Welcome to the third installment of my interview sessions. I am so excited about this weeks storyteller because it is my first family member to be interviewed. As some of you know, I am the sister to four other girls. That’s right, 5 daughters… “my poor dad” yada yada yada. Erin is the second oldest of the group. As my interview began with Erin she was tiptoeing around her house finding a spot that she can speak a little louder than a whisper because her youngest son had just gone down for a nap.
“Dude, I didn’t know this was going to be on FaceTime. I did not prepare for this.”
I would liken her look to a mom with a sick kid. Comfy PJ clothes and hair pulled back lightly to keep it from her eyes. Even still though, Erin always has this petite-blondie-mom glow about her, even when she’s sharing that she’s been up too long nursing her son’s fever away. She is a mama warrior as you will read about throughout her story. However, I always like to start with the basics.
“[Erin] how did we meet?”
“Girl, I known you since you were born. So yeah..”
“Do you remember me being born?”
“I remember Corie [the oldest sister] was super upset because we were in Florida. This was crazy. Back in the day, yo, mom and dad stuck us on a plane by ourselves and asked the flight attendant to keep an eye on us… and then nan and pop-pop got us off in Florida.”
Erin’s demeanor at this point is one of pure astonishment. It was clear in her body language that the idea of putting her boys on a plane by themselves would not be in the cards anytime soon. One of my favorite things about hearing stories from Erin, is being able to read how she would feel in that position. She is someone who wears her heart on her sleeve and does not hide how she is feeling from anyone, except perhaps her customers that she serves at the diner down the road. Customer service calls for masking true emotions, unfortunately.
“Corie was super worried. She was like *in scared child voice* ‘I just feel like mom is going to have the baby while we’re gone’ and I don’t think she did. I think it was after we got back… It was so bizarre. And I remember we met a lady on the plane that ugh… kept saying ‘Look I see the moon’ and then she would sing ‘made you look, made you look, made you buy a penny book.'”
We both laughed at the absurdity of the whole situation. It was clear that this was a memory to Erin that was both strange and exciting. Another little sister was on the way and she was getting treated like a real older sister. She got to ride a plane and go to Florida without her parents.
As we continued it was clear that Erin often thinks of her own childhood experiences as she is raising her own children. Erin is the proud mother, as I am the proud Auntie Rahrah, of two boys, Elias (7) and Sampson (1). Erin takes her role as mom very seriously and her passion for being a mother was clear in our conversation.
One of the exciting parts about getting to do these interviews with people is seeing what story comes up as we sit together. I have zero expectations as to what story people are going to tell me and this often makes the reader feel a little overwhelmed at first, but as we talk, it is clear there is a story that has been waiting to get out all along. I was especially excited to hear what story Erin had to tell because, as a sibling, it was exciting to see what she felt comfortable telling me.
“So, [Erin] what story would you like to tell?”
“I don’t know it’s hard.. I know you’re all about self love…”
“It can literally be about whatever you want to talk about. It doesn’t have to be something you feel you have to talk about or that you think would fit in this space. What is your story?”
Exhales deeply “Ugh.. that’s a tough one. It is cuz I mean I don’t know… I was thinking about talking about how hard it is raising kids and the strain on trying to figure Eli out with his attitudes and all this digital sh*t that we didn’t have growing up and I try to think back and it’s like we were never that big into playing video games. I mean we watched a lot of TV but I don’t think then it was like ‘oh TV’s bad. It was like oh good, something to keep them occupied, get’s them out of your hair.’ Plus, we were still all over the freakin’ place and they wouldn’t call us in until like night time and we would watch TV then.”
“Okay, let’s start with this then. What would you say it was like before you had kids? Do you remember?”
“At the time it was great, but looking back I’m like.. how boring! There was just no purpose to it. And not saying that everyone needs to have kids to have a purpose, but for us it was like we were bartending and at the bars every night. It was all about this party or that one, and I mean I still want to go to a party every now and again or go see music or whatever but I don’t know… Now there are more important things for me. Like there are these people depending on you and trying to make sure they grow up to not be a**holes and that’s f****ing hard. It’s really hard. Especially when I’m a yeller and I don’t want to be a yeller, but I’m a yeller. And that’s part of the reason that Eli gets yell-y and stomp-y when he’s mad because that’s how I am and I’ve been trying to change it. I’ve actually been reading this book called ‘Happy child, peaceful parent’ or whatever.”
“And I’ve told Eli before when he get’s all pissed that I’m like ‘you know man, I know that I yell sometimes and that’s not right and I’m trying to change it and I want you to know that I don’t want you to grow up and be like this and yell and have to work on your anger and that’s why I’m trying to work on it with you now’… and I don’t know if he get’s it or not but maybe who knows?”
As she is talking her hands are playing with her hair and she is looking off as if this is not the first time she’s had this conversation with herself. I can tell she often reflects on her behaviors and the way she influences her children. Erin is a mom that is constantly working to improve so that she can show her children how to improve and she is always helping them to learn and grow with her. Reading books with silly titles or talking to other mom’s or watching videos- anyway she can grow, she tries too. It’s apparent in her children too, who constantly show their ability to grow and learn. Eli, by the age of 3 could name and the planets and some of their moons. I don’t even know the moons to different planets. Heck, I barely know the planets without ‘My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas’. Sampson at the age of one is ready to run around and I can tell he wants to have a full on conversation when I FaceTime. I don’t know what he is trying to tell me yet, but it definitely involves something about a ball.
She then dove into how her and her partner try to work together to parent and help them grow. Erin and her husband Pat grew under two different parenting styles, and so, it makes sense that as the try to raise kids together, there are disagreements and compromises that are made.
“What kind of parenting style does Pat have?”
“[He] is a little bit more goofy and a little bit more laid back. I’m more.. I don’t know. I’m not uptight I guess… [For example] table manors [are] really important and listening and saying thank you instead of thanks… you should look someone in the eye and say thank you… and Pat sometimes feels that I am hard on him, like ‘as long as he’s eating, that’s what’s important’. And we try to find that balance. It’s so hard sometimes. Freakin’ kids should come with manuals. It would be a lot easier.”
There isn’t a manual, yet I believe some people believe they could write one. One thing that I always found fascinating with people is when they feel they know better than someone else about that person’s life. So, I was dying to know if Erin experiences the “mom politics” as I like to call it. People policing other people’s ways to parents.
“Tell me about mom politics.”
“Oh like the judge-y moms and stuff? I’ve noticed not too many mom’s say sh*t to me. I mean like no ones like ‘oh god… you’re not using cloth diapers’… I don’t know. I know there are mom’s out there that are like super judge-y. The biggest thing I have noticed is the pro-vaxxers vs anti-vaxxers situation. I just don’t even talk about vaccinations anymore. Thankfully though, I don’t notice it too much and I’ve even noticed from myself that I would get upset with my friends about certain things, but I realized most of it was coming from a place of jealousy and wanting to have the same things as them. So, once I saw where it was coming from, I was able to check it. To me though and my friends, it’s just whatever works. Every family is different. None of us really judge each other [about things] because we’re just trying to survive.”
She took a deep breathe in and I could hear there was another side of her journey to becoming a parent that she wanted to share. Often parenthood is discussed in terms of after the birth, but parenting for those trying to get pregnant starts with that positive test. Often, the pregnancy is the part that the person who is carrying goes through individually and then once they pass that part they are able to commiserate and be open and honest about their experience. However, we are beginning to see a cultural change in this narrative. More pregnant people are sharing their stories about their choices, loss, pains, heartbreak, joy, etc. There are more and more people connecting their stories to others that need to hear them and no longer allowing their story to be swept under the rug.
“It still hurts thinking about it and I think I just posted about it on Facebook about my rainbow baby Sampson, but we are so lucky that we got to have another child. That we have two kids.”
A rainbow baby for those that aren’t aware is a child that is born shortly after going through a miscarriage. As Erin talked about her experience you could hear her holding back the tears and you could also feel the strength she has gained through her experience. I remember talking to her that day, the day they couldn’t find the heartbeat. She could barely speak to me through the phone as her tears overtook the conversation. I felt her heartbreak that day and can still feel it as she talks bout it with a stronger voice.
“I know some people that they just can’t and I have a friend that she considers herself a lucky one because she has one and she’s been trying for longer than Pat and I have. It has gotten better as far as like the amount of people that talk about it. If you think back to like when mom and [our aunts] were getting pregnant and stuff people didn’t really talk about it that much. And just suffering like that alone is just so hard. That’s why it sucked that this last time it was [about] four months along where they say it’s safe to tell people and we lost it so I had to publicly announce on facebook that we lost our child, but in a way I’m glad that I had to post it because I had so many people reach out to me telling me [their experiences]. Just so heartbreaking and people that I thought I was close with reached out to me to be like ‘yeah, we just lost one’ or ‘just before we had this child we lost one’. It’s just amazing and I [tell people now], tell your family. If anything happens people are going to know why you are upset and are talking about it. Get the support you need because you don’t have to suffer alone.”
She then went on to talk about the pregnancy that followed her miscarriage. The fear that they faced every doctors appointment, as she held her breath when they looked for Sampson’s heartbeat and how that fear never truly leaves, just hoping every second, of every day that her kids are safe and healthy and happy. Then as we wrapped up the conversation she went back to reflecting on her own childhood. Apologizing for being “an a**hole” (her words, not mine) and daydreaming about what her own kids will be like as teenagers. I think the best part of this interview was just getting to see the love that radiated from her as she got to spend a full hour talking about her life as a mom and her love for her children. Every sentence, even when she was talking about ways that motherhood has been difficult, was coming from a place of love and hope that she is going about it the right way.
When we started this interview she said that she is impressed with me and my blog and jokingly stated “I hope I’m like you when I grow up.” As I am not a mom yet and got to hear her experience- being open and honest about #momlife I think I feel the same way. Erin, I hope I’m a mom like you when I grow up- Full of love, hope, kindness, and raw honesty.
A[wo]men & Erin Riley
I sincerely thank Erin for sharing her story and being so brave and honest with me about what it is like to be a mom. If you or someone you know has a story they would like to share please fill out the form on my contact page. And if you are experiencing difficulties with pregnancy and/or parenting, know that you are not alone and that people want to connect with and support you.
i struggle so deeply
how someone can
pour their entire soul
blood and energy
i will have to wait till i’m a mother– Rupi Kaur