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smartmom isabel furie

What I’ve Learned: Isabel Furie, Photographer

Isabel Furie is a Boston-based lifestyle photographer and mother of 2 boys.  You can check out her website, blog, or follow her on instagram

“We have two boys. Jack is 8 and Leo is about to be 5.  Jack is my scholar: an old soul who devours books and loves our record player. Leo, on the other hand, is completely wild.  He will most definitely be either a rock star or a stunt man.  They both share my love of fashion, art, and thrifting.

Smartmom Isabel Furie What I've Learned

My first-time mom experience is a little different than some.  In January 2005 we (my high school beau and I) found out we were pregnant with Jack. I was 19 and Chris was 20. We were married in May of 2005 and the rest is history.  I had to learn a lot on my own.  Being a young mother is an incredibly alienating experience, but I really do feel like my life began when I gave birth to Jack. It was as though I was buried in the dust and he just swept away all the sand and glass. In the 8 years I have been his mother, more and more of that sand and glass is brushed away and he helps me to see who I can be, both for him and for myself. My husband and I have really been growing up along side our kids (and I mean that in the most appropriate way possible!) so it’s been a hard road, but the reward is a 9 year marriage, two beautiful thriving children, and the years we have ahead of us to keep dreaming and growing.

Smartmom Isabel Furie What I've Learned

I have never felt very comfortable in my own skin.  The visual, physical, and emotional experience of watching my body change, feeling this thing growing inside of me shaping me. I suddenly cared about his birth and breastfeeding.  I suddenly became protective of my choices before he even came.  Those were all very new thing to me. I felt certain of something and I stood behind it.  He has made me brave…that is a vast understatement.  He has made me more sure of myself, who I am and what my goals and hopes are.

I think the greatest thing that becoming a mother has taught me is that you need friends for hugs and to cry with and  commiserate with.  But at the end of the day, you need to be able to decide what works for you and your family.  There are so many conflicting voices out there telling us how to be the best mom or the best parents. My husband is so wonderful and a very present partner and father. I’ve been really lucky in that way.  But if i’m being honest, I usually get in touch with a friend to ask if it’s an appropriate time to start drinking or how not to swear at my kid to his face.

Smartmom Isabel Furie What I've Learned

I LOVE watching my kids get excited about things: new people, food, music, a hike, a good grade, or a painting. It brings me great comfort and joy that they find such pride and pleasure in a wide range of places and experiences.  It makes me hopeful that I am raising confident boys who will feel free in this world to be whoever they are. it’s all hard and bittersweet but there are moments when you can see so clearly that despite the number of days you’ve told yourself you did nothing, that you failed, that you yelled too much or said f*** too many times, they are ok. In fact, they are better than ok. They are thriving and wonderful and quirky in their own ways. They aren’t scared of home or making mistakes or the outside world.  I love that too.

Smartmom Isabel Furie What I've Learned

I guess I officially started my photography business in 2010.  I can’t say i’m one of those people who had a camera in my hand from the beginning.  Cameras were just always there. My dad was a photographer and both of my parents worked for newspapers. We always had The New Yorker or Time or National Geographic. We always brought the camera along for outings and traveling. When I was growing up as an only child, a lot of these things became a part of an obsession. I loved to study images of people in all different facets of life. Both my parents were movie and music buffs. My dad’s favorite wall art was a good movie poster. I grew up with the poster from Silence of the Lambs on the wall and it’s my absolute favorite movie of all time. I’m quirky and shy and weird and dark and I’ve always been into how you can play with images and people in these ways.

But I did the typical thing of taking a million photos of my kid/kids and wanting to make more of the images i was taking. I took a leap, spent a tax return, got some gear and started teaching myself.  Up until that point, the only SLR I had shot on was film. Learning digital was tough, and now that I know it better I feel myself being called back to film. I like to dabble in both.

Making images of people, capturing something about them that isn’t apparent on the surface- it gives me a rush.  Using light to try and show who a person truly is or what they are feeling in any given moment is what I do compulsively.  I would do it whether I had a business or not.Smartmom Isabel Furie What I've Learned

I like to blog but I haven’t written in far too long. I’m working on changing that. But this (image below) is an all time favorite post of mine, especially looking back at it now.  Leo is in school full time and this has been my first year alone while they are at school.  These little trips are what I love about being a mom; that I can do these spontaneous things that are enriching and easy and end up meaning so much more to these boys than i could ever imagine.”

smartmom isabel furie what i've learned

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Mother Knows Best - SmartMom

Mother Knows Best

Photo by T&T blog

From the moment the stick turned pink, every well-meaning person within a 100 mile radius was itching to tell me everything there is to know about parenting.

At first, I really appreciated the information. However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that much of the guidance I received was contradictory. I still remember sitting at my baby shower when someone suggested that all the veteran moms in the room give me some “professional advice”. Almost immediately people started tossing tidbits of maternal knowledge at me like a group of children throwing breadcrumbs at a pigeon- a pigeon that didn’t even realize she was hungry! I desperately ran from one crumb to the next, my head flipping back and forth as the conversation bounced across the room.

“Make sure you swaddle your baby tightly… they’ll sleep better that way.”

“Yes but not too tightly, or they’ll get over heated and suffocate!”
“Oh, and never ever let the baby fall asleep in your arms. If you do she’ll never learn to fall asleep on her own. Trust me!”
“But hold your baby all the time! They grow up too fast!“
“If you do things right your baby will sleep through the night by the time they’re 8 weeks old.”
“The only way our baby sleeps through the night is if she sleeps with us.”

“Oh you should NEVER sleep with your baby! You’ll roll over her and kill her! She’ll suffocate!”
“Yeah, plus then she’ll want to sleep with you until she’s 12.”
“Don’t even watch the clock, just enjoy every minute… but make sure you put her on a schedule as soon as possible! Babies thrive on a strict schedule.”

Just when I thought my head was about to explode, my grandma piped in, “I hope you’re taking notes!  Does someone have a pen handy so she can write this all down?”  I wrapped my arms protectively around my growing belly as if to say, “I changed my mind little one! Just stay in there where it’s safe!”

Seven years have gone by since that day, and I am happy to report that I now have 4 fantastic kids running (and crawling) through my house. They are happy, healthy, and thriving, regardless of (or perhaps because of) the fact that each of them requires a unique blend of parenting. My younger siblings are starting their own families now and suddenly I’m considered one of the veterans. Sometimes they come to me, worried that they’re not “doing it right”. But the thing is, there’s not one “right” way to do it.

I don’t have all of the answers. The only breadcrumb in my arsenal is this:  You can read all the parenting books in the world, but until you can learn to read your child they won’t be of much use to you.

I’ve often heard people say, “I wish my baby came with an instruction manual.” The truth is, they do! It may not be spelled out for us, but it’s there. Mothers are blessed with a 6th sense, a deep maternal instinct that burns inside us. It may not come immediately, but with time you will learn how to read your baby’s cues. Even babies who can’t talk will tell you what they need if you are willing to listen. As you study your child’s spirit you will be better equipped to filter the parenting advice you are given. With anything from sleeping patterns to discipline problems- you will know what breadcrumbs to pick up, and which ones you should leave on the ground.

So, all of you sweet mammas, my advice to you is simple. Do your research. Respect other’s opinions and parenting styles. Keep in mind that what works for one, doesn’t necessarily work for all, and that’s okay. Devour every book you can get your hands on, and then take a deep breath… and let it go. In the end, Mother Knows Best. You got this mamma bear. You got this.

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