Sarah Lux-Lee | Another Mother Her Way
Sarah Lux-Lee walked into the café we were meeting at with her daughter, Ella, and I felt instantly impressed at their ease and good humor at a busy city spot. They make such a sweet smiling pair and together they've taken on redefining networking in this stage of life. After starting her career in law and government followed by a Masters in Public Policy from Columbia, Sarah had Ella. She committed to a pause to enjoy the first year with her daughter before figuring out what came next. During that time she built her community of mothers and in the wake of the election started bringing women together with their babies to talk about politics, women's issues and more. Organically, Sarah grew the events into a more consistent cadence and a brand called Mindr - intellectual and simultaneously casual and warm meet ups for mothers with babies welcome to join. Sarah shares below about finding the ability to slow down and how Mindr gives her the balance she needs in mothering and womanhood.
Q HOW DID YOU CHANGE AFTER BECOMING A MOTHER?
I've always been the kind of person who is doing about fourteen things at once, and planning the next six. When Ella was born, I somehow found the space to slow down - to really relish the cuddles, to notice the little details of the world as she was discovering them (look, a new shape, a weird angle, a funny sound!), and to take pleasure in just 'being'. Even after I ramped back up to balance working on Mindr with looking after Ella, I've found that this new-baby rhythm, and the ability to pause and appreciate, has stuck around. So that extra moment spent giggling at each other at the swings might mean a later night for me, or an email sent with a longer delay than I would have liked, but it's so worth it.
Q WHAT CHOICES DID YOU MAKE TO ACCOMMODATE MOTHERHOOD? WOULD YOU MAKE THEM AGAIN?
I'm an Australian living in New York, and the two places take a very different approach to new motherhood. In Australia, almost all employees are entitled to paid parental leave, and you are statutorily entitled to take unpaid leave of up to 12 months. Culturally, parental leave is really well accepted and many of my friends have taken the full year off. So when I had a baby in New York, I decided to hold onto the Australian approach and stay home with Ella for longer than is standard here, even if it would mean some sacrifices and some raised eyebrows in future interviews. I'm so privileged to have been able to do this and I absolutely would do it again - the bond we have developed, and the memories we've collected, are irreplaceable to me.
Q DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A MOTHER IN 3 WORDS. WHAT KIND OF MOTHER WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE?
Relaxed. Messy. Whole.
I have let myself be led by Ella in a lot of ways. I didn't read all the parenting books, because I kind of take the view that if I'm paying attention to the feedback she's giving me, we should get it right most of the time. My husband and I also decided early on that we should try and fit the baby into our lives, rather than reimagining ourselves to fit a parenting ideal or philosophy. So she comes out with us and our friends, has a late-ish bedtime so we can do things as a family when my husband gets home from work, and came with me to a lot of meetings in the early days of Mindr. In terms of aspirations, I wish I could be the kind of mother who was able to keep the apartment looking like Instagram, but if I'm honest with myself, I know I never will be.
Q HOW DO YOU TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF OUTSIDE OF MOTHERHOOD?
For me, self-care is less about me-time and relaxation (although those are important, and I could use more of both), and more about looking after the intellectual and social sides of me that can often be left behind when you're the primary carer. In the early months after Ella was born, I searched for places where I could be both my new mom-self looking for playdates and guidance, and my regular-self looking for big ideas and deep discussions. When I couldn't really find anything that fit the bill, I created Mindr as a space for new parents like me to connect, learn and grow, with our little ones by our sides.
Q EVERY MOTHER NEEDS HELP TO FIND BALANCE. WHAT DOES YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
My village is truly international. Many of my oldest friends in Sydney have babies the same age as mine, and we've been able to stay connected and support each other using WhatsApp and Skype. My parents and in-laws have been really good to us, coming to visit and help regularly even though we're so far away. And I have found a wonderful community here in New York, first locally in Brooklyn and then across the city through the Mindr network. In fact, one of my Mindr friends is about to become Ella's nanny!
Q WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON IMPROVING ABOUT YOURSELF AS A WOMAN & A MOTHER?
I'm trying to embrace the 'law of averages,' by which I mean appreciating that you don't need to be nailing everything at every moment, so long as on average, you're on top of things. Some days I'll have so much work to do that I'll spend the whole night feeling guilty about not having made time to take Ella to the park. Some days I'll really indulge in her company and fall behind on projects I'm meant to be driving forward. I think the key is zooming out just a little and thinking - overall, am I making her feel loved? Am I doing good work that is progressing long-term goals? I find it becomes easier to cut yourself a break when you start thinking bigger picture.