I am delighted to be sharing this interview series with you, where I will be talking to a different woman every fortnight about parenting, motherhood, their daily rhythm and what makes a beautiful childhood. So without further ado, let’s meet the mother…
This week, I’d like to welcome Brighton-based weaver and textiles lecturer Mylinh Nguyen to Frida be Mighty. I recently fell in love with Mylinh’s beautiful Instagram feed where she shares photos of her daughter Ana’s gentle, slow childhood. I’m sure you will enjoy reading her answers as much as I do…
Can you introduce yourself and your family?
Hi, I’m Mylinh, a weaver and a part-time textiles lecturer. We are a family of three (four) my husband Luke, our 22-month-old daughter Ana and cat, Henry. I have my rather large weaving loom that occupies a corner of our living room. Whilst I was pregnant with Ana, it sat dormant for a while and as soon as she was born, I realised that I wanted motherhood to be a significant aspect of my work and creative pursuits. So, I am currently starting to build a slow living business creating handwoven products for children and their space. Everything will be made by my hands, from the fabric to the final product). We live a stone throw from the sea, in a converted townhouse flat in central Brighton and are aiming to raise Ana to be strong and creative.
Do you have a daily rhythm? What do your days look like?
We have a loose daily rhythm that revolves around the week. On Monday mornings, we go to a Steiner parent and child group, Tuesdays and Wednesdays I go to work, so Ana is at nursery, Thursdays is our ‘free’ day with no outside commitments (this is my favourite day of the week as it can vary, but it normally always involves going outside), Fridays we have swimming and the weekend is our family time. But our morning rhythm is always the same: we co-sleep, so will all get up around 6am, often because of Henry the cat. Luke will make tea (for me), coffee (for him) and oat milk (for Ana). Ana will then help us prepare breakfast (normally porridge or poached eggs on toast). We then all sit in the kitchen around Ana’s table and eat. This is followed by a bath. The bath can be long or short, depending on the day and mood. In the evenings, we will have dinner together around the coffee table (we always eat low, so that everything is in reach for Ana).
Are there any philosophies or books which have influenced your approach to parenting?
Truthfully, I have not read any specific books on parenting (but I did read a lot on pregnancy!). I didn’t have any pre-conceived notions on parenting to begin with and instinctively followed Ana’s cues or what felt right to us. I tend to have found philosophies that I feel have fitted in with our style of parenting and looked to them for reassurance. That being said, I would say that we are inspired by both Steiner and Montessori teachings, particularly with following the child and gentle parenting. Reflecting on my childhood – growing up in the UK with Vietnamese parents – I found aspects of their parenting quite challenging and tough, so there are elements that I have been particularly conscious not to repeat. Having said that, food was incredibly important to my upbringing and we have instilled that into how we raise Ana. For us it is important that we always eat the same food as a family. We went with the baby-led weaning approach and that has allowed Ana to have such a varied palette. For a child under two, she has tried so many different cuisines from Vietnamese, Italian to English.
What impact do you feel motherhood has had on your creativity?
It has reignited my creativity. Luke and I are both creative people, he studied photography and I studied textiles, but before we had Ana, we both suffered terribly from self-doubt and lost confidence in our creative abilities. Since having Ana, we can see how incredibly important it is to nurture creativity and as parents we focus on following rather than directing and aim to adhere to this ourselves. We always make sure that Ana has access to good quality art materials that we ourselves would use.
Which aspects of parenting bring you the most joy?
So far, all aspects, with each stage there has been new discoveries and we have grown and adapted with them. But my favourite stage is now, watching Ana develop into being her own person, with her own likes and dislikes and how she chooses to express them. I’m sure in 10 month’s time if you were to ask me the same question, I will probably say that that stage is my favourite – and so forth!
Which parts of motherhood do you find challenging?
“Extended breastfeeding” – our philosophy with parenting has always been to follow Ana’s lead and naturally we did the same with breastfeeding, but the shift in dynamics from nursing a baby to nursing a toddler can at times be difficult. I always wanted Ana to naturally self-wean, but during the day I felt that the amount she was nursing was becoming too much off a strain on me, so at around 20 months, I gently encouraged her to daytime wean. She still nurses to sleep and for now it is a relationship that we both still enjoy.
How do you make time for self-care, and what does that look like for you?
The notion of self-care is something that I am still trying to set aside time for. But spending quality time with friends by having tea/food, going to an exhibition or simply going for a walk. Having these moments to catch up and reconnect are really important. I also know when to just stop, take a nap whilst Ana is napping or having an early night as they are both just as important for allowing me to recharge.
What do you think makes for a beautiful childhood?
The freedom to express and explore things by and for themselves. We put a lot of trust in Ana to try things and make mistakes. Our role as parents are to teach and guide her.
If you could share one insight or piece of advice with other mothers, what would it be?
Just remember to have fun and live in the moment with your child. You will learn so much from them. Try and set aside a morning or an afternoon where you have no commitments and go outside and just see where they will lead you. The smallest things that they notice will really open your eyes.
Finally, what is your favourite children’s book?
I have lots of favourites by certain authors, Shirley Hughes and Jon Klassen. But ‘Little You’ by Richard Van Camp and beautifully illustrated by Julie Flett was one of the first books that we got for Ana. It is such a simple book, with such touching words and encapsulates the love that a mother and father have for their child.
Thank you so much Mylinh! I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to you launching your new business. You can find Mylinh’s beautiful Instagram feed @theupwardbird here.