Can you introduce yourself, your work and your family?
I am Sophia Smeekens, mother of a 15 year old son and a 6 year old daughter. Together with my husband and kids we live in a simple apartment just outside of Amsterdam.
My husband works as a front and developer and loves to draw whenever he is able to, he’s currently working on a graphic novel. I am a textile artist working from home, and besides that I am working part time in a children’s clothing store.
What is one of the greatest joys you experience as a Mother?
The greatest joy I experience is to see my children explore their own personality, there are moments I look at them and just realize they are their own person more and more everyday. I love how they can be small and yet so independent. How they form their own style and opinions. I always encourage discussion and make sure they are heard. As long as we can be respectful and compassionate towards each other there is always room for discussion and if we struggle to agree we agree to disagree. I very much value everyone’s freedom of speech.
What is one of the biggest challenges you face daily as a Mother?
I think my challenge is also my greatest joy, getting all those different characters and opinions to work together and still have time to myself. I really need that down time to work in my studio and clear my head. Also I am very aware of the fact I function way better when all is done in rhythm and routines. Yet my artist nature is to wander and pot around ending up feeling overwhelmed and crazy tired!
What does having “Rhythm in your Home” mean to you?
To me it means the tide of moving together and going our own way. at breakfast, lunch and dinner we come together, we sit, we eat, we discuss and play a game afterwords. Than we all go our own way. Which for our youngest is going her own way but still in our near presence. For my oldest it is taking more freedom, drifting further apart, baby steps all the way and always coming back to shore to check in with us to see all is still ok. It is the same with wake and sleep, off and on, near and far. Waves of life.
Can you give an example of some of your most cherished ‘Family Values’?
The family value I cherish the most is the possibility to be grow your own personality. We are all allowed to have and form our own opinions as long as they are brought in kindness and respect towards one another. We learn from each other, we set an example for our children but if we are open to it we can also learn and grow from them and with them. We as parents do not own our children we are here to guide them and set example for a future life.
How do you hope to pass these values on to your children? Or in other words, how do you manifest these family values into your daily rhythm?
The only thing I can do is be conscious of myself and my actions. Be open to their input, willing to learn an grow with them, from them, and allow them to develop themselves as compassionate human beings.
Can you outline a typical ‘Weekday Rhythm’ for you and your child(ren). Specifically when/where/how do you and your little ones eat, sleep/rest, play inside/outside, work/learn and make time for selfcare?
5:30 – I get up and mediate for 30-40 minutes, make tea and do some free writing, drawing or reading. This is Ideally, lately though I have been having some trouble getting up early!
7 – The kids wake up and my husband comes home from his daily run. We make porridge and all eat breakfast together.
8 – My son leaves for school.
8:30 – Either myself or my husband take our daughter to schoo, and thenl our working day starts.
Depending on if I work in the shop or at home I pick my daughter up from school at 3 and we have some fruit and drinks together, this could be in a playground or a park or if there is bad weather we will do this at home.
Between 6 and 6:30 we have dinner. Now that I am back on a weekly dinner schedule, I avoid the pain of thinking about what to eat every single day by preparing simple meals on days I know I am on a tight schedule. On more extensive days I will have time to cook. We then drink tea together afterwords. I do the dishes with my son and we catch up on school work or things he needs my help with, planning and so forth. Meanwhile my husband reads to my daughter and prepares her for bed.
8 – I either work some more and listen to a podcast or read a book.
10 – I’m in bed reading, asleep by 10:30.
My moments of self care are meditation and working (making).
How important are higher belief systems, stories, literature, art, family history and creative expression to your family? How do you weave these into your family life?
My strongest believe is that there should be no dogmas. In the end all is perishable. Moods change, time changes, life changes. What you now think is important when you’re a 15 year old will not be important when your 35. It is the flow of life. I do a lot of Zen practice, which helps me to deal with the daily struggles of life. But I have also learned not to idealize Zen or any kind of religion or life style. Life is perfect as it is, there is no need for any instruction as long as you are present in the now, which is the hardest thing to do.
My kids do like to meditate with me every now and then. I never make them, but I go out of my way to let them know they are always welcome to do so.
As for stories and family, my mother passed away when I was fourteen and I make sure I tell my kids about their “Grandma Fie”. My husband’s father passed away when he was 12 but he prefers not to talk about him. We all accept and respect that. We have family living on the otherside of the world. We stay in contact by shipping packages over to them with handwritten letters, recipes of food we like, drawings etc. It is a nice tradition we hope to keep up.
When does your family rhythm get thrown off kilter?
Mostly during holiday time and time when we are away from home. But that is ok, it is life.
Do you consciously re-evaluate and change your family rhythm with the seasons and ages and stages of your kids?
Yes! I have spent this last summer in Australia, with my oldest. When we came home I was completely lost. When I knew the jet lag was over I sat at the table and wrote down all my values plus those of the other family members and worked another daily rhythm around that. Because the summer vacation was not over yet and I had to let go a little, ,but I started to form another routine so that when we started school everybody was back on track again. I also feel that now winter is coming we have to change some routines again, and like I said it is ok, that is the flow of life.
When you’re feeling stuck, tired, frustrated with your role as Mother, what do you need most to shift your energy and perception?
Working alone in my studio. But that is not always possible so I have learned another little reset by taking 6 deep breaths through the nose and staying present with those 6 breaths.
If you could recommend one book to ALL Mothers out there what would it be?
Any book by Thich Nhat Hanh or Pema Chodron.