2020 was the year moms have been unwittingly training for, the Olympics of motherhood where Murphy’s Law holds true, and uncertainty is certain. Moms everywhere deserve a massive “thank you” for their quick thinking and continued patience, also for the times they lost their cool, but they still gave it their best go. We caught up with two of these persevering moms during our Mother’s Day photoshoot, Sunny Shokrae and Esther Adams Achara, to hear about their takeaways and triumphs.
Esther Adams Achara is an accomplished fashion writer hailing from the UK, formerly at Vogue and now a senior writer at Bergdorf Goodman. Esther’s other full-time (lifetime) gig is being a mother to two energetic, lovely girls. Dance parties are a given in the Achara household, a guaranteed laugh for Esther.
“We had a dance party to the Aladdin soundtrack. They somehow know all the words to Prince Ali and came up with some pretty fun moves to go with them.”
Sunny Shokrae is an NYC-based photographer, and has worked in both the editorial and commercial media spaces, which she juggles with parenting her adorable 3-year-old son. Being a mother helps with her creativity.
“I’m grateful for my son’s incredible imagination and wonder; he sees things through a lens that is pure and beautiful.”
Is there an anecdote from this past year that especially illustrates your super mom abilities?
Esther: “The day I had to run back and forth to school 6 times, first to drop off the kids, then pick one up because of a scratchy throat, probably because of the change of seasons, but we had to treat it like a potential Covid case. We had to rush and get a covid test while I took zoom calls on the go, replied to emails, picked up the other kid later, and tried to find multiple non-existent parking spots. I was pretty proud of myself by the end of that day.“
What does balance between work and family look like in your household now that the two are intertwined? Is there such a thing (as balance)?
Sunny: “Balance is a goal but nearly impossible. There are structural and institutional problems and economic and cultural imbalances that are deeply embedded in our current system. It’s been impossible to prepare, and naturally, my work & personal life have suffered for it. There were 1.6 million fewer mothers in the labor force this fall than expected correlated to school closures. Whereas there is no statistical relationship between fathers leaving the workforce and school closures. It’s been an unbalanced challenge.”
Has there been parenting advice you have received that you’ve found to be the least helpful? What was the most insightful?
Esther: “Get them on a schedule” came at me from all over the place, but I never could, never did, and I still think they’ve turned out pretty amazing. The most insightful was from my mom, who told me, “they’re your kids, trust your own instincts.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about motherhood?
Sunny: “You’ll never know what you will or won’t do or what kind of mother you will become until you are actually in that position. Also, don’t ever judge mothers. Support mothers, listen to mothers, help mothers.”
In what ways have you adjusted as a parent to the more restricted world we live in? Have you found motherhood to be a crash course in how to deal with unexpected circumstances like the pandemic?
Esther: “At the moment, every day as a mother, you have to respond to factors out of your control, whether it’s health, school, or work, and you’re constantly improvising and making in-the-moment decisions about what’s best for you and your family. Covid created a lot of fear and uncertainty, so we’ve spent a lot of time reassuring our kids that we’re all in it together. They’ve stepped up and are embracing it really well. They wear their masks and social distance. We’re trying to do it in a way that means they’re not afraid of life. They seem to be pretty fearless so far. I think it’s taught them resilience.“
What’s something your son has done this week that made you laugh?
Sunny: “The moment he opens his eyes, he has stories that spring from his dreams; they are always so exciting and imaginative. He comes into our room multiple times at night to request something or give us something – tactics to push his bedtime – he is so clever and hilarious we can’t help but laugh as soon as he’s out of sight.“
Tell me about your time on set with FTD. Did the girls enjoy themselves? Was it just fun to get out of the house?
Esther: “The kids loved their time on set. They loved all the beautiful flowers, the snacks, and their own personal “child handler” who entertained them with jokes and magic tricks the entire afternoon. They said they wanted to live there. Who wouldn’t?”
Sunny: “My son is obsessed with flowers and nature, so the shoot was perfect for him. He is familiar with being in front of a camera since I’m a photographer, but he surpassed my expectations; he was so independent, confident, and put together. He’s 3! It was cool to see him seamlessly navigate being on set. They put together a rainbow bouquet for him before we left and, after the photos I’ll get to cherish forever, that was the most special of all.”
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about motherhood?
Esther: “That it reveals to you who you really are, in the best and worst of times.”
There’s no doubt, this year, mothers started to wear even more hats than ever before. Did you find yourself taking on any new roles out of the ordinary? Teacher, Chef, etc.?
Esther: “We had to help teach remote school last Spring, and that wasn’t easy. Both kids are in different grades and need different levels of attention and help. Teachers do an incredible job. It also reminded me how much math I’d forgotten!”
What did you worry about as a parent this past year? Did those things happen? What are you cautious about looking forward to in this pandemic?
Sunny: “I worried about my son not seeing and interacting with other kids his age often. I worried about us not socializing with our friends and not seeing family and what that would mean for him. I grew up in a busy home, so I think it’s essential to have quiet moments as well, but balanced with moments of active socializing, chit-chatting, laughter – big energy.”