mums around the world: nicolette gawthrop
As part of our Mum Around the World series we ask mums living in different parts of the world about themselves, their little ones and their location. We loved hearing from Nicolette Gawthrop, mum, blogger and homemaker, on what it’s like living and raising a family in Arkansas, USA.
I am mother to Loukas, age 6, Jasper, age 4, and Maribell, age 6 months...
My partner Jerrmy and I are raising our family in a cute college town in the hills of the Ozarks; Fayetteville, Arkansas. Jerrmy owns two restaurants that are largely connected to the farming and local community. I have worked at the restaurants here and there in the past, but for now, I am a homemaker. I love to work on projects around the home while caring for the kids and am hoping to build a career for myself in the coming years, as well.
We live in Northwest, Arkansas - Fayetteville a smallish town that is home to University of Arkansas…
The surrounding area is rich with greenery and plenty of natural beauty. We are surrounded by the Boston Mountains, which are more like rolling hills, a beautiful sea of diverse foliage. Woodland creatures are a regular sight in our yard: deer, bunnies, squirrels, even a fox every once in a while. Generally, we experience four distinct seasons- the Spring a beautiful display of budding flora, a hot humid green Summer, a colorful Fall with cool mornings and hot afternoons, and if we are lucky a white Winter. The weather never stays too static, each season has its reprieves which is a stark difference to where I grew up, in the San Joaquin valley of California in the city of Bakersfield. I do miss my home and being close to family, and I do enjoy to visit California every chance I get, but am happy to raise my kids in this lush, green, wild land of the Ozarks.
The best thing about living in the Ozarks is all of the green; the natural beauty…
The people are also pretty great. We have a wonderful community of intelligent, thoughtful humans that I’m so grateful to have influence on our children. We also seem to have a lot of amenities for not being a big city - access to the Arts, restaurants, great parks, biking trails, great schools, and a lovely farmer’s market.
I distinctly remember the moment I took a deep breath one day and that thought came to my mind, “just have fun with it,”…
And I relaxed and have tried to keep that in mind when things get tense.I feel that I was plagued with taking myself a little too seriously as a mother in the first few years in the role. I think we can very easily get bogged down with all of the worry and anxiety related to being responsible for another life, especially a small vulnerable child and that can sometimes dampen the joy of this parenthood gig. I was a bit anxious for a time, overly concerned with all of the “what if’s” that I couldn't seem to relax and have fun. I now try to counterbalance being naturally cautious with empowering thoughts like “you’ll get through it,” whatever the fear that comes to mind. We really only get a short window with our children, their childhood goes by so fast. It’s very important to stay sharp and responsible, but we’ve also got to have a good time and try not to take it all too seriously.
The sooner you accept yourself as the parent you are and just do what feels right to you, the sooner you’ll be having fun…
So have fun with it! And know that it never gets easier, per se, but that as soon as you think you cannot go on when things get hard- you do, and then things change and the things that seemed to be so challenging previously become manageable and new things come up. Surrender to the now and know that new parenthood is oh so temporary. So have fun with it, it all works out. Just do you, and don’t judge yourself- not everyone will have the same experience you will have, or the same taste, or approach. There’s such a wonderful opportunity to experience being new to the world again through the eyes of our children.
In general, raising a family a thousand miles from home can feel rather lonely…
And in the early days, we did face a rather extreme bout with infantile eczema and some food sensitivities that at the time felt like a true struggle. Having seen those through, I realize they were very low on the scale of intensity of challenges that parents face but at the time trying to deal with inflamed children and being concerned that every bit of food I ate was tainting my breastmilk and causing such symptoms did give me a good deal of anxiety! Above all, the fact that we are all healthy makes me feel beyond wealthy- we manage to have enough resources, a nice community, a home, good food and clean water, and gratefully, our children are healthy and developing and happy.
All of our children were born at home under the care of two home birth midwives…
And I’d say that their influences have been very impactful and empowering. Both women have come to be people who I trust and contact when I am uncertain about the health and wellness of our children. It seemed to me that by watching the way they collected information and accessed situations (that was how they felt confident in what they were doing), I learned that that’s how I feel confident approaching a lot of things concerning my children now. I try to collect information and make choices based on what is actually happening versus the what-if’s. There was a great deal of trust in ourselves as parents that developed, I think, from the way we welcomed our children into the world. The midwives definitely instilled a great deal of that self-trust, and a constant reminder to ask for help when needed- seek your community, and look out for each other as partners.
Balance takes a lot of thought and intention for me….
I wouldn’t say I’ve got the hang of it just yet, after having Maribell just 6 months ago, I’m constantly making an effort to check in with myself and make sure that my needs as well as everyone else’s are being met. It’s easy to forget about one’s self care while raising a family. Regular gentle exercise (walking and yoga), plenty of pure water, whole foods, broth, fresh air, hot baths, and long talks with my partner are things that I can tell help me to be a calm, happy person. Because my life is so full of stimulus from the children, I limit my caffeine intake to tea only and abstain from alcohol. I notice that when my need for quiet and time alone is not met, I become anxious and a bit moody. Taking an hour or few away helps me to regroup. One of my favourite outings is to the thrift store to walk through the aisles, looking for vintage treasure and to think. I also love a good session of watching TV shows on the iPad. Reality TV is a little secret pleasure of mine, like my junk food… I feel like I’m a scientist studying human behaviour when I watch. That’s balance!
I start my day with hot lemon water, and end it with a blend of nursing mother and ginger teas…
These hot beverages are my nice little bookends for the day. And not every night, but most nights when we are sitting down to dinner, we play a little game while we eat where we take turns thinking of an animal and ask yes or no questions until we guess the animal. It’s a lot of fun and can change the pace of a dinner when one of the kids is feeling a bit spent for the day and not wanting to willfully partake in the meal (which is a creative way of saying ‘nearing a total meltdown.’)
A day in the life
I live…to drink tea (and thrift)
I am currently reading… Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
I’m listening to… Wilco Schmilco
My weekends start with… pizza
One item I can’t live without is… lip balm
Must have baby/newborn essentials?
- favorite swaddles
- plenty of knee-high baby socks (they stay on!)
- kimono tops (are the easiest to dress a new baby)
- the nose frida (snot sucker)
- a baby nail file, and nail clippers
- a special favorite blanket
- ring sling
- burping cloths, or soft cloths for the spit up
- nursing pillow
- breast pads, soft pure cotton
- a big water bottle for mama
- plenty of herbal tea