Being a modern mom is all-encompassing, a tricky juggling act of family, career, and friendships. Oftentimes you’re so busy giving away your time to others that there isn’t much left for you. In this way, we are naturally geared to nurture and help those around us flourish, which is beautiful but often depletes our energy levels significantly and leaves our souls a little empty. To truly help others, then, it’s crucial we find the time to replenish our spirits and rejuvenate.
As a working mom with a 7-year-old son, I’m all too familiar with this sentiment; I don’t often treat myself with the same love and generosity I continually show others. So when the opportunity arose to attend a weekend Ojai retreat for aspiring mamas to connect, inspire, and fill up their spiritual cup, I jumped at the chance.
The Great Jane is a collaboration between creative mompreneurs Tara Parker Trait of The Great Nomad; Hey Mama’s Amri Kibbler, Katya Libin, and Alison Wyatt; and Bash Please duo Paige Appel and Kelly Harris. Held at the provincial Thacher House, the California weekend retreat offers a unique space to connect like-minded mompreneurs both professionally and creatively, from mentorships and workshops to health and wellness advice. We spoke with two mentors from the event to discuss the idea of modern motherhood, work/life balance, starting your own business, and why sisterhood is so important for women.
Clinical family therapist Michele Kambolis is a mom of two who applies her talent as a visual artist to her therapy. In a one-hour workshop at The Great Jane, Kambolis worked with moms on imagery, visual arts, and movement, showing them how to move through this medium to create a new level of self-awareness. She worked with women to bust through emotional blocks and tap into their limitless creativity. Kambolis also works closely with children to overcome anxiety. Her book, Generation Stressed, is a comprehensive guide with play-based tools to help parents work with their children to swap doubt and fear with empowerment, lean into their vulnerabilities, and awaken their authentic selves.
MYDOMAINE: How can we as parents help prepare our kids in this digital/tech and fast-paced new world?
MICHELE KAMBOLIS: Our children are growing up breathing the air of technology; it’s both a powerful tool and a parenting challenge. Kids as young as 7 want cell phones, and babies are learning about the world from the flat screen of an iPad. Parents often tell me how powerless they feel in trying to help their kids navigate the addictive nature of technology to find a reasonable balance. While there is no perfect solution, mindful awareness and parental leadership are key to a healthy relationship with technology.
So, don’t be afraid to set limits and trust your parenting instincts. If it feels like your child is disconnected from you because they’re obsessed with their game, it’s probably true. Keep in mind anything we do daily is habit forming; it’s far better to have a weekend binge than it is to have a steady diet of technology. From there, find out what your kids would like to do more of to crowd out technology and hit that happiness sweet spot. When we have adventures together, play, create, and engage our child’s heart and mind, we no longer have to compete.
MD: What are some conversations or rituals we need to start doing with our kids to reduce their fears, encourage them to be confident, and ditch anxiety?
MK: When we show up in a playful, non-anxious state, we invite in our child’s authentic self. This in and of itself is soothing to their highly active limbic system, the emotional processing unit of our brain. From there we can teach children something very powerful; they can transform their mind-set and change their actions in a way that eliminates anxiety.
Imagine helping children write their worry thoughts on sticky notes and externalizing them by putting them on a worry wall, or blowing their worries into a balloon and letting it go. Then imagine replacing those counterproductive thoughts with empowering ones by writing them down on an optimism wall.
When we teach our children to accept their fears, to observe them and to externalize them, something amazing happens: They become empowered with self-regulation. And when we parents model our own ability to self-soothe and regulate all that internal busyness, children naturally mirror our state—they’re hard-wired to do so.
Mindfulness is hands down the most powerful tool we have to cultivate a family ecosystem of well-being; it’s the antidote to anxiety. But don’t forget to make it fun. I like to invite my kids to sit on an imaginary train. We close our eyes and turn our internal spotlight on the thoughts passing through in our mind.
MD: You spoke at The Great Jane this weekend, what drew you to the event, and why is this so important?
MK: The single biggest draw to being a part of The Great Jane was the desire to connect with and support all the amazing mamas. So many of the mamas I speak with feel isolated and judged. So I’m thrilled to be a part of any group whose sole intention is to support and inspire women towards self-acceptance and empowerment.
We’re living in a culture of competition and parenting isn’t any different; connection is one of the most powerful predictors of well-being, yet most mamas feel isolated like everyone else have it figured out but them. It’s so vital that women have opportunities to listen to each other intently, guide and inspire one another.
MD: What advice do you have for moms who are trying to balance everything and feeling overwhelmed?
MK: Balance is the holy grail of the human condition: We can touch it for a moment, but it soon vanishes. I want moms to know that it’s okay to feel out of balance, for life to be messy and overwhelming. When we lean into those feelings and accept the beauty in every given moment, something magical happens. And setting the intention toward that moment-to-moment awareness that you really are enough can be a game changer.
Take a few minutes every day for self-care. Trust me: It’s key. When mamas come to a halting stop because of burnout, the whole family suffers. This is easier said than done when toddlers are tantruming or a business partner is pressuring for more of your time, so if you’re not at the point where you can do it for you, try to nourish yourself for the health of the whole family.
MD: How can moms get back into work without feeling guilt about leaving their kids?
MK: The modern stereotype that we can and should do it all is as idealistic as it is unrealistic. It’s an unsustainable amount of pressure. Add to that, women have an enormously difficult time asking for help; we’re so hard-wired to nurture others that asking for help feels wrong somehow. But we weren’t meant to parent in isolation, so call in your tribe and don’t hesitate to let others help.
What “having it all” means to you is a very personal question; the choice of whether or not to work does not mean you are choosing career over family or vice versa. So keep in mind you are not meant to be all things to all people, and your practice of self-awareness is your guide toward integration within yourself and within your life.
MD: What are some of the biggest issues you’re helping families and children with today, and why?
MK: Childhood has fundamentally changed. Our children are more hurried and worried than ever before. So too are parents. More than 80% of kids say that what stresses them the most is their parents’ stress—yikes. Hard-wired with mirror neurons designed to match one another, children reflect our states of mind and body. Arming parents and children with tools and information to thrive in this age of anxiety are hands down the biggest focus of my work with families.
A close second in terms of pressing issues is technology overload; screentime is crowding out kind of connection and activities that help us thrive. Parents feel the disconnect and desperately want tips for managing the constant divided attention and false intimacy of the information age.
MD: What are some of the mistakes you've made along the way?
MS: There may have been stumbling blocks but I don’t necessarily consider anything a mistake. It’s all just a process really and if something doesn’t work, or isn’t working then that’s one more thing I've learned in the process of figuring out how to make it work.
I have discovered that having a variety of product doesn’t necessarily mean more interest, sales or success. Having more variety overextended me physically and emotionally. As a result, it was a constant struggle trying to keep up with production, and the quality of that work severely declined. After attending several events, craft fairs, and shows I learned that people really gravitate to the things I do well. I came to realize that I don’t actually need a huge selection of goods, I just need to do a few things that I love and do really well.
Another valuable lesson is that it's ok to say "no." If you find that you're hesitating at a request, or a custom order, or any order really, and your first thought isn’t immediately "heck ya!", then it’s probably a "heck no." I very often used to say "yes" but I’ve learned that turning down an offer or a request doesn’t reflect negatively on you or your brand. What saying "no" truly means, if you are honest in your reasons for declining, is that you are not compromising your work, your brand, or your integrity just to appease others. People will really come to respect that, so stand firm on what you do.
MD: What is your advice to other moms out there looking to start their own business?
MS: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." — Mark Twain
Take the leap and go with what you are passionate about. You’ll never know it’s true success unless you try. It may be scary, it may seem impossible, but doing something you absolutely love and can stand behind is so much more rewarding than any old day job.
MD: You just hosted workshops in Indigo shibori dyeing at The Great Jane. Tell us about this experience and why you chose this event to share your craft.
MS: The indigo dyeing shibori workshops are my favorites to teach. I love seeing the reactions on everyone’s faces when they finally open up their dyed pieces to see what kind of tones and patterns they have created. It’s like watching children discover something amazing for the first time, and it makes me very happy.
I believe The Great Jane event chose me as much as I chose it thanks to the lovely Tara Parker Tait of Modern Nomad. She had been following my work and decided to reach out to me about teaching a workshop at the retreat. It sounded like such a great opportunity to teach an entrepreneurial group of amazing mamas while also helping to inspire their creative spirits.
MD: Why are events like this important for women/moms?
MS: Events like The Great Jane, or any creative workshop, are so important in cultivating imagination and fostering creative sparks. They help us get out of our heads, connect with like-minded people, and be inspired to learn new things. These connections can inspire so much growth in all of us, a growth that’s both individual and shared, and helpful to our creative pursuits and even growing businesses.