Zoe, John, and Ollie
Zoe and John met online and often joke that they would have never spoken to one another in real life! John has a phobia of stickers and Zoe has to peel all of them off of their fruit (A true act of love!) They live in Los Angeles with their 6 month old son, Oliver, and enjoy going to the farmer’s market in Silverlake on the weekends, and spending quality time together as a family.
We chatted with Zoe about being pregnant during a pandemic, her current fears and challenges as a new parent, and how she ditched Amazon during the pandemic and never looked back!
Q: Can you talk a little about your family background and culture- What was your upbringing like?
A: My mother is Jewish and my father is French. I was primarily raised by my mom, and lucky enough to be surrounded by many strong and powerful women. I was able to travel to France often as a child and experience a culture outside of America. I had a lot of freedom growing up and spent a lot of time running around with the neighborhood kids – a kind of childhood I hope Ollie will get to experience too.
Q: Looking back, do you notice any significant differences in parenting styles growing up around French culture vs. American culture?
A: There are a lot of differences that I can see looking back now, and even when I was growing up. I think overall French parenting is much more relaxed, and a lot of that is due to systems in place that allow caregivers to have time off, have access to child care, childcare professionals being well paid and well respected, and being part of a community. The American style of parenting is much more isolating, you are expected to do everything yourself and you’re made to seem “weak” if you ask for help. It seems like American parents can get lost in the identity of their children, because our worlds become so centered around them. We are working to find a balance of doing everything we can for Ollie while working to maintain our identity.
Q: Were you raised with any traditions, experiences, or lessons that you’re consciously trying to incorporate into your own parenting?
A: Growing up Jewish-ish, we celebrated the high holidays. We’re trying to more consciously embrace Jewish traditions like Shabbat, finding moments to put our phones down and all be truly together on a weekly basis. John grew up with very creative parents, always doing crafts and projects and working with their hands, which he feels made him into the creative adult he is today. It’s something that we want to encourage for Ollie. John’s family would always hand make Christmas cards each year, and we have started doing the same- We can’t wait to do it with Ollie this year!
Q: How important is it for you to have eco-friendly, non-toxic, and responsibly sourced products in Oliver’s space?
A: Climate change and climate justice are very big issues to us, so we try to make sustainable choices whenever we can. We try our best to avoid plastics, and opt for wooden toys that will last for many years. We also try to shop small whenever we can (we actually canceled our Prime membership back when the pandemic started, and we never looked back). Amazon won’t miss us, but our neighborhood store absolutely will notice our presence.
Q: As a first time mother, what were some of the highs and lows of having baby during a pandemic?
A: A high of being pregnant during a pandemic was not having strangers want to touch me! In fact, I mostly flew under the radar with my pregnancy – I don’t know how women do it normally, having to go into work and be out in the world while pregnant!
Q: And how are you navigating things as a family now?
A: Generally, we love to be together at home, so on some level it has actually been quite nice (we’re privileged enough to be able to stay home throughout the pandemic) but we do have some concern that Ollie isn’t getting as much social interaction or exposure to different environments because of it.
A: The rise of white nationalism is something that is terrifying to me - not only because I am Jewish. Seeing the open embrace off hatred that we’ve seen increase over the last few years is frightening, as a mother and a human being. Ollie is white, so it’s crucial to us to educate him early on his inherent privilege, what that means, and that living in a more equitable world isn’t about diminishing his opportunities, but about creating opportunity for all.
Q: Are there any specific ways that you incorporate diversity and inclusivity in your day to day with Ollie?
A: Right now, we’re trying to have a lot of diverse books and toys available to Ollie. As he grows up, we hope to be involved with our community, volunteering, and exposing him to the world outside our comfortable bubble. We love cooking and trying new cuisines, and are excited to educate him on where these flavors come from and their histories. We also hope to travel with Ollie so he can see the world as we have been fortunate enough to see much of it.
Q: Do you have any questions for other parents on how they might be doing this?
A: We are curious to learn ways of building or becoming a genuine part of a diverse community that reaches beyond the predominantly white, upper middle class world we are inherently a part of. It is easy to stay in our bubbles and do and say all the right things, but that only goes so far when you’re raising a child to understand the world around them.
Q: What is something that your younger self needed to hear that wasn’t said?
A: That my value isn’t based on how I look. You don’t have to be good at everything, it’s okay to struggle.
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