No matter how we become mothers, we can all agree on two things: one, motherhood is hard, and two, our love for our children is no different. Meet three Ann Arbor-area mamas as they discuss their journey to motherhood.
Nuola Akinde resides in Brighton and is the mother of three children ages 8, 5, and 1.5. Nuola is an early childhood educator by trade, co-parents with her children’s father, Cliff DiAngelo, and is an unschooling family.
What fills your day? Nuola is at home with her children and approaches education with the unschooling method, an educational philosophy that advocates for self-directed learning through life experiences. An early childhood educator by trade, Nuolo works as a consultant for various early childhood organizations. She is also an activist that works to cultivate justice through supporting two local non-profit organizations, “I work part time at Growing Hope in Ypsilanti, a non profit organization that focuses on ecological injustice issues in the area. The goal is to support low-income people to get gardens in their homes. I also work as a program coordinator for Black Men Read, an organization in Ypsilanti whose mission is to empower communities of color by inspiring literacy.”
Biggest Mom Achievement over the past year? I think the biggest accomplishment as a parent is to cultivate a childhood where they have opportunities to be passionate about the world. I think we do this through thinking about how we structure our time and also reflecting on how they want to spend their time. I believe giving my children the opportunity to have a voice. They are different from me and they have different ideas, so learning to balance the needs of where each child is at different stages and where I am at as well.
What is your favorite local activity to do with your family? We love food and we love being outside. We love hiking. We go to lots of different places to hike, but our favorite is probably Rolling Hills. We also really like movies. What’s in your cup in Ypsilanti is a smoothie place we enjoy. Ypsilanti Farmers Market in the summer is also a favorite.
What advice do you have for other mothers? There are two suggestions I have. The first is to lean on your community. Find those members that you know want to support you. Know that it is okay and important to ask for help. Give people the pleasure of helping you because they want to. Once I realized this as a mother, it was so empowering. The second is to continue to do other things that you loved before you became a mother. Remembering that there are other things that you love to do that are separate from your mothering is really important for your self-identity.
Melodee Bourdeau mothers and resides in the city of Ypsilanti, “There are 8 of us in our family. My husband, Randy, our oldest son is Matt and his girlfriend Ashley. Then there are Emma, Roger, Sophie, and our dog Rosie.”
Biggest Mom Achievement over the past year? The fact that my oldest son moved out. We are sad that he is gone but we also celebrate this monumental achievement that as parents we successfully parented one child so that now he is on his own.
What is your favorite local activity to do with your family? We go to Cultivate Coffee & Tap House in Ypsilanti often. I am an administrator for the Homeschoolers of Washtenaw County (HOW). We do a lot of meetups at Cultivate such as knit nights and board game days. Cultivate is great because they have community times where community members are able to reserve tables. Cultivate is a great organization in Ypsilanti with a mission to cultivate and support local community needs.
What is the most difficult situation you have had to deal with as a mother and how did you handle it? I would say the most difficult situations were dealing with the diagnoses of two of my children, one with Asperger’s and one with Dyslexia. The easy part was that we were aware with both of our children that they were showing signs that something was not right. Yet, it was difficult to navigate through the health insurance and medical companies to find the right people to help before they were diagnosed. Once we got the diagnoses’, it became easier because we knew what we were dealing with and found support for their individual needs. We are grateful because Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor offer great resources to support children with identified needs.
What advice do you have for other mothers? Surprisingly we are finding that parenting teenagers has been the easiest stage for us. I think the reason is because we laid the foundation with our children early on that we approach parenting as a democracy. We give our children the opportunity to have a voice. It is definitely a flip from the parenting style my husband and I grew up with. Yet, the results are that my kids are agreeable and they trust us. We have found that you can build trust and still hold boundaries by doing it without bearing your authority. We have built that foundation of trust, so they feel like we are partners and are they comfortable coming to us for everything.
Born and raised in Wyoming, married in Utah, and now a current resident of Ann Arbor, Kaytlin Howard Mangelson and her husband, Josh, have three children under the age of five.
What fills your day? We moved to Ann Arbor give years ago for my husband to attend a doctorate program at the University of Michigan. I am at home taking care of my three children and occasionally do online editing. Our 3-year-old Linnie was born with a medical condition called VACTERL. That plays a huge role in our family dynamic. My day is pretty largely filled with therapy and doctor appointments, calling about therapy and doctor appointments, and on the phone with the insurance company. Also the typical mothering work that is required to support three young children is what fills my days.
Biggest Mom Achievement over the past year? A year ago Linnie suffered an anoxic brain injury as a complication of the flu. She lost oxygen to her brain. We were not sure she would survive. As a result of the complication, Linne had to spend three months in the hospital. Thankfully, she survived. Those months of rehab and really long exhausting days at the hospital helped me to redefine what it means to be a good mother. It was difficult for me to not be able to be with all my kids at once during that time. During the time Linne was in the hospital I needed to sit in the hospital and help her feel cared for while my other two children spent time out West with family. I realized that I had to be okay with the fact that mothering is going to be different at different times with each child. My biggest mom achievement is to look back at the last year and to see that my marriage is strong and my family is intact and we got through it. Linnie is still here with us and that is all that matters.
What is your favorite part of being a mother? My favorite part is watching my kids learn new things and make those developmental leaps. Watching them master a skill and gain a new level of independence. Creating magic with holidays, birthdays, and traveling. I start planning for Christmas in June. Seeing the spark through my children’s eyes is the best.
What advice do you have for other mothers? The best advice I ever got was what my mother told me, “Everything is a stage.” If I am frustrated that my toddler will eat nothing but goldfish crackers and mac and cheese, they will not go off to college eating only goldfish and mac and cheese. It is a stage and it will not last forever. It helped me to humble myself and to be more flexible.
Where do you get your strength? My faith. I have a strong belief in Jesus Christ. It has definitely gotten me through the difficult moments. Believing that things will be okay. Also, my husband is wonderful. I absolutely could not do my schedule without his help and his great fathering skills.