My husband and I met 12 years ago while studying abroad in the USA. It was very much a love at first sight thing, and we started dating 10 days after meeting. He's from Chile and I am from Spain though, so we had a long-distance relationship for 4 years, with extensive periods (7,5 months and 8 months another time) where we didn't see each other. After 4 years I moved to Chile so we could be together, and we have lived in several countries since. We always knew we wanted a family, so we started trying right after my husband finished his MBA, as the goal was to raise our children in Europe, and he went to school in Barcelona. We had been married for 3 years at this point and been together for 8 years in total.
We now live in The Netherlands and my husband has a local contract with his employer, so we are not really ‘expats’ since we are settled here and don't plan to move around. We arrived here for my husband's job 4 years ago, I was actually 36 weeks pregnant on the day we arrived in Amsterdam!
I had a horrible first pregnancy that I could only control with medication. I threw up so much that I couldn't leave the house much for the first 20 weeks. After that it got better but I still took the last pill to help with my nausea on the day of my induction. We were living in Germany at this point where the maternity system is quite medicalized, for example you have to do a urine test every month. I thought this was normal because it's all I knew so I was very surprised when I arrived in Holland and was only seen by a very relaxed midwife and even offered the option to have a home birth (which was fine but was not the birth plan I had in mind). All in all, I loved the care I received and had a good labor experience, even though I had to be induced and the whole thing lasted over 15 hours. My second pregnancy was not perfect but for sure easier, I was already familiar with the system here and I delivered at a much smaller and quieter hospital. I remember that experience fondly. All in all, I think the maternity care in The Netherlands is top notch and recommend it to everyone.
When I became a mother for the first time, the first days were very easy for me and I absolutely experienced the “on cloud 9” type of thing. I didn't even go through the baby blues. I was very determined to breastfeed and fought all of the pediatricians at the hospital (my baby was born at 2.5 kgs and the nurses were pushing for formula from the start). My baby put on a tremendous amount of weight while we were in the hospital and so that felt like a huge accomplishment, something I had done for my baby. When I got home, I felt very supported by my husband and also the kraamzorg (a maternity nurse who comes to your home after you give birth), which is truly the best thing that has come out of The Netherlands. Prior to my delivery the thought of having someone strange at home weirded me out but you cannot even imagine how much I cried the day the kraamzorg (maternity nurse) left. I still think of her fondly as she taught me how to do everything: how to bathe my baby, how to burp her properly, how to swaddle her, etc. Because I have never experienced postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety and my newborns slept so much, the first weeks of new motherhood with both of my babies never felt particularly challenging. The period between 3 months and 1 year old have been much more difficult for me as a mother.
Motherhood has given me huge clarity in many aspects of my life. I started to become more aware of the parts of myself that I didn’t like since becoming a mother. It’s a bit difficult to describe, but my positive attributes have also grown stronger and more useful even in my journey as a Mom.
Motherhood has forced me to stop and take the time to think: “How do I want to live my life? What do I like and what do I not like? Which things do I not have time for anymore? Where do I draw the line, what is non-negotiable?” In short, it has made me live in a much more intentional way and I've learned that saying “no” is also an acceptable answer.
This has all developed with time of course. The first months after giving birth to my eldest daughter, I doubted myself so much, listened to everyone's advice but never trusted my instincts, which made me anxious and overwhelmed me a lot. This paired with a baby that latched on to breastfeed up to 15 times in a single night and was also very demanding during the day was a recipe for disaster.
On a particularly bad day when my baby was 6 months old or so my husband told me: “Paz, you are usually so confident and brave, I don't recognize you”. I realized then that I had to trust myself more and do my own thing. I think motherhood has helped me grow immensely as a person and has made me a better wife and friend.
When the coronavirus reached the Netherlands back in March 2020, I was working in the marketing department of a hotel and I lost my job right at the beginning of the pandemic. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it was the final nudge, I needed to finally start Les Girls Collective. On the other hand, building a business during 2 strict lockdowns and with zero help around to care for the kids while the schools were closed has been very tough. The most difficult part of the pandemic though has been the fact that my children have not seen their grandparents in a very long time, and we don't really know when they will be able to visit.
Despite the challenges parenting during the pandemic has posed while starting up my new business, I continue to work hard to grow Les Girls Collective and have found much joy in doing so during this time especially. I am a multipotentialite, which means that I have different interests and want to pursue them all. My career path has been very non-linear for this reason. This used to embarrass me but now I finally see it as a strength (if you want to read more about this topic, the go-to person is Emily Wapnick, a multipotentialite herself who has built a career around the concept).
I got my bachelor’s in psychology and after a couple of years working as a school counselor and hating it every day, I saw a chance to do something different when we moved back to Europe while my husband was pursuing his MBA. So, I went to make up school and even before finishing I was working at the highest traffic counter of a very big and famous make up firm. This made me fall in love with retail and the dream of having my own store started growing. Then I got pregnant and had to move for my husband's career so I put my own career on hold for the first year after my daughter’s birth. I quickly realized that I needed to work in order to be the mother I wanted to be, so I started working part time at the marketing department of a hotel. I stayed there for 2 very fun years until COVID hit, I learned a lot there, too. Losing this job was a tough pill to swallow but, in the end, turned out to be a blessing in disguise and led to me following my dream to start my own business.
At Les Girls Collective I sell clothing, accessories and prints that display empowering messages for girls; “the messages our daughters need to see”, as I like to call them. Every product is a reminder of our girls’ capabilities and strengths. The idea of women supporting women is fundamental to me, so I have incorporated that a lot, too.
I have designed every single product available in the web shop, which was challenging because I am not a professional designer. I think I'm someone with an eye for trends though so I tried to develop a modern and trendy line with the message as the main focus. The message is the most important thing, it’s the conversation starter, and the whole point of the company, really.
Sometimes I think instead of a clothing store what I have is a communications company, which is why I put so much time and effort into my social media. On my Instagram and Facebook pages you can see a mix of my offering, my thoughts on feminism and the current state of the world and also a bit of a glimpse into my everyday life as a very busy very tired mother of 2 that runs a business and learns as she goes. On my blog I like to go more in depth and talk about topics like fashion industry practices.
I definitely practice what I preach over at Les Girls Collective and our family incorporates empowering our daughters on a daily basis in many simple ways which anyone can easily incorporate in their own homes as well.
For example, something we do at home is to “help very little”. When one of other daughters asks for help, she needs to try herself first. If she really cannot, we will help but encourage practice. I talk a lot about the importance of practicing things you have not mastered yet in order to get better at them. Body weight/ shape (whether it's our own or someone else's) is also something we do not talk about.
We don't own a scale and never go on diets or talk about food as means to an end. Food is just fuel and has to be healthy in order to support your body. We also exercise a lot in front of them, I like them seeing taking care of our bodies and “how strong we are getting”. Also, this might be extreme for some but Classical Disney Movies are completely forbidden at our household, I don't want to them to be exposed to the horribly misogynistic messages. Frozen, Moana and Brave are our jam.
My ultimate goal for Les Girls Collective is to start a foundation that supports girl-related projects (in health, education and female empowerment) in developing countries. Before that, I would like to grow LGC enough for me to be able to support my family with my income and maybe start selling wholesale. It's still a very long way until I get there but hey, baby steps.
Paz, Mom of 2, Amsterdam, The Netherlands