Heidi Fiedler | Another Mother Her Way

Instagram can be very intimidating so it helps when you find a smart, friendly face. For me that was Heidi Fiedler, one of the first women who wasn't a prior in-real-life friend, to follow along and root for Mother Untitled.  She has that true ra ra woman energy, and you just feel good having her in your corner.  I knew about her that she was a witty writer and editor and that she shifted to freelance editing to give her more time and space for family.  I wanted an excuse to hear her always articulate thoughts and recently learned that she adopted her son this past April. Adoption, as she describes it, is an unpredictable process that made planning and preparing for work and family that much trickier.  Read her honest reflection on the process of adjusting her work and her expectations of herself while taking on the all-consuming role of motherhood and feeling like many of us, like her brain is at capacity while her heart is full.  

Q  HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?

There’s definitely a before-and-after-kids feel to life, but it’s only been a few months, so I’m not sure how much I’ve changed yet. In some ways I feel like I’m being me just in a deeper, bigger, more immersive way. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, and I just want a moment to be an anonymous patch of moss that doesn’t need to be or do anything, but it also feels really good to be myself because I don’t have the energy or time to be anyone else right now, and this feels right, like the most important thing I could be doing. 

I’m working less than I ever have before, but somehow I have less downtime than ever too. Hopefully this is not permanent. I do feel less angst around taking care of myself—now it’s a necessity, not an indulgence. And I worry less about being “a real writer." There’s nothing like not having time to work on my own projects to make me crave writing and remind me that I actually love the same practice that I bemoaned in the past.

Oh and I am totally proud of my biceps right now—this chunky monkey isn’t carrying himself! 

Q  WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD?  WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?

When I was 25, working in house as an editor, I hoped that one day I might understand how to do my job well enough to work from home and be a mom at the same time. That was a vague little dream I had, and in some ways, more than ten years later, it’s actually come true. When my husband and I moved to Massachusetts a few years ago, I made the leap from in house to freelance. It was super scary, but it would take a lot for me to go back to a regular office job now. 

Because we adopted our son, we didn’t know exactly when I would need to take time off. I spent a couple years in a strange limbo, acting as if I had some ability to plan for the future, balancing ambitious to-do lists with knowing I might need to step away at any time. When we finally got the call, I was able to take a few weeks off. Then I taught an online class the next month, which was actually relatively doable. The trickier part came when he was awake more, and I had writing deadlines to meet. My clients were all really supportive, but I didn’t want to put a strain on them or lose the opportunity to work with them in the future, so I tried to walk into it knowing we would have to live it to see what would work for us. It’s been tough trying to care about work deadlines and figure out how much to work on things, so they don’t weigh on me but not so much that I don’t get too burnt out. I can’t really recommend that for anyone else, but now that it’s over, I know it all worked out, and it was the best approach for our family. 

I’m doing a lot less client work now, which means I’m making less money. I try to be really strategic about where I spend my time and energy, whether that’s signing a new contract, developing a new workshop, marketing my services, or doing a bit of writing for one of my own books that may or may not sell one day. There’s no way I can say yes to everything these days, and that removes some of the guilt from saying no. But it’s tough to balance wanting to contribute financially the way I used to with wanting to make time for creativity and experimentation. I’m hoping that balance will be clearer as my schedule becomes less fractured. (We’re still at the bottle-every-two-hour stage, so it’s hard to get into a groove.)

The real shift goes beyond the financial. It’s more about the mental and emotional energy that is consumed by being a mother. I didn’t use to battle decision fatigue, but by 10:00 in the morning, I’ve probably made a hundred tiny decisions about what order to do things in, how much to worry about this or that, what needs to be scheduled or communicated to someone or another, so by the time I can actually sit down to work (or stand at my standing desk), I’m sort of done. My brain is at capacity. I’m hoping that we’re still in the blitz stage, and once we start to have more of a routine, we can automate more, and that will help reduce the number of decisions that need to be made each day and free up some energy for my other work. 

Even with all these worries, without a doubt, I would do it all again. Work is something that’s always going to be evolving. I can always figure out a new approach to writing and editing, but I’ll never get this time back with our baby again. I feel so fortunate that I have the flexibility in my schedule to enjoy him right now. 

Q  DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS.  WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?

On my best days I’m gentle, joyful, and brave. I hope our son feels safe, loved, and adored. I want to give him a cozy home where he can be himself, whoever that is, and I want to show him the world, so he can find whatever he’s passionate about and make it his own. I want him to feel independent, resilient, and peaceful, while knowing he’s welcome in my arms whenever he wants to return. 

Q  HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD? 

For me life is probably ok as long as I’m writing in my journal. I’ve been meditating for the last year or two, and that really helps too, although I’ve only made it through a couple 20 minute sessions since he’s been born, so I’m still finding the time that works best for this new season of life. Now that we’re able to put the baby to bed a little earlier, we are seeing glimpses of the future when we might sit on the couch and talk at night (yay!). I’m also looking forward to visiting museums and taking day trips again. Seeing something new always inspires me. 

Q  EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE.  WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE? 

Awesome Dad + Amazon + Grandparents + Nanny + Friends = Peace of Mind

Seeing my husband become a dad has been one of my favorite parts of becoming a mom. He is loving, present, silly, and reassuring. Knowing he’s the one I’m doing this with makes all the difference. Our parents live far away, but my mom is one of the rare people who remembers what it is actually like to have a newborn. Her encouragement and confidence in us has been hugely comforting. My husband’s parents are beyond delighted to be grandparents, and they’ve rushed out to help us handle the practical things like car repairs and cooking that fall to the side when a baby arrives. After the baby was born, I heard from so many girlfriends, some I am super close with and others I hardly know, who texted, called, and stopped by to see how we were doing. And we have a nanny come in about 10 hours a week to take care of our son, while I work in the office with the door closed. She has way more experience with babies than we do, so it’s been really nice to have her perspective on some of the niggling little questions we don’t want to bother the pediatrician with. And work wise, knowing I have that time is what’s letting me meet deadlines, which feels really good. We’re also using Amazon Prime hard these days. (We maaaaay have ordered so much they offered us a business account—gulp!)

Q  WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER? 

I’m working on not feeling like it’s my job to fix everything, whether it’s the baby crying because he’s got a burp that won’t come out, a client that failed to follow the schedule we agreed to, or a husband who is working long hours and misses his son. I am figuring out how to say “I love you. I’m here with you.” And then maybe we will figure out together or maybe they will figure it out on their own. That’s the idea. I’m definitely still working on it. 

Besides that, I’ve never been someone who believes there’s only one way to be happy, and I don’t have a lot of unbreakable rules in my life. I think it’s more about how we do things than what we do. Whenever possible, I try to visualize my heart melting—or better yet gushing open—and sending love straight into our son’s heart, along with my husband’s heart, and the rest of the world.