Justine Wenger | Another Mother Her Way
Justine's reputation precedes her as one of the calming and attentive women in the New York's acupuncture scene. Without having met her prior, when she walked into a busy dark dining room for our coffee she put out such a curious, kind and cozy energy that it was easy to pick her out. Justine’s initial career change preceded motherhood when she moved from publishing to acupuncture, feeling strongly about the practice. She grew up in the Midwest with a father as an acupuncturist at a time when it was nowhere near as sought after. Now she shares a studio space with her husband so it’s really all in the family. Justine talks about the second transition into motherhood and how she keeps her time for mothering and hours at the studio to keep her balanced and whole, while simultaneously doing the same for her long-time clients. Read her gentle perspective on this time in her life.
Q HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
It’s interesting that the final stages of pregnancy, childbirth, and the first few weeks of motherhood can feel very intense - and yet one of the ways I’ve changed the most is to take myself and everything happening in the moment way less seriously. There are many moments of ‘should I laugh or should I cry?’ - like when I couldn’t find my phone all afternoon and Lou was having numerous meltdowns and it wasn’t until I opened the fridge to forage for the quickest, easiest possible thing to eat standing up (yogurt) that I found it in the fridge (next to the yogurt). Becoming a mother is also an experience that highlights change because everything is changing all the time, and babies change so much, and so naturally I understand I’m changing too.
Prior to being a mother, I really felt this pressure as a woman that I'm not supposed to change. It sounds bizarre to me now, but I think it was really real for me. Almost as if the idea of ‘changing as a mother’ can often be perceived as very negative - like you’ve lost yourself (?) - instead of how amazing and wonderful and sweet and transformative the process can be. It’s not a loss at all, but an addition. I’m not saying it’s made me the best version of myself, but I’m more conscious of wanting to be the best version of myself, challenging as it is sometimes. And it is challenging. I’m also better at asking for help - and acknowledging I need help and I have weaknesses.
A huge (and surprising) benefit of motherhood is I feel more efficient and accountable with my time. Focusing on what’s important, what matters, making time for that, and then cutting out the rest - of course, it’s not always clear or easy, but I’m working on it. That feels so good.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
Motherhood is wild because I had no idea what to expect - like I thought I had control over certain things in my own life and becoming a parent, I’m now humbled by how little control I have some days. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In some ways, I was in denial that things were going to be very different or that I would have to change a lot of things before Lou was born - so the choices I made felt really accelerated after he was born. Maybe it’s because I’m making them still, every day, or in the moment, that they feel less like sacrifices and more as a natural progression of how life is now. The common comparison is that starting a business is like having a baby - and it’s true, my business still feels like my baby and it’s very important to me. I’ve certainly had to make logistical choices in running my own practice - especially around time spent with clients at the office vs. time spent at home. I work with clients remotely as well and that has become a larger part of my business now. I’ve also found that days spent with my clients (away from home) are very structured and scheduled, and then days that I’m home with Lou are very unstructured, and I don’t like to commit to a certain schedule. My weeks used to feel like one big continuous week - and now they feel more broken up into mini weeks between two different extremes. One of the coolest things, but hardest things to remember on a given day, is that babies grow up - and any choices that I’m making right now about my work life are reflecting that I do want to be more present in the baby weeks/months/years and that I’ll continue to make choices that feel right for the different stages.
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Even on my worst and hardest days, I still consider myself a positive person. Motherhood has so many ups and downs - and I’m in awe of how amazing and challenging it can be - and I just have to trust that I’m doing the best I can. And I sing, make up songs, and dance a lot.
I would like to be a mother who always has a ‘we can do anything’ attitude, and who never forgets to laugh. Also a mother who is resilient.
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
Taking care of myself is especially important to me now that I’m both a practitioner and a mother... ie taking care of other people most of the time. Yet, how I view self-care has changed for me. I appreciate my “alone time” differently now. Like I really value a long shower, and the walk to and from the morning coffee run while my husband is with Lou, even my subway commute, and the last moments before bed that I can read a book. I love to cook, so even if it’s less elaborate most nights, I still love food shopping and composing meals. And massages, facials, yoga or pilates, time with girlfriends - all are still really important to me, but just happen a little less frequently, so I don’t take any of that time for granted. We leave the city (for the ocean!) most weekends, which can be really chaotic and a lot of extra work with a baby, but it’s so important to me, and for our family, to clear our heads and get sandy.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
Luckily my husband plays an equal role in balancing his work with parenting, so we really share most of the caregiving responsibilities. I’m really grateful for this, and I forget sometimes how special this is to our family trio. My brother (Uncle Brother he’s called) lives a block away and is always eager to help, even to just show up at the end of a long day and play with Lou for a few minutes (he sings and dances more than I do), or to bring a bottle wine after Lou’s bedtime and talk about non-baby things. We also have a wonderful babysitter who can juggle her school schedule with our ever-changing schedules. And I rely tremendously on my best girlfriends (many are mothers, not all though) that are at a distance - texting, calling, etc.. I’m so inspired and thankful for these friendships, that help remind me of myself, and also help me grow in my new role as a mother. I also made a few new mom friends in the neighborhood recently which has been game-changer. Baby playdates = long afternoon naps, which is great great great.
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
I want the things I say I’m going to do, to match the things I do. I want to feel proud of myself, so that the people I love feel proud of me. I want to keep changing and learning and feeling excited, because that’s contagious for everything else in life.