“I feel like I see the world a little askew,” says Michele Andrews. At barely thirty, Michele is the mother of three children under the age of ten, a fashion stylist, and a model. It’s also very possible that she moonlights as superwoman. She’s acted as one of the creative forces behind Seattle staple Baby & Co., Schai, Portland’s Older Brother, Maiden Noir, and many more. While it’s not uncommon to find a creative whose outlook is skewed, with Michele, it’s hard to tell if her view is the cause or the effect: Is it her unique experiences that have shaped her perspective, or her viewpoint that has shaped her life?
And whether it's her sartorial vision or her role of mamma, Michele's approach is unarguably unique. Abiding by cultural norms just isn’t her jam. For one, it’s assumed that motherhood comes naturally for women, that maternal instinct just comes with the ovarian territory. But for Michele, that wasn’t the case. “I became a mother of three when I was 24,” she says. “And I felt like most days I failed. Whether I expressed my panic and irritation or not, I just felt like, even given the love I have, I don’t have what it takes.”
Looking at Michele, it’s hard to imagine a time when motherhood didn’t come easily. She’s gentle, but she’s also forthright. She’s serene, but that serenity is often disrupted by a spontaneous—often contagious—cackle. I can picture her tucking in her sleeping babes just as easily as I can envision her starting a pillow fight ten minutes after bedtime.
And, again, I wonder if this is a chicken or egg scenario. Has Michele always been so malleable, or is it the result of having children? Either way, Michele’s mothering style is all her own, and perhaps that’s because she didn’t simply copy a recipe from some parenting book. She doesn’t do baby talk. There is no such thing as “the children’s table” at Thanksgiving. And most importantly, she doesn’t hide herself from her kids: “I no longer have to pretend I am always emotionally intact for them. I can be me all the time and so can my babes, and our love is even stronger and truer."
How did you come to do what you do?
I became a mother of three when I was 24. That was and is my first real job. There is no calling in sick on this one, there are endless amounts of chores that come with this job, and it fosters a strength and perseverance unlike anything else. About two years ago sitting among a few of my inspiring friends, I decided ok, so I want even more out of life than I currently have. Outside the confines of motherhood and being a wife, and I was going to have to be awfully clever how I went about this, since “spare time” literally meant finding a moment to take a shower peacefully. After several months of experimenting with some friends, even modeling for them, which was always interesting as I am barely 5'3", I saw in myself a direction I had never really considered, which was assembling outfits as an art, and really I saw less of myself in these outfits and imagined a woman, a faceless muse, who was 5'8", had confidence and intelligence, and could, therefore, pull off anything. No limitations.
What do you love about yourself?
I love my ability to love. I feel like it’s my strength. I love with all of me, there is not one person in my life, currently, that I am not in love with in some way. I also feel like my children have deepened this emotion, who knew after all those sleepless nights that my husband and I survived, that I would still be capable of feeling anything less than a zombie? But really, the love is ever more strong.
What don’t you love about yourself?
I don’t love my self-doubt. That saying, “You are your only obstacle,” is so unfortunately true for me. I am working on this daily, as I want to believe in myself and my abilities maybe even half as much as my children believe in me. They believe [in me] so much. They see me singing like Alicia Keys on stage! (Once, they really asked me this and were shocked I had not done this before.) I want to always believe that I can go bigger and continue to become better at any of the things life throws at me.
Describe a time when you felt incompetent:
When I became a mom. I know I have leaned on this a lot here but it’s really true for me. The sleepless nights and the tantrums have been moments in my life that I had absolutely no idea how to solve. Every moment was dictated by what felt was the best thing to do in those moments of stress and confusion. I was new and I had to get over the fear and insecurities that came along with becoming a mom.
What do you love about the way women treat each other?
I love when we are truly yin together. We are soft, responsible with one another, and we are getting one another the wine and the chocolate, and heading over in oursweat pants and cuddling on the sofa together, healing and making whole anything that is broken and nourishing whatever needs to be nourished.
What frustrates you about the way women treat each other?
When we are not responsible, and we assume instead of asking questions, when we fear one another and operate out of that fear.