Your Momoir | Justine Ma
When the concept of The Momoirs Feature Stories came to me, Justine’s name was at the top of my list. I first learned about Justine and her work a couple of years ago when I discovered her business; Justine Ma Design & Hand Lettering at a local market. I'm happy to give you a glimpse into who Justine is, as a person and as a mother. I really enjoyed our time together and I hope you feel through these words and pictures like you were there, too. A HUGE, heartfelt thanks to Sara from Sara Brown Photography for capturing the experience perfectly. You understood my vision for this Sara, and you made it come to life. [Psst. Head over and Instagram to enter a giveaway to win two of Justine's amazing cards!]
Justine and I met on a sunny afternoon at Little Brick Café. I felt nervous. I've been admiring (cough, stalking) her since I had the pleasure of meeting her a year earlier. Justine is the epitome of a creative soul. She greeted me warmly and as I sat next to her, I just kept hoping that I somehow would become cooler by osmosis.
I ordered the spring veg sandwich and inhaled a few bites like a wild animal before we began talking. The food at Little Brick is so simple and rich in flavour, I love it! With peas and mint in my teeth, I asked Justine how she felt people would describe her. “Creative, giggly and loving,” she said; as she giggled. She went on to describe herself as “anxious, a little bit paranoid, creative and free loving.” It was hard for me to believe that this beautiful, hip, woman sitting in front of me would describe herself as a slightly paranoid. She exudes confidence in the most unassuming way. Any time I’ve interacted with her, she has always been unapologetically herself.
Justine leaned casually against the wall, gently fingering the stunning gold necklace that spells her daughter's name. A small ruby gemstone finishes off the piece, which she had designed by LanaBetty and hand lettered herself. For someone who owns and operates their own flourishing business, this spoke volumes to me. Justine quite literally wears her proudest accomplishment around her neck.
What changed most within you when you became a mother? I asked.
"My mental state," she giggled. "I was pretty organized, calm and collected before Ruby. Then when Ruby came, I had a really terrible labour and delivery. I think I felt pretty disconnected from her for the first few months. It seemed like I was a slave to this little infant and there was no reciprocated feelings. I don't think she liked me. Ruby was colic all day and then as soon as my husband came home she would be fine. He would say 'this is so easy!' and I would be thinking, no. I only survived."
She pauses and takes a drink of her coffee. I'm listening to her, feeling so grateful that we can have an honest conversation about how hard the shift into motherhood can be. "Yeah," she adds, "Everything changed. I had this whole person to take care of. Before my business was my baby, and now it was this beautiful child that I had created."
Motherhood always starts with a life-altering sacrifice. Some of us are prepared for it, some of us aren't. I told Justine how my first child was a big surprise and she laughed knowingly. She went on to tell me how she got pregnant literally, a week after getting married. The big sacrifice for her was not getting that time as newlyweds. She had envisioned doing a lot of travelling with her new hubby.
I noticed she recently brought her daughter with her to a market in Calgary where she was selling her designs, I asked her about this. "I can't imagine travelling without her," she replied. "As a creative business owner, that is the work we do, the sacrifice we make. Ruby is a market baby. She was conceived during market season and was born during market season. She's my apprentice."
I told Justine that I admire how she brings her daughter with her to the markets; I feel like it would take an unlimited amount of patience and an easy going attitude. Something I'm not sure I could achieve without the help of my little friend, pinot noir. I think it's so great that Ruby gets to grow up watching her Mom work; becoming acquainted with the hustle and passion it takes to be an entrepreneur. I asked Justine what she feels her greatest success as a mom is. "I think it might be my attitude towards raising a child," she says. "We have a saying in our house and it is 'go be free' because I want her to be able to break rules and not be so controlled. I want her to explore and figure out things; what she likes and doesn't like. I think it's really important for her to learn on her own. I don't want to tie her down."
Justine goes on to tell me that when there is a moment of high-intensity and Ruby's emotions are escalating, or they are both feeling really mad or tired, she gives them each a spoonful of peanut butter. "It calms us right down. Calories-wise it hasn't really helped,' she laughs, "but stress eating comes with being a mom, right?"
When Ruby is an adult, how do you hope she will describe you? I questioned.
"Strong and confident. I want her to know that I am a female business owner, that I built this business. I want her to respect that. I want her to believe in herself. I think it's important for her to know, especially with all the issues in the world surrounding women, that her mom is doing it. I want her to know that she can do it too."
I'm taking a moment to let all these words sink in, and I find myself looking at this beautiful, creative woman and I'm inspired by the way she is choosing to raise her daughter to be strong and fearless. All I can think is; fuck yes. I'm one heartbeat away from blasting Beyonce on my phone and pounding my fist into the air.
As our talk comes to an end, I ask Justine to tell me what words she lives by and what advice she would give to a new mom. "Be kind, work hard. I had to work really hard to get to where I am at. Find balance (as much as you can!) and love what you do. Life is worth living. You created a little human, it's crazy. That in itself is such a success."
Thank you so much for meeting me, Justine. Sadly, I haven't gotten cooler yet. I guess that just means I need more time with you!
Justine is being generous and giving away two of her amazing cards. I picked my favourites! To enter, head on over to Instagram and follow the giveaway instructions.