Real Mama: Alexandra Tebow

Image by Shu-Jon Mao of Shu-tterbug Photography

Tell us a little about yourself…

I’m an artist and a stay-at-home-mom to my very active little boy (born Oct 09). I love art history, photography, soccer, rock ‘n’ roll from the 60′s and 70′s, dark chocolate, camping, snickerdoodles and I’m a little bit of a foodie.

Girl Scouting was a major part of my childhood and helped to shape the woman I am today.

I fell in love with a man who is Chinese-American and I have enjoyed learning about his family’s culture in the nearly 15 years we have been together. Learning Cantonese words from my son has been pretty awesome too.

Travel is also one of my passions and I can’t seem to get enough of it. We’ve been all over the U.S. and we have plans to visit my husband’s family in Hong Kong and China within the next two years.

In addition to being a stay-at-home-mom I also run a small graphic design business. I design invitations and party goods for weddings, birthdays, bridal showers and baby showers. I also design birth announcements, company logos and do traditional illustration. I sell everything I create as online or printable files, so my services are great for someone working on a budget and planning to DIY items for their wedding or party. I have an Etsy shop where I sell many of my designs as printable files. My blog is the best place to see my most recent work as I try to update it when a new project is completed.

Where is home?

We currently live in a suburb of Salt Lake City, but home is, and always will be, the San Francisco Bay Area. Both my husband and I grew up in the East Bay and plan to move back one day.

Please share your thoughts about relocating to a new city and state with your young family. What were your reasons for doing it? You fears about it? What have been your challenges? What has pleasantly surprised you about the change?

We had been living in the Long Beach area of southern California for about six years when my husband was recommended for a promotion that would require us to relocate to Salt Lake City. We spent a few evenings discussing the pros and cons of moving. We agreed it was a great opportunity to live somewhere new, see new sights, make new friends. We’d all get to experience a real winter for the first time too. Funny enough, this winter was super mild with barely any snow.

The promotion and difference in the cost of living has afforded me to be able to quit my day job and become a SAHM, something that I have wanted to do since I was a teenager. It has allowed me to work much more on my freelance design business and, as much as I miss living in California, I have absolutely loved being a SAHM these past 12 months. It’s really beautiful here and I love seeing the beautiful mountains outside my doorstep every day. But it has definitely been an adjustment. I miss being near the ocean, I miss having amazing ethnic restaurants close by and having access to great produce almost year-round. Being able to be home with my son and doing the work I love makes it all worthwhile.

Image by Cari Hollis Photography

What are your secrets to balancing life as a mama, loving wife and a WAHM running your own graphic design/Etsy business?

Ask for help! I am very blessed that my son takes, on average, a three hour nap each day. So I do a lot of my design work when he’s asleep. I also try to cook dinner, and keep my house looking slightly less than chaotic in that time. Once he’s done with taking naps I don’t know what I’m going to do. When I’m under a tight deadline he’s happy to play with his little kitchen or his beloved garbage truck for an hour or so by himself. And sometimes, I’ll admit, I will do a little work while he watches an episode of Sesame Street. I try very hard not to let him watch a lot of TV, but sometimes it’s necessary to get the job done. Some nights I ask my husband to cook dinner, (he’s a better cook anyway) and some nights we’ll do take-out. My husband, understanding the ins and outs of SAHM-hood, is tremendously helpful. So if I don’t get a chance to start dinner, there’s usually a good reason.

When I get especially busy or have a really large project that I’m trying to complete under a tight deadline, my mother-in-law is happy to fly out for a visit and play with TJ for a few days so I can work with minimal interruption. I learned long ago how to ask for help when I need it. Plus I know my mother-in-law loves the time spent with her only grandson.

Eventually, I want to expand my business so I can bring in more income, but I’m worried about being able to balance it all. Ideally, I’d like to continue with this arrangement when we are able to move back to California in a couple of years and not have to find a day job that pays enough to make daycare worthwhile. Oh, and we’d like to have another baby soon, which will complicate things even more! Oi!

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

Hands down: my mom. She was a SAHM to four kids, all born within six years. I distinctly remember having a rough day with my son when he was a newborn and it suddenly clicked in my head that my mom was dealing with my sister as a newborn when I was in kindergarten. AND she had my two and four year old brothers to tend to. Suddenly my rough day wasn’t so bad. She was never the kind of mom who tried to be our friend; she was realistic and was the disciplinarian. But she did it in such a way that we still knew we could go to her for help/advice/whatever and not fear judgment or unnecessary punishment. She always listened to us and acknowledged that we had feelings too, even in the dramatic teenage years. All four of us can still go to her for help or a shoulder to cry on.

There have been times where I feel like I have eased into this motherhood thing pretty easily, and I honestly think it’s because I had her for a role model.

What has been the best advice you’ve received as a mama? What do you feel is the best advice, if any, you’ve given as a mama?

The best advice I’ve received as a mama was from one of my closest friends: “When all is said and done, you have to ignore all of the books about parenting and simply go with what your mama instinct is telling you… even if it differs from what your mom, your mother-in-law, your best friend or even your pediatrician says.”

The best advice I’ve ever given as a mama has been this: “When you’re having a rough time breastfeeding, don’t ever make a decision to quit in the middle of the night. All of the struggles we deal with are much harder to handle when it’s 4 a.m. There’s something about seeing the sun rise and a new day beginning that makes our struggles seem a little easier and makes us more willing to ask for help.” This was the case for me and I know of a few mamas who had similar struggles. EVERYTHING was harder in the middle of the night!

Are you the kind of mama you thought you’d be?

Yes and no. I thought I would read more parenting books than I have. I read more books about pregnancy and childbirth than I did about parenting.

Do you have a mama mantra? Or something you find yourself repeating over and over when times are tough?

I go back and forth between “This too shall pass” and “Tomorrow will be better.”

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Hopefully, we’ll be living back in California helping my kids (plural!) with homework assignments, science projects, soccer practice, Girl Scout meetings and all of the day-to-day things that I got to experience as a kid with my family, including some kick-ass vacations.

If you could have lunch with anyone famous (dead or alive) who would it be?

Leonardo da Vinci. Of course, in this fantasy scenario, there wouldn’t be a language barrier. He was such an amazingly talented and intelligent man with an insatiable curiosity. I would love to talk with him about what his inspirations were to create; whether it was a beautiful painting, an anatomical drawing or a random invention. And ask him how he felt about how the world that was changing around him during the Renaissance.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

The ability to heal any illness, especially one in a child.

Image by Tressa LeFevre

When did you discover your talent/gift as an artist? How did you develop it? Do you see the same potential gift in your child?

I think it was elementary school when I realized how much I loved to draw and paint. I won some sort of art contest when I was in first grade and my drawing was displayed as part of an exhibition at our local shopping mall. I still remember feeling so proud of myself. From then on, my career aspirations revolved around art— gallery owner, hippie painter with a loft in San Francisco, computer animator, movie concept artist, art teacher. I even considered a career in architecture for a short time (it was nixed when I saw how much math I would have to take!). When I was in high school, I had an art teacher who acknowledged the students in her drawing and painting classes that had some talent and interest, and assigned us different projects. She allowed us to work on our own, separate from the students who were only there for an “easy A.” She really was an inspiration to me and a big influence on where I decided to go to college.

When I was in college, my plan was to get a BFA in Illustration/2D Animation. Once I actually learned how to animate, I realized it just wasn’t for me. From then on, I took as many traditional illustration classes as I could. Changing majors would have required me to stay an additional year and I wasn’t down with that. One instructor of mine was a gigantic inspiration to me. She was (still is) a full-time freelance children’s book illustrator and she us taught all about how to have a career working as a freelance illustrator. The idea of being able to work while living anywhere in the world and be able to stay home and raise my children was the perfect answer to my uncertain career aspirations. Once I graduated I did my best to pick up illustration work where I could find it. I illustrated three children’s books (two were published in a small market) when I kind of fell into designing wedding invitations. From then on, I felt like I had found a comfortable niche for myself. I still do watercolor, colored pencil or gouache illustrations from time to time, but I really love to do the work I’m doing now.

I have yet to see a lot of interest in art from my son, but he’s not even three yet. He enjoys scribbling with crayons and right now we’re focusing on making sure he understands that we only draw on paper; not the walls or the TV. If he does develop an interest in art, I imagine I will struggle to keep myself from going all crazy about it for him.

Was your birth experience all that you had hoped it would be? If you could go back and change anything, what would it be?

Image by Krista Lucas

Considering I was striving for a drug and intervention-free birth in a hospital, I had a really positive experience. I know many mamas who weren’t as lucky. My OB was alright with my desire to skip many of the normal hospital interventions and I gave birth at a hospital that was really supportive of my birth plan (Long Beach Memorial Hospital in southern California, if anyone is interested). The fact that we brought cake for the nurses might have helped a bit.

My husband and I attended a Bradley Method childbirth class that gave us the education to go into childbirth with no fear of the what-ifs. There are only a couple of little things that I would have changed. I wish I could have gone home much sooner than I did. I felt ready to go home about eight hours after my son was born. Because I delivered at 2 a.m., I had to stay a day longer than I had wanted. I was suffering from a cold when I had my son and the hospital air conditioning made my cough ten times worse. Plus random hospital people coming and going at all hours meant I got absolutely zero sleep when I was there. I was very lucky that my son was born only two hours after we were checked in, so there was really no need for any intervention. But, because of the post-delivery annoyances, I would like to have my second baby either at home with a midwife or at a free-standing birth center.

Check out TJ’s birth story.

How has your mothering evolved since those early newborn days? Is there anything, thus far, in your approach to mothering that you swore “I’d never do…” and you are?

When I was pregnant, I had this silly notion that my baby would sleep in his crib from day one. I couldn’t wrap my head around why many mamas brought their babies to bed with them. I thought for sure it would be bad for my marriage and that it would be hell getting him to sleep in his own room. Karma blessed me with a baby who wouldn’t sleep anywhere except ON me. I spent many nights in the recliner with him snuggled on my chest. I don’t remember where I read it, but I saw a quote that said, “No mother ever looks back and wishes she’d snuggled with her baby less.” I don’t know if it was the sleep deprivation or the hormones, but that struck a chord with me and I suddenly realized that the only way anyone was going to get any sleep in our house was if we all slept together. I developed that sixth sense when sleeping next to him, if he was about to wake up, I usually woke up moments before him. I have very fond memories of waking up and seeing both my son and my husband sleeping soundly next to each other. We co-slept happily for five months. I wanted to co-sleep longer, but he became such a mover when he slept that my husband and I were no longer sleeping well. Who knew it would be so difficult to sleep with a baby kicking me in the head!?

3 Responses to Real Mama: Alexandra Tebow

  1. That maternity shot of Alex is stunning!

  2. Love reading about you guys!!!!

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