FEBRUARY MAMA CRUSH: MASHA
February, 1 2018
Sometimes motherhood changes us in ways we never could have expected. It’s a time in a woman’s life when extraordinary things happen to her body and mind. Motherhood sets the beginning of a new life, a new family, and sometimes even a new career. Perhaps something you had previously only thought of as a passion. When this happens, it can be pretty exciting.
I had the pleasure of talking to an extraordinary photographer, a mom of three and an all-around cool person, Masha Vesset. It was a #mamacrush at first site and if you keep reading you’ll see what I mean. Masha was kind to share her story on how becoming a mom gave her power and inspiration to change the course of her professional life. While on maternity leave with her first baby, she realized that the profession she’d been good at and comfortable with, was not the right outlet for the creative juices that had been boiling inside. She knew she had to take a big step into the unknown to truly find out what “following your passion” really means.
And, if you thought that pursuing this new vocation wasn’t challenging enough, Masha managed to do it while breastfeeding all three of her kids beyond infancy, also known as extended breastfeeding. Like everything to do with breastfeeding these days, “extended breastfeeding” has its fair share of controversy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding at least until one year of age and then as long as baby and mother mutually want to and the The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until three years old. Following the medical guidelines and even your own best intentions is not always easy or possible. In Masha’s case it all worked out for everyone’s benefit. Her advice to other moms is empowering in an unexpected way.
And make sure to read until the end to catch Masha’s fashion tips that helped her feel “put together” and “comfortable” during her breastfeeding journey and beyond.
Where are you from?
Originally, I am from St. Petersburg, Russia. But I now live in Boston, MA.
What is your occupation?
I am a photographer. I currently specialize in kids’ portraits and lifestyle family photography, but my interests are ever expanding.
Describe each child in a few words.
I have three children: Aaron - 8, Levi - 6, and Uma - 3 years old. Our kids couldn’t be more different, both in looks and in temperament. We seem to have the classic trio. The oldest one; helpful, thoughtful, cautious, considerate, conscientious, and the last one to learn to wipe his own butt. The middle one is a classic middle child; emotional, impulsive, fast (in everything), a bit rebellious. And the little one, the girl, the center of attention, manipulative, smart, independent...and incredibly aware of her cuteness.
How did you discover your passion for photography?
Like so many moms, as soon as I laid eyes on my firstborn, I thought: this is the most beautiful child the world has ever seen. I need to capture every detail, preserve it, treasure it. Coincidentally, at the same time that I had my first child, I also bought my first iPhone. And as I started snapping away, I realized how the way I see the world started to change: I noticed beauty in everything. Nothing stood between me and the camera, I was free to capture what I saw without worrying about the technicalities. Soon I was pretty consumed with a new found passion, and the simplicity of the iPhone became limiting, so I purchased my first DSLR. I then followed online classes, continuing education classes, YouTube tutorials and read many, many photography books. What seemed intimidating at first became empowering. I started using social media to post my photos, hoping that some day people may ask would you photograph us? And ask they did! Now, eight years after I bought that first iPhone, I am shocked and thrilled that I can say, without hesitation, that I am a professional photographer.
What advice do you have for women who want to change their career after having children?
It’s no secret that having children, if you choose to and are able to have them, whether it’s one, or six, changes your life. From my own experience, I can say that It is physically and emotionally draining, makes you unsure of everything, makes your heart explode, your back ache and your boobs sag (or not! It does happen!) It also gives you a chance, if you are lucky, to reinvent yourself. It is both terrifying and exhilarating. If you have an answer to the question “what would I do if I could do anything “, I say do it. Try it. Give it everything you have (everything you have left, that is, after the child(ren) sucked whatever they could out of you). It is really now or never, all those cliches are true: better to try and fail, than to never try at all. You can always find a way to talk yourself out of pursuing a dream. Don’t!
What are the biggest benefits and challenges of being your own boss?
I think that becoming a parent is very good for starting your own business. If you could create a new life and can live with the responsibility of sustaining that life, what’s running a business? Piece of cake! Well, no, not really, but still it’s easy in comparison. The obvious benefits to being your own boss is that you set your own schedule and create the business model that works for you. And the challenges? You can’t really call in sick, or delegate. Especially in the beginning; you are an accountant, a marketing person, a custodian, a customer service rep, all in one.
How do you balance work and family life? Any practical tips for keeping it together?
In my case, balancing work and family life hasn’t been a problem yet. I schedule meetings with clients during the school hours. I edit when the kids are asleep. I schedule sessions on one of the weekend days, as well as weekday evenings. But I try to keep the schedule manageable and don’t take on more than I can handle. I think that’s important, to be realistic about how much work you can handle. Quality vs quantity, both in work and in life.
What is your favorite thing about being a mom?
Looking at my kids when they are asleep!
How has motherhood changed you?
It made me terrified of everything and fearless. It changed my body. It clarified what my priorities are. It made me stronger.
How would you briefly describe your breastfeeding journey?
I am the first in my family to nurse beyond six months. To the surprise, and if we are being honest, to the horror of my parents and in-laws. I have been nursing for the past eight years, without a break. It was less a conscious decision, as it was a natural progression of things. I nursed through pregnancies, tandem nursed (my middle son stopped at the age of five), and am still nursing my three year old daughter. In the first few weeks, were hard, stressful and very painful. But it was also completely fascinating to me, and once the pain subsided, the child latched on properly, and my nipples healed (thanks, Lanolin) it became my favorite time. It was soothing for both, the child and me.
What do you wish someone told you about breastfeeding beforehand?
That it’s up to you and your child to figure out what’s best for you. Nobody’s opinion is more important than your own intuition.
What do you think about the term “extended breastfeeding”? How have you and your children benefited from breastfeeding past infancy?
Extended breastfeeding, and breastfeeding in general, is not for everyone. And there should be no judgement either way, whether you breastfeed for years or not at all. In my case, I was able and am happy to breastfeed past infancy, because it helps me feel closer and more connected to my children. It helps me soothe them, warm them, calm them. Calm me. It is convenient. It works for us.
How have you been managing breastfeeding and working?
At this point I only breastfeed twice a day, morning and night, so there is no issue.
What would be your one piece of advice for new moms embarking on the breastfeeding journey?
To tune out all the advice, all the expertise, and listen to yourself and your baby. To use nipple ointment. To ask for help. Oh, wait, you said one piece of advice... Listen to yourself and your baby while slathering ointment on your nipples!
How important is fashion to you? How would you describe your style?
I have always loved fashion. Before kids, I thought that “suffering for beauty” was the norm. Times and priorities have changed, so whatever I keep in my closet needs to be stylish, easy to wear and wash, flattering and comfortable. Which is basically what every piece I bought from Allette is. The Margot Dress especially has been my saving grace! I have worn it to work, parties and to bed (with different shoes, obviously!).
What do you consider the breastfeeding wardrobe staples for a busy working mom of 3?
Allette is the first line of nursing friendly clothes that I bought and loved. The absolute staples are the Margot Dress, Esther Sweater and the t-shirt that you had in your first collection, that literally goes with everything. And, a really good bra.
If you’d like to see more of Masha’s photography, you can check out her website at www.mashavesset.com and her Instagram page.