Meet Samantha Thompson + Learn the Importance of Letting Go in Early Motherhood

August 29, 2019

I am over the moon to be introducing you all to Samantha Thompson, the owner of Standard Wax, co-creator of the You Did It Podcast, new mom to sweet, four month old Ruby, wife, Phoenician and all around incredible human. Sam and I met a few years ago through Amy Frances and immediately connected over cocktails, running our own businesses and even some of the complexities of social media. Amy and I ended up having Sam on an episode of our podcast, Building Household with Hailey & Amy when she was visiting New York last summer before we both found out we were expecting and each of our lives drastically changed. Needless to say, I’ve been dying to chat with her about life as a new mom since our last in depth discussion. And you better believe I wept as we got into the nitty gritty on early motherhood and the beauty of letting go – a lesson I know I will be learning first hand again real soon here. I’ll shut up now so you can get to know the wonderful Sam!

We talked a lot about balance before Ruby was born, and while she’s just over four months old now, I’m wondering what this has looked like for you so far. How are you managing the juggle with your business, marriage, friendships and overall self-care now that you’re a mom? 

It’s so crazy to me to look back on my life before Ruby – it feels like an entire lifetime ago, even though it’s only been four months. Today I can say that the balance we’ve all found feels really great, but that wasn’t the case until about a month ago. The first few months were super challenging. I knew having a baby was going to be hard, but I severely underestimated what our lives would look like with this new addition. Balance went flying out the window the second we brought that little peanut into the world, and I remember being awake at night feeding her, crying quietly to myself thinking, “What have I done?! Is this what the rest of my life is going to look like? Just struggling to survive in a cycle of feedings’ and attempting to sleep? I’ve made a huge mistake.” 

My business, no matter how well I thought I prepared to take time off, suffered because I only had the mental capacity to keep myself and Ruby alive. I was exhausted – in a way that made me feel like I never knew what that word meant before. Kieran and I would find ourselves arguing in the middle of the night about the best way to try to get Ruby to go back to sleep. My friends were probably so sick of hearing me talk about how tired and sad I was, and self-care was something that just didn’t exist.

In those dark times, Kieran would remind me that what we were doing, feeling and experiencing were not permanent. But in my mind, I was going to be a weepy mess that had to try to go to bed at 6:30 pm every night for the rest of my life. I couldn’t fathom things getting better. Now that we’re a few months in, I finally believe him. Things are great. We are sleeping more, Ruby is such a happy little nugget and we have a routine that lets us both work but also spend time with our baby. The balance is finally starting to come together, and it’s really such a great feeling!

For us, the balance has been all about creating a routine. We know what days I’m working, we know what days he’s working. We know which days we have family to help with the baby and which days we’re on our own. Having that expectation of what your day is going to be like everyday has been super helpful. Learning that if I have the day to work on Monday, I need to take full advantage of that time… because I’m going to have Ruby all day Tuesday and I can’t expect to get any work done (which was a big learning moment for me – I was delusional and under the impression that I could work while she was napping – but it turns out that the second your baby goes to sleep, all you want to do is eat, go to the bathroom, shower and zone out for a few minutes!).

As far as our marriage, I truly feel like Kieran and I are closer than we ever were before. While emotions are certainly running higher than we’ve ever experienced, we have both made it a priority to try to help the other person as much as possible. We have a standing coffee date every Sunday morning where we sit down and talk honestly about the week before. It’s a safe space where we can share our darkest moments and happiest memories. Those coffee shop hangs are as good as therapy, because when we’re addressing the hard questions every single week, they don’t have time to build up to bigger issues than they need to be. 

What is your support system like out there in Phoenix? Do you feel like it’s been easy or difficult to find your “village”? 

It’s been incredible to see our village come together! I feel really lucky that our family and friends have been so excited about Ruby, and excited to help us out however they can. Both my mom and Kieran’s mom each watch her one day a week, which has been so helpful. It’s also really beautiful to be able to see the grandparents bond with her and light up when it’s their day to come over. 

I’ve also loved getting closer to my sister through this process of becoming a mother. She had my niece about 3 years ago and has been through these same trenches I’m in now. I would call her essentially every morning for the first month or so as she drove to work. While I knew she couldn’t fix the sleep deprivation, crazy hormones or crying baby, it was nice just having someone who could listen to my struggles and know exactly what I was talking about. 

My friends are the best ones in the entire world (no shade to anyone else). I really don’t think I could have survived the emotional roller coaster of the first couple of months without them. They were there to field my anxious, sad, tired, overwhelmed texts and happily jumped in to bring me lunch and let me shower or nap while they snuggled my little baby. None of my friends have kids yet, so it was a little stressful not knowing what these relationships were going to look like once Ruby arrived. Part of me was worried that I was going to lose my best friends because they wouldn’t understand me anymore, but if anything I feel closer to them now.

What has been the most unexpected challenge? 

Definitely letting go. I’ve never seen a theme become so prevalent in my life before, but the idea of letting go was basically shouting to me everywhere I looked. I couldn’t avoid it. Any article I read, tarot card I pulled, horoscope I saw… they were all telling me to LET GO. It was extremely hard. I love being in control of a situation, knowing how it’s going to play out, preparing and researching to make sure I’m equipped to handle what I’m tackling. Spoiler alert: none of those things matter with a baby. I took all of the sleep classes, read up on every theory, was fully confident I had all of the tools I needed to make sure my baby was an A+ sleeper. Guess what? The class we swore by said that at six weeks your baby should be sleeping a six hour stretch at night and Ruby finally hit that milestone at about 12 weeks. I spent WEEKS stressing about this and being mad that none of us were sleeping, until I finally gave up and let go. We were all so much happier when I stopped putting those expectations on her and just reminded myself that she’s a baby and she will wake up when she needs me. I no longer woke up at 1am angry that she hadn’t made it her expected six hours. Instead I peacefully fed her and went back to sleep.

Asking for help was another part of letting go I struggled with. For whatever reason, asking someone else to come take care of my baby was ROUGH, even when it was our own parents who are fully capable of the job. The second I caved and took some time for myself, it was like new life was breathed into me. 

Letting go is still a challenge today, but I’m glad I had those early weeks to really knock some sense into me. The universe basically had to scream it at me for me to listen, but I’ve got a better grasp on it now.

In the beginning, when Owen was born, I think my greatest accomplishment was embracing the chaos and accepting that I had very little control over life. It might sound silly, but as a type-A, it was the greatest gift I could have given myself as a new mom. Where do you feel like you’ve really hit your stride? 

Oh girl, we are so much alike! I think this question is best answered with… Letting go. It’s truly a theme in my life! I love how you phrased it, “embracing the chaos”. I too realized that fighting the way things were was pointless. Things started to feel easier when I figured out that she’s a baby and the things she does aren’t going to make sense. My husband and I talk a lot about how our generation believes that if we try really hard, do the research, train, or whatever – we’ll be great at what we do and we can do whatever we want. For the most part, I feel like that’s pretty true… except for parenting! We did the research, prepared the best we could, thought we had ALL of the tools… and guess what? It didn’t matter. Realizing all of that and letting go has been a huge lesson in life and really helped us both hit our stride.

I recently wrote an article about the realities of maternity leave as a freelancer from my perspective. Were you able to fully take a break? What did maternity leave look like for you? 

I wish I would have been as thoughtful as you! I had the mentality that I’ve always been a great multitasker and this new challenge of working and having a baby would work seamlessly into my life. Obviously that’s not how it went down. Being a mom to a newborn, especially when breastfeeding, is seriously the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I had NO idea what was heading my way when I went into labor, and I remember sitting on the couch working through contractions and cleaning up my inbox, tying up some loose ends and sending to-do lists for production that week. While I didn’t have to physically go into work for the first six weeks or so, it was nearly impossible to not think about work during that time. 

One of the hardest things was battling my emotions. All I wanted was a day to go sit at the warehouse and catch up on work to help me feel like I wasn’t single handedly burning my business to the ground. But it was so hard to let go enough to give myself those days. So instead, I would sit at home and stress about work… it was a vicious cycle. It’s really hard when you work for yourself, because everyone on the outside sees the good parts: you get to stay home with your new sweet baby, no one is forcing you to go back to work after a certain amount of time, you don’t have to pay for childcare… I think what people miss about this is the stress that comes from being 100% in charge of your financial well-being. At least with maternity leave, you’re forced to disconnect, and you know your paycheck will be waiting for you when you get back. In my situation, I dropped the ball on a lot of things that directly impacted our bottom line. I feel okay about it now and I’m happy I wasn’t too stressed about it in the moment, but I can’t help but wonder what things would have looked like if I was able to plan ahead a bit more (and know what having a newborn was really like so I could be realistic!).

I’ve always admired the solid business you’ve run – at first from afar and then again up close after I met you a few years ago. Has anything changed for your business since welcoming Ruby? What are your days looking like lately? 

So much has changed and I’m super excited about it! I feel like the birth of Ruby sort of signaled a rebirth of Standard Wax. Having a new baby will really cause you to drill down to what actually matters in your life, and there were a lot of parts of my business that I really didn’t love anymore. I’ve been working extremely hard all summer to dig in and figure out what I love about my business and focus on that. I’ve deleted Instagram from my phone (which has been the greatest gift) and taken the time to just let my mind wander. We’re launching a new iteration of Standard Wax this Fall and I really can’t wait. It’s really unique and ties back to our core value of bringing art into your everyday.

As someone who attempts to wear as many hats as humanly possible, I am always drawn to women who do the same. Tell us more about your podcast, You Did It! and any other creative projects you’re working on outside of Standard Wax at the moment! 

So the funny thing about wearing a lot of hats is that they all get thrown into the closet and forgotten when you have a baby! That’s sort of where You Did It is now… I realized I couldn’t do it all and Standard Wax needed my attention the most. So, You Did It is taking a little hiatus now. I thought I would be more upset to put it on hold, but I really feel at peace with it and know it was the right decision. The podcast was all about celebrating big and small victories, so I feel like letting it go for a bit is a victory worth celebrating.

What’s a conversation about early motherhood that you feel like isn’t being talked about enough? 

I think just the raw and real truth about how freaking hard it is. Even just four months into this journey my mind has gotten a little rosy and I find myself forgetting those super dark and difficult early days. Friends with newborns at home will share their struggles and I’m like “oh, yep, that’s normal, you’ll get through it”. It’s insane how quickly those feelings pass, but I sort of want to remember them forever. I can see how they’d easily get lost in the smiles and laughs and easy naps that we’re experiencing with Ruby now. I’m happy to have places like Instagram where I documented a lot of those hard days. I hope other people can find comfort in my honesty and know that their feelings are perfectly normal, that they aren’t doing anything wrong, and yes, it really is this hard!

If you could give Sam, before Ruby, one piece of advice what would it be? 

All of those books, blogs, lists, classes, etc on parenting aren’t going to help as much as you think. This isn’t another challenging business project that you can push through and overcome. Instead, prepare yourself mentally for what you’re about to do. Surrender and realize that everything you’re going to experience is perfectly normal and it will all pass in time.

If you could give Sam, after Ruby, one piece of advice, what would it be?

LET GO! Accept that your control in these situations is limited. Continue to ask for help and accept it without shame. 

If you could give Ruby one piece of advice what would it be? 

Self-care and putting yourself first will always make you a better person (and more equipped to take care of others). Take care of yourself without guilt. (I guess this is advice for me too!)

Photography by mom & dad, Amy Frances and Lauren Hansen.

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