Real Mama: Bonnie Nikolai

Image by James Fortin

I’m 28 years old. I got married at 21 to my amazing husband James. We have three daughters. Anna is almost six, Allie is two-and-a-half, and Aubrie is two months old. We also have a Ragdoll cat named Nathaniel and a Terrier named Josephine. I am absolutely crazy (in a usually good way). I love to sew and do crafts. I will try just about anything and am a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of woman.

Where is home?

In a little enclave of just outside of Valencia called Val Verde in California. It’s as rural as a suburban town can get. Our population is about 2,500 people. We have farms and see horses walking down our street on a regular basis. We only have one store and two main roads. We literally wake up to roosters crowing. It took some getting used to, but I kind of love it now.

What are your secrets to balancing your life as a stay-at-home-mama?

I am currently a stay-at-home-mama. Having three kids has forced me to become a planner. It’s not in my nature to plan anything, so this has been very hard for me. I have to schedule my home tasks around the girls. I do a lot of CrockPot meals and Dream Dinners type freezer meals. I’ve had to learn my limits because sometimes I think I can do anything and get overwhelmed.

My biggest secret to balancing my life: I hired a house cleaner to come in every two weeks. We had to budget out other things to make it work, but being able to spend more time with the girls instead of scrubbing a toilet makes it worth it.

Image by Cari Hollis Photography

Who has been your biggest inspiration?

My mama. She was practically a single mom and raised three hyperactive kids while my dad was gone five to six full days a week working. She dealt with people constantly judging her because her kids “misbehaved.” She lost friends because she chose to raise us correctly despite our problems. She never stuck her head in the sand and never backed down. Now she works full-time and helps me take care of my kids on the weekends. She thinks she never gets anything done, but I am amazed at what she does on a daily basis.

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

Someone told me once, “God wouldn’t have given you this task just to have you fail.” I made this part of the affirmations I tell myself when I’m feeling broken and having “mama guilt.” It’s so true. I won’t fail at being a mother as long as I’m trying.

I think the best advice I can give is just to “be” in the moment. We get caught up in what our kids are “supposed” to be doing sometimes and really end up missing a lot of the good things they’re doing right now.

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

I thought I was going to be a working mama. When Anna was six months old, my part-time secretary position was being phased out but I didn’t want to work full-time. So I decided to try out being a stay-at-home-mama. It worked out well.

I also didn’t think I would have this many kids. I thought I was going to have one or two at the most. Now I have three and have room in my heart for more.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Raising two teenage girls and one or two preteens. God help me. I plan to go back to college and finish my degree when all my kids are in school. So hopefully I’ll be gainfully employed doing something I love.

Image by Cari Hollis Photography

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

I’m going to be cliché and say Jesus. I think having lunch with my Savior would make my life.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

Super energy/never needing to sleep. If I had boundless energy I could take over the world.

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

My birth experiences weren’t necessarily everything I wanted them to be. They were everything I needed for them to be, though. My first birth was a Cervadil- and Pitocin-induction that turned into a c-section. My second was a failed home birth unmedicated VBAC with an episiotomy and a separated pelvis. My third was a postdated hospital birth with an epidural at three centimeters. I ran the gambit of births. But I needed to experience all these things because I can’t seem to grasp other women’s problems unless I experience them myself. I have so much empathy for any birthing woman now.

Image by Fresh From God Photography

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?

I was a very traditional mother to my first. We vaccinated, used formula and fed solids at four months, forward-faced her at 11 months. With my second, I put her on a delayed vaccine schedule, breastfed until 14 months, practiced “baby-led-weaning,” and rear faced her until she was two. I did a total 180.

I swore I’d never cloth diaper. I cloth diaper now.

Image by Cari Hollis Photography

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

“Everything happens for a reason. You were meant for this.” I especially had to tell myself this when I found out we were pregnant unexpectedly for the third time! Now that I’m dealing with the middle one being in the terrible twos and a newborn, I say this to myself numerous times a day.

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