Sometimes it’s not about the length of time with someone but the quality of time. 5 minutes with mama and award-winning parenting blogger Frances Vidakovic from Inspiring Life Dreams falls within the ‘quality of time’ category. I was going to entitle this conversation ‘Coffee Date with Frances’ – but for some reason the European in me isn’t quite a big coffee drinker! So it didn’t sit too well. But I did sit down with the beautiful mama of two, Frances to capture her insights on motherhood. And to be honest, it went for a little longer than 5 minutes but regardless, the utmost quality time was spent together!
1. Please tell our readers a bit about you and our relationship to each other.
So my father Matij was one of seven children born to Frana and Mate Farac on the island of Korčula. His older sister Vjeka – my aunt – was your grandmother, meaning your mum and I are first cousins.
Because the majority of our family is back in Croatia, the relationship I have with you and our relatives has always been so special. We feel so connected even when we are apart and whenever we catch up it always feels like home.
‘We feel so connected even when we are apart and whenever we catch up it always feels like home.’
2. What has being a mother taught you?
Becoming a mother has definitely changed my life. Motherhood has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love. It has made me realise that the days go slow but the years go fast. Kids honestly grow up quickly, in the blink of an eye and one day those early years will feel like a long-ago distant dream.
It has also made me discover strengths I never even knew I had and revealed fears and worries I didn’t know existed inside me. Having kids is like seeing your heart walking around outside your body so you really feel compelled to do whatever you can to protect it.
‘Motherhood has taught me the true meaning of unconditional love.’
3. What did you need to let go of upon becoming a mother?
Oh I needed to let go of so many things! It all started with this expectation that I’d be getting eight hours of straight sleep for the first few years. That was never going to happen!
Later on you need to let go of the expectation that your kids will behave in a particular way, when surprise, surprise, they have free will.
You also need to let go of this idea of a perfect life, or that you shouldn’t ask for help or that you need to be a superwoman in control of everything.
The truth is life is constantly changing and you are always moving through different seasons with kids. Life is honestly so much easier when you learn to relax, when you learn to live in the moment and when you let go of all your ‘shoulds.’
Like I should do this or I should do that. Sometimes it’s better just to let things be, to appreciate and love your kids exactly the way they are and to love your life as it is because life is truly beautiful when you stop to appreciate it.
‘…life is truly beautiful when you stop to appreciate it.’
4. What gave you the urge to create your blog – Inspiring Life Dreams?
I started my website in December 2017 on a whim and it has ended up being one of the best things I have ever done – a fully-fledged business now.
It was created mainly because I’ve always loved writing – I’ve been scribbling stories ever since I was a little girl – and I thought it would be the perfect way to share my stories, articles and books.
Little did I know it would grow to the level it did so quickly. During 2018 my newbie blog received over a million pageviews and 2019 it won the best parenting blog of the year!
I’ve been working on growing it full-time ever since and last year I created a second website and podcast focused on personal development which is DreamBigMyFriend.com. It seriously is my dream job!
‘…it won the best parenting blog of the year.’
5. What has been one of the hardest moments for you on your motherhood journey?
My hardest moment has ended up being a secret blessing in disguise. My son Jake was diagnosed at age 3 with a neuro-muscular condition called Charcot Marie Tooth disease which saw him getting his first wheelchair at age 6.
Some people might think – oooh that’s so terrible, having a wheelchair – but seriously wheelchairs are a gift! Imagine what life would be like if someone who needed a wheelchair didn’t have access to one.
Jake ended up playing competitive wheelchair sports from a young age – rugby, soccer and hockey – and this introduced us to a community of some of the loveliest people in this world, that I feel so blessed to know.
Seriously we feel so lucky in life and this new path has opened up my heart and eyes to a different way of experiencing life. It has also led me to develop such a strong sense of gratitude, compassion and appreciation for others that I’m not sure I would have discovered had we not received that diagnosis years ago.
6. What has been one of the most memorable moments for you on your motherhood journey?
One of the things I feel like we did really well as parents was take so many trips and holidays with our kids. Every summer holidays we would go camping for a week and every other school break we would always organise trips with family and friends.
We also managed to squeeze in three long trips to Croatia and a few cruises before our kids got to the later years of high school. I just always had it in my head that we only have 18 summers with our kids, before they reach their adult years.
So whenever I think of my most memorable parenting moments, it’s always when we were away from home, relaxed, having fun, enjoying each other’s company, without the stresses of the everyday routine.
I promise you, ten or twenty or thirty years from now you won’t regret any of the trips you take with your kids. It won’t matter one bit if your child missed some school for a life-changing, amazing holiday with family. Time passes quickly and you have only a short time with your kids to cement some lifelong memories that they can carry with them forever.
7. What is your relationship like with your mum? What have you learnt from it?
My relationship with my mum has definitely changed over the years. When I was a kid, there was still very much an old-school ‘kids are seen but not heard’ philosophy when it came to parenting.
So as kids we didn’t overthink or evaluate those relationships like people tend to do nowadays. My mum was the stay-at-home parent, always fun and kind but parents were just parents back then – not your friends.
We never thought to spill our secrets to our parents back then – we just shared those with our friends. My mum assumed we would behave and assumed we would do our homework etc. without ever prying or questioning us.
It was only when I had my own kids that we began to shift from that parent-child role to one of two mums, raising kids, even though the ages of our kids are different.
Becoming a mum myself made me understand her better because by then you discover that the challenges are real and now it’s like ‘ooh I get it. That would have been tough. I understand why you made the choices you made...’
When you’re a kid you see your parents through a different lens, you think they are unfair or mean and you don’t actually get what it’s like to be a parent until you finally become one yourself. Then it all makes perfect sense…
8. What was your relationship like with your grandmothers? What have you learnt from it?
I actually only got to spend one summer with my paternal grandmother (who also happens to be your great-grandmother and my namesake). It was the summer I turned 12 and she was 86 and we went back to spend over 4 months in my little village Pupnat. She passed away a year later and I remember wishing I got to know her better.
So when I finished university I went back to Croatia and actually lived with my mum’s parents for nine months and I love, love, loved it so much!
My Baba (Grandma) Juba was kind, funny, loving and would never stop talking. She used to talk like we had so much catching up to do. I loved spending that year living with her and my grandfather, playing cards, listening to their stories, learning about the culture and history and catching up on all the years we missed together. My relationship with her could be summed up in two words: pure love.
9. Was there something in your childhood you promised yourself you would never do as a parent? But now have?
Wow where do I begin? I definitely said I would be less strict as a parent which was the quality I disliked the most when I was growing up. But as it turns out there is immense value in setting boundaries and appropriate rules. So even though I think I am way more relaxed than my parents were, my kids would still say I am strict in some ways.
Plus I think all parents make promises like: ‘I’m never going to lose my temper, or let my kids have too much screen time, or let them skip a shower, or let them jump into my bed, or eat in the car, or give into their demands, or let them eat junk food, or allow their routine to disrupt our lives.’
But then you eventually discover that you are a human, with a human brain and sometimes you need a break and guess what, the world doesn’t fall apart if these things happen on occasion so what’s the big deal?
Never say never. We are all doing the best we can with the tools and resources we have at our disposal.
10. Has being a mother helped you drop more into your feminine? Or, has it allowed for a better balance of both feminine and masculine energies? I ask this because society can demand a very masculine way of being – more so, ‘doing’? To clarify, I am referring to feminine and masculine as ‘energies’…
I think I have noticed this change over the years. In the early years when the kids were still young, it was all about the feminine energy. I was totally in this nurturing zone and felt so emotional, loving and empathetic towards others. This energy felt like a blanket covering me, keeping me warm and my family safe.
Yet as the years have passed I’ve noticed the masculine energies coming to the surface – the need for more structure and goal-setting, confidence and following through on plans. This could be tied to the fact that I started my own business but I should note that the undercurrent is still a feminine energy.
I do chase goals but it’s in a caring, creative and intuitive way. I like to take decisive action but I am always patient, flexible and living in the moment. I feel like it’s totally possible to bring these two energies together.
So for example I feel like you can be a ‘doer’ with a sense of purpose and seeking freedom (which is traditionally masculine energy) but to infuse it with intentionality, feelings and receptive energy. For me it is like having the best of both worlds when your masculine and feminine energy is well balanced.
I am greatly appreciative of Frances’ vulnerability and authenticity when sharing her experience of motherhood. Some months ago I also sat down with my grandmother to discuss her memories and insights on being a mother. Read here! And lastly, I would like to share a book recommendation called ‘Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead’ by Brené Brown. It is a wonderful read which uncovers the strength that is found in vulnerability and how it can impact our parenting and lives.