Maureen Magill shares her advice on parenting in the moment, not sweating the small stuff, and keeping your own flame well-tended as your children grow.
Before speaking to Maureen, I only knew what I learned from the short film about her, The Motivator, created by her son, Aaron. Maureen is an awesome, ambitious, incredibly active, and curious individual. The film gave me chills every time I watched it; and, with that little portrait of her, I developed a deep admiration for a total stranger. Aaron’s film portrays a woman who has a perspective worth learning more from, especially on the topic of motherhood.
I was nervous about speaking with Maureen about motherhood, mostly because she is just so damn cool. And also, partially because I have high expectations for authenticity when it comes to celebrating motherhood as a brand. I am one of the unlucky members of the unmothered club. Mother’s Day, a day designed to celebrate mom, has a way of highlighting the greatest void in my life. As I anticipated contributing to the larger conversation by sharing Maureen’s perspective, I desperately wanted to avoid inauthenticity or cliches.
Despite this resistance towards cliches, within five minutes of our conversation, Maureen and I were both crying. In our distinctly different phases of motherhood (her children are adults while mine are in preschool), we were equally overwhelmed by emotion when acknowledging the shared truth of being a mom: the moment your child arrives, your capacity to love (raw, unconditional, unstoppable love) grows in a way you were never capable of understanding was possible.
No surprise, Maureen inspired me. Mother of two, she remains deeply connected to her children while making the most of empty nesting and retirement. She’s made a new home in Alberta in “one of the sunniest spots in Canada,” where she enjoys all that the Rocky Mountains have to offer. She is the real deal. And her capacity to inspire exceeded my expectations. Read on for some of my favorite moments of our interview.
What was the most unexpected thing about becoming a mother?
I was completely shocked in that the moment your child first comes into the world, how much you love them. You would throw yourself in front of a freight train to protect them. That was the first shock.
Also, your children come in very strongly who they are and bring a lot of learning experiences to you. Parenting is not just about you teaching them or showing them the way. They teach you.
How did your experience as a mother evolve as your children grew?
You reestablish the order of your life when raising your family. You take a backseat to your own life because your focus is 100% on your kids. But you also rediscover your own inner child, doing so many fun things that you enjoyed a child. You get that fresh perspective, and you see things with awe again—a snowflake, a sunbeam, a beak on a bird. Seeing things through a child’s eyes is all part of the wonder of motherhood.
What values did you feel were most important to pass along to your children, and how intentional were you in your efforts to pass along those values?
It’s a combination of conscious conversations and modeling.
I’ve always felt it’s really important to stay connected and grounded, and I made a point of doing that when my kids were growing up. We would go camping, canoeing, hiking, skiing—there was a conscious effort to keep them connected and for them to feel responsible for Mother Earth.
Modeling makes a difference. I love outside; it’s my happy place. I am passionate about it, and some of my natural exuberance might have rubbed off a bit. I also have a biology background, so I took the time to explain how things work. I focused on explaining the cycle of life, how nature works, and how we impact it.
If you could give your younger self any advice during those crazy early years of parenthood, what would it be?
Don’t sweat the small stuff! There is so much pressure on moms, and we get into a groove with expectations, especially when balancing parenthood and work. It’s like shoveling snow in the middle of a snowstorm. The older I get, I have learned the importance of not focusing on things that are not that important.
And, be in the moment! The time with your children is fleeting. It’s easy to preoccupy your thoughts with work or a never-ending to-do list. Push it aside and be in the moment with your child.
You celebrate your time as an empty nester. How has this new phase of motherhood allowed you to rediscover yourself?
When my kids left home, I was crushed. But then you learn to see that this an opportunity for growth for you. I make a conscious point of making the most of my time. I like to make the most of my days, and I am lucky to live in a spot where I feel like a little child in the candy store because there are so many outdoor opportunities.
How do you find balance in your life—is it something you actively work towards, or is it an unexpected outcome of living according to your own values?
I am a firm believer that you need to keep your own flame well-tended. When you’re in the thick of raising children, it is easy for that to get snuffed out. I made an intentional effort to recharge my battery—to stay fit, to enjoy friends, to have time away from family. You can have your own interests and own ways to fill your cup independent of your children.