i first met kirsten ginckels when we started freelancing for the same magazine, way back when. i’ve always known her to be an incredibly hardworking and ambitious lady, and i recognized my own perfectionism in her striving for the perfect career, the perfect wedding, and the perfect family. that is why, when she first let on things had been hard on her after the birth of her beautiful baby daughter, i took note and considered it a warning for myself. perfectionists are known to have more difficulties adapting to a new life in which rules, schedules and basically every single habit and routine is turned upside down.
when kirsten and her friend ellen van den bouwhuysen launched their platform THE GENTLEMOM late last year, i was a couple months pregnant and very aware of the importance of what they were doing. with their facebook group, they were the first to offer a platform for new and experienced moms to talk the truth about motherhood and offer their encouragement and support to others going through similar situations.
now that our little juliet is two months old, i’ve come to respect the gentlemom and all of its members even more. living abroad, far away from family, friends and colleagues, combined with juliet’s milk allergy, reflux and other little ailments needing 200% of my attention, i started feeling isolated, extremely tired and more than a little helpless. with every improvement in juliet’s situation i would raise my hopes, only to have them crushed the next day when she relapsed. now that her condition is stabilizing and i am spending some time with my parents in my hometown, i’m starting to see the bright side again – but i was dangerously close to slinking into a post natal depression.
so today i’m exceptionally happy to introduce you all to kirsten and ellen in the kick-ass women interview series. they’re working hard on a book that will be published by horizon this fall – so keep an eye out on their facebook group and instagram. in the meantime, they’re sharing some wise advice for women and moms everywhere.
if you could only give one piece of advice to anyone, what would it be?
kirsten – love yourself enough to set boundaries. your time and energy are precious. i wish someone would have given me that piece of advice before i started working as a freelance journalist. instead, i learned the hard way. i’m the living example of a woman not setting boundaries and not respecting herself enough to listen to her own body. self-care wasn’t a priority. the consequences of this brainless behaviour became visible after becoming a mom. a fulltime job on top of another fulltime job that had already worn me out to the max, was just too much to handle. i crashed and burned out. permanent damage is done. it will take years, if not a lifetime, to recover. i will never be the same again, but i’m starting to love the new me more and more.
who has been a mentor to you throughout your life or professional career, and how?
ellen – i have to say: my dad. he told me once to find something in life that makes you happy, a career, a way of living, and go for it, no matter what. always try to do things that make you happy. if life turns out not to be what you expected, dare to make changes”. this one sentence is always somewhere in the back of my head. when i decided to study photography, most people said: “making pictures is a hobby, not a job.” my dad said: “do it, I will support you wherever I can.” and so he did. photography has been my fulltime job since years. i hope, with all my heart, i can be as supportive to my son and guide him in the choices he makes.
what are you trying to teach yourself right now?
kirsten – as a new mom, many lessons are to be learned. each and every day. children make mistakes, just like adults. when stress and daily frustrations get the best of me, i feel the urge to scream, shout, yell… well, lose my patience easily. i don’t want to be that kind of mother. therefore i’m making a conscious effort on a daily basis to be more patient and compassionate when she spills her bowl of soup on the freshly cleaned kitchen floor. i owe it to her and to myself to react to her mistakes and wrongdoings in a more calm and reasonable way. i want to encourage her, not take her down. if she didn’t do it on purpose, then there’s no reason for me to get so worked up about it. showing empathy is teaching her empathy. and that’s what my biggest wish: for her to grow up as a compassionate human being.
what is your favorite memory? what does it say about you?
ellen – it’s hard to pick one memory and call it my favorite, there are several. but they have one thing in common: traveling. it’s a bit odd to talk about traveling now, because i’ve never been more comfortable in my own cocoon than since my baby boy was born, but still, it has been a big part of my adult life. i traveled for my job as well as for pleasure. it opened my mind, the way i look at things, especially at people. it’s a big world out there, different cultures and habits – and yet, we are so alike. how beautiful is that!
what is the biggest accomplishment you wish for yourself in your future?
kirsten – through hard times, i’ve gotten to know the real me, learned where my boundaries are and what’s important to me. in a society where it’s all about competing, survival of the fittest and every woman for herself, i hope to remain true to myself and stick to those boundaries. i do not longer want to be taken advantage of or taken down. by showing kindness to myself and to others, i’ve become stronger than i’ve ever been. i wish to continue walking this path, because it has brought me so much inner peace, joy and contentment.
what would you like to be remembered for?
ellen – i hope i ‘ll be able to live my life to the fullest, create a life i don’t need a holiday from. live more with less. there’s no ‘have to’, only ‘can do’. i hope i can pass this vision on to my son, so he is two steps ahead in life.
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