Tag Archives: what i’ve learned

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What I’ve Learned: Kati Dimoff, Photographer

Kati Dimoff is a Portland-based photographer.  She contributes to You Are My Wild , a weekly portrait project that brings together 14 photographers to document how they see their children.  Check out her personal site here.

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My daughter is 6 years old.  She is endlessly creative.  Sometimes it feels like our whole house has turned into her craft room!  My son is almost four.  He is so confident and has such a big heart.

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The biggest challenge I faced as a first time mom was time-management.  Where does all my time go?!  I have a to-do list that will take me years if I’m lucky!

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I don’t think becoming a mom has changed who I am.  I do think it made me more of who I am, if that makes sense… All the ways I’ve always been have been intensified.  My worries and anxieties, my hopes and joys.

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I mostly go to friends for parenting advice.  Honestly, I go to anyone I can talk to without feeling like I’m a failure (as most parenting books tend to make me feel).  You know it when you have it…  that friend who is appropriately self-deprecating without actually being too negative. But at the same time, does things just enough right, without being too amazing that you feel bad about yourself in comparison!

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My favorite thing about being a parent is watching little people that I made grow into their own real selves… and of course, naptime snuggles 🙂

Kati Dimoff Photography

I’m not the greatest blogger, in fact, I rarely blog.  It always seems like I run out of time.  But as a photographer, I thought it was important to show my recent work, so I started my blog in 2010.  I mentioned that to-do list that will take me years… blogging is somewhere on it.  At this point, I’m mostly putting recent work up on Facebook (facebook.com/kdimoffphotography) and adding to the gallery on the website.  And of course, I post weekly as part of You Are My Wild.kati dimoff photography 3

I love photographing other moms.  I love showing moms how beautiful they are when they are loving their families.


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What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher, Writer

What I’ve Learned: Julie Schumacher, Writer

Julie Schumacher is the founder of Well Turned Words, copywriting and editing studio. She’s also the co-founder of Forth Chicago which seeks to celebrate and connect creative, entrepreneurial women in Chicago. 

Tell us about your family!

We have one daughter, Loie Jane, who is 3. She’s a copper top and is very into ’80s music and feta cheese. 

What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher As a first time mom, I thought that I was going to knock it out of the park. I wasn’t super nervous and felt that, if our daughter was born healthy, I was going to be one of those “at ease” awesome moms.

I didn’t. I wasn’t. I got knocked on my ass. I didn’t sleep, didn’t eat, and worried incessantly those first few weeks. I’m wired anxious and assumed I’d rally…because I always rally. At about 8 weeks postpartum, I was hospitalized with postpartum depression. It was just the worst.  My mom moved in from Philadelphia, we brought in an incredible post partum doula, my husband protected and provided like a beast, and we got me in to see an incredible therapist in conjunction with a smart medication plan through a psychiatrist.

It is so, so, so humbling to have gone through that. I’ve never failed at something so spectacularly before, or so publicly. Now, I’m not saying I failed at motherhood. My kid’s great and we’re super bonded and all that and I think I’m a pretty great mom. But in the moment and the months after there was a significant amount of self-confidence and identity rebuilding that had to happen. I had to relearn to love myself, accept way more help than I’d ever been willing to take in a lifetime, and was forced to figure out what it would take to claw my way toWhat I've Learned - Julie Schumacher happiness. And on top of that, I had this wee little beastie I wanted to love and get to know and take care of and felt like it was happening with a hand tied behind my back (and blindfolded and while balancing on a very small, wiggly beam). We fought back hard and I was very quickly back on my feet (which is not to discount any woman whose fight is longer. Go mama, go!).

That’s a pretty big shadow, though, to walk out of. Even now I have to explain that PPD doesn’t mean I ever tried to harm myself, or our daughter, and I am not convinced everyone believes me. Sounds awful, right? It’s one of the reasons I’m vocal and open about my experience. More women need help and more people need to know how to help them.

The collaterals, though, are remarkably all positive. I saw how strong my marriage was. I saw how rad my mom and husband are. Seriously. My mom was indefatigable and my husband’s shoulders carried way more than I assumed a human could. They never doubted me those many nights I loudly announced I would never get better.

Our new neighbors in Oak Park stepped up and carried us through. Friends sat with me while I wept on the porch and one friend was charged with dragging me to movies so I’d leave the house…those are some damn fine friends. What I've Learned - Julie SchumacherIt was through therapy and talking with my husband and closest of friends (a mom entrepreneur champion Jill Salzman of the Founding Moms) that I took the years of research and teaching of writing and launched Well Turned Words. I was given time and permission and support to do something I always kind of thought I could do but would likely have never done…because who actually gets paid to write? Now, our world makes so much sense on this path. Our family is happy and strong. It was a slog. No doubt. But hot damn, I’m happy and our family is thriving.

I sometimes wonder if a single part of my body, mind, worldview, approach to life, or future goals have not been touched by parenthood. On a very basic scale, having a kid is a nice swift kick to the shins of whatever routines you enjoyed pre-kids. On a larger scale, I think more about modeling for her an expansive life. If I let fear, regret, guilt dictate how I move through the world, she’ll see that. If I don’t do something because I’m just too tired or if I don’t handle a relationship with care, she’ll see that. If I lead with a strong partnership, good friendships, grace, confidence, humor, sass, joy, and a dash of “well, I guess we’ll see what happens!” she’ll see that. I want her to know she can have many acts, be many women, and do many things in a single lifetime. So I have to live that first. When I need parenting advice, first and foremost, I talk to my husband.

What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher We share what we see, strategize, offer gentle suggestions on something that worked for one of us. He’s the person I chose to parent with so his opinion or ideas matter more than anyone else’s to me. Then, I have a phenomenal community of women. I highly recommend surrounding yourself with women better than you. My mom and sister are awesome and talented mothers (and great overall) as are some close friends who I’ve known since college and met as a mom. I also have plenty of dad friends I think are just phenomenal parents. I don’t just talk to other people with girl parts. A good parent is a good parent.

I have an online community as well. I have the SpitfireMom Society, which I started with a design partner in Denver and appreciate the conversations there about business and family life. I adore Ask Moxie and the community she’s built. I also have a top secret group of women from a birth board now connected on Facebook. We all have kids the same age and were bonded over those first months. We’re all over the country and about as different as can be but it’s a safe, warm space to say out loud the stuff that goes through my head. We call ourselves the Mamascenti. It’s silly and awesome. What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher

My favorite thing about being a parent is the forced intentionality. I have to be more purposeful and thoughtful about what I say and do, both around her but also in general. The selflessness is hard but great creativity emerges through constriction, I think. There’s also the heart-explodingly-huge amount of love I get to experience when she says “Mama?” and then asks me something weird. For my marriage, I love having a whole new way to fall in love with my husband. I knew he was great. Watching him as a father? Wow. Watching Lo, my favorite thing is her acquisition of language. It’s like watching civilization evolve. That sounds ridiculous. But it’s really incredible to witness and hear how our intonations and expressions regenerate in her. She says “awesome” a lot. Not surprising.

Are there routines that you’ve set up in your family to help things run more smoothly?

Yup. M/W/F I get up with Loie and get her ready for school. T/Th my husband gets up with her and I sleep in. I say once a month I am going to start getting up to work out. I will let you know if that ever happens. We tend to each sleep in one weekend day, which is superb. We encourage each other to spend time out at night with friends. I’m home with her on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We do a play date or go to the library or play outside in the mornings. Sometimes we just hang around the house in our PJs all morning. We host a toddler music class here on Thursday afternoons. One of us takes her to school, the other picks her up. Whoever is putting her down for bed, theWhat I've Learned - Julie Schumacher other person is prepping a late dinner or tidying up. We try to keep the house in good shape because we both work from home and my husband is a neatnik. We’re pretty rigid about her sleep. A well-rested kid makes the whole world sunnier and protecting her sleep 85% of the time means we can be flexible the other times. We have a weird kid who sleeps in so we get her up at 7 so she’ll take a nap. And we wake her up from her nap 90% of the time so she’ll fall asleep at night. Please don’t throw things at us. I know most moms would kill to have a 7am wakeup. We all seem to thrive on routine. We talk about whether she’s a creature of habit (she yawns at 1:15 if we’re late putting her down for a nap) because it’s in her DNA or in the air of the home.

What do you know now that you wish you knew back then? (as a first time mom) 

That you’ll find a way. That any thing your kid is doing that feels unsolvable, untenable, or totally bizarre will likely be replaced by something that feels equally permanent, annoying, or odd. And you’ll be so busy worrying about the new thing that you will forget to realize that the previous worry has resolved itself. That cyclicality of parenthood is both comic and infuriating to me now. That no one gives you a reward or medal if you refuse to ask for help or refuse help that is offered. Even now, after being knocked on my rump, I still want to do it all myself. That’s lame. Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. And if someone offers to hold the baby so you can pee in peace or take a nap? JUST SAY YES. What I've Learned - Julie Schumacher

When it comes to fun, I always crave travel. My husband and I like to cook together, I love baking. The fun of chopping and stirring and seasoning as a couple was a huge piece of our courtship. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the meticulousness of baking is very calming for me. Give me some flour to sift and something to level and I’m in heaven.

I like to talk. A lot. So talking with my friends and husband about things inconsequential and grand. Plan and scheme for the next phases and iterations of our life. If I’m not talking, I’m reading. I’m in an excellent book club of smarter-than-me women who actually read the books. Our neighborhood is ripe with families so we do things locally, the Farmer’s Market, the park. Because we like the parents of the kids our kid knows even toddler birthday parties at jumpy places can be fun. Forth Chicago, a creative salon I run with two other Smart Moms, is so much fun but not super unwind-y. It does connect me to other women who like to talk about all sorts of things. And I What I've Learned - Julie Schumacherget to try out new parts of my brain through the beauty of our events and revisit the parts of my brain that love facilitating conversations.

With my daughter, I love reading. I will read the same damn story over and over and over. And there is nothing a 3 year old likes to do more than read the same story over and over and over. When it comes to values, we talk about wanting our daughter to move confidently and with empathy and awareness through the world. To have a chance to try many things she might like and to fail miserably at some and experience success in others and to realize there’s value in each. To cultivate community and to be civically minded. To be an excellent friend. To be able to speak her mind and to listen with equal measure. To have a strong moral compass rooted in global and progressive values. I want her to have a social sport she can play with friends into adulthood (that is one of those “because I don’t” things). I want her to be a good communicator, always put her shopping cart away, and to vote (because I do).

Photo by Kelly Allison

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What I’ve Learned: Shelby Brakken, Photographer

This week we spoke with Shelby Brakken, an incredibly talented family and lifestyle photographer from Portland, Oregon for our “What I’ve Learned” column.  Shelby is a part of You Are My Wild, a weekly portrait project that brings together 14 photographers to document how they see their children.  You can view her personal website here.

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“My daughter Indy is 7.  When she gets home from school, she usually fixes herself an arugula salad and turns on phantom of the opera. When my son, Sawyer, walks through the door, he immediately starts building things with cardboard toilet paper rolls and duct tape.  He is four and he wants to be a ninja when he grows up.Shelby Brakken for SmartMom

One of the hardest things for me as a parent is the constant process of letting go.  The slow realization that I can’t control everything; that i have to let my kids experience things as they will.  Learning to be there for them as a guide, but allowing them independence and self-sufficiency; trusting that they will be able to work out problems on their own, and that they will be better for it in the long run.  There is nothing harder than watching them make mistakes, but there is nothing as powerful as watching them learn from consequences.

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Becoming a mother has has made me more aware, more grateful, more neurotic, more compassionate, more creative, and more chaotic.  My children constantly help shape me and force me to be more patient, more loving, more open.  They remind me to appreciate the little things, to be more present and to see the wonder in places I would overlook.

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I have sought parenting advice from my mom, friends, books, and classes–I gather information and put it into my parenting arsenal.  But I have also learned to trust myself, and go with my instincts.  Some of my best parenting decisions have come when I simply listen to my gut.

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I think about my time with my children as this long series of moments. There are the crazy and wild moments with laughter or crying, the big moments when something exciting or hard is happening, and there are the little moments–the ones that we barely notice because they are small and quiet.  I love the little moments with my children: the ones that are subtle and fleeting: the way Sawyer’s eyelashes look when he’s asleep; the way Indy’s hair looks in the sunlight.

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All of these seconds, minutes and days eventually amount to a story and then a life.  My favorite thing about being a parent is helping create moments with my children, which ultimately shape their story.  I love the incredible process of watching them become themselves, and the part I get to play in that unfolding.

Shelby Brakken for SmartMom

I started my blog to document my children.  To keep track of the way they looked at certain ages; the funny things they did. I want them to be able to look back and know that I was by their side the whole time. I want them to be able to look back and know their story.”


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What I’ve Learned: Lupine Swanson, Co-Founder, Modern Domestic

Lupine is co-founder and owner of Modern Domestic, a sewing studio and fabric store in Northeast Portland’s thriving DIY community. She is also a mother of 2.  Follow Modern Domestic on Twitter and Facebook for more info. 

My business is called Modern Domestic.  We are a sewing machine dealer, fabric store and studio and we also offer sewing classes and modern styling, which is unusual in this industry.  There aren’t a lot of shops that sell modern fabric and machines.  I actually didn’t start sewing until after college.  I sewed a bit when I was a kid but always got frustrated with it.  After college I moved to Eugene, OR and had always wanted to try it so I borrowed a friend’s machine.  After a while I bought a Bernina – which is a really good machine – and started taking classes.  I loved it.

Michelle and Lupine, Co--founders of Modern Domestic

Michelle and Lupine, Co-Founders of Modern Domestic

In my 20’s I was a sales rep. I went from store to store selling sewing machines and craft supplies.  I actually never wanted to open a retail store, but then I did. It’s a bit different, though, because having a high end product is not the same as just selling fabric. It’s a better business model.  When we first opened our shop we just had Bernina’s, and we were selling them through dealers.  Then we grew and expanded. We doubled our size twice in 3 and a half years. Now we have 4,000 square feet and 2 classrooms.

I have a 5 and an 8 year old, Bina and Dorothy. Bina is in kindergarten. They’re super funny. Bina has a great sense of humor. Like just the other day I was dropping her off at school and she faked that she was asleep in the backseat because she was cold and didn’t want to get out.  Dorothy is a sewer- she actually has her own machine. She loves to read and is very bright. She goes to a special school for smart kids.  They’re creative, fun to be around, silly, all that cute stuff.

Bina loves hanging out at the shop. I pick her up early on Friday’s and she comes into the store with me.  She helps me with filing and she loves playing with label makers.  She helps me with little projects and talks to the customers. I love having her come in on Friday’s because I can give her more attention. Sometimes we run errands together.  Dorothy comes in sometimes but she normally just reads the whole time, she doesn’t enjoy it as much.lupine swanson smartmom

I sew with the girls at home. Dorothy made a skirt for her cousin.  She likes to sew things for her dolls and stuffed animals, and she also sews gifts for her teachers.

As my kids have entered their school years it’s been a lot easier to balance work and home responsibilities. I have an awesome business partner and we pretty much build our shifts around our individual schedules.  Also, now that we have a staff I have quite a bit of flexibility.  I really like that I get to pick my kids up from school and make dinner every night.  And we still have solid family time.What I've Learned: Lupine Swanson Smartmom

I’m sure that as the girls get older they’re going to want to do lots of programs and sports and stuff but right now they’re still really little.  By the time they get home from school there’s just enough time to play, do homework, and eat dinner

I was a sales rep when my older daughter was born.  After the first year, she would come to work with me.  I was at cute fabric shops every day so I would bring her in with me.  The ladies would hold the baby when I was demoing the machines.  It was awesome while I was breastfeeding because I could take a break whenever I needed to.lupine swanson smartmom

I think it’s common for working moms to spread themselves too thin and constantly think they’re doing both things poorly.  What I like about this job is that it is more integrated with my life.  My business partner is a mom, too. Her daughter is 19.  In the summer, when the kids were out of school, we worked it out so that I didn’t have to hire a nanny.

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Dorothy and Bina

The best thing we ever did for our marriage was hire a house cleaner. It’s been so helpful! Just delegating that one thing made a huge difference.  She only comes every other week, but it has reduced the stress in our marriage so much.

We’ve also integrated our morning routines. My husband does breakfast and packs the lunches, and gets them ready while I get ready for work – he’s really involved.  He works from home so the minute we leave, he’s able to start working.

My husband does lunch and breakfast every day, and I make dinner.  That definitely helps me be more inspired to cook in the evening – it makes a huge impact in my attitude about dinner.  When you make all the meals you get pretty sick of it.lupine swanson smartmom

I’m a bit of a neat nick.  Some people can just relax, but I can’t.  If it’s messy, I can’t feel comfortable. Having a house cleaner sets the cleanliness bar just a little bit higher.  I think being a small business owner has helped me feel enabled to delegate household responsibilities as well.  I realize how valuable my time is and I want to spend it on the things that matter.

The busier I am, the better I do in life.  If I don’t have anything going on, I become less effective.  Being a field rep helped me become a more independent worker.  I was paid commission, so the harder I worked the more money I made. 

The biggest challenge is how much our finances our impacted by the business from month to month.  When we have a good month we’re so proud, but if you have a not-so-great month you say, “Oh, dear. We did this, now what do we do?” lupine swanson smartmom

The other big challenge is finding time for myself.  I really prioritize my professional development and being present in my kid’s lives – but that doesn’t leave much time for myself.  Establishing self care is a challenge.  I don’t get to see my friends that often – for example – or have a fitness routine.  And it is unbelievable how infrequently I get my hair cut.  That kind of self care is hard to find time for.lupine swanson smartmom

I need to spend time at the shop because so much of the charm of a small business is created by the personality of the owners.  You create the feel and the ambiance.  A business is very much a product of who created it; if your’e not there it has no personality.  Therefore it’s very important for me to be physically present in the store.

It has it’s challenges but it’s fun.  There’s always something new and exciting going on.  Honestly, with my personality, if I ever had a real stagnant environment I’d get bored very quickly.

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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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SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

What I’ve Learned: Heather Arthur, Stuntwoman

Heather Arthur is stuntwoman and mother of two young children.  She currently resides in the Los Angeles area but is originally from Colorado.  You can view her stunt reel here and her IMDB page here

“I became a stuntwoman about 8 years ago now.  I have a 2 year old son and a 3 month old girl.  My husband is stuntman, too.  We were working corporate jobs in Colorado when we got a call about an opportunity to work on the set of Lost.  We both quit our jobs and moved to Hawaii in less than a week.

My husband Jon and I met in college and were married after dating for just 2 years.  Before we decided to become full time stunt actors we were working corporate jobs in Colorado, but we hated our jobs.  We just weren’t cut out for corporate life.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather and Jon and their son in Hong Kong

I guess it isn’t uncommon for stunt actors to date and marry each other.  I think you just find someone that is willing to be adventurous with you for the rest of your life.  We both love the adventure of it all.  We always knew there would be a challenge, and that this lifestyle would definitely be much more difficult.  But there is always going to be the option to stay home or to travel.  Sometimes the thing that is more challenging ends up being so much more rewarding.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather doubling Actress Lily Collins on Priest

People always told us things would change when we had kids.  We would disagree and say “nothing will change” and they would just say, “Oh, we’ll see…” But things didn’t really change.  I think we traveled even more after our first kid.  And then when we got pregnant with our second, those same people continued to say, “oh, your lifestyle is going to change…” but it still hasn’t.  Everyone has said it would be impossible, but we do it.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather and Jon at the Emmy’s in 2008

My dad was a stuntman and then became a stunt coordinator.  He is the one who told us about the opportunity in Hawaii.  I suppose it runs in the family; I remember him standing in the kitchen watching me jump off the refrigerator when I was a toddler.  My dad always encouraged me to do stunts like that.

We travel a lot.  Most people think we have a crazy lifestyle.  But we enjoy it.  We really like traveling, so that’s been a great aspect of this job.  When we travel we always book one-way tickets, because we never know when we’ll get a call and have to leave and fly someplace else.  Even though it can add extra stress, we really love it.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Heather on the set of Lost with actress Evangeline Lilly

In our profession, things are always done last minute.  I am constantly needing to fly somewhere for a job with very little notice.  I’ve been to Asia and Australia like 10 times.  My 2 year old has been to 17 different states.  My 3 month old has already flown to Florida, Colorado, and Hawaii. She’ll have been on 5 different round trip flights before she turns 4 months.

Our kids have already traveled a lot considering their ages.  We always joke that our daughter is fancy traveler: she’d rather fly than drive.  She never cries on a plane, but she cries when she’s in the car.  When my son was a baby his nickname was “carry-on”.

My husband and I have always put family first.  If its important, you just make it happen.  When my son was 8 months old I was in Hawaii.  I would be out on boats in the middle of the ocean and I had to bring a breast pump with me.  Just a few weeks ago I was working on the set of Fast and the Furious 7 in Colorado.  My kids were on set with me, and I nursed my youngest between cuts.  Our nanny was there with me and I would nurse whenever I could.  We didn’t hire a nanny until we had our second child, but she’s been a huge help lately.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur StuntwomanRight now I’m kind of part-time back to work.  For now, we recruit my mother-in-law if I’m out of town on location.  The nice thing is that I get to choose when I want to work. That’s the really nice thing about doing this job and being a mom.  I get to pick and choose the jobs that I take.  I remember my dad doing the same thing when I was a kid.  When he was gone he’d be out of town for a while, but when he was home he got to spend a lot of time with us.

We thought a lot about the decision to do private school or homeschool our kids.  So, for example, we could spend $20,000 a year on private school or we could take them to China to see the great wall.  We feel like traveling fits into our lifestyle, so we want to do it.  We are going to either Thailand or France in January for a vacation.  My 3 month old already has her passport.  So we don’t travel just for work – we like to travel when we have time off, too.

Being a stunt actor comes with a lot of risks, so I didn’t work when I was pregnant.  Even if they say it’s an easy stunt, it’s definitely not worth the risk.  The day I found out I was pregnant I stopped working.

I would say most stuntwoman either don’t have kids or have only 1 kid.  When I found out I was pregnant with my son I was training really hard to do X Men.  I was supposed to double January Jones and she’s quite skinny so I was training a lot.  When I found out I was pregnant I had to back out.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Just a regular day at the office for a stunt actress

It’s been hard after both my pregnancies to maintain a balance between getting enough calories for breastfeeding and staying skinny for some of my roles.  Being in stunt shape is different than just getting in regular shape or staying thin.  You have to be really really fit.  About 6 months [after my first pregnancy] I felt like I could do a job, but I would say it took around 9 or 10 months to get back into stunt shape.  Right now my youngest is 3 months old so I have a ways to go, I probably have about 10 pounds left to lose.

I do martial arts and probably train between 5 and 10 hours a week.  It’s no less than an hour a day.  On Tuesdays I do 2 and a half hours.  Sometimes I go for a run with the kids in the double stroller.  Having the kids is a challenge in regards to working out.  Sometimes I’ll strap on the baby pouch and go for a hike.  I have to find creative ways to exercise.  Right now my youngest isn’t old enough to take to the gym.  Sometimes I do leg exercises while wearing her.  I can put my son on my shoulders and do squats or have him sit on my back when I do push ups.  He actually likes to work out with me.

I’ve been very fortunate and blessed to be able to go back to work.  Being a stunt actor is a very performance based job.  If we don’t do a good job, we don’t work again.  So I’m thankful I still have the opportunity to work. It’s been very demanding, but it’s possible, and my husband and I have always said that family is more important.   

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur StuntwomanI don’t know if I’ll let my kids do stunts.  My girlfriend’s daughter doubled Dakota Fanning in War of the Worlds.  That’s something my kids could definitely get into.  It’s not that I’m worried about their safety, I’m more worried about Hollywood when I was younger.

I’m glad my dad protected me from Hollywood.  It’s a very adult business, and I think you need to be careful.  I guess I lean on the side of wanting to protect them as long as I can.  I think a day here and there is fine, but its a business I’m very apprehensive about getting them into at such a young age.

Women tend to have a much shorter lifespan with stunt acting, mostly because actresses are a lot more vain.  They like having young people double them.  They’re very particular about those things. A lot of women don’t continue to do stunts after they become a mom.

Stunt acting is definitely a male dominated industry.  If stunt acting is the equivalent of an “entry level” position, then stunt directing is like the next step up.  That’s what my dad did.  So there are hardly any female stunt coordinators.  The next step up would be Second Unit Directing.

SmartMom What I Learned Heather Arthur Stuntwoman

Jon and Heather with Heather’s dad and their son, Chase at his 1st Birthday party.

The funny thing about my dad and I both being stunt actors is that we’re both terrified of heights.  But one of the reasons I do stunts is because I like the feeling of being afraid and then conquering it.  Just because you’re afraid of something doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.  There is no such thing as an easy stunt.  We take calculated risks. Nearly every day I come home bruised and scraped with scratches all over.  But there’s a difference between getting hurt and getting injured.  I do worry about death, but I worry more about Hollywood.  I don’t want to let that affect me, that’s more what worries me.

My dad passed away six months ago.  I remember back on the set of Lost in Hawaii I had this one scene where I had to fall down a cliff.  Probably to this day that was one of the most challenging stunts I’ve ever done.  At the bottom I was all scratched up, adrenaline pumping, and I looked up at my dad who was there at the bottom.  I remember him looking at me and saying, “I’m so proud of you.”  It was like that first moment he realized that his daughter had followed in his footsteps.  I’ll always remember that.”

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