Motherhood Diaries: Michaela Weisskirchner-Barfod
We talk to the mother of two and founder of children’s interiors brand Fabelab to discuss all things motherhoodRead more
Motherhood Diaries is a testament to modern-day parenting; from life-changing tribulations, to joyous milestones - and all the chaotic bits in between. Each month, we’ll uncover a refreshingly honest account from the Liberty community, with the aim to support women who might otherwise feel frustrated, isolated or overwhelmed. Here, we invite all maternal figures to speak openly about their journey to motherhood, find light in each narrative and ultimately, a sense of solidarity.
Austrian-born architect Michaela Weisskirchner-Barfod is the designer and founder behind playful, organic children’s interiors brand, Fabelab. Successful entrepreneur and mother to two girls, Michaela shares an honest and open account of her own motherhood journey, from struggling to come to terms with the physical changes of pregnancy, to the importance of prioritising family above all else.
To me, motherhood means a love unlike any other. A feeling of responsibility and the urge to protect someone and be there for them over my own needs. It means loving myself and setting a good example for my children to follow.
I always saw myself becoming a mother, however, I never had a concrete picture of what kind of mother I was going to be. I hoped to become one that respected her children as equal human beings and I looked forward to sharing the wonderful memories of my own childhood with them.
When I got pregnant with my first daughter, I was in a job that favoured prioritising work over starting a family. I tried to hide my pregnancy for as long as I could, and when it became too obvious, I tried not to make a big deal out of it. Looking back, I regret that I didn’t feel proud and beautiful, and I envy the women that did. It was not until I was actually in labour that I fully understood the miracle that was happening to me and my body. I also suddenly felt a gratefulness towards my own mother, sharing in the experience of what it meant to go through a pregnancy and labour.
Looking back, I regret that I didn’t feel proud and beautiful, and I envy the women that did.
At that time of my first pregnancy, the internet was not such a big part of our lives, so I relied heavily on friends, my mother and husband for support. When I think back, I am very happy that the pressures of social media and the endless possibilities to compare yourself to others was not there. I am grateful that I could find my own way through my pregnancy, without the constant doubt of whether or not I was doing it ‘the right way’.
I did not carry my body proudly on the outside during my pregnancies, but I was impressed and proud of my body internally. When I first became pregnant, I remember feeling strange and thought people were judging me. I continued to work and tried hard to maintain my pre-pregnancy life and schedule. At 5am every Monday I would commute for three hours to get to work, where I would stay, sleeping in a shared apartment, until heading back to my husband Thursday night. I felt exhausted and was sick every time I took the train, but because I was travelling with colleagues, I tried to hide it all as best I could. In the last month, when I finally took maternity leave, I felt really strong and still used my bicycle and played tennis. I actually walked to the hospital at 4am to give birth!
With my first daughter, I was on maternity leave from a fulltime job as an architect. Although I enjoyed the time off, after about two months, I had already come up with lots of business ideas. Inspired by all the great Scandinavian kids’ brands, in December, just four months after Linnea was born, me and two friends launched a shop in Vienna that stocked Scandinavian kids designers. I worked whenever Linnea slept, even while breastfeeding. But I enjoyed it and it felt good to be creating something. When I went back to my job as an architect, I continued to work for my business remotely from Copenhagen, slowly building up the web shop. However, I had this feeling of regret, that I didn’t cherish my maternity leave enough, so I promised myself that with my next child I would make sure to live every moment. During my second pregnancy I was working freelance and starting an interior design business. The first design ideas for Fabelab came to me following the birth of my second daughter, and by the time she was six months old I had already started renting my first office space. When I look back on this period, I feel both great fulfilment and achievement for what I accomplished. Having my kids provided me with the ideas and energy I needed to find what truly makes me happy. I can involve them so much in my work, as I design toys and interiors for kids, and I know they think their mum has the best job in the world. My main goal is to be an example for them, reminding them they can be passionate and successful with a fulfilled work life while still being present as a mother. I have always prioritised my family and my kids while growing my business. I might have worked a lot, but I never felt the need to “outsource” my children to get more time to work. It made sense for me to grow my business slower and more organically and I am grateful to have taken the time to be with my kids every day and not felt I have missed anything.
I have always prioritised my family and my kids while growing my business.
At the time, I enjoyed some of the social changes of having children – the staying in, having quieter weekends etc. However, I also never felt that I had to write anything off. We could take our first daughter anywhere, to dinner with friends, to restaurants. From when she was only three months old, I was taking her on flights to visit my family in Vienna. We travelled Europe by car for six weeks when Linnea was only eight months, often staying with friends. We had a travel cot for her that we could just unpack in a friend’s apartment or hotel room. When she was 18 months, we travelled to Miami and Nicaragua to visit friends.
My greatest challenge in motherhood so far came when I was pregnant with my second child. I always wanted more than one, but I had such a special connection with my first that I found it very hard to grasp how that connection and love could be shared. One of my friends told me, this love doesn't need to be shared, it will grow to be double. I loved that and instantly felt more confident.
My advice for mothers-to-be is to rely on your instincts and always trust that you will make the right decisions. Love yourself, so your kids can grow up as kind, confident human beings. Be an example for them in what you do, how you live your life, how you talk to them and how you treat them. Don’t let yourself get pressured by social media’s perfect mothers. Don’t feel their life is better than yours or they are better mothers than you - these small moments can make the impression of the perfect life and you can take them as inspiration, as something beautiful, but don’t let them make yourself feel insecure, insufficient or a bad mother.