Women Branching Out: Miki DeVivo

I met Miki DeVivo of The Still Space earlier this year when I took a photography course she offered called The ViewFinder. Even though I never settled down enough to actually finish the course’s assignments, I fell in love with Miki’s ability to talk directly to me as a mom and creative entrepreneur. Even today, the thoughts she shares on The Still Space about real motherhood feel like they are meant just for me. I’m sure a lot of you (moms specifically) will also feel that way when you see the work Miki is doing in the realm of motherhood. So I’m very excited to introduce you to Miki and her new program, Real Mom Compass (launching in January).

Enjoy the video or read the transcript below.

Miki is a writer, teacher, wife, and mama of two.  She is passionate about building bridges—within the community of mothers, between mothers and their families, and between women and their inner knowing.  She’s creating her own definition of Real Motherhood for herself and creating a wide, deep permission for other moms to explore who they are as well. Her new program, Real Mom Compass, will be available in January. Her free e-course “7 Encouragements for Real Motherhood” is available at thestillspace.com. You can follow Miki on Twitter: @MikiDeVivo for updates on Real Mom Compass.



Christie: Hi, it’s Christie Halmick of Jewels Branch Creative and I’m very happy to have with me today Miki DeVivo of TheStillSpace.com. I’m going to read a little bit about Miki: Miki is a writer, teacher, wife, and a mama of two.  She is passionate about building bridges—within the community of mothers, between mothers and their families, and between women and their inner knowing.  She’s creating her own definition of Real Motherhood for herself and creating space for other moms to explore who they are, as well.  So, hello! Hi Miki.

Miki: Hi, hi!

Christie: So glad you are here with me today. We are going to talk a little bit about, or Miki is going to talk about, the group experience she is creating and offering in January called Real Mom Compass. She’s going to explain a little bit about what that is, who it’s for, what you can expect from going through that experience with Miki. And I’m going to let her go ahead and do that, Miki.

Miki: Hi, thank you so much for having me.

The key piece that I see moms like myself and moms that I talk to needing, and asking for really, in a variety of different ways, is a compass for themselves.

There’s a character in our society called the “ideal mom.” She’s out there she’s the one whose hair is aways perfect, who showers everyday, the house is spotless, the dinner is all organic, made from scratch everyday. She loves every moment of parenting, she loves every minute of being a wife, (phone rings) she remembers to turn her phone off before she gets interviewed. And you know, she has sex every night, the kids are always happy, you know…it’s this perfect thing. And we have this somehow, it’s come into our culture.

Our moms and our grandmothers fought really, really hard for lots of the freedoms that we enjoy today. We are very thankful for them, for the freedoms that we have and the opportunity that we have to even ask these questions. It’s a huge, huge gift that we’ve been given. But it also means that in a lot of ways the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. Whereas we always had to be this one thing. Now we have lots and lots of freedom, which is great, but it becomes this heavy expectation on ourselves that in order to live up to this gift that we’ve been given, that we have to meet all of these roles. We have to be the perfect wife and the perfect mother and the perfect woman and gorgeous and beautiful and skinny all the same time.

Christie: and have a business.

Miki: oh, yeah that, too! Profitable, savy, smart, that piece…. and that’s fine that’s great, that’s ok.

But what I realized that I needed to do, because that was feeling like a really heavy burden for me, was that I needed to take a step back and look at whether or not all of these pieces were pieces that I wanted in my life. And what I actually wanted those pieces to look like.

So instead of just trying to reach for this external thing. Constantly reaching against that. Going: Is that me? Is that not me? I want to be that. I don’t want to be that. That’s me. That’s not me. I can do that. I can’t do that. I spent so much energy pushing on this external expectation that who I was inside and what I really wanted didn’t even enter the equation at all.

I got really burnt out and frustrated and angry and disconnected and resentful, lots of lovely adjectives. I couldn’t enjoy my kids in the way I wanted to. I couldn’t enjoy my husband in the way I wanted to. Everything looked like people were trying to mess with me, and get in the way of me trying to be this ideal woman. And I was like OK no, no.

So, the Real Mom Compass is a way for moms who are tired of feeling that overwhelm, who are tired of giving their energy to this external expectation, to take some time to really step back and decide for themselves decide what’s important to them, what they want. To put words to that longing. To name that for themselves. To claim this new identity for themselves.

Not in a way of having to throw out the mother with the bath water so to speak. But to really examine where you already are. What you already long for. What you already want that you might not have had the opportunity to name. And that wasn’t quite as important that you do name until you became a mom.

Now you go OK, um… you know it just changes the way we see the world. It throws everything into sharp relief.

The Real Mom Compass is a way to make that examination. To make sure that every moment we know … once we have this compass … we know then where we are headed and when we are off track. At any moment if we start to feel panicked or overwhelmed or we start to have those negative stories run in our heads, we have this compass that we’ve created for ourselves and we can say, “am I headed where I want to be?” or “am I headed off track?” And to know how to get back on track if we are off track.

It’s for moms who are looking for that type of exploration. That deep exploration about who they are and their purpose in the world, so they can stop feeling like they are playing the role of “wife” and “mother” and just be their whole self with every interaction.

It doesn’t really matter what age your kids are, it’s more about where you’re at and what you are ready to look at and make happen for yourself.

I’m taking a look at the content right now, I’ve got the workbook and I’m trying to decide whether it’s going to be eight or nine weeks. It will have a workbook where you do independent work, writing and discovery, personally and individually. There’s also a group component. There’s going to be an online meeting space where people can give feedback and support. Mostly just support. So that we can know that we are not alone in our journey. Then there will be group calls where we can talk through some of this issue, strengthen the sense of community. Also I’m working on a group of guest speakers who can talk to us about specific skills to live that authentic life.

Christie: Great! Can you give us an idea of time frame when you are going to have it up for sale, when to watch for that.

(phone rings)
Miki: No body ever calls me! Excuse me. …

Timeframe. Right now if you go to thestillspace.com there are a series of seven encouragements for Real Motherhood. That’s a 14-day, 7 bit e-course to help, right now as my gift to moms, just sort of laying the ground work and honoring the work that we do everyday as mothers. That’s available now and the course the Real Mom Compass is going to be in January. So we’ll get ready to start off the New Year right because we don’t need to have another year go by before we can start asking for what we want and what we need and getting really clear on that.

Christie: I’m glad you said the group component. I’ve found that just having a space where I can go say “I’m experiencing this” … I have a space where I can go for my business and say, “I’m experiencing this in my business” and other people will say “OK I’ve been through that.” So it’s a safe space and I’m glad you are including that because they are so helpful. I don’t have a lot of support around here, around the local area, so finding that online has been very helpful to me. So I can see that that would be a good component of what you are doing, too.

Miki: I think as moms, it’s really important like you said, we can feel pretty isolated, even if there’s another family in the house right next door. This ideal mom thing, kind of, can prevent us from approaching other moms and saying “oh my god, are you going through what I’m going through? I can’t take it anymore.” Or I have this really great success story. We’re also not really allowed to brag about what we’ve done well or to celebrate what’s working well in our families, too. So we’ll have this online space where we don’t have to posture or pose or put up any walls about who we are and what we are trying to do. We are all on the same page and on the same team.

You know there’s that whole mommy wars thing. “This is the way to do this thing.” and “This is the way to do that thing.” If you don’t do it this way you’re not a good mom. I’m really tired of that I think that it diverts our energy away from the real issues: are we doing that we want to be doing and following what we know is best for our own families. So the space that we’ll create, we’ll spend some time at the beginning just creating that safe space so that we can be comfortable. And it’s not going to be that catty, infighting, mommy wars thing.

Christie: How did you get to creating this particular course? Let’s frame it this way, what did you do before you started doing this? What are the jobs you’ve had?

Miki: Well, when my daughter was born I had a really tough time adjusting to my new role as a mother. I had worked really hard and achieved a lot of things and a lot of those things were in my control. Then I became a mom and very little was in my control. Or my understanding of what I could control and what I couldn’t control kind of drove me nuts because I was trying to control the things that I couldn’t do. Not taking control of those things that were in my power.

So I had this longing in myself, I needed something more and it was surprising to me that being a mom left me with more longing. I thought there was something wrong with me because of that. But I’m finding that a lot of moms feel that same way. They become moms and then they go OH, OH, OH!

One day I picked up the camera and was taking some photographs of my daughter and in that moment the way I saw her changed and instead of becoming a constant ticking time bomb of poop, and feeding needs and stress, I could really see who she is. Who she was and the beauty in there.

It took me a couple more months to realize. But I realized I could be a photographer and help other families have that same experience of beauty and being more in love with their families. So that idea about bringing more love and more connection and more awareness to the families … I realized I could bring that to an online space and just go straight to that. Photography is beautiful and I am still passionate about doing it. But by offering space and asking questions and helping moms come to their own answers, it seemed a more direct route to achieve a more powerful result.

Christie: Cool! That’s a good journey.

Miki: Yeah, but you know everybody says that, you listen to interviews and “oh my gosh, she knows everything” … When you are in the middle of it … when you look back on it it’s all very, “that’s how I got here” but in the middle of it was a process of asking myself those questions about: Is this really what I want to be doing? Is this the best way for me to express my gifts? Is this the best way for me to enjoy what I’m doing?

So, I wanted to ask you have some advice for, a lot of my audience are women entrepreneurs who are doing the business thing, a lot of them are doing the business and mom thing. Any words of wisdom for them?

Miki: Yeah. I think the biggest thing that I’ve come to be aware of and surrender to is that that motherhood and business owner can be part of the same thing.

You don’t have to be the business woman over here and be the mom over here. And have them fight. That our creativity comes and goes in waves and that being a mom can actually help with that. Because one of the things that allows creativity to flourish is the borders and the boundaries. If you had all the time in the world to run your business or do your art or make things. You wouldn’t be living your life so you’d have nothing to draw from to make your art or no problems to solve as you are running your business you wouldn’t have that experience to draw on.

And so as the creativity comes and goes the motherhood also allows there to be boundaries on it. The painting is made beautiful by the confines of the canvas. If you are going off, it becomes too much. So finding the balance and not trying to compartmentalize, but know that each feeds the other is a really important thing.

When we are working on something creatively, when we are trying to solve a problem, if we push and push and push against it it actually raises the level of noise in our head and we can’t hear the insight that comes to us.

Being a mom requires our full conscious awareness and attention. Not always possible. So when we come into the mothering and put our full conscious attention on our families it can allow our subconscious to work on those things that we were struggling on in our business. And vice versa. So they go back and forth.

That’s one of the major things that I’ve discovered about the balance for me. And to really embrace what works for you instead of saying, “all writers write eight hours per day with no distractions.” That might have worked on Walden Pond but that’s not the life that we live. So to stop struggling against what is and figure out what works best for you, or works best for me is another thing.

I think something that we have a particular gift with, as women, like you were saying, creating this community and using multiple voices and multiple pieces of awareness and multiple stories to create the truth. As opposed to it being one truth. I think that being able to tap into that. To know what you bring to the table and to tap into the large community is a particular gift that we have as women. The benefits that we have now with social media and the internet and that we can bring people together and create community to bring all of us forward.

Christie: Cool. Was there anything else that I forgot to ask you or anything else you wanted to say? If not I have another question for you.

Miki: Let’s hear the other question.

Christie: So, eight year old Miki, what did she want to be when she grew up?

Miki: Oh, I wanted to be Annie. And I think in relation to Annie, I wanted to be an actor. A lot of my life was focused on that for a long time. I have a bachelor’s in acting. Before I went to college I said, “OK you’re about to focus your life on this and it’s going to cost you a lot of money, why are you really doing this?” And what I discovered was that I really liked the community that is created when a bunch of people where working on something that is higher than themselves, that the whole was greater than the sum of it’s parts.

That’s a through piece that as I got older I realized that the world of actually performing has an element of cut-throatness and level of rejection that I was not interest in going through. But that element of community. My mom was a teacher for many, many years when I was growing up and I always helped her at preschool. Always during summer vacations I would help teach. So working with children has always been something that’s important to me.

I feel like now that I’m a mom, and I have my own children, working with moms is another way of leaving the legacy. Making sure that the next generation feels special, by making sure that the mothers are mothered. That the mothers are taken care of, that we are taken care of.

That we have enough support, internal and external support, which is strong enough, which is important in and of itself. That reaches out into leaving a legacy for our kids. Making sure that people feel special and understood. And know that they are ok, and enough and good enough just as they are has always been part of my theater training and part of my educational philosophy.

Christie: So it’s interesting to see that because, everybody that I ask that question to they always have an answer that actually ties back into what they are doing. So it’s neat to see that because I’m watching my girls now and all the different things that they want to be and I’m just excited to see how that pans out for them, what that looks like whenever they’re moms.

Miki: yes, which pieces of the puzzle fall away and which become a through line for them to hold onto, a touchstone.

Christie: Thank you so much Miki for stopping by and doing the interview. I will have links to The Still Space below the video.