Mothergood Feature: Emily Runyan, Artist
Tell us about your background and a little bit about who you are?
My name is Emily, and I grew up on a pig and corn/soybean farm in Nebraska. Truly, my upbringing was that of country songs: daddy in the field, momma in the kitchen, rolling hills, bonfires, barefoot nights, lightning bugs, Friday night football games, and church on Sunday.
I’ve bounced around from living in Nebraska, Arizona, California, and settled (for now) in Colorado. My husband, Jeff, is a man with an international heart. We met in Miami, then wed in Miami a few years later. We have a son, Isaiah. He is 17-months-old, and we are expecting baby #2 in March. Here, in Denver, Colorado, I attempt to balance working part-time from home, running a little art business, and being a full-time momma—all with a husband who travels several days a month for his job.
What do you find most fulfilling about motherhood? The most challenging?
I love being Isaiah’s momma. There is nothing better than those sweet hugs and “mooooo-ah!” kisses from a one-year-old. I love watching Isaiah discover the world, develop his own personality, and hone his dance moves. I experience a deep gratitude for Isaiah and experience the beauty of the small things because of him.
Being a mom also has shown me the realities of myself. It can be really challenging to spend the whole day with an irrational human being (because no one-year-old can be considered rational). I overestimated my patience and generosity prior to becoming a mother. But, motherhood has really humbled me in the respect of revealing my personal failings. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I am not, and will never be, a perfect human or mother, while always trying to do my best to learn and grow in my ability to give and love. My husband and I pray every day to become better parents, continue to try our best, and support one another in the journey.
One thing that has helped me to find peace with myself is to connect with other moms who understand the challenges of motherhood, to exchange advice, and to just provide a listening ear. As mothers, it’s easy to keep busy and get caught up in our own lives and families. We really have to work to step outside of our homes and schedules to build friendships with other moms, but that support is vital.
What does motherhood look like for your right now? What do you love about where you are? What would you change?
As a mom, I often reflect on my upbringing in Nebraska and the childhood feeling of being totally free and safe on the farm. Sometimes, I feel sad knowing that my children will never grow up like that. We live in suburbia, Denver, in a simple home and a small backyard (compared to the acres and acres of land I grew up with). At the same time, there are also so many things that excite me when I think about my husband and I providing different childhood experiences for them: making faith more than a Sunday activity, teaching about loving one another through examples of our international experiences, and the gift of being surrounded by many other faithful families. We want to take the good of our own experiences and share it with our children the best we can.
On a practical level, I work away while the babe naps. Because my husband travels often, I’ll try to plan some travel for Isaiah and I during that time: a work trip, visit a friend, or head home to Nebraska. On the other hand, when we are home without Jeff, the days can go really slow. It can be lonely sometimes, but I keep myself busy with by planning hang outs with friends, projects around the house, work, art, and a couple of shows (Poldark, anyone?!).
How have you incorporated motherhood into your identity without losing your own individuality?
That first step into motherhood was completely life-altering. It’s shocking when you step out of the hospital and they just let you drive off with your firstborn. At first, I think I was just doing everything to keep my child alive and not thinking about myself because I had no idea what I was doing. But with the help and encouragement of my husband, soon it became more natural, and Isaiah has always brought me so much joy in the transition to parenthood.
Although he wasn’t the easiest baby, we traveled a lot with Isaiah. At four-weeks-old, Isaiah went on his first flight. At six weeks old, we took him to England, Ireland, and Portugal. We’ve continued our adventures and invited Isaiah into them. That doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenge, but the experience of traveling is something we value as a family. At 17-months-old, Isaiah has been on about 100 flights and to six countries.
At home, I find myself so grateful for nap times because they have allowed me to get into a rhythm of finding time for prayer, work, and creativity. Pouring myself into these outlets during Isaiah’s nap times fill me up so that I can be more present when Isaiah wakes up. I know that with #2 on the way, things will look totally different. Yet, I’m also recognizing that, although I desire to be our children's primary caretaker, it is ok to schedule babysitting to do a few extra things for myself every now and then.
What advice would you give women who are considering/desiring motherhood?
Being a mom is a gift, and it’s important that we communicate that not only to those around us, but especially to our own children. While motherhood has its challenges, it draws out more joy than I ever could have dreamed. Motherhood requires that we learn to love without expecting anything in return.
A beautiful (and sometimes scary) thing I’ve come to realize is that our hearts become our children’s home and it’s important that we prepare our hearts for this gift. Motherhood does not require perfection. At the same time, it is important to allow ourselves the time to exercise self-awareness and practice self-care, so that we don’t project our own insecurities and shortcomings on our children. The experience of motherhood includes both the highs and the lows. And, it’s all about growing and teaching—both parties play an important role in that, and we end up better human beings because of it.
Also, don’t google things. The internet can be a scary place for mommas.