‘It is not what I do; it is who I am.’
Some self-motivational chap somewhere on the Internet whose quote – despite my skeptical dispositions – I cannot seem to shake off.
As most of you know, I have changed careers more than Kanye West said he loved himself. I think I can claim that I was always good enough at what I was doing and probably nobody would disagree with it. But I never felt I was at my best. As the founder of Another Garde and mom to 3 kids, I try every day to be that best of me. And boy, it’s a bitch.
I have said it time and time again – without becoming a mom I would have never been strong, centered and humble enough to hustle it out every day to sell a bag or a ring, let alone get out there to build the exposure I need for my business.
But I figured that once you’ve had 3 babies pulled out of your limbs in a bloodbath (thank you, emergency C-sections 1 and 2) and once you have spent years on your knees patting your kids’ bums half naked until the wee hours of the morning, well, you are probably ready for anything and surely ready to do anything.
So yeah, pride and fear have long gone since my stitched up tummy days. I have learnt patience and I am now learning – with a lot of difficulty – to appreciate little victories like having finally my three kids out of diapers or having my first client in Denmark.
However I got annoyed enough this week to ‘take the pen’ again. Not so long ago, I got frustrated by how I had been socially JEDI tricked into thinking that I would be able to walk smiling and having my shit together, 2 months post baby delivery while the reality was that I was suffocating inside spiritually and physically . That sense of betrayal created Redlipstickmama – that infuriating moment when I felt like a hot mess while I was supposed to only feel bliss.
Since then, I am more at peace with myself. But today, I felt the urge again to open my big mouth for another massive rant – just in time for Mother’s Day. Lucky DH.
It is a lame rant because ‘Duh, it is obvious girl…’ but I’ll say it anyway. The other day, I felt sickened by magazine spreads of (fashion) mom entrepreneurs living in oversized downtown apartments harboring Irving Penn’s prints on the walls, wearing designer frocks and looking with adoration at their long wavy haired only child sketching in corduroy covered notebooks (Note: details are totally BS but you get the idea).
I know that perfection is always staged because no one can have such a life or else KILL me now. But it still annoyed the hell out of me. What bothered me the most is that this type of shit used to inspire me, make me dream, live a fantasy for a few minutes but right now I just feel fucking pissed off and feel stolen of my hardship. Things are made so easy that you actually feel shit struggling. It is the post-C section ‘I am so happy’ pictures all over again. I wish there were reports of struggle and not just some ludicrous fantasy advertising ‘Get your ticket, you can be next.’ I wish there were pictures of red faced women trying to breathe in and out the stress of running a company while emptying the dishwasher.
I am very tortured about what I am writing now because I am the founder of a boutique selling quality and elegant design to inspire so shouldn’t I look and sound the part? But what is ‘that part’? Really.
Well, my truth is this one: mom entrepreneurship is ugly. For example:
– My kids wake me up because once they go to bed, I continue to work late and thus oversleep. I look like a rag and my daughter pushes me: ‘Mom, C’mon. I really don’t want to be late for school. Again. And how can you sleep with a W-E-D-G-I-E? Don’t you find it very uncomfortable?’
– I am refraining from going to Starbucks because 2 double tall skimmed cappuccinos can pay for an hour of my assistant’s time.
– My kids have started to talk to strangers on the subway – on their own initiative – to promote my company. They tell everyone their mom is ‘BOSS’. I thought of stopping them out of embarrassment but let them do it thinking ‘you never know, they may find me new clients’. Shameless.
– I don’t get free clothes. Ever. I pay for them. I only have endless temptations. Like a recovering alcoholic in Pegu bar. Meanwhile, the kids wear polo shirts with way too short sleeves because I lack the time and money for shopping.
– I have so many IOUs with my friends and family that I hope I am a true Buddhist who will go through various reincarnations to pay up my dues.
Finally and most importantly I wonder every day if my husband will end up divorcing me. Contrary to the popular belief, asking my husband to fully support my folly is not getting him to take nice shots of me wearing skinny leather pants for my Instagram feed (you should check out this video of Instagram husbands, hysterical). And it is more than being the sole income earner. The man behind the mom entrepreneur is a guy who believes so much in her that he is probably now the gayest straight man at work talking about fashion designers crafting beautiful prototypes on their kitchen tables with his female colleagues instead of commenting on the latest Yankees game. It is a guy who is accepting a tougher life to pay for the childcare and cleaning help she needs to be a full-time entrepreneur. A guy who puts his own dreams aside for hers, leaves work earlier to mind for their sick kids or has to take days off to help her set up pop ups in swanky hotels – taping japanese screens and putting IKEA furniture together when he barely knows how to use a screw driver.
It is a guy who does not think he is making her favors but rather knows that she HAS to do this.
And indeed, I have to do this now.
My ticket number to be the next best thing may never be called up. I am not going to lie about it. Who knows?
But what I know is this. With Mother’s day coming up, I do encourage everyone to celebrate their moms because they have shit days – sometimes very often. But this one mama does not need anything from her family. She has been short-changing them for a while now and is just grateful that they accept the Mom and Wife she can be and allow her to be the Woman she wants to be.
Below my journey as an entrepreneur in selfies but with clothes 🙂
“Never tell me the odds.”
Han Solo, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
This week, we received an offer from our local public school for G & P’s kindergarten that starts this Fall. Said this way, it feels like the simplest thing in the whole world. You live somewhere you go the school next door, right? But as any parent living in a big city with an (un)healthy dose of ‘we want the best for our munchkins’ will tell you ‘yeah… you wish but truth is; it is the fucking Hunger Games’.
And DH and I ended unwillingly participating in it. And when will we stop? When you finish reading this, please feel free to judge me. I do judge myself.
Let’s back track a few months to understand my personal journey to insanity. I am a fervent supporter of dual language programs in New York public schools and was hoping a community of French speaking families would be able to open one in our neighborhood – but it was to no avail.
So DH and I decided ‘Fuck this; let’s take it easy and stick to our local community school. It is only kindergarten after all.’
Then, you start having lunches with friends who went to all the private schools’ open houses and interviews in New York. Some have prepared their kids for he last two months for the lauded but also worrying G & T programs ( I still did not figure out the answers to some of the practice test questions). Others have visited all the public schools of the district and have built seriously impressive matrices to rank all options. You keep hearing that it is essential to start the kids on the best track now so they can go to the best middle school, high school and best college and then best …actually conversations get vague then. But what seems to be the general conclusion is : the likeliness of one kid to be a dropout and be that Facebook guy or a prosperous rapper is slim so really, we need to increase their chances to be… Conversations get even more vague then.
Yes. You have all kinds of reactions and you discover so much about your friends’ and your own anxieties, upbringing, disappointments, hopes etc.
And then you have this kind of mom: the clueless one whom everyone is calling because they think she has her shit together because she wears red lipstick on a Saturday afternoon.
And the clueless mom first standing firm on her resolve to not bother is now starting to wither. ‘OK; everyone is leaving Earth in this shuttle for The Jedi Empire to train Padawans. And I am now on my own with all my principles and my kids because of me will remain forever storm troopers’.
So that is when clueless mom is getting all Darth Vader:
I started to drag the kids on a Sunday morning unprepared to the last spots of G & T testing and your kids are like ‘what the heck? We thought we were going to K’s for a play date!’.
I started to ask questions to people I hadn’t talked to in ages to know where their kids go.
I started to freak out at urban legends of 10 families being on the same lease so as to be zoned in their coveted school. Who fucking does this ?
Actually I do know who does this: immigrant families who have to share rents or have to show a residence to find a job or open a bank account- to basically access basic social and economic rights.
Thank god; sometimes you find another clueless mom to prank with about how a popular school has decided to put places on the waiting list down as fundraising auction prizes. You laugh hysterically and then embarrassingly because for a split second you actually believed her!
In the end, because you are still a lazy shit you end up applying to two public schools.
Fast forward and the results fell this week. At one point of the day, I was on multi texting with 5-6 moms. DRAMA. I tried to lighten the mood: ‘heh guys relax. I think I was in a refugee center for the start of my kindergarten year.’ But in truth it is no joke. Whatever you say, you cannot kick away this interrogation: ‘Am I doing the best for my kids?”
We did not get our first choice; we are on the waiting list for that school and the wait game is now starting. But I am actually good with the second choice we were given too so let’s see.
One thing for sure though is that I will not surrender to the Dark side. If I start to falter I will think hard of ‘The Force Awakens’:
– the main heroes are a scavenger and a rebellious storm trooper who understands what is right and wrong
– and yes luke skywalker may be a freaking powerful Jedi who owns a fucking (deserted) island, but Han Solo was always so much cooler 🙂 Period.
This year has started sweet and sour. But that is exactly why it is already exciting.
In the first weeks of 2016, David Bowie and Alan Rickman left us leaving this world with an ounce less of inspiration.
DH’s grandma L. also followed her husband J., who passed away a month or so ago, leaving this world with an ounce less of devoted love. Throughout the last twenty years since I met DH, I wondered so many times how two individuals could have possibly been living apart for a total of 48hours in their entire 75 years of life together. How could they possibly do so and still love each other? The final flight of these two lovebirds put an end to all questions I had. I guess.
My relationships in New York have recently morphed into something very comforting . When living in London, I was young and malleable and basically living with my college crew or look alikes. Things were easy: we laughed at the same jokes, studied the same stuff, had similar dreams and were the only family we had around.
Then we moved. I got preggers. I now have a family with little ones whom I am trying to learn to know. Tantrum after tantrum, cuddle after cuddle, mishap after mishap. Therefore more than ever I need some grown ups behind and by me. People with whom silence is no longer uncomfortable and this, my friends, takes a fucking long time to build. It takes even longer when you are dealing with a panoply of mismatched individuals: Harlem families, child free gay couples, grandma substitutes, and single and killing it girlfriends and so on.
And then gradually, slowly, and at times awkwardly these people who have nothing to do with each other become your life support. A family who drove mid-November to a House of horrors in the middle of nowhere in the Catskills to celebrate your and DH’s 20 years of life together. A family who heard en route that Paris was under terrorist attacks. Every minute we were on this road, the number of dead people was soaring. And your celebration does no longer have any sense. It would have become absolutely meaningless if it were not for those faces facing you, trying to pause for a moment their thoughts of Paris to smile and eat your dry and overcooked cassoulet.
These same people turned up to unwrap jewelry after their kids’ morning school drop and before going to work to help me open my holiday pop up boutique and before I had a nervous meltdown due to the now infamously known as ‘where the fuck are all the chokers?’ freak out.
And that is why 2016 is of course about stepping it up with my fashion boutique Another Garde , of course keeping on discovering who my children are but it will also be a year deepening friendships in this city that is finally no longer ‘my new city’ but ‘home’.
People around me started to make babies again moving to number 2, 3 or 5 (!!!). I have stayed away from babies for a couple of years now because of the trauma of my back to back pregnancies. I was that one mom circling around you always with a glass of champagne in the hand so she would not be asked to carry or cuddle your newborn earning the moniker of the ‘why is she ALWAYS dancing?’ Mom. I have recently chilled out and now I am back to embracing all these new cute babies around me…DH’s recent vasectomy has also helped a lot 🙂 mouaaaaa
And finally L. is talking in a way that I can understand. During the Jonas blizzard, he said ‘it’s a snowstorm.’ Not ‘snow’ or ‘white’ but a clear ‘it s a snowstorm’. Welcome talking L.; papa and I cannot wait to hear more about you.
Or the day when redlipstickmama became Soumountha
When I started this blog, I can say this now: I was not well. I was a little lonely not because I had no friends but it was a weird loneliness. I was lonely because I was freaking lost. Too many thoughts, very few outlets, no clairvoyance. The blog started like an extended Facebook like rant, turned into a full self-administered therapy and somewhat transformed into the release of something strange and beautiful: the courage to explore things I had no idea were buried deep inside of me.
Things like writing because I just have to do it, entrepreneurial cravings, the boldness to say things the way I just want to say them and the hope that I can somehow touch other women out there.
This would have not been possible without being inspired, supported and sometimes challenged (I dare you to do it) by some amazing women I met through blogging. It was just easier to come out with strangers first like it was always easier for me to be naked in front of strangers than my own sisters – note:I still don’t really do it very often #anotherreasonIDONOTgotothegym
Anyway, more than two years later, these women are still galvanizing me. I am beyond flattered to be interviewed by uber stylish and atta mom-creative-blogger Kate from Maison Bentley about the launch of Another Garde. Her questions were so insightful that it actually made me think hard about what I do and why I do it. You can read the full interview Another Garde by Maison Bentley. I also for the first time say it here: my name is Soumountha 🙂
I hope you will like it and do check out Kate’s blog on a regular basis. She has an amazing eye for elegant and relatable and yet ‘you have never seen it quite like this before’ pieces.
Love you Kate xoxo
#feelinghumbledthismorning #love #determination #womenbehindwomen
Photography by Kate Bentley
Mr. Ping: Once I had a dream that I ran away to make tofu.
Po: Then why didn’t you?
Mr. Ping: Because it was a stupid dream.
Kung Fu Panda (2008)
I write a blog so I don’t forget things; like how much I hurt, how much I worked, how much I laughed, how much I loved…Bla Bla Bla
Today, I do not want to ever forget some precious moments with my daughter. A day will probably come when her smart ass attitude will frustrate me to no end, when I will ‘expect’ her comments and when I will no longer stop in my tracks because the words coming out of her mouth just silence me and blow my mind. Sorry if this sounds pretentious but I am too proud of her not to share. OK, I will now pass over the vomit bucket 🙂
Anyway, here are some keepsakes from P, age 4.
‘Mom, we are all getting old and we are all going to die, right?’
‘Yes…’ I replied, choking lightly and thinking ‘Shit I AM going to DIE!!!!’
“Eh…to make place for you and your family. If we all stay and hang out, there will be too many of us and you won’t have space to grow and do stuff’.
‘I don’t like that you have to die’.
‘It’s OK; I will always be somewhere watching you.’
‘Do promise you will watch me, OK? Because if you stop watching (as in looking at me), I will be lost.’
My heart really tightened at that moment because it was so innocent, simple, and genuine. Of course, children grow up obsessed with parental approval. So, what do I need to do not to screw it up? Me and so many of my friends grew up always feeling that we were not and will never be enough. Adult happiness becomes so evasive. Of course we cannot put all the blame on our old folks but I wonder when parents stop watching and start judging. When do parents turn from being ‘compasses’ into unsatisfied coaches ?
On her favorite books
I always thought that kids had this one book they cherished for ever and would carry everywhere; books about pigs, princesses, dogs and so on. A kind of literary comforter.
P changes ‘I cannot live without them’ books every 2 months. Among her recent obsessions: the illustrated Bible, the French – Lao pocket dictionary and the signed memoir by Condoleezza Rice ‘No Higher Honor’…Difficult to imagine these books as comforters.
She turns pages after pages, ‘reads’ intensely, nods, closes the books, re-opens the books and nods again. This stuff has officially freaked me out. That and when yesterday she told me ‘Mom when you decide to learn the guitar, I will tune it for you. I know how to do it, I saw Dad do it, it has to make a special sound when you pull the string.’ She has to be the world’s biggest bullshit express or what???
On being nice
‘I don’t understand why you ask me to be nice. It is not easy; it is very difficult to be nice all the time! How can you do this? What you ask is not fair.’
I am still pondering what to respond to this.
G & P’s new passive aggressive jousting is calling each other ‘Poop’. It absolutely drives them nuts and really upsets them. I mean it. They kick each other’s heads and they’ll be fine. They strangle each other and they’ll be fine. They steal each other’s food and they’ll be fine. But if the word ‘poop’ comes out, all hell breaks loose. Yesterday morning, P was bawling her eyes out: ‘G told me that I was poop’.
Me:’Well, he is your TWIN brother so if you are poop, he is poop too.’
DH was assuredly playing along: ‘Yes it is true. If you are poop, you get it from us so Mama is poop and I am poop and thus HE is poop too’.
We were feeling very smug about our stellar common sense but P started crying even louder. I tried her to calm her repeating: ‘Stop crying and just tell him he is poop too like everyone else.’
To which she screamed: ‘But stop it!!! I don’t want to be part of a family of poop!!!!’
DH and I turned crimson from embarrassment. She did make an awfully good point. As for the two us, a bunch of idiots…really hahahaha.
We live in a culturally very diverse neighborhood and from time to time some racial tensions just ignite on the bus or the subway. This morning an African American woman called some hispanic folks ‘cockroaches’ and ‘immigrants’ preaching a revisionist take on American History in which Africans were the indigenous population of America. Profanities ensued. L was confused like hell and I was just relieved that it was not older P or G who was riding the bus with me. So yeah, I wonder every day about what is my kids’ understanding of cultural and ethnic differences. I tried to start a conversation by asking P:
‘Do you think Mama looks more like your friend I’s mom (who is Asian Korean) or your friend K’s mom (who is French Caucasian)?’
She paused, smiled and said: ‘Mom, you are beautiful. That’s it’. DH looked at me beaming and we both concluded that she just understood it all. She has just cracked international conflicts and world peace.
Just like that.
Picture below by Helene McGuire
I hate valentines day. I don’t think about valentines day because I don’t do valentines day. Every year I only get reminded about it when I suddenly realize that I am walking on streets that are pink and red like…hmmm…like the opening of a bad erotic movie from the late 70s or something like that. Or when suddenly my local grocery store looks like a rose greenhouse.
That’s when I really get annoyed because my Friday routine of buying myself some flowers generates a ‘aww she is the one giving the flowers’ look. It really pisses me off. You see, DH very rarely buys me flowers not because he does not think about it but because I am so anal about floral arrangements that he learnt a long, long time ago that he very rarely can get it right! Buying myself flowers gives me a strange sense of empowerment and valentines day just ruins it for me this year! Argggg.
This year I was also reminded early because the kids teachers kept telling me about valentines cards and after 2-3 friendly reminders I understood that it was not optional but actual homework. Of course I refuse to buy stuff for something we hate celebrating so I decide that the kids/I will do homemade cards …whining all along. And that’s when having twins just takes it to another level.
Especially when each twin says ‘NO mom!!!! I really, really, have to do a card for all (19) my classmates and my teachers because they will be sad if they don’t get one!’
To which I reply :’ Aww that is so sweet and generous of you! I am really proud of you!’
But what I really think is: ‘Little fucker. Really? You cannot seriously like ALL of them and our cards suck anyway so believe me it is not a TREAT!!!’
On a high note, DH told me: ‘my (male) colleagues are so jealous of me.’
‘Because we don’t do valentines and my wife does not give a fuck about it’.
And that makes me very, very happy. Having wealthy bankers who have everything be jealous of us for one night is priceless 🙂
Happy #valentinesday for all who celebrate it; for others tonight wear some earplugs for the loud sex next door and we’ll be fine!