This week's conversation with #MamaNextDoor Lilani Dunn is all about authenticity, getting in touch with what serves you and your family, the heartbreak and the joy of parenthood, and finding a healthy balance between real life and social media. Lilani and I connected via Instagram a few weeks ago and I was instantly drawn to her outlook on motherhood and life in general. She's one of the first mamas in the series from the West Coast (Seattle, to be exact!) and I'm so excited to introduce her to you today!
Lilani says this about her and it's such a beautiful glimpse into her soul I wanted to share it with you:
"I'm an LA girl, through and through, but fell in love with a Seattlelite. I struggle often with the weather but more often with the lack of diversity. It's something that our bi-racial household is well aware of and we are hoping for things to change for the city in the next handful of years. Thanks to the big tech boom, I'm certain/hopeful it will happen.
Marriage and parenthood came quickly for us. In the beginning of 2018 we got engaged and 2 months before our wedding found out we were pregnant! We were SO EXCITED. 3 weeks before our wedding and at our 12 week appointment, they no longer detected a heartbeat. It was and still is the hardest thing we have dealt with as a couple. A month after our wedding, we were pregnant again with our rainbow baby and oldest girl, Haleina (now 18 months). When Haleina was 6 months old we found out we were pregnant again and we had Naomi (almost 5 months) in September of 2020. I am a proud "advanced aged, gestational diabetic" mom, having had Haleina at 37 and Naomi at 38. The girls are very close in age but we experienced VERY different pregnancies and L&D, mostly due to the pandemic.
Lastly, I have struggled to strike a healthy balance with social media. It's very much part of my job as a marketing professional but like everyone, it's become a main source to the outside world during both parental leaves and of course, the pandemic. I tried to do maintenance on who I follow and who follows me but it just got too cumbersome so I abandoned it and recently started my @HowLaniGotHerGroove back. I love it so much with just the 14 accounts I follow. It's just lovely, like an IG book club for the soul."
If you're like me you're probably nodding your head in agreement and solidarity. I hope you'll love reading Lilani's honest, thoughtful interview and walk away feeling more connected to the world around you and — most importantly — to yourself.
Tell me a bit about yourself before you became a mother, and how did you change after becoming a mother?
When I compare my day-to-day before I became a mother to after, you can argue that not too much has changed on the surface level but a lot has changed when you look at the intention behind how I choose to spend my time. Prior to motherhood, I was commuting into an office and would indulge in a lot of activities whether it was training for a marathon, climbing a mountain, or teaching/taking a barre class. The combination of having 2 under 2 during a pandemic has changed that list and now I'm either on my Peloton or taking virutal Momleta classes. Most recently I joined a private late night lap pool swim session. Most importantly my "why" has changed a lot because the value of time has increased exponentially. I work because it's something I not only enjoy doing but I am deeply passionate and proud to do. I now stay active so that I can be healthier and stronger both mentally and physically for myself and my family. Turns out, I really like them and want to hang out with them as long as I can!
What does your absolute dream version of motherhood look like?
I was born and raised in Pasadena, CA and come from a large, tight-knit family. I absolutely loved growing up in a loud and busy household. One of my many nieces had a gymnastics meet and there were no fewer than 20 of us cheering her on. Being 2 states away has felt extremely isolating for us and it is heartbreaking to be away from family, especially this past year. I dream that our two girls will feel "part" despite the physical distance from family and hope that we can create that same supportive, loving environment that I was lucky to have.
What societal or cultural messages about motherhood frustrate you and how would you like to see them changed?
I'm going to take a bit of a risk with an unpopular opinion but I have found myself being frustrated at some of the enabling of "Mommy Life" stereotypes. From tone deaf memes, to terrible targeted ads received on my IG feed, or comments about why/how I forgot where I put my sunglasses. (Spoiler Alert: I used to lose my sunglasses before "pregnancy brain"). This might be idealistic but if a little more couth, sensitivity, awareness made about what we hit "post" on, maybe more positivity will be absorbed, fewer triggers touched, and empathy/sympathy can be expressed and received versus labeling ourselves as "run-down, forgetful, reality-TV show watching mombies". Not that there's anything wrong with those things, women are just way more dynamic than that.
What do you do well? What really works for you? Do you have a secret? Your mom super power?
I have always managed time well. But I do remember before I had kids looking at friends who were so adamant about keeping a schedule. "Why don't you just let them nap when they are tired or eat when they get hungry". I GET IT NOW. It works for our household and it has allowed time for ourselves both as a couple and independently. I don't think any of this is a secret nor does it work for everyone, but it is a saving grace for us. I've been told that my mom superpower is parenting with confidence. I want to credit my own parents and four older siblings for this. Mom and Dad did things their own way, different from either one of their families, and as mentioned above, I am super grateful for what the two of them created. I think of them often when Joey and I parent "our way" also known as what is best for our family. I rarely inquire about parenting advice from outside sources and respectfully, do not offer my unsolicited advice.
How do you take care of yourself? How do you deal with mom guilt?
I am happiest when I am active, and I make it a high priority for me to work it into my schedule. Mom Guilt, the fact that it's a thing to even begin with. I had my own set of insecurities pre-pregnancy and when I entered the very new world of pregnancy and eventually motherhood a brand-new set of insecurities presented themselves. It's so important to be aware of our insecurities and learn how to manage them because they aren't going to magically disappear. Learning to live healthily with my insecurities has helped me become a better, stronger version of myself and has helped me connect with other women in a more meaningful way. I take extra care to protect myself from any outside triggers to aggravate these insecurities preventing Mom Guilt as much as one possibly can. I have pledged to be an advocate to help anyone, in any way not fall into this super toxic cycle of making mothers feel this way.
What’s a topic related to motherhood, or life after becoming a mother, that you wish we talked about more?
I would like to replace the "This VS That" discussions surrounding parenting: sleeping methods, screen time, vaccinations, schooling, fertility, feedings, schedules, milestones, transitions, OB care, etc. I would like to see people with "voices", which thanks to social media is basically everyone, be more mindful of what they are saying and post respectfully & responsibly. Social media could be a landmine of triggers for me and I found myself, more often than not, negatively impacted after going through my feed and it's why I do very necessary digital detoxes! It'd be great to have more conversations empowering mothers to trust their guts, instincts, and own research to make parenting decisions with confidence, knowing it's okay to not be perfect, and that there is rarely a right or wrong.