Interview: Mollie Guillemette

Where do you live and how many kids do you have?
I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband, Kendall, my son Finn, and soon we will be welcoming a new little life into the mix.

What do you spend your days doing?
I spend much of my time making and caring for my family. I have always loved creating. When I was growing up there was not much in the way of resources to support this, but even then I’d sneak mustard seeds from the spice rack to plant. I would quietly find a little patch of dirt somewhere, push the seeds into the earth, water them, and watch them grow with the eagerness and pride of a mama bird watching over her eggs. Then, I would harvest the spicy little greens just a few at a time. It was really a calming and nourishing experience for me.

Becoming a mama and running our home has become an outlet for this desire of mine to make, but on a much larger scale. There are of course a lot of demands and pulls and choices to make about what gets my attention, but I continue to experience the calm and satisfaction that making brings me. That is my center. When I lose that, when my neck gets tight and I feel like I’m trying to not explode as I move through my day, I know that there are adjustments to make. While I don’t enjoy every part of my job, I do enjoy most of it and I feel grateful that I get to spend my days putting my energy towards making things for and taking care of the people I love most in the world.

What do you like most about your family?
That we care about each other a great deal and enjoy one another’s company. Both of these things are about connecting with each other. Kendall and I have been intentional about fostering this in our family and I think it’s a huge reason why we all really like each other. Our family values being supportive of one another, respectful and loving, and having fun together. We definitely fall short of this, but it’s where we are aiming–and when we hit it, we’re a goofy, easy going, wide-eyed and jovial bunch, hearty laughter fills the space between us, and my heart is full and effervescent with joy. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing, when we are rocking in the space, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and life couldn’t be better.

What parts of parenting come naturally to you and what parts are a struggle?
Learning and growing. It comes very naturally for me to seek out information about what I don’t know but feel a pull to understand. This has played an important role in my parenting. I have had so many questions as I’ve figured out how I want to parent, then how to actually parent correspondingly, and also how to grasp different things within myself that have surfaced along the way. I’ve also needed and wanted to understand where my son is developmentally and how I can support him. My parenting is so different when I am informed. I feel energized and empowered by it and able to accurately see and think through the many needs that arise.

With inquisitiveness being a trait each person in our family has, I’ve been able to relate to Finn’s extremely curious nature and connect with him through learning. I love being able to join my son in his desire to understand the world around him. Observing him grow and develop has been one of the most fun and fascinating parts of parenting.

My most persistent struggles are with being impatient and negative. When I’m rested and full neither one of those things really seems to be an issue, but when I am stressed or worn thin they emerge and it is a really ugly side to me. Impatience is something I generally struggle with, which is why it also shows up in my parenting. We don’t get to just bring the best of ourselves to parenting–but all of us. I meet my son with what I have and where I am; sometimes I love what I have to offer and other times I don’t. When I bring impatience and negativity to a situation the detrimental effect it has on my son is apparent. He’s a good mirror for me in a lot of ways and over the years my son’s reflections of me have been encouraging at times and difficult to see at others.

One other big thing I have struggled with is play. I did not grow up in a house with play and while I have found ways I really enjoy playing as an adult, it has been difficult to engage with my son through play on a child’s level. I just don’t intuitively relate to it and it can often feel completely outside any frame of reference I have to sit down and play a child’s game; I literally don’t know what to do. It’s not simply a part of me that needs to be awakened, it’s a part that never existed and needs to, from nothing, be developed. It’s like trying to teach yourself to add when you’ve never heard of numbers, let alone comprehend what a number is. I don’t know that this is something that many people can identity with. There are times I will see my husband effortlessly approach play from a place my son can completely relate to and I think how did he know how to do that? I’ve found that this aspect of play in particular will take time for me to learn and books aren’t necessarily enough, but instead it’s watching adults play with kids and then trying to do it myself. I am searching for a starting place, a place of basic comprehension and then I can begin to build the skills. It can feel really clumsy, awkward, and embarrassing to be learning something like play in front of my son, but it’s important to me.

Photo credit: Michelle Garrels

What do you need as a parent?
Down time and to be told that I’m doing a good job. I need to be filled up. The better spot I’m in, the easier it is for me to parent the way I want to. I can wrestle against the situation and try to be a great parent no matter what place I’m in, but there are so many reasons that I would rather solve the problem by just not being run down. I know that there are going to be times that I am run down and it’s important to know how to handle myself well in those situations, but I want that to be the exception not the baseline from which I operate. I want to reflect to my son that it is essential to care for ourselves. It’s a skill I want him to carry with him through his life. I don’t want to see him going through life burnt out and I can’t teach him something I don’t know. Also, I value myself enough to care for myself. My son doesn’t like it when I do things to care for myself. He wants to me to available to him all the time and doesn’t understand why I am not. But, I keep caring for myself and we keep having conversations about it. He will learn. The same way, while he doesn’t like it now, he will one day learn that our couch is not a napkin. Each of us being well cared for is a learning process for our family, but it’s worth it because I enjoy my life and my role as a parent so much more when I’m nourished.

I also need to be told, in a very real and honest way, that I’m doing a good job. There are a lot of ways that I fall short, but there are also many ways that I am a great parent. My husband and I have a very honest dialogue with each other about ways that we could grow as parents and I am very self-aware of the many missteps I make. So, I feel like a thorough understanding of my shortcomings as a parent are pretty well covered, but in general I think we could all stand to hear more about the ways in which we are doing a great job. I have a yoga teacher that says in class, “You’re doing it fucking right” in this passionate but very calming, yogi voice. It’s exactly what so many of us need to hear. There are many ways in which all of us are doing it right and giving voice to each others strengths is powerful.

How does where you live affect your parenting?
Well for one, it has made finding a basic community for homeschooling my son easy. We were stepping into this new area with my son where he was getting close to school age and we knew we wanted to homeschool him. With the three of us being passionate about learning it was a really natural direction for us to homeschool, but Kendall and I wanted Finn to be surrounded by peers and for it to be easy for us to access various resources. So, when we were deciding where we wanted to settle down this was a big factor. Kendall and I spent a lot of time thinking through what we wanted for our family and what, in reality, was going to work well for all of us. Living in Portland has brought ease for our family to do the things we love as well as for Kendall and I pursue our own interests. We live in a place that supports our family culture and that benefits our parenting.

What are you especially conscious of as a parent?
My son knowing that he is loved and behaving in a way that is consistent with reflecting that to him. It’s something that shapes a lot of how I interact with Finn. I want him to know that he is good. There is much that he has to learn and it is my job to facilitate that learning, but him not knowing a skill yet is not a reflection on the quality of his nature. It may sound obvious, but I hear the contrary a lot. I’m really aware of this and still when my impatience surfaces I will shame him for not knowing how to do something yet, especially if it is something I have been trying to teach him for a long time.

What nurtures and inspires you as a person?
Reading books about how people are finding their way through this life and the skills that they’ve found along the way to help them. Experiencing the work of someone skilled in their craft. Looking at beautiful pictures and being in beautiful places. Doing things that are really satisfying to me like making, hiking, or practicing yoga. Seeing people be kind to each other and watching those I love (including myself) grow.

What is your favorite time of day?
The morning. I love it. I like my morning routines and when possible enjoying the stillness of that part of the day. I especially like sitting outside in the cool of a Summer morning and taking the world in as it wakes up.

What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
Love and enjoy my family. They are what matters most to me and I can think of nothing better than living a life that is full of loving them and enjoying their company.

Is there anything you do that you want to share with our readers?
Kendall and I co-founded Grounded Magazine together. It’s a space that I am excited to continue to see develop and an endeavor I’m grateful to be pursuing with the love of my life, in so many ways he couldn’t be a better partner.