Hanako Shimizu | Another Mother Her Way
When I first met Hanako Shimizu outside a little cafe in NoLita, I felt this immediate instinct to stand up straighter and speak more softly. She has a poise, thoughtfulness and gentle nature that I falsely assumed would make for a very buttoned up coffee date. But she somehow balances the poise that often comes with reserve with immense coolness and authentic, real chit chat. This series usually spotlights smart women who are taking a career pause, negotiating flexibility or finding a new career path that offers them more control. Alternatively, a little before she was expecting her gorgeous little girl, Rheya, now 18 months old, Hanako shifted from freelance film production back to a leadership position within a firm that she had previously been at. Largely because of her community there, the stability and the ability to better manage her day to day. She is an excellent perspective on what it looks like to keep her career "intact" alongside motherhood and find physical and emotional space for her daughter in other creative ways.
HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
I feel like in many ways nothing has changed and I have moments where I’m still shocked that I have this mini me running around. But at the same time there’s probably enormous growth and change that I take for granted. I’ve always considered myself a creature of habit, impatient, and always at odds with an impression of how I should be versus how I want to be. Now as a mother, I think I’ve finally been able to shed a lot of the self doubt and feel more comfortable with who I am and where I am. Perhaps it's because I no longer have time to dwell on those thoughts. Or I’ve learned to let go a bit. Motherhood has simplified a lot of things for me since the day to day is basically a negotiation of time and priorities and you simply can’t do it all even if you wanted to. So I learned to enjoy every moment, offer everything you can when you can and not think too hard about the issues. I’ve become more resilient towards my own anxiety. I know when to shut off my internal voices and trust myself. I’m also much more forgiving about making mistakes. Mainly because I want to set a good example for my daughter and nurture someone who is self aware, inquisitive and confident. When you have someone observing your every little move and picking up every little behavior it really motivates you to be the best version of yourself. I’m far from mastering that skill but motherhood has certainly compelled me to try my hardest.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
The flexibility to wander, spending money on some fleeting fashion statement, sleeping in, date nights, last minute plans, traveling to exotic places are definitely things that don’t happen too often anymore but those barely seem like legitimate accommodations! Well I chose to continue working full time at a fairly demanding job fairly after 4 months. I did so by managing my hours at the office but that meant that I often work late into the night or weekends and it requires an enormous amount of concentration, multi tasking and dedication during the day to get the work done. It allows very little time for ideas, thoughts and inspiration but I hang in there and sometimes barely. But I am able to do this because I have a supportive husband who is present and engaged every step of the way, with much love and support and it never felt lonely. On top of that I have an understanding workplace that trusts me and this has made it easier to find balance. Finally, a close friend of mine, who is also a co-worker and mother of two, convinced me to nurse the baby at the office which I did and it was an amazing way to have a moment of time during the day with my baby but for her to build all these bonds with my co-workers which I have now come to treasure.
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Connected, Obsessive, Compassionate
Flexible, Trusting, Confident.
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
I don’t know if I do enough care taking…I could use some serious appointments at a spa and some nights that involve dancing, karaoke, and Japanese bbq.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
My husband is my rock and the village chief. He is at the center of it all and helps me stay balanced emotionally and physically. Since we live apart from our immediate families our friends have become our extended family. Childhood friends who I know from when I was 6 years old in Tokyo, are in NY going through the changes of motherhood alongside me. My nanny who devotes her energy to nurturing a sensible yet fun loving kid brought her to my office every day so I could breastfeed after going back to work! Biggest lesson is you cannot do this alone and nor should anyone. The more the merrier!
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
As a woman I am trying to hold onto my identity as a singular person. I am trying not to be overtaken by motherhood and my duties as a mother. As a mother, I want to be available to my daughter at all times without distraction or guilt. In this giant contradiction is where I think our struggles as a woman and a mother lie.